Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sorties in Montpellier

Although I would love to write day-by-day posts of our outings to Montpellier, I figured I should really just put them all in one post. That way I won't forget anything! I love visiting my Beaux-Parents, and they are very kind to have us, saving us all kinds of money by making us our favorite foods, giving us free unlimited internet access, a bed to sleep in, and almost-daily laundry service. The only thing I don't like is how far away from Montpellier their town, Gallargues le Montueux, is! We have to drive for about twenty minutes on the highway (which costs something like 1€20) or take the "Route de la Mer," which (while following alongside the picturesque étangs) takes more like 45 minutes. Hey, I guess I should be happy they don't still live in Mende!

Trip 1: Okay, okay. Back to business. As you might imagine, I take any and every excuse to visit Montpellier. Two weeks ago on Monday, my excuse was: we'll check all of the video game stores in the Polygone and in Montpellier centre ville for the right version of the Xbox 360; afterwards we'll walk around the écusson, have kebabs, and then watch the France-Italy Euro 2008 game on the giant screen set up on the Place de la Comédie. We did all of this, and I took my traditional "pilgrimage" (as Belle-Maman calls it) to my favorite places in the city. Actually I was only able to do about half of the visiting I wanted, because les frangins (Jube and Le Pacha) were too tired to walk all the way to le Peyrou. So I visited St. Roch, Ste. Anne, la Rue de l'Ancien Courrier, and, between St. Guilhem and Ste. Anne, a tiny little dead-end street called Impasse Brun. This is where Jube and I had our first apartment, which we only lived in for a month while I attended French classes at the university. We borrowed it from one of his friends who was spending the summer in Ireland.

Afterwards, the food: kebabs, fries, sodas; then McFlurrys from MacDo. And then we sat down near the giant screen to watch the match. This was actually pretty fun to begin with; there were some Italian supporters who stood up and sang their national anthem to much heckling and throwing of non-lethal objects (like cigarette butts). Afterwards the rest of the crowd stood and roared out the Marseillaise (with much emphasis on Aux armes, citoyens!). Sadly, the World Cup Final rematch was not as exciting, with France losing 2-0. The crowd moped away dejectedly after it was over, and we went with them.

Trip 2: Jube and I visited the newly-reopened Musée Fabre, which at the moment has a special exhibit of Courbet. I was unfamiliar with the artist before going, but I really enjoyed the exhibition. He even painted the Roman bridge on the Vidourle that is about 10 minutes away from Gallargues, which I have visited many times (check out his route through Hérault here). That was really cool!

Trip 3: Jube and I were planning on spending all afternoon in Montpellier, but at the last second we decided just to go for a little visit and take le Pacha along with us. I decided that I wanted to see le Peyrou and the Cathedral, but fate was against us: as we moved uphill, we started hearing popping noises and shouting. We had run into a protest from the local wine producers! At first I was really annoyed, because I had wanted to see les Arceaux... but soon I realized that a protest was just as fun.
We were very close, but just as we started moving closer, the CRS (riot police) shot some tear gas canisters into the air, and all of the onlookers turned and ran. Funnily enough, it looks like blogger Joy Suzanne and I just missed each other!

Trip 4 (aka sortie en amoureux): Jube and I get to spend a long, lazy afternoon in Montpellier. After visiting the gift shop of the Musée Fabre, we had a little drink at one of my favorite squares in the city, la Place St. Ravy. I had a pamplemousse pressé and Jube had a menthe à l'eau.
Afterwards we finally made it to le Peyrou, and then headed down to the Jardin des Plantes for a little relaxation. We met a cute little cat there:
And then we went up to the Place de la Canourgue for dinner. We had a great time, and I ended with a "café gourmand" that looked like this:
That's a little tart, a cup of panacotta, and a "mint chocolate bomb." Yum!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nîmes Encore

A couple of days after the concert, Jube and I headed back to Nîmes, this time during the day. We stopped by Carrefour to see if they had an Xbox 360 for Le Pacha, but they didn't have the right one. Afterwards, we headed into town to walk around for a bit.

