Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bienvenue a Montpellier

Ah, at last. In true Kenna style (which, let’s admit it, is a little tardy) I have a post for you on what things and places look like in Montpellier. Once I leave the house in the morning, the first thing I do is catch the tram down into the centre-ville. The tram I take hasn’t changed since last time, and is still the brightly coloured Ligne 2, which is affectionately referred to as ‘Fleurs’. When people are giving you directions somewhere, it’s not unusual for them to say something like “Oh yeah, just get on Flowers and hop off at Gare St Roch to connect…” etc. etc. It’s also not unusual for the trams to run on rails with grass under them once they’re out of the centre-ville area. I was pretty excited about the grass last time I was here, and I still think it is just the most ingenious urban design. I know we have a lot of green space at home, but over here, especially in the cities, there is very little green space. It’s incredible how much I have missed the big open grass fields that we have for parks at home. So grass under the tram is actually a relief for your eyes from all of the stone and pavement.

Ligne 2 Fleurs, on the Grass
Anyway, once I’m on the tram I stay on the tram until Gare St. Roch, which is the station right at the center of Montpellier where all the national rail lines (TGV, SNCF, etc.) arrive to drop people off. It’s where I arrived, and where I’ll leave from. It’s also where all the trams connect. 

Gare St. Roch
There are three other tram lines here, two of which I regularly use. One with birds (Ligne 1, Oiseaux) that is blue.
Ligne 1, Oiseaux
One with fish (Ligne 3, Poisson) and one that’s… well…

Ligne 4, or 'That Other Tram'
Yes, Ligne 4 is kind of the black sheep of the tram family here in Montpellier. The other lines all have cute names like ‘Oiseaux’, ‘Poisson’ and ‘Fleurs’; ligne 4 is referred to as ‘ligne 4’ or ‘that other line’. The pattern on it is kind of reminiscent of paisley, and I can’t help but think ‘oh yes, the ugly tram’ every time I see it in the street. That being said, it’s the one that I use to get to the bagel shop when I’m feeling homesick, so its utility far outweighs any pity I feel for the tram itself. I have been trying unsuccessfully to have my camera out and ready when Poisson rolls by. It’s the only line I don’t use.

Place de la Comedie
From Gare St. Roch I have a short, 5 minute walk through the Place de la Comedie to the school. The Place de la Comedie is referred to as the ‘couer de la ville’ because it is the liveliest, most active place in town. It’s where the tourists spend most of their time, and the promenade next to it is where I go to eat lunch most often.

Esplanade Charles de Gaulle
The theatre is also there, and that’s pretty exciting. Montpellier is a university town, meaning that there is actually a strong market here for English films with French subtitles. Between the students and the summer tourists, the Gaumont actually has two versions of just about every major film it runs; the original English with French subtitles, and a dubbed French version. Guys, I can watch Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby without struggling to keep up with the dialogue! Whoo! That being said, by the time July rolls around I’m planning on going to see whatever is out in the dubbed French, just to see if I can follow it without a problem.

Le Gaumont
The other place I’ve been spending a great deal of time thus far is the Mediatheque d’Emile Zola, which is the biggest library in Montpellier. It’s this wonderful, air conditioned and rain-proof building with big tables, plenty of French books and a coffee shop. My first week here it did a lot of raining, and I hadn’t figured out how to deal with the burglar alarm at the house without setting it off, so going straight home in the afternoon was less of an option. I mean, who actually wants to deal with the police, even when they’re sure they can communicate that they really weren’t breaking into a house? So I found the Emile Zola J Which is pretty much my new favourite building.

Mediatheque Emile Zola
Bienvenue a Montpellier, petite Canadienne J

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