First off, here's Marie on exactly where we are:
Languedoc-Roussillon comprises Hérault, Gard, Lozère, Aude, Pyrénées-orientales (I think you wrote that Roussillon was a département). Languedoc-Roussillon is a region which has its own administration. Départements are part of the "national" administration. The préfet represents ''l'Etat" in the département. We have préfets de département and un préfet de région. It's complex and it's almost impossible to understand how all these levels of administration work.
That last sentence is right on the money, and if you contemplate the interlocking boxes, you begin to realize the possible size of the bureaucracy. Then, imagine that none of these bureaucracies particularly want to work with the others, and another part of the picture emerges. Remember when I reported on the student project on wine tourism and how nobody from any tourist bureau showed up at all? Part of the answer lies there.
And, of course, Richard corrected me about the "Catalan" signs in the streets here. Of course, they're Occitan. Catalan wouldn't be this far east, not to mention that this city's been the capital of Occitania forever. But, along with the booth at the Festum lobbying for the teaching of Occitan in the schools, I wonder just how much of a living language it still is. I know, I saw the books and all, but are they just a hobby, or is there a place out there where the people still speak this language, oppressed as it was by both the Church and the government in Paris for so long, among themselves?
I could defend myself by saying I've only been here a little more than six months, but really, I'm surrounded by books and have Internet access. But...I'm learning!
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Another Very Montpellier Story: Part of the bureaucracy of governments noted above is that each one of these divisions -- city, region, etc. -- prints a magazine which gets dumped into your mailbox at least once a month. I've been trying to learn about where I am from them (and you can see what a good job I'm doing), so I dutifully read them when they appear. One I was reading recently reported that the first Apple Store in France had just opened -- not, as you might expect, in Paris, no! It was in Montpellier's very own Odysseum! What a coup! The Paris store won't be open until September!
Cool. I have a dead Mac Mini sitting here that might well benefit from the attentions of a Genius at an Apple store, plus it's just plain good to know it exists. But...I was at the Odysseum recently, hiking to Ikea, and...Apple Store? Where? I sure hadn't seen it, nor could I imagine where it would fit in the buildings there. I dialled up apple.fr, and went to the "where can I buy a Mac" link. There was a list of stores here and in Nîmes, pretty much what I already knew. Now, you'd think that if there was an Apple-owned store anywhere in France it'd be on the website, right?
Thus, I imagine some drone journalist with his civil-servant salary sitting in the office looking at the two-inch hole in one of the pages of the next issue, and vaguely remembering a press-release from Apple he'd read. Bingo: problem solved.
I know there's a huge hunk of the Odysseum still under construction, and it wouldn't surprise me if it opened before September and an Apple Store was in it. I have a feeling that before this summer's over I'm going to want to make a visit to the aquarium out there -- truly one of the coolest places I've ever seen -- for a little chilling. I'll look and I'll believe my own eyes.
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Market day today, and it's obvious the seasons are changing. I scored some green peas, but they're kind of skanky (price was right), reminding me of the quality I used to get in Berlin. The peas themselves will be okay. Lots of lettuce, and cheap. Cherries, tiny peaches, what's clearly close to the last asparagus (scored myself a bunch), and more and more melons are showing up. The one I pictured here a couple of weeks ago was mealy and dry, not to mention the center was a huge cavity with seeds in it. I have higher hopes for this one here.
But check these tomatoes. They came from a guy who had a bunch of kinds mixed in bins labelled "tomates anciennes." The tubular ones fascinate me, and my thought is to cut them in coins and use them on a pizza, maybe with some black olives. The other two just look primordial. I wonder what they taste like..?
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And speaking of food, I guess nobody knows about canned or boxed chicken broth, but I hope someone knows about chickens. When I see them at the butcher, they've got the head and feet on. Now, if I go to a butcher shop, as opposed to the ladies at the market, and buy one of these, will they cut off the heads and feet for me? Will they go the further mile and cut the chicken into serving pieces, ie, breast, legs, etc? I'm a ways from needing this question answered, given the price of chickens, but it'd be nice to know so I don't embarrass myself any further.