We saw les Arènes, as usual, and then went to the mall (fnac for Jube and Zara for me). We visited the Maison Carrée, but half of it is covered in scaffolding. It is being cleaned, and when that's finished, it's going to be really beautiful... but for the moment, it just looks sad. I had hopes of having a drink at the terrace restaurant of the Carré d'Art next to the Maison Carrée... We've never been inside, but the Carré d'Art is a museum of modern art. It was inspired by the Roman temple of the Maison Carrée, but is very modern architecture - think lots of glass, metal, and decorative pipes. Belle-Maman hates it, but I think it's kind of neat!

Anyway, since we couldn't go in there (because the whole point was sitting where there is a good view of the Maison Carrée which is now covered in scaffolding and advertisements), I had the idea of going to les Jardins de la Fontaine for a drink! I really like the walk there. It goes by a calm canal lined with sycamores, which are reflected very green. Les Jardins include an old Roman library (called the Temple of Diana, for some reason!) and lots of 19th Century landscaping... pretty canals, little pleasure gardens, lots of staircases. This time, Jube and I climbed up the hill that usually serves as a background for les Jardins. It reminded me a bit of Barcelona's Park Güell in the way it just kept going! We climbed for awhile, and I started getting tired - remember, all I wanted was a drink at an outdoor café so we could relax for a bit! I was wearing a skirt and sandals, and we kept passing people dressed for hiking - or rather, they kept passing us.

But then we made it to the top, where we found la Tour Magne. I was surprised to have found a part of Nîmes I didn't know! We paid €5 to get inside, and then started the grueling process of climbing about a thousand tiny stairs to get to the lookout at the top. I almost passed out on the way, but we finally made it! The view was gorgeous - we could practically see all the way back to Gallargues! We saw all of Nîmes from above. I was amazed! I'd never even heard of the Tour Magne!

Then we made our way back down to sealevel where I finally got to have my drink! Jube chose an apple juice and I had a diabolo fraise (which is just a fancy way of saying a Shirley Temple). We relaxed in the cool of the shade, watching little kids play in the puddles. And then we went back to Gallargues, where that evening I had a horrible headache (probably from climbing a million feet in the sun without drinking any water).

It was a wonderful day, and I only regret not bringing my camera - I thought that I'd seen everything there was to see in Nîmes, and I was wrong!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Okay, enough suspense: Jube and I did make it to the Radiohead concert! Before going, Belle-maman gave us the latest edition of the local paper, the Midi Libre, which talked about the band and gave a quick review of their show. It sounded really dull, actually, with fluorescent lights and "energy-saving" measures. That didn't really bug me, but since Jube isn't a fan (heresy, I know, but what can I do about it?) he was worried it would be boring.

It wasn't! He even admitted that the band was "tight" and "sounded professional," that Thom sang "in tune" and that he was "glad to have gone." Those are high words of praise from my husband, I tell you what! Here's a YouTube video of the concert taken from about the same vantage point as where we were standing.

Of course, I couldn't see as well as this camera, which is being held somewhere above our heads... I don't think I'm super short, and I don't have any complex about my height or anything, but I did find myself wishing I were taller...

Here is a shot from before the concert... this is actually from the night before, but it gives a good idea of how it feels to be in the Arènes de Nîmes, waiting for the show to start.

(Jube and I were down on the ground.)

My favorite songs of the night were: Just, Paranoid Android, Reckoner, 15 Steps, and, of course, Idiotheque, which was the big closer.

I don't think there can ever be a perfect night. At the concert at Shepherds Bush, when I saw Radiohead in London, one fan who'd slept all night on the pavement outside turned around with a nasty "Shhht!" while I was singing along with the music... In Nîmes, I didn't get close enough to the stage and probably bugged the hell out of the people around me by dancing to most of the songs. I also whacked someone's camera while dancing to the end of Paranoid Android... I haven't seen it on YouTube, but if you happen to see a video where the camera is nearly bashed to pieces during the last instrumental bit, I'm probably the cause.

