The Let’s Get Stuck Game

I know life has changed for the weirder for everyone (if you’re lucky), but I’ve just realized we’re celebrating a sort of weirdness anniversary. How could we have known we were embarking on a really long-term adventure when we left Paris one year ago today to spend a month in Montpellier prior to our winter in Spain? A recap for new friends: we arrived in Montpellier, a place we’d considered moving to, early last December to evade a major transportation strike. We got here fine, but then got stuck when the strike prolonged, unable to get out of town to do any other exploring. Made it to Spain by hook and by crook, where we spent January and most of February. We took our time meandering back home to Paris and got stuck here when we dropped by Montpellier for a visit and Covid dropped by France to stay. We haven’t been back home to Paris for any meaningful length of time since.

It turns out Montpellier is a very sticky place. In addition to the train strike, we’ve now been here for two lockdowns. In between we acquired an apartment, a bit of furniture, some new clothes, and some new friends. The latest confinement has recently been partially lifted. We are now allowed to go out for 3 hours, up to 20 km from home, instead of 1 hour and 1 km.

For one of our first outings of the new deconfinement season, we went to the Promenade de Méjean, just outside of the nearby town of Lattes. It would have never occurred to me that hiding in this nondescript suburb of Montpellier is a wildlife refuge/ornithological park in and around a large salt marsh. It’s not officially the Camargue, although it abuts it. The Camargue is the huge river Delta/salt marsh area famous for its semi-feral white horses (one of the oldest horse breeds in the world), flamingos, and fierce mosquitoes. You need a car to get to the Camargue from here, however to get to Méjean from Montpellier you just take the tram through big box retailer row to the end of the line and walk through the nondescript side streets of Lattes. An inauspicious start. But then you arrive at the outskirts of the park, an area of smallholdings and horses pastures.

Then the ground starts getting wetter…

Until you’re in full-blown salt marsh heaven.

Stork’s nests!

We saw plenty of flamingos and loads of other birds too, whose names I’m just starting to learn in French, but I have no pictures worth showing. A big highlight was when Mark spotted this guy through binoculars.

From the big board of species you might see in the park this season. Thankfully Jean Pierre got a shot.

We went to a Camargue bird sanctuary this summer. That one had extensive boardwalks allowing you to get out onto the water and closer to the birds. But this one was nicer because it was more wild, less controlled. This is not Camargue the lesser, and yet I would never have known that had we had been able to gambol about far and wide as usual. Like the Let’s Get Lost game that we play when we go out walking, I’m finding the haphazard charms of We Got Stuck. Turns out, there’s an appeal to limits. If everything is possible, then nothing is perfect because there’s always the call of the not-chosen. If few things are possible, you might just get gobsmacked by close-at-hand beauty and delight.

Have sandwich, will travel. Mark with Paula, Paul, and Kate, our Covid bubble.

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