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Montpellier

The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

— After fifteen days in Montpellier, France, our long journey home to Phoenix is underway. The upside of getting an early start is not having to rush. The downside is a lot of time spent waiting. We unwittingly arrived at the airport an hour before check-in was scheduled to begin for our flight to Paris. We used the time to enjoy a coffee and the sandwiches Kathryn made us last night from food we otherwise would have had to throw out.
If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

— Last Saturday around midday, Kathryn and I were at the zoo here in Montpellier, and we found ourselves looking at the giraffes next to a French couple and their young children. I overheard the father saying to his children, “Les girafes sont beaux!” As soon as the words finished leaving his mouth, the mother corrected him, “Belles.” “Hein?” he grunted. “C’est une girafe,” she insisted. “Eh, ouais,” he said, now recognizing his grammatical error.
I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

— I was doing so well at publishing a blog post at least once a day, and then when we got back from Lourdes it kind of fizzled out. Well, have no fear, we’re doing well here in Montpellier. Yesterday I finally posted about our road trip to Sommières, which happened last Thursday. Last Friday we went on our highly anticipated hike up Pic St. Loup, along with a little bit of beach time before returning the rental car.
Another road trip from Montpellier, this one to Sommières

Another road trip from Montpellier, this one to Sommières

— Since we’d reserved a rental car for four days, I felt a certain obligation to make the most use of it. Thursday morning, after lingering a little too long over breakfast, we got in the car to visit Uzès, an ancient walled village that dates back to pre-medieval times, about a 90-minute drive from Montpellier. However, after all the driving I’d done Tuesday and Wednesday, I wasn’t on the autoroute for more than a few minutes when I started formulating for an escape plan.
Last-minute road trip to Lourdes for Mass with Cardinal Burke

Last-minute road trip to Lourdes for Mass with Cardinal Burke

— One advantage of not over-planning a vacation is that you leave yourself open to opportunities that arise. This week, we changed our planned daytrip to Lourdes on Saturday to an overnight trip on Tuesday and Wednesday. At Sunday Mass here in Montpellier, we learned that an American cardinal, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, would be celebrating a Pontifical High Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes on Wednesday morning at 10 am.
We’re back in Montpellier after a whirlwind side trip to Lourdes

We’re back in Montpellier after a whirlwind side trip to Lourdes

— Kathryn and I just got back to Montpellier after a whirlwind 30-hour side trip to Lourdes. This is just a quick update because the last two days have been somewhat exhausting. I’m really happy we didn’t do this as a day trip as we’d originally planned. Four hours driving a rental car I’m not familiar with, on roads I’m not familiar with, took more out of me than I expected. Now I can’t imagine doing eight hours without getting some sleep in between.
We eventually made it to Lourdes

We eventually made it to Lourdes

— It took us a longer than planned to get our rental car in Montpellier, and then the drive took longer than planned, but eventually we arrived in Lourdes well before sunset. The hotel is not bad, and the manager was amenable to letting us leave two hours late tomorrow. We arrived in Lourdes quite hungry because of all our delays, but as we headed out to dinner, we realized we were about to miss the best light of the day, so we turned around and headed to the shrine.
In Paris, waiting for our flight to Montpellier

In Paris, waiting for our flight to Montpellier

— I planned to write a brief status update as we took our seats on the flight from Detroit to Paris, but somehow we ended up in an AT&T dead zone, so I had no access to the internet. The flight was uneventful, other than a bit of turbulence leaving Detroit. Kathryn and I both got a reasonable amount of sleep. The food was edible, a feature of flying Air France. Dinner was chicken with a cream sauce served with polenta something or other.
Cookies and our breaking points

Cookies and our breaking points

— If you’re reading this, we’ve safely landed in Detroit. I’ve never been to this airport before, but I hear it’s nice. I’ll report back when I’ve had a chance to look around. In the past, I’ve had a difficult time sleeping on airplanes. However, on the flight from Phoenix, I was asleep before we pushed back from the gate. I slept for well over an hour. I woke up feeling great, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the two tall beers I had at the airport.
Bags packed, ready to go

