Bonjour, tout le monde!
I'm at the start of my four-month adventure in Montpellier, France, and I have about one week down, sixteen to go! There have been many pleasant surprises, as well as a few... less pleasant surprises. But that's what adventure is all about!
After nineteen hours of airports, flight delays, flight changes, and some actual flying, I arrived in Montpellier on a bright Monday afternoon and was happy to find that it was not as hot or as humid here as I expected it to be (though it can still get pretty steamy). My roommate and I met up and shared a taxi to our host lady’s apartment, where, at the locked door to her building, we were met with the startling realization that we hadn’t written down her apartment number, nor did we see any clear way to buzz upstairs if we happened to figure it out. With the help of a couple of small miracles, we made our way inside, found her floor number on her mailbox, and semi-gracefully stumbled into the elevator. Now I have a question. Are code-protected elevators a commonly encountered thing? The ones where you have to use the floor buttons to type in a special code in order for it to move? Because I wasn’t even aware that they existed. I don’t know if it’s a European thing, or perhaps I’m just vastly ignorant in the ways of elevators, but that is what we found ourselves facing as we stood in the cramped, sweltering elevator, waiting, dumbfounded, for something to happen. It took 20 minutes and two kind strangers to solve that puzzle. Also, why are the doors to stairways locked? Isn't that a fire hazard? Anyway, when we finally arrived on the correct floor, we proceeded to knock on doors until someone answered and was able to tell us where she lived. We then knocked on her door. And knocked. And knocked. Eventually, she cheerfully came to the door, politely demanding to know what we wanted. Then upon realizing who we were, she allowed us to come in, and it took about a split second for us to realize that our truly sweet little eighty-something-year-old hostess wasn't actually wearing any pants.... We have come to find that this is not an uncommon occurrence.
Other than that, most things have been going smoothly, and it truly is beautiful here. There is a mixture of a beach-y feel and a chic urban-ish atmosphere. All around are palm trees (which become more abundant as you grow closer to the beach) as well as the standard greenery, and much of the city is shaded by tall, beautiful trees. Aside from lizards and a random a mute swan which appear to live in the river near my apartment, I have not seen much wildlife. I am told that there are also green and blue parrots, though I have yet to see one of either color.
Lucky for us, another student from our program lives in the adjoined apartment building, and our host introduced us to him that day. She didn’t know that we already knew each other, she just thought, “Hey, there’s another American living down the street at my friend’s house! Maybe they can all be friends!" That was truly a blessing, though, because he had already been in town for several days, so he took us around town and showed us the way to get everywhere that we needed to go. We soon met up with our professor and the other kids in our program, and have since been touring the town, walking, traveling to the school for registration and placement tests, walking, getting sunburns at the beach, and then some more walking. This morning we walked 6-miles round-trip to church, which really isn't bad, but I’ll remind you that this was one trip on one day to one location. We walk. We also found this wonderful farmer’s market that takes place in the streets right underneath the Saint Clément Aqueduct, complete with fresh fish, produce, baked goods, cheese, and street performers juggling and playing the accordion. After all, it’s not France without an accordion, am I right?
Now there is a little over one week left until school actually starts, so I guess we’ll see what surprises it brings!