please click on small photos to see enlargements
SATURDAY 3 October 7:15pm
Hotel des Etuves 2 beds bath wc 185 FF
We had another excellent day. We left St.Brès in brilliant sunshine 18C at a little before 10. The sky was virtually cloudless with a few billowing clouds on the horizon. There was a stiff northwest wind which was only really annoying when we got turned around and had to backtrack.
But we reached Montpellier at last by 12:30. We came in through the industrial section and on through a virtually deserted streets of Place des Millenaires - a very new, yet attractive housing developement. We somehow blundered onto a bicycle trail. As we got into the older section and near the tourist office, we suddenly began to see more people. There were temporary stalls set up selling jewellery and prints of American cartoon characters.
We passed through a most beautiful square: Place de la Comedie. There was a large white tent there that had been set up by the local humane socity. They were adopting dogs and cats. Right in front of it was a gorgeous fountain with figures (nymphs?) standing on top of a moss and grass filled rock. There were lots of young people hanging around. Many had guitars on their backs and long multicoloured braided hair. There had been an outdoor market going on this morning and everyone was packing up and street cleaners were moving around efficiently. We arrived easily and quickly to this little hotel and in spite of the strong smell of pipe tobacco in the room, decided to stay.
There are a number of shops and tea stalls nearby and a chocolatier right across the street.We, of course, bought chocolate from the Atelier du chocolat. The proprieter called out to a fellow passing by: "Hallo Monsieur BonBon!" The fellow has a candy store down the street. Monsieur BonBon calls the chocolatier Monsieur Chocolat. A group of young musicians were eating lunch at the salon de the next door to our hotel when we arrived. We decided to eat lunch at the same salon. They had just finished eating and set up a little way down the street to play a few jazz tunes quite well; I was sorry that they packed up and left after the violinist's flourish at the end of "All Of Me".
After lunch, we went out to bicycle in this really wonderful town going up and down narrow streets that were sadly marred by the sound of a loud radio being piped out everywhere. It began just after lunch. There was cheesy music and announcements advertising the various stores in the neighbourhood. It turns out that it was for this week only and that today is the last day for the horror. It was blaring into our room until 7:00 this evening and then we had blissful silence - except of course for the sound of clinking glasses from the salon de the and shutters being closed on the other shops.
Up and up we went passing a lovely small church and away from the din of the piped music onto a grande route: Avenue de la Foch. We rode to the end of it through some magnificent gates that led to an ancient aqueduct. We saw the Mediterranean in the distance as well as the rest of the surrounding countryside. There was a remarkable looking cathedral that we headed towards going down a narrow very steep road - hoping our brakes were working well. We turned the corner and there in front of us was a magnificent cathedral with two big towers in the front entrance way. We went inside and admired the almost peaceful beauty - almost peaceful, because an organist was practicing for an upcoming recital. Loud as only organ music can be. Inside the church were beggars sitting silently watchful, waiting for a handout.
We then went to the Jardin des Plantes (very old botanical garden - oldest in France?) not far away. We were sorry to have to leave the lovely place soon after entering because it was closing. A man walked around ringing a handbell to indicate that it was time to leave. As we exited, there were church bells ringing.
total distance: 36.93 km
av sp: 10.7 km/hr
max sp: 26 km/hr
We are now sitting at an outdoor bar having aperitifs and listening to the chatter and music from inside, watching a friendly black dog walk back and forth from customer to customer, smelling cigarette smoke and listening to the hopped-up motor scooters race by occasionally. We dread having them race up and down tonight.
We just walked around to look at restaurants and after having a girl behind one bar (she never took her finger out of her mouth) tell us that we would have to eat outside; we settled on a place that smelled absolutely wonderful. It was warm and friendly inside, with a big fireplace for grilling.
On the way to the restaurant, we stopped to listen to the acoustic jazz ensemble from lunch play in the street close to our restaurant. The violinist was very good, sounding like a young Jean Luc Ponte. He played variation after variation, especially when he knew that he had captured his audience. T dragged me away, saying we would be late for dinner. We went to Le Feu Follet and sat right next to the grilling fire watching and smelling everyone's meat get cooked over wood. The wood looked like old grape vines chopped up and gave the food a sort of wild flavour.
We both had the 68 FF menu:
E: salade avec chevre chaud (with corn as well as lettuce!)
T: terrine de cannard
E: pave sauce poivre vert
T: bavette avec echallotes
E: fromage blanc avec coulis de fruits
T: Profiteroles (with ice cream instead of cream!)
wine: Domaine de Rolland Fitou 1996 Appelation Fitou Controlee 12.8%
Total: 217 FF
The dinners came with a good shot of garlicky green beans, ratatouille and scalloped potatoes. They were the best scalloped potatoes I've had for ages. Brilliant.
On the wall was a mural of American slaves smiling and playing music and there were two slave pickaninnie manikins sitting in amongst some silk sunflowers. Very un p.c.! But the food was excellent and the servers very friendly. The place was absolutely jammed and I'm so glad that T made a reservation because many were turned away.
SUNDAY 4 Oct 7:25 am
It's just getting light. I can hardly see the pen or the page as I scrawl this. I've been lying awake for about 1/2 an hour listening to the passersby. There haven't really been many. The first were a couple of very drunk men who staggered by slurring their words. Then a street cleaner came by - very quiet; it sounded electric. Then a few minutes ago, some soft voiced ladies, maybe on their way to church. A little bird is singing and otherwise it is very quiet here.
Last night after leaving the restaurant, we went to the Place de la Comedie to look again at the beautiful square. It was filled with people and dogs. There was one very happy golden lab, who was chasing after a ball. He leapt and ran following the ball as it bounced along the pavement. At one point he didn't see which direction it went in and a German Shepherd ran and got it and took it back to his owner. The girl who had thrown the ball, looked on from a distance, hesitating because the boys looked like rough characters. They kept the ball as their own even when a braver girl went to approach them. They began to throw the ball for the new dog and both dogs chased after it, the first dog finally triumphantly grabbing it and trotting, tail proudly up in the air, back to his group of people.
There was an electric jazz group that was playing Brubeck's "Take 5" and our little acoustic jazz group was standing listening. I caught the eye of the violinist and he gave me a brilliant smile before turning back to his friends. A fire juggler juggled in time to the Brubeck - not easy to juggle in time to something in 5! The jazz ensemble finished and all clapped including the juggler. Then the juggler did his finale which was to blow fire from his mouth.
We then came back here to have poire and listen to drunken revelers kick a can down our street. A woman leaned out of her window to speak sharply to them. She got the better of them but they still left defiantly, kicking the can as they went, their German Shepherd following quietly and obediently behind them. Then we basically had silence all night.
9:30 am 15C cloudy
I finally got to sleep again a little. T woke me up at 9:00 and I'm just about packed. T just read in the Loney Planet that we could take a ferry to Morocco from here!
For some unknown reason, we have been singing the Nestle's Quik song.
Nestlay's Quik is only carcinogenic....
Nestlay's Quik will give you heart attack too! *
* This little parody of the Nestlé's Quik song is in no way meant to imply that Nestlé's Quik
is anything but good for big folks... and little folks too!
T is downstairs paying and asking for our bikes from the basement. The proprieter is laughing and joking and there are church bells ringing merrily. A cool fresh breeze is blowing the curtains in. What a fine day!
top of this page . 1998 bike trip(France) . travel index