Bags packed, ready to go

— Kathryn and I were up and at ’em early this morning to start our long trip from Phoenix to Montpellier, although compared to our normal weekday schedules, it was like we slept in. Even after a couple leisurely cups of coffee, we finished our last minute chores way ahead of schedule. We’ll leave for the airport in about two hours, giving Kathryn extra time to say goodbye to the cat. We’ve arranged a petsitter who will be here the entire time we’re gone, so the cat will be well cared for.
Our next trip to Montpellier, France, starts next week

Our next trip to Montpellier, France, starts next week

— Kathryn and I are getting ready to take off late next week for a couple weeks in the south of France. Once again, we’re renting a small, furnished apartment in Montpellier. In fact, it’s the same apartment we’ve rented twice before, just a few steps from Place Jean-Jaurès in the heart of the historic center, so we have a good idea of what to expect. What we’re unable to predict at this point is how our arrival will be affected by the ongoing Gilets Jaunes protests.
Holiday lights, fountain in the historic center of Montpellier, France

Holiday lights, fountain in the historic center of Montpellier, France

— I took this photo of the fountain near the entrance of Esplanade Charles de Gaulle in Montpellier, France, on December 17, 2002. It has the distinction of being the oldest photo in my Google Photos collection — for now, at least. The camera I used back then, a Minolta point-and-shoot, had low resolution by today’s standards — about 3 megapixels, I think. However, I’m pleasantly surprised when I look back at some of these old photos and see how much nicer they look than those taken with my phone.
Hockey and Popeyes, recent news items out of Montpellier

Hockey and Popeyes, recent news items out of Montpellier

— Montpellier, France, is still one of my favorite places in the world, so I try to keep up with the local media there. I thought I’d share a couple recent news items that caught my attention today. First, our second favorite hockey team, the Montpellier Vipers, finished the regular season with an 8-0 home win against Chambéry. They are seeded third in their pool and will face Rouen in a best-of-three Division 2 eighth-finals series beginning this coming Saturday.
Don Camillo, my new favorite pizzeria in Montpellier

Don Camillo, my new favorite pizzeria in Montpellier

— I once had a favorite pizza place in Montpellier, but it closed years ago. I also had a second favorite pizzeria, but it closed too. I didn’t have a third favorite, so I had to start all over again. Now, Kathryn and I have been to Don Camillo three times in the last two years, which means by default it’s my new favorite pizzeria in Montpellier. In fact, it was where we had the first dinner and, roughly two weeks later, the last dinner of our recent stay in Montpellier.
Cassoulet languedocien, enjoying a hearty lunch in Carcassonne

Cassoulet languedocien, enjoying a hearty lunch in Carcassonne

— One of the things you’re supposed to do when you visit Carcassonne is to try the cassoulet, a dish made with meat and white beans, served like a stew. Kathryn got a photo of hers before she dug in. (Photo by KG7NRB) Our cassoulet was made with a pork sausage and had a roasted duck thigh too. The menu called it cassoulet languedocien, the latter word referring to the Languedoc region where both Carcassonne and Montpellier are located.
Hockey in Montpellier, the first French match I’ve attended

Hockey in Montpellier, the first French match I’ve attended

— It’s the second intermission of the first French hockey match I’ve ever attended. The Montpellier Vipers are hosting the Avignon Something-or-Others. Here are some of my impressions: It’s not much of a crowd. I’d measure the turnout in hundreds, not thousands. Then again, this is a Division 2 match, and since the premier French hockey league doesn’t use a number, Division 2 is really the third division. So think ECHL, not NHL.
Happy hour drinks at Le Tire Bouchon, Montpellier

