Even more Montpellier

Montpellier Travel Blog

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July 20

Even though it is mid-week, I’ve decided that today would be a weekend. As such, I’ve forgone hanging around campus and have headed off early to the beach for more sun and fun. While the others are learning things in class, I’m learning things in other locales. The beach for instance – I’ve learned how to feign nonchalance at the topless bathing scene. There are girls I sit around with all day imagining naked; six hours later, my imagination is no longer required. To be honest, having the challenge replaced with their level of comfort in the au naturelle is a bit of a downer. I don’t mind having to work for my rewards and I think that there should be an exclusivity of viewing for those of us competent enough to arrange for private viewings, but when the goods are on display for all, it reminds me of a free day’s entrance into the museum. Art should not be available to the masses; to see beauty, one must pay.


Back to the beach, where sunbathing is a (s)trip. The sand extends for miles, or kilometers as they say here, but the beach is usually crowded. Our group finds its own enclave and spends the day playing ball, swimming, body surfing, and just lying around.  We packed a picnic lunch, but alas had forgotten to bring the proper utensils. I hearkened back to my Neanderthal roots, which had recently resurfaced as a result of the aforementioned topless tanning, and located a large seashell, which I adroitly used, much to the amazement and awe of the Europeans around me, to skin a wheel of Camembert and, as an encore, to skin a pear. A couple of more weeks of practice and I could probably revolutionize surgery.


 I had arrived on the beach early deciding to go Dutch that day, and thusly was accompanied by Viebeka and Sabina, two darlings from the Netherlands. A relationship had started developing between Sabina and me earlier the previous evening during the singsong. It was further nurtured that day on the beach and continued to bloom following an ice skating session at an indoor rink near the university later that afternoon. It helps to be Canadian. One of the few benefits of living in the frozen Tundra is that it teaches you how to skate well enough to show off in front of girls (unless they are Canadian, in which case, they can usually skate circles around you). Water takes many forms here – within four hours I had experienced it bottled, salted and frozen. There was no sauna in the area to allow me to hit for the cycle.


We stopped by early at a little club on the way back from the beach and as the sun began to set everybody began to drift in. We all compared the day’s progression toward our perfect tans and spent the remainder of the afternoon and early evening sitting around drinking kir.  All except Jay, who insisted on drinking beer. Time for some character studies and literary portraits. Jay was your typical ugly American – loud, brash, and highly opinionated who was the first to admit that generally was ill informed on matters. He had a very interesting sense of morality whereby he found it perfectly acceptable to steal from stores, but would not pilfer from individuals. The Rhode Islander attended Berkley and appears to have completed a dual major in tennis and Frisbee. Like everyone else here, he is pleasant and a source of fun and amusement.

Pia is a petite Swede. A lovely soul she is intrinsically frustrated with life and its apparent inequities. An intellectual who views the world from a metaphysical perspective, Pia is blossoming in this environment which is replete with emotional thinkers representing the broadest of spectra in terms of experiential histories, geography, and financial backgrounds.  She hails from a small village in the north of Sweden. In her home environment, there is a void in the area of intellectual discourse and exchange of ideas. She gains an almost physiological sustenance from her experience here and is counting with dread the days which remain in this open market of ideological exchange. I can’t imagine many things worse than the solitary confinement of cosmic consciousness that Pia must endure when she is home. This night, Pia is in tears; not because of some esoteric revelation, but because some asshole snuck into her room and stole her purse and the 400 Francs that were in it. That amount of money could have lasted me months. The splash of ice-cold veracity injected a heavy dose of realism into a situation that was drifting toward a surreal sense of the idyllic. It is ironic that this crime was committed against the gentlest of people there; probably the most vulnerable. Pia was provided with another unnecessary lesson of the inequities and evil that exists on this planet. All eyes were cast on Jay, but of course there is no proof, although the rend in the fabric of universal love and trust within the group is evident.


Then there is Sir Anthony of England. Anthony possesses a keen sense of humour and positions himself as England’s ambassador of good will and intent. In small groups he often seeks to be the center of attention. It is warming to see him attain the role of top dog in those situations. I get the feeling that for whatever reason, he rarely gets the limelight at home. This summer seems to be a breakout experience for the guy and I hope that the imbued confidence returns home with him at session’s end and that it propels him forward in his real life.


Later that evening, I spend a few good hours alone with Sabina. At this juncture, I honestly cannot decide if I’m as nice and good a guy as she and countless other women think that I am because that is what I convey of myself, or am I merely a conniving lust-driven cad that I sometimes fear that I am.  A more detailed analysis of both Sabina and me will no doubt emerge with time.



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July 20

I awoke to find that my convivial cohort had all been up for hours and were attending class. They had provided me with the general schedule the night before – classes in the morning, then lunch and free time for the rest of the day. Me, I used the down time to prepare a cup of coffee for myself and then took a quick jaunt into town to purchase my Cote d‘azure costume de bain – a slinky little nylon number, mostly blue, with a red and white accent. I suppose that subconsciously I had realized that a bathing suit in those three hues would comprise the colours of the national flags of about three quarters of the girls at school which could provide me a subliminal advantage as I tried to figure out a way to extricate them from the confines of their beach wear. Thinking, always thinking. I made it back to campus for lunch with my new gang and accompanied them for what would be my first foray into the Mediterranean. The sun was as fierce as it was beautiful. We played ball on the beach with a --- figure it out, all the time getting closer to those that I had met merely hours earlier. It began to dawn on me that having finished university myself only a month or two earlier, this would likely be my last hurrah as part of, or quasi-part of, a student body. I quickly reflected on all of the good times I had as a student and wistfully realized that those days were forever behind me. I could suddenly see how I was going to miss school and said a fond farewell, standing knee deep in one of the world’s most celebrated ponds, to an important chapter of my life.


Well, looking forward to a cheap week in the south of France with a great bunch of people does help to smooth out the transition. What could be better? As for why I’m doing all of this- the curses I’ve uttered waiting for rides; the schlepping around I’ve endured trying to find non-existent or illogically numbered addresses – the positive side comes into view; instantly obliterating the bad. Perspective (or lack thereof – I haven’t decided which yet) quickly returns. I suppose that all I’m trying to prove is that I can take care of myself, that I can make good things happen, and that fortune will continue to stay by my side. All that and most importantly, that I can grow a proper moustache. Time for supper.

photo by: ikebana