I don't know where the two weeks went, but today Janis and Clark left from Montpelier heading back to the States via Paris. Now Dave and I are back home (in Thézan), the house is too quiet and a bit sad. Now that all our company are gone, the reality hits that we too must get ready to leave France. I expect next week to be a week of adjustment, straddling both Europe and the US. In the US, we need to make appointments for doctors, connect with Rochester friends to pick up our camper, make overdue visits to our Moms, etc. At the same time, we need to say our goodbyes to France, drink up the rest of the wine, eat up the leftovers from the freezer, and do a bit of touring.
The weather here has turned HOT. It's been in the mid- to upper-90's with baking sun for most of a week now. Luckily, there seem to be breezes to help cool us down and it's still perfectly comfortable in the shade in most places. There's no air conditioning in the house, but it cools down nicely in the night and there's a breeze flowing through the house from front to back, so it's not been a problem yet. Tony is worried that this summer could be a repeat of 2003 when temperatures got to 45 degrees (113 Farenheit) during the day and didn't cool lower than 40 degrees (104 F) at night. So far, we've had highs of 32-35 (88-95 F) degrees during the day and lows of 20-22 (68-72 F) at night.
The lavendar is beginning to bloom and while this area is not one to waste acreage on cultivation of lavender (for the perfume industry), there is a round-about near here that is planted completely in lavender. About half of it is now blooming. So I might have to make Dave go round the round-about a couple of times to try to get a photo. Or maybe we'll see it elsewhere.
Those of you that have visited probably remember the white truck that never moved from the parking spaces around the corner from our house. Well, the most amazing thing happened the other day. We drove by and the truck was all opened up and there were piles of mattresses in and around the truck and a couple of guys, not from Thézan, working on the truck. When I asked Marian, she didn't know, but guessed they were selling mattresses at local markets. Marian noticed that the license plate for the truck was from department 84 (the Vaucluse, in the Avignon area of Provence). But we can't figure out how you can make money parking a truck full of mattresses for two months and ignoring it. Most strange.
We left this morning for Montpelier around 10 with a plan to eat lunch at a Green Guide recommended restaurant called Les Bains de Monpelier. Logically enough, it is located in the former public baths building behind the Opera.
We arrived around 11 and parked in the train parking lot for an exorbitant $5/hour. Montpelier encourages the use of public transportation and has an excellent tram system along with busses. The center of the city is pedestrian zone (or at least what passes for one as there are always the odd car making it's way up a narrow alley and motorcycles seem to think they are pedestrians and use the alleyways to drive on and to park their bikes). But since we wanted to leave the suitcases in the car, the train station made the most sense for convenience and security.
Montpelier is setting up for the "Comédie du Livre", a huge book fair with a whole catalog of talks by authors, interviews, book signings, etc. The fair will happen Friday-Sunday and the tented stalls with tables lining the outsides are mostly set up. They cover the entire Esplanade Charles de Gaulle and the entire Place de la Comédie. From this place, you can see that parts of the inner city are 17th and 18th century architecture, reminiscent of Paris' remake under the hands of Hausmann.
As if that's not enough, there is a market on the Place de la Comédie today selling clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories, as well as the usual fruits, vegetables and artisanal agricultural products.
As we're a bit early, we walk over to the two building trompe l'oeil that I found the last time we were in Montpelier. After suitably admiring it and checking out all its little scenarios, we walk back to the restaurant and are seated on the terrace which is shaded and not uncomfortably hot.
We all order the Assiette du jour which comes with a salad, ham wrap, brochette of rumpsteak and sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes with pesto and roasted French fries. We find the ham wrap a bit odd, but everything is really tasty and cooked just right. We order a bottle of Faugères from the La Liquière vinyard which is equally good.
Our next trek is to find the second trompe l'oeil which Dave says he never saw. So we dive into the little twisty, curvy streets with help from the map from the Tourist Office,
and make our way to the church square where the trompe l'oeil is. Dave realizes he had seen it, but not realized it was trompe l'oeil. Can you see it? Granted it's harder in the photo.
A few more photos, and we dive back into the streets again seeking shade, breezes and a garden Dave remembers.
It's hot work walking in these streets, even when shady. Little alleys open onto small to large squares and then disappear into alleyways on the other side. We head for another church attached to the oldest practicing college of medicine in the western world (1220 AD). Along the way we see an arch of triumph built by Louis XIV.
Just past the college of medicine we find a botanical garden which we think could be just the right way to spend an hour. Janis loves flowers and is knowledgeable about all things related to flowering plants. While I wait on a bench in a shady spot, they head off for the gate (it's walled), but are back after very few minutes. The garden is a bust. They saw more flowers in the rocky ledges at Peyrepetuse than are in this garden.
So we head back to the Place de la Comédie for ice cream and the public toilet. We sit on the square under the awnings of a glacier (ice cream store). Dave orders beer, the rest of us ice cream. It is uncomfortably warm under the awning as the ground is beginning to radiate heat upwards while the sun bakes from above. The breezes here are more occasional adding to the discomfort. Janis takes a quick spin in the Esplanade park and is back in 15 minutes or so. We're a bit earlier than planned, but we head back to the train station. Sadly we say our quick goodbyes before we all melt on the blacktop. Jan repacks the lunch into a handled bag which includes sandwiches cherries, apricots, oranges, mustard chips (especially for Clark) and of course olives. We will each eat an olive at 7 in comraderie. Our dinner will mirror theirs as the heat of the day is too exhausting to cook.
Their train doesn't leave for another hour, but we leave them at 5 to save another $5 parking fee. It's a quiet drive home that takes most of the way home to cool down the car. (At least the car has air conditioning.) Bye Jan, Bye Clark. Safe journeys. Hope the icelandic ash cloud stays away from Paris so you can get out safely in the AM.