Wednesday, April 7, 2010


While I have reason to hope that some of the activities of the past month will bear fruit, they haven't just yet, so instead of hanging around the house waiting for the little chime that announces an incoming e-mail (work? or just another press release about a band I've never heard of?), I decided to take advantage of a warmish early spring day on Easter Monday by taking a walk.

There's one major road out of town (that I know of) that I've never followed, off in a direction I know I've never walked or driven, so that was the obvious route to take. It branches off of the intersection at the start of the Arceaux, the waterway that brings the water to the newly-scrubbed watertower in the Peyroux park, so it was easy enough to find, and off I went. And went. No picturesque houses, just box after box. There was a huge church whose architecture brought Mussolini to mind. I walked on, knowing that at the end of this would be countryside.

But boy, did it take a long time coming. Eventually, though, I saw a big traffic circle and some green. Just my luck: it turns out I have been out this way before. The green was the park surrounding the Chateau d'Ô, which I'd passed in August when my friend Brett was visiting and we were trying hard to leave Montpellier behind so we could drive into the countryside. It's an 18th century mansion set on extensive grounds, which also include an indoor theater and an amphiteater, where musical events happen and there are readings by famous French authors.

It's also closed on Mondays.

And, to twist the knife a little more, as I stood looking at the locked gates, a blue tram swept by, the same tram line that stops virtually in front of my house.

I'd noticed a sign on the way pointing to the city center down another road, so I hiked back to that and was in town almost immediately. The map later confirmed that I'd left at a sharp angle, and there's a much easier way to walk to the Chateau d'Ô if I need to. Of course, I can also take the tram.

Okay, fine, I thought. The next day there'd be a market. I'd gone to restock some stuff on Saturday, battling the pre-Easter crowds, and noticed a basket labelled "wild asparagus," one of my current culinary grails, even if I can't taste anything. But it was empty. Maybe on Tuesday there'd be more, and I could get a reading on the current agricultural bounty.

As if. The same old root vegetables are there, tomatoes are few and of the sort you could play several points of handball with before they smooshed, there were some sequoia-sized green asparagus stalks priced at buy-a-kilo-or-pay-the-rent heights, and nothing much else. I had to remind myself that the flowering fruit trees I'd seen last week as I took the train back here from Paris were only flowering, and that it'd take a while for the fruit to set and ripen. There were some pale strawberries labelled "Garriguette," but I wasn't convinced.

When I was in the States, people kept asking me about life in the "south of France," as my current residence is announced on Fresh Air. (I know Terry can say Montpellier because she said it a couple of times while we talked when I visited Philadelphia). It's worth noting, then, that while I'm still enthusiastic about living here and all, reality dictates that sometimes you can take a walk and not get anywhere, and sometimes you go to the market and it's the same old same old. Tomatoes will come, as will neat places to visit (if you're impatient for some, check out Gerry's blog, because he does it on a bike). As with the work, I just have to be patient.

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