Anyway, we had a great time, found a free parking space, and got home safely, so all in all I'd say it was a good night.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I'm sure that everyone has been wondering what's happened to me in the past two weeks. No? No one? Well, I'll tell you anyway!

Jube and I bought tickets to come to France! We bought them about a week before we arrived and decided not to post about it on the blog so as not to alert Belle-maman. She was very surprised to see us, and very happy too! Of course, there were some hics to our trip... I guess it's impossible to fly trans-Atlantic without having something go wrong. So here's the story:

I am returning to the US about 10 days before Jube for various reasons. Weirdly, my plane ticket was much more expensive than his, so we decided to fly on different airlines to save some money. He flew with Iberia, switching in Madrid, and I flew British Airways, changing airports and planes in London. We normally fly British Air, because for some reason, the tickets to the south of France are usually cheaper. I know that a lot of people have had problems with them, but they've never lost my bags or anything, so I like them.

No problems, that is, until this time. My flight from Washington was nearly two hours late. I rushed as fast as I could to Gatwick, and arrived 20 minutes before my plane was supposed to take off for Marseille. The gate was closed, but I still had a tiny hope that I could make it... up until the moment that they told me to go to customer service instead of security. I was so upset and jet lagged that tears started rolling down my cheeks in the airport. While explaining my situation to the representative, I could hardly catch my breath through my sobs. It was the first time that I'd ever missed a connecting flight in the 7 years that I've been traveling to Europe.

The woman who helped me was very nice, and pretended to ignore my tears, although she did say, "Oh, you must be so tired!" She booked me on the next flight to Marseille - leaving the next day, at 6:00 am. I almost started crying again when she told me I'd have to spend the night in a hotel. Luckily I had Beau-papa's phone number, and I called him to let him know my troubles. Then, after I deposited my checked bag and collected my boarding pass, I headed off to the Premier Travel Inn, with strict directions to be at the airport by 5:15 the next morning.

After I finally checked in to my room (and thanking my lucky stars that I had £2 in coins leftover from my last layover in London to pay the shuttle bus driver), I took a bath and cried. I ate my free dinner at 6:30 and was in bed by 8:00 pm, my alarm set for 4:30 the next morning.

Of course, the alarm didn't go off. I woke up at 5:15 and checked the time, immediately cursing and pulling on the clothes I'd set out the night before. I couldn't believe that I might miss my flight again, and this time with no backup plan. I ran through security and to the gate, relaxing only when I found that there were people behind me just starting to amble in the direction of the plane. Finally, by 9:00 French time, I was in Beau-papa's Renault Scénic heading toward Montpellier.

Next installment: did we make the Radiohead concert? Or were my tickets counterfeit?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Harbor Fest 2008

Jube and I went to Harbor Fest last year, and we had a great time! This year we went just for the fireworks, because they were really awesome. They were just as good this time around.

We made one change over last year, though - this time, we brought our own food instead of buying the deep-fried goodness of fair food. This is what we had (we felt super healthy!):

Steamed shrimp with homemade aioli (Jube made the aioli without using our mixer, which I thought was pretty amazing!);
Fresh salad with homemade vinaigrette, sundried tomatoes and bleu cheese;
One avocado each;

But we did get some good dessert after the fireworks were over.

As I ate the shrimp and ailoi, I though that our neighbors must be annoyed that we were eating so much garlic. I could barely stand to smell my own breath! But then I realized that the woman sitting to our right was screaming at every blast of the fireworks, "Pink! I want to see pink fireworks!" Then she called her friend during the grand finale and yelled over the noise, "Are you going to Bar Norfolk tonight? Are you going to Bar Norfolk tonight? 'Cause we're downtown and we could meet you there. We're downtown!" I figured that if she had been bothered by our smelly breath, she would have told us.