Early in our winter travels I said to Mark that I realized that we had everything with us that we needed to run away and start a new life. (When I told this to my sister, she said Again!?!) I wasn’t referring to my excellent packing skills and list, of which I am justifiably proud, given that they have been well-honed by travel snafus over many years, but that I also brought along a file of Very Important Papers, because I had a hunch I would need to deal with some Very Official Bureaucracy in our absence. Holy crap was that fortuitous, since we have effectively moved to Montpellier for the duration and I do in fact have everything we could need.
Talking with our Belle Île friend Michel (who of course knows all about our mutterings about moving away from Paris) about the strange turn of events that have led up to us taking this long-term apartment we’re now in, he said Hooray for the coronavirus that makes us move forward! So here’s my hooray. Let me add as an aside, this is not to say that anything mitigates the truly horrible things that are happening, and the worse things that are yet to come, but I need to engage my inner Pollyanna sometimes.
We thought we’d sorely miss the wall of trees off the balcony of the last apartment we were in, but we haven’t given it another thought since we arrived. We’re on the 8th floor of a place that has windows on all sides, and a virtually uninterrupted view of the sky. We can see the foothills of the Cévennes mountain range and the mountain Pic Saint-Loup (Holy Wolf!, though apparently Loup refers to someone’s name, not the animal), which is the local landmark mountain. We can also see the sea from the kitchen. The apartment is over 900 sq ft, very open and bright. Of all the places we’ve stayed over these many years of travel, this is probably the best spot we could have wound up in. We pinch ourselves every morning about having landed on our feet. We are marveling at things that most of you take for granted: a full-sized fridge, an oven, a spare bedroom (or as my sister pointed, just having a bedroom!). And whereas before I would assess a place by how easily we could get to other places, now we are learning to settle down. There’s no one-foot-out-the-door attitude possible anymore. But we are spitting distance from the train station. Hope springs eternal.
Through the magic that is our eyes, Pic Saint-Loup jumps out when we’re looking out the window. In photographs, not so much.
Our downstairs neighbor has already come up to introduce himself. Sylvain is an opera singer and practices singing and piano in the afternoon. He wanted to make sure we weren’t bothered. Oh hell no. Below him are two young women singers who practice their harmonies on the balcony. At the 8pm clapping for the medical workers, we have 2 drummers out front and an excellent African drummer out back who continues the show for a bit after the clapping dies down. He then gets his own round of applause. Our other neighbors wave to us newcomers from their balconies and there’s always a bit of chatting and catching up among them afterwards. The south is famously more friendly than the north, and especially more so than Paris, and we are seeing that in spades. Our apartment has a table that seats twelve when expanded. My new goal is to make enough friends to fill it, virus willing of course. We’re already halfway there. Friends Paul and Paula, whose apartment this was, have moved a short way away, and our friend Debra is a little further than that. Paul has mapped the intersection of our respective allotted 1k walking distances and we have a nice Venn diagram style overlap so we can accidentally on purpose run into each other.
If I knew you were coming over, I would have tidied up.
We’re back within striking distance of the old town with our favorite grocery stores, bakeries, and shops. There’s even a terrific Asian grocery store whose proprietor plays records all day long. Today was old Bob Marley, the time before was The Cure’s first album. But it could just as easily be swing or opera. I used to make note of everything that I found in Paris that I was used to having in the US as a way of saying, yes I can live here. Now I’m doing the same for Montpellier and the Asian grocery is a big part of that settled feeling.
Let me end this by saying that it’s only amusing to be bemused by our befuddlement and sudden changes in the face of this slow moving and relentless catastrophe if you and yours are doing ok. I very much hope you are. As I recently read, we’re not in the same boat, just in the same storm.
Does Mark look pleased? He is very pleased.