Happy hour drinks at Le Tire Bouchon, Montpellier

— Yesterday we decided to enjoy a happy-hour round of drinks in one of the several cafes in the busy plaza beneath our apartment in Montpellier. It’s tough to make out the bronze statue in the center of the plaza, partly obscured by the umbrella stand, but it’s of Jean Jaurès, after whom the plaza is named. I’ll let the reader determine whether there’s a hint of irony in a plaza named after the father of French socialism having almost every square inch of its surface covered with commercial enterprises.
Visiting the Musée Fabre in Montpellier for free

Visiting the Musée Fabre in Montpellier for free

— There was a special Europe-wide event going on this past weekend, the upshot of which was most of the museums in Montpellier were free. We had made other plans for Sunday afternoon, but we abandoned them in favor of visiting the Musée Fabre instead. I don’t know how to describe the permanent collection other than to say general art. It was almost entirely European painting, sixteenth century and later, with a bit of sculpture thrown in for good measure.
Sunday Mass at Cathedrale St. Pierre in Montpellier

Sunday Mass at Cathedrale St. Pierre in Montpellier

— One of the great things about visiting France is being able to attend Sunday Mass in an impressive, medieval stone cathedral like this one in Montpellier: As luck would have it, this cathedral even had a bishop in it this morning. The retired bishop was present to celebrate an event for the young children of the parish, who processed to the altar holding little blue tea candles. Cuteness factor: higher than a basket of kittens.
Sauce Samouraï: “Why have you hidden this from me?”

Sauce Samouraï: “Why have you hidden this from me?”

— When Kathryn and I were in Paris in 2013, we ate in several kebab shops. Although I had eaten in French kebab shops when I was younger, usually after or during long nights of drinking, Kathryn, for her part, was totally sober and immediately hooked nonetheless. Meat, potatoes, bread, salt, grease, and just enough lettuce, tomato, and onion — that’s called a complet, by the way — to allow you to convince yourself it’s semi-healthy.
On our way home

On our way home

— After eight memorable days in Montpellier, we’re on our way home. The airport here is small, reminding me somewhat of Charlottesville, although it’s probably closer to the size of the airport in Richmond. Check-in only took a couple minutes, after which we had enough time to have coffee and pain au chocolat before passing through the security checkpoint, which also was no more than a couple minutes. Now we’re serenely waiting at the gate, watching the arriving passengers pass by.
Driving around the south of France

Driving around the south of France

— I haven’t written much over the past three days because they’ve been something of a whirlwind. We rented a car for two days earlier this week, and we packed a lot of sights into a short rental period. The first day we drove to St. Guilhem le Desert to visit the medieval abbey and pilgrimage waypoint there, stopping for photos of Pont du Diable along the way. Then we doubled back in the direction of Montpellier, veering south to see the old cathedral at Maguelone, followed by stops at several beaches in the area.
Made in the USA

Made in the USA

— Kathryn has been having a lot of trouble finding clothes made in France. Most tags show China or India as the country of origin, with Spain and Italy occasionally representing Europe. Of course, we’ve had the same problem finding clothing made in the USA for decades now, so it’s perhaps not surprising that France has gone the same way. Yesterday we visited Pont du Gard, and while using the men’s room in the visitor center, I had a moment of patriotic pride.
Super Bowl alternative

Super Bowl alternative

— Due to my upcoming travels plans, I most likely won’t see this year’s Super Bowl. If my flights are on time, I’ll spend most of the game inside an airplane, with my seatbelt securely fastened. Although the timing was accidental, I’m not considering it much of a loss. After last year’s boring blowout, I vowed I wouldn’t waste four hours on a Super Bowl again this year. I was only about three-quarters serious when I said it, but it looks like I’ll be honoring my vow after all.
Letter from Montpellier

Letter from Montpellier

— When last I left off, I was getting myself ready to have dinner with Marlene in Madrid on Wednesday night last week. We met near my hotel, and despite her joking about Spaniards being late and how I should wait a few extra minutes for her, she was right on time. I’m not particularly fond of Spanish cuisine in general, and most of the items on the menus there are not words I remember from the vocabulary lessons in my high school Spanish class, so eating well there can be a bit of a challenge.