Despite the angst of worrying about if Tropical Storm Erika was going to become a hurricane and strike our area just when I was trying to leave for France, all my travels went smoothly. The airline changed my flights, without penalty due to the storm potential, to go in a day early. Yay! An extra day!
My daughter Lauren, who had come in a few days before, met me at the tram and showed me the way to my new home for the next month. We are staying at our friends’ Michael and Odile’s flat for the duration. They are mostly staying at their main house in St.Chinian, being very generous by providing us shelter while we are here.
Lauren has already become acclimated as I had set her up with some of my friends to do things with before my arrival. She seems like a native already. For me, I am curious how I will feel this second time around.
Things look familiar and yet a little different as I get used to my new environment. The familiar part is comforting and feels like coming “home”. The different part is that I’ve forgotten a few things in the 2 years since I’ve been here, some things have changed (construction of a new tram line, so a lot of the streets are torn up, but the construction on the train station is finished and it looks great), and I’m living in a different side of town. It’s not as “exciting and new”, as the first time. I feel more confident about knowing how to operate my life here and seeing the people who are so important to me: a very different focus than what I experienced the first time.
So, arrival day was just unpacking and recovering. Wednesday was going to the grocery store near where we’re staying, where Lauren and I met our first challenge: unhooking the shopping cart to be able to use it.
They are all attached and we couldn’t figure out how to extract one. Some nice lady, who didn’t speak a word of English (remember, I hardly speak any French, but I try and stumble), showed us that you need to insert a little red chip (which costs 1 Euro) to have the cart get loose. After we did that, she let us keep her red chip to use in the future!
Cart in hand, we now peruse the aisles for delicious fruits and vegetables, cheeses, wine, etc. etc. We make our first lunch and eat out on the terrace overlooking a nice green space in the back of our flat.
At 5:00 we go to meet up with old friends: BJ, Alex, Asaf, etc. I am so happy to see them again. I feel like I have never left. We gather at a new venue: a little tea and chocolate shop owned by some of BJ’s friends. I have a spiced ice tea that is unusual, delicious, and refreshing. A little chocolate accompanies it: lime and ginger filling in a small dark chocolate square. We are then off to Le Clandestine: a little wine bar that we are regulars at on Wednesday evenings. We sit outside, of course, as the weather is PERFECT: mid-70’s during the day, dry, sunny, with cool mid-60’s at night. What I call “dream weather”: you don’t notice it as it is so comfortable.
The next day we meet friend Charlotte at a central point for lunch at 2. Charlotte is due with her first child in 2 weeks, so we had to meet her early in our visit before the baby comes. She looks beautiful and glowing. We have a nice visit and a delicious lunch sitting outside, of course. We discuss all the different customs around childbearing here in France. Of course with socialized medicine, everything is paid for. For a normal birth, mom stays in the hospital for 3 days and then they are required to stay at home and tend the baby for 2.5 months before they can enroll them in day care, have a nanny, or take them to someone’s home to have them looked after (this is called a noo-noo).
After that we have a real highlight: one of my favorite musicians, Maugan, Michael and Odile’s son, who we used to go to listen to in different clubs when we were here last, has agreed to pick us up at the tram stop near his studio, which is in a small town on the outskirts of Montpellier. He takes us to his studio, which is in the basement of his house. Now remember, this house must be hundreds of years old. The basement is all stone and arches with very modern recording and editing equipment stuck in little crannies. Maugan plays some of his new stuff and revisions of old stuff. We love being the private audience. He is very eclectic: pop, rock, blues, soul, etc. He and Lauren really connect about the music, as it is one of her passions, too. We both feel that the American audience would really like his style and voice.He and his girlfriend have a cute little dog: a breed that we have never seen before. The dog (and I can’t pronounce or remember his name or his breed’s name) is very sweet.
We come back late and make dinner at around 8:30: very French. One of the things that I notice when cleaning up after dinner is that Odile has 3 racks in her dishwasher, the top being for silverware. I love this, as it frees up space and also washes the silverware better.
So today is Friday and the days are filled and quickly passing. We are meeting some friends at the English Book Shop and then have been invited to BJs for dinner and music night. We are all bringing something to contribute and any musical instruments we have. Geoffrey will be there tonight and I am very excited to see him again. He and I have already set up 2 “Cooking Club” dates, so we make sure we have time to do that during my visit.
That’s it for now. We’ll probably go to Sete or Palavas tomorrow as Lauren wants to see the Mediterranean Sea, which is only about 15 kilometers from here. We leave for Barcelona early Monday morning for 3 days. More when I return from Spain.
Bisous (means “kisses” in French) to all!