Wrinkly old balls

Trip Start Sep 19, 2006
Trip End Dec 19, 2007

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Sunday, October 8, 2006

I spent a few days in Cambridge before dashing off to Montpellier, before my first job interview the following Monday. I was going to Montpellier not to see how my brain would handle being jolted from Italian to English and then to French all within the course of week (although that was interesting), but to visit two of my ex-colleagues, scientists, in Europe for conferences.

Oli is French and from Montpellier and managed to get his old apartment back for the duration of his stay, so we stayed there. Oli's place is in the heart of Montpellier, which was fantastic, as I could potter around the city at my leisure, buying too many new clothes and shoes as usual.

Montpellier is a majestic city, with its monuments and parks and great shops tucked away in ancient buildings. It has an Arc de Triomph equally as impressive as the one in Paris - I didn't realise they were as common in France as remembrance arches are in Australia, although it makes sense. I guess Paris gets all the credit just because it's the capital.

I didn't actually do that much pottering, because I had gotten a cold in Cambridge (how tragic after making it through a long haul flight unscathed!), and the flight to Montpellier forced it into my lungs as so often happens with my childhood bronchitis legacy. But to me France is a healing place (next time you see me ask about the Magical House of Chambery) and I was better within a few days, thanks no doubt to the 11am sleepins.

No thanks though to the French still smoking in restaurants! Urgh! How vulgar! I've read they plan to ban it all by 2008, which will be a horrible shock to the French but heaven for me. In clubs and pubs I can tolerate the stench, but smoking while people are eating is just disgusting.

That is really my only complaint about France, I love it. I would go on about this goat's cheese I had but after the mozzarella in the last entry that would be a bit much. I bought three vintage French shirts for five Euro each (can you believe it?), as well as the pair of black boots I've been seeking.

The weather was flawless, so on the Saturday we went to one of Montpellier's beaches by the wetlands. They have course sand, like in parts of Western Australia - crushed and polished shells rather than grains. It felt great between my toes. I concentrated on the sand a lot, because Oli had dragged us to a nudist beach! Apparently it's the nicest beach in Montpellier. I was absolutely horrified by the idea - I'm living in England now, I'm allowed to be a prude. So I was complaining, partly because I envisaged something like the infamous Maslins Beach in South Australia, which is known to attract perverts and gawkers and not too many genuine nude bathers.

My anxiety was unfounded though, because in fact about three quarters of people were clothed so we weren't out of place (I had thought my bikini was skimpy - I had nothing to worry about!), there were even families and old people and stuff. It was still more than your usual beach trip though - just as I'd start relaxing wandering along the sand I'd be confronted with some wrinkly old guy spreadeagled on his towel (one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen), forcing me to quickly divert my gaze back to the sand or the interesting seascape.

It was certainly an experience.

On Saturday night I went to a fantastic soiree like other great intercultural parties I've managed to stumble upon in France. I was just starting to get my head into French mode, but wandering around there was as much English in the air as French, with a few more languages thrown in as well. I met a bunch of interesting and friendly people and got contact details, so who knows who I might get to see again and where.
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