Here we are, on the beautiful Southern coast of France.
We arrived on Monday, July 4th via the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or A Very Fast Train), Gare de Lyon to Montpellier.
The 3 ½ hour ride was fantastic. Very comfortable, quiet, and so pleasant to race through the countryside. I couldn’t focus on my book; it was more fun to look out the window at the fields of sunflowers and pretty villages flying past. The top commercial speed for one of these trains is about 300 MPH, so they really were flying past. The kids, on the other hand, were mostly glued to the iPad, except for the dramatic moment when we passed a train going in the opposite direction, when they’d look up, surprised.
Montpellier is a pretty old University town in the very center of France’s Southern coast. The friends—Kim & Pierre—we are visiting here are old ones; Melisa and I first came to stay with them in the mid-90’s, when they were living in Paris, and not yet married. I’ve known Kim even longer than that: since 1987 when we started freshman year in the same dorm, same floor, at Mount Holyoke. Over the years, we’ve come to stay with Kim and Pierre several times, and through various incarnations of their relationship. There was the living together situation in Paris, then the Pierre is finishing law school/not-married-yet visit when they were living at the beach, and then the “we’re married, now we have kids” years here in Montpellier. They are the best hosts and we love seeing them.
So what have we been up to? Well, it’s been a whole lot of nothing, folks. And by that, I mean bliss. This is the first time we’ve been South in the summer. Which means: it’s hot, it’s fabulous, the pool is open, the beach house is available, the rosé is flowing from about 5 pm to midnight, there is some sort of olive in every dish, and cheese makes an appearance at every meal. Family, good friends, good food, ample sunshine and heat? Heaven. No really. HEAVEN.
For those who are unconvinced, here is a sample day: Everyone sleeps until 7:30 am or 8. I get up and go out for a run. I run past vineyards, with pretty hilltop villages and mountains in the distance. Kim heads to the boulangerie around the corner and brings back fresh-baked croissants for everyone. Coffee and croissants are on the long table outside when I get back. In fact, every meal we eat is outside. Hooray!
Breakfast is served (did I mention the homemade strawberry jam Kim whipped up?). Afterwards, we get in the pool. The cicadas are humming, and the day promises to be hot and breezy. The kids jump in and splash like a bunch of maniacs. The adults float around on “frites,” or what we would call noodles.
We get out of the pool, dry off, and walk up the hill to the little town market. After some debate, it’s decided that the line-caught Mediterranean tuna is the way to go for dinner. We pick up some other essentials (more jambon, for instance, and baguette. Pâte? Maybe not today), and head home. The kids run around the yard.
Time for lunch! Salad with tomato, feta and cured olives, a plate of jambon and prosciutto, ripe, sweet melon, fresh baguette and a glass of rosé. All outside of course.
After cleaning up, we consider our options. Seems like a good day for the beach, but then, what day isn’t? We hop in the car, make the 30 minute drive to seaside community of Carnon, where Pierre’s family has a beach condo. The Med sparkles bright aquamarine in front of us. Kim hands Melisa and I a Perrier. We’re sitting on a beach looking out at the Mediterranean, drinking Perrier! And there’s not a cloud in the sky.
The sun is strong, so a few hours here is probably enough. We pack up again, and head towards home, driving past a group of flamingoes standing on single legs in the lagoon (true!). Probably best to rinse off that sand, so upon arriving back chez Mousseron, we jump in the pool again. And then have a glass of rosé. And some tapenade. And some baguette. And then start dinner.
Dinner is served at around 8 pm. Afterwards, the kids roast marshmallows and run around the yard a bit longer. We trundle them off to bed about 9-9:30. It doesn’t really get dark here until 10 pm. The adults sit out by the pool, which looks gorgeous lit up at night, talking and watching the twilight turn to dark. Slowly, the stars begin to come out. There’s a suggestion that perhaps we should get back into the pool, an idea that is met warmly by all. Yet, perhaps it isn’t hot enough. No, tonight is not the night, but maybe tomorrow?
And finally, around 11 or midnight, we too head off to sleep.
We’ve been here since Monday, and I don’t have much to show for it. Except that I think we are all deeply relaxed, in debt to our fabulous hosts, and ready for more tomorrow. Jasper has asked that we cancel our train ticket back to Paris. Melisa is joking that we are going to skip the house in Tuscany. And every minute I can find, I am sitting out by the pool, watching the tree tops blow in the breeze, drinking in the contrast of the bright blue sky and rich green of the leaves, listening to the cicadas sing me a love song. And thinking about getting back in the pool.
We head—somewhat reluctantly—to the Italian Riviera on Friday.