Monday, May 6, 2013

Passing the Days in Montpellier

            As my first full weekend in France, I didn’t really know what to expect from Montpellier and the Forquin family. Now, I have a much better idea of what average weekends are going to look like, and when I am expected to be where, for what. Seriously, that last bit is important. Something about being fed.
            Anyway, the French are big on having sweet food in the morning, eating lunch at noon, then finishing work at about 4:00pm. Once 4:00pm hits, you start to see a sort of ‘after work rush’ in the grocery stores and on transit. Montpellier isn’t big though, so the rush is over pretty quickly. This is at least in part because everyone wants to go home and take a nap. No wonder I’ve been struggling so hard to stay awake between 5:00-7:00pm, there’s a siesta! This ‘quiet time’ is even enforced through a bylaw in Montpellier, as I found out on Saturday while practicing my violin – without my mute on – during said quiet time. On the bright side, it turns out the Forquin’s neighbours are very polite, and did not report me. I won’t be practicing during the early evening anymore though …Oops? In all fairness, the only similar thing we have at home is a noise complaint for wild parties, or festivals, etc. You have to be making some pretty serious noise to earn yourself one of those, so it didn't cross my mind that something like a bylaw-enforced 'quiet time' would ever exist in the early evening.

Weekend Breakfast: Last Night's Dessert
            Anyway, that’s kind of the general structure of a weekday in Montpellier. On the weekends, it’s expected that you sleep in past noon, and then occupy yourself with something interesting until dinner at 8:00pm. They're serious about this sleeping in thing too; I got up at 9:30am or so on Sunday, puttered around my room tidying, reading, etc. until 10:30am, and still received strange looks from Catherine for being up so early. That will take some getting used to.
            So, how does all of this apply to the post? Well, this is what I do on an average day thus far in Montpellier:
            When I wake up, for class or after a ‘grosse matin’ (fat morning, or sleep-in, French-style) I get ready for the day and stroll into the kitchen. Sometimes Catherine is there, sometimes she isn’t. What is always there is breakfast. For example, a piece of chocolate tart. I wasn’t kidding when I said sweet things are a morning thing here. My favourite two patisseries (thus far) also close at about 2:00pm, which means no more tarts or bread, just sandwiches or salads from other restaurants if I’m foolish enough to have lunch late. Sweet foods make a second appearance after dinner : 9 

Grissette: Watching Intently
After breakfast, I either head to classes or have a round of yoga. Grissette (Greyling, the cat) tends to keep me company by napping in the back garden next to my mat. She finds the whole yoga thing fascinating. Sometimes she’ll just sit there and watch me go through vinyasas, all five of them. I keep waiting for her to pounce on my arm/foot/face/you know, any non-essential body part, because that’s how intensely she’ll observe. Once I’m into a sitting sequence she prefers to nap.

Grissette: Not Watching Intensely
After yoga, it’s lunch (these are close together on the weekend) and then I head out into town. This weekend the Musee de Fabre was free, so that’s where I went. It’s actually a surprisingly large museum, with a similarly surprising collection of oil and acrylic paintings. Most of them are traditional, very classic fine art. Some are impressionist, many romantic, and the very top floor is split to house some of the more modern art pieces.

The Musee de Fabre, Montpellier
On days with classes, I eat my lunch in the park next to the Place de la Comedie, which is the main plaza of Montpellier. After lunch, I’m off to wander the vielle-ville and see what I can find. On an excellent stroke of luck, I found a group of swing dancers in one of the smaller plazas, with a live band! I was so excited, I didn’t know how to approach them, they’re like a new species you see. Are French swing dancers as friendly as the ones at home? Surely, yes surely. What if I stumble over my French? Well, then at least they know you’re a bit of an idiot right off the bat, and that makes you endearing, right? Turns out that yes, actually, it does. I approached one of the dancers between sets and asked (brokenly) about where they practiced and if there was somewhere they all went to dance for fun. They thought that was all very entertaining, and were happy to give me their website, which had more information. I’ll be sure to let you know if that’s the community I end up spending my Friday nights with for the rest of my stay.

The 'Swing Jammerz' of Montpellier
Once you’ve had your daily dose of some excellent discovery (… or walked until you hurt) you head back to the Place de la Comedie and catch the tram back to the Forquins. When you get back to the house, you chat with Catherine about her day, (apparently) take a nap, and eat dinner with Michel and Alexandre. Dinner is nearly always to smaller courses, followed by salad, and dessert. Michel corrects me regularly, because I keep pronouncing ‘dessert’ like ‘desert’. Yes, the words are that close in French too. Then you shower, do whatever homework you’ve been assigned, and go to bed.
That’s about an average day for me thus far… later this week I will make a point of focusing an entry on where some of these places are, and what they look like. It’s really very pretty here, and I’d like to share that with you.
Until next time!

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