We slept in the next morning, or at least didn’t stir until later, as Francois had generously given us his bedroom while he slept on the very comfortable sofa bed in the front room, or so he assured us. Believe me, we’ve tried to talk him out of this arrangement but this was an argument we weren’t going to win. The downside is that as with most European homes, one rolls down the mechanical window shades and it remains pitch dark in the unit, masking the true time of day.
We arose mid-morning and as would become our morning ritual, one of the three of us made the run to Patisserie Scholler, just down the block and around the corner. A combination boulangerie and patisserie, the quality of their products is exceptional. The contents of each breakfast included one or more items each from the four food groups that we all need to function at a healthy level, that is, caffeine, meat, dairy (cheese and butter), and starch (bread and sweet things).
Actually, we’d generally have a fresh baguette (a large one) from Scholler, a croissant or two, some other pastry (they have these great raisin buns), ham (serrano and regular), sliced cheese (edam, gouda, or emmental), butter, coffee, and orange juice. Getting butter was problematic though as French farmers had cut back on production, leading to cleaned out shelves at the markets; fortunately, we had a big stock.
That first day we set out for a long walking tour of Montpellier. Along the way we visited a number of the sites Joanna and I had seen when we were there in 2014, including the spot where the cars had hit the bollard, jamming it into place so the buses couldn’t pass.
We also hit a number of pharmacies until we found one that carried the bug spray we needed for the sleeping bags.
Later in the afternoon we found ourselves enjoying a beer or two on the patio of O’Carolan’s, an Irish pub in the shadow of Carre St. Anne, a former church now converted into a contemporary art museum.
Even though it was late September there was a bit of a chill in the air, so we kept our jackets on while still enjoying the sunshine. The table next to us included an American Mother and Father visiting a son in graduate school at the university; it was nice to exchange pleasantries with folks from the States.
Later that night we met Tardis and Joss, longtime friends of Francois for dinner.
I first met Joss in 1981 when I stayed with Francois and his future wife Heike. Joss was a nursing student living in the Left Bank in a cold water (that is right, absolutely no hot water) flat with a shared toilet. As he could shower at the hospital where he was training, the lack of hot water was manageable inconvenience and his friends envied this location, prime Paris and best of all, upstairs from a great family owned small restaurant.
We’d gather there in the afternoon as all of them were students with free time and sing songs we all knew, mostly from the Eagles catalog, Francois and Joss strumming away on their guitars. We talked of getting good enough to busk over in front of the Pompidou Center, well known at the time for its amateur musicians.
Joss went on to have a successful career in nursing, ending up as the director of the nursing unit at his hospital. He and Tardis re-located to Montpellier many years ago and it was through them that the town would begin to exert its influence on Francois as a place to settle in retirement, eventually moving there in 2015 from his long time digs in the suburbs of Paris. Long story short, we never did get that opportunity to go busking.
We went to a place of their choosing, L’Alchimiste, and after being seated worked our way through the menu, which was only in French. I surprised our table mates when I recognized many of the menu items and with their additional help we ordered a starter and entrée apiece.
After our month in Greece it was nice to sit down and enjoy imaginatively and deliciously prepared food. So much time has passed since that meal that I can’t recall the exact flavors but do remember just how nice it was.
This would be the first of many good meals we would experience in France, made better by sharing the time with old friends. We bade farewell to Tardis and Joss and returned to the condo for a good night’s sleep. We had plans to head out the next day to do some sightseeing in an area known as the Camargue, famous for its horses, an ancient breed indigenous to that area. Can anyone guess who among the three of us was itching to go there?
Patisserie Scholler: http://www.scholler.fr/
Carre St. Anne: http://www.montpellier.fr/505-carre-sainte-anne.htm
Pompidou Center: https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en