The date marking my first six months in France passed while Marilla was still here. It seemed like an auspicious date and I’d intended to write about it, but we were too busy having fun for me to want to spend time at the computer.
After finally managing to rent the car, we put our wheels to good use. One Sunday, we drove down to the beach areas near Montpellier–Palavas les flots, Aigues Mortes, Saintes Maries-de-la-Mere. Palavas is on a strip of sand dunes that separates a couple of lakes– Étang de l’Arnel and the Étang du Méjean– from the Mediterranean. The air had a salty tang that, living inland, I’ve missed. We saw pink flamingoes doing their balletic twisting, numerous seabirds and an equally numerous number of competitors for the few parking spaces available. Not wishing to compete, we drove on to the Camargue, all marshes and farmland and very different from the landscape in and around Montpeyroux. We saw the fabled white horses, no longer wild it seems, black bulls lying on strips of sand by the water. We took a boat ride, had beer and chips at a waterfront cafe and got hopelessly lost in Montpellier as we tried to return to Montpeyroux. Actually we spent a lot of time during Marilla’s visit doing the last two things–eating, drinking and (not necessarily as a result) getting lost.
I’ve wanted to visit Collioure ever since someone told me that it was the anchovy capital of France. Although tourists have replaced anchovies as the chief commodity–we had to look hard to even find anchovies on restaurant menus– Collioure was charming and picturesque and definitely worth a return visit. We ate enough mussels to change Marilla’s mind about liking them. She decided she did, although perhaps not in the quantity that we consumed then. We also sampled, Banyuls, a sweet local wine. The following day we drove the picturesque, but hair raising, road down the coast to the Dali museum in Figueres, Spain. I think I preferred Dali’s house to the museum–more whimsical somehow with its glimpses into the artist’s domestic life.
Yesterday, October 1, I saw Marilla off at the Montpellier airport and picked up Barbara at the Mosson tram stop. The airport is at one end of the city, the tram stop at the other. In between, I managed to once again get hopelessly snarled in the middle of Montpellier traffic and thwarted by street signs that seem to indicate one direction but lead to another. At one point, thinking I’d taken the road out of the city, I found myself instead in the underground parking lot of a shopping center. Once in, I couldn’t get out. Cars lined up behind me at the security gate. I fumbled in my bag for change. I found the change, but couldn’t find anywhere to deposit it. More cars lined up behind me. I got out of my car and spoke to the guy in the car behind me. He said something I couldn’t understand. The car behind him backed up, then the guy I’d spoken to backed up. Then I backed up. Parking lots in France, I suddenly remembered, require that you validate your picket BEFORE you get to the security gate. I parked the car, took the escalator up to the shops, downed a cup of café creme, validated my ticket and this time successfully managed an exit.
In April, when I first arrived in France, the vines around the Pigeonniere in Exideuil, were stark and bare. By June, I’d moved down here to Montpeyroux and the vineyards were green with new leaves. Now the vendange is, for the most part, finished and there are flashes of red and rust as leaves change color. I’ve spent a spring and summer here and autumn is very much in evidence with cooler mornings and evenings, but brilliant blue skies. Just a month ago, Pezenas, where I go on Mondays for French lessons, was jammed with tourists. This past Monday the streets were empty, many of the shops shuttered. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that as winter approaches and I look forward to more visitors from the States, there will still be enough to keep everyone entertained. As I write this, Barbara is out walking in the vineyards. She was in half a dozen different European countries before she arrived here and she assures me that a little time alone with nature is exactly what she wants. I’m happy to oblige. Yesterday, we had a lunch of olives, anchovies, various cheeses and bread that Marilla and I bought at the market in Gignac last Saturday. (Barbara says thank-you, Marilla!) This Saturday, I’ll take Barbara and we’ll replenish the stock. The market is open year round and, if all else fails, always a source of entertainment.