My family came to visit! :)

Bonjour à tous !

My first post as a twenty plus one year old! :) I can’t believe I’m so old already, I’m going to have to break out the zimmer frame and false teeth soon.

I’ve had such a nice week off uni and it was over far too quickly. As I write this, I’m sat in the canteen at university and the weather outside is much more like English weather than it’s ever been before. I’ve seen the most dramatic season change I’ve ever experienced this week: it’s gone from warm to downright cold literally overnight. Some people would probably argue with me on the cold front, but I now have to shut my window and night and sleep under a blanket and the other day I wore a woolly hat. It is cold.

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This is not ok

On Wednesday I spent all morning sleeping (and thoroughly enjoyed it. Only once you’ve been waking up at 6:30am for lectures that begin at 8:15am can you understand the pure joy that comes from going to sleep without setting an alarm for the following morning) and then went to meet my mum, stepdad and two younger brothers at the airport.

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After collecting our hire car, we drove to the centre of town and had coffee, crêpes and wine on the Comédie while we caught up.

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At first, I very much appreciated being driven around in a shiny car that smelt all new inside, but it got old very quickly as we realised that the roads around Montpellier have been severely compromised to make way for the trams. It took us around an hour of sitting in traffic jams to get in and out of Montpellier every time we tried over the days that followed, and we tried nearly every day.

On Thursday we headed to the Pont du Diable because it’s one of my favourite places so far and I was desperate to show them how pretty it was. After a lot of fumbling around with closed roads, diversion signs and a very confused GPS that wanted us to drive across a field, we walked down to the river and had a picnic in front of the bridge. It was one of the last days of nice weather and my brother taught me how to skim stones, which I’ve never been able to do before but I managed to skim one that I swear bounced about 6 times but everyone missed it so I have no witnesses.

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Mum and her children including Madeleine

Then we visited the Grotte de Clamouse which is a big cave not far from the Pont du Diable. The inside was really amazing with loads of stalagmites and stalactites: I was completely engrossed the whole way round the 1km tour, but my brothers got a bit bored because “it all looked the same”. I was insistent that it actually all looked quite different, but had to eat my words after looking through my hundred or so photos of what may as well have been the same rock. Still cool though.

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We made a quick stop to Nîmes to have dinner, but unfortunately it was getting dark when we arrived and everything was closing so we didn’t get to see much of the town itself. I did have a really nice tuna steak for dinner though, and I introduced Bill to monacos, which he loved because he looked especially manly when drinking a pink beer. This is the same brother, who, by the way, thought that the water here was somehow “less wet” because “I swear I was basically dry when I got out of the shower”.

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Bill loves monacos

IMG_9664IMG_9663Thanks for this gem, Nîmes

Friday was Halloween! :) We celebrated with a visit to Carcassonne, which is a medieval village up on a hill which was restored in 1853 and as a consequence it looks new and clean. I’ve never been anywhere like that before and I really enjoyed wandering round the cobbled streets and seeing the castle, which was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Disney castle.

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Reasons not to use Google Translate, no. 147592

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That evening, I took Bill to a Halloween party at Ruth’s house. As far as I’m aware, the French don’t really do Halloween (they’ve started to more recently but it’s still not really a thing), but because we don’t have another opportunity to dress up while we’re in France, we decided to go for it anyway. This was the result…

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On Saturday morning, we’d aimed to get up super early and go for a bike ride. I started to doubt that this was a good idea when Mick parked the car in Beziers. If you read my blog post about Beziers, you’ll remember that I gave it a 3 out of 10 – a point for the cats, a point for the food and a point for the church, none of which were present as we walked out of the underground car park that smelt of piss (of course) and into the chilly breeze. We waited for a while next to a car covered in pigeon shit for the bike hire shop to open, but ten minutes after its opening time there was still no sign of life from within. Eventually, my moaning about how crap Beziers is got the better of Bill and Mick who were most keen to go for a bike ride, and we decided to find somewhere where we could walk along the Canal du Midi instead. What followed was a long and slightly frustrating drive around several pretty but desolate villages as we tried to find a place to leave the car. Eventually, we found somewhere to park in an insignificant village that I can’t remember the name of where there was also, by a magnificent stroke of luck, a café where we were able to get coffee and pastries to revive ourselves. We then found a pretty stretch of canal that we walked down for 20 minutes before we had to turn back and head to the airport to meet Matt.

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Got this from the tourist office and what makes it better is that it’s in Baïse which is (almost) a rude word in French hehehe

As it was Matt’s first night in Montpellier and my family’s last, that evening we headed into town for a birthday meal at a restaurant called Bistrot de l’Ancien Courrier which Brice recommended to me. It was one of the best meals of my life! I wish I’d taken pictures of my food but it didn’t last long enough. I had a smoked salmon starter with ginger and honey, duck breast for main which was cooked in the room on a stove in the corner which was especially cool because the way it was cooked was basically to set it on fire for a bit, and then crème brûlée for dessert. It was amazing food that I’ll remember forever and even my brothers managed to eat without complaining :)

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Predrinks

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Sunday was my family’s last day in France and the day before my birthday, so in the morning we did our family birthday traditions (international style) which involved all six of us squeezing into my room to eat croissants and pain au chocolats before I opened some presents and blew out the candles on my pomme-poire-amande tarte birthday cake.

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I’d planned on giving my family a tour of Montpellier on Sunday because they hadn’t really seen it yet, but of course I’d forgotten that there is nothing to do on Sundays because everything is closed. I tried to take them to the top of Corum for a view over Montpellier, but the gates were closed and locked. All of the little boutiques were also closed, as was the cathedral. I did get to show them the Promenade du Peyrou though where there was a sweet antiques market going on, and we had ice cream at Amorino and went on the tourist train, which I’ve been secretly dying to go on for ages so I could learn some of the history of Montpellier. So I didn’t fail completely on the tour front!

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After my family had gone back to the airport, Matt and I went home and got Dominoes pizza for dinner as a birthday treat (very French, I know).

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The good life

I had such a nice time with my family and I’m so lucky that they were able to come and visit. As they left, I worked out that I hadn’t seen them for 9 weeks, but that the next time I see them will be in just 7. I’m already over halfway through my time in France! I can’t believe it’s going so quickly.

Crossed off the bucket list this week:

  • Have a friend from home to visit (my family and Matt count!)
  • Visit Carcassonne
  • Visit la Grotte de Clamouse
  • Visit Nîmes (I don’t feel like I’ve really seen Nîmes because we got there late so it was dark and we didn’t spend very long there. I’d like to go back some time, but I did go there so I’m crossing it off anyway)

For now,

Bisous xxx

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