11, 2001: A day down south in montpellier
I realized that at some point, and relatively soon, I would be running out of the drugs I'd brought. Having little idea of how things worked in france, I headed to a pharmacy to see if I could refill my prescription. As it turned out, french medicine is not familiar with the drug in vicodin. I thought that was a little odd until I found out that the pharmacist didn't even recognize acetaminophen, known in the usa as the familiar brand tylenol. It didn't even appear in their exhaustive-looking drug index.
Acetaminophen is one of the two drugs in vicodin; the other is hydrocodone, which is very similar to codeine, and is also a narcotic pain reliever. Doubly odd, the vicidin mix was originally marketed not by some american drug company, but by the drug arm of basf, a german company, making its foreigness to french medicine all the more unlikely.
In any event, I made it through the day all right, stumbling through the street markets and various stores, and admiring the roman waterworks built to provide water for a goddess' temple and in arena games, particularly for fighting crocodiles. The logo for the modern city of nīmes portrays a palm tree with a crocodile chained to it.
Now that I think about it, I did take a number of pictures in nīmes, but I haven't found them yet. I realize this is a great disappointment to the majority of the internet community, which I will attempt to appease here with various pictures of montpellier.
Montpellier is south of nīmes on the mediterranean coast. Max had to work that day, so he arranged for gabriel, who lives there, to show me around. I took the train from nīmes to montpellier, arriving early enough to look around a bit before I met up with gabriel.
The city felt more like a small paris than the rest of provence. The buildings seemed to have a more dramatic and monumental presence, at least the buildings from a century ago. Recently, the city has experimented with modern fad architecture and had suffered for it: think of the dreadfully moderne neiman marcus at san francisco's union square.
The central city is a mix of plainer, provençal houses of the common people and the more elegant and splashy buildings of the government, church and prestigious schools. One of the louie kings built a large public garden that still exists as a preserve for various plant species.
Once I met gabriel, he first led me in the direction of the gardens. There were a number of students hanging out there, reading in the quiet peace of the flora. And speaking of which, french girls certainly take good care of themselves.
For lunch, we headed back through the labyrinth of narrow city streets--which all curve off at strange angles--in our search for a pub. Oddly enough, my french host and I managed find a table next to a bunch of loud americans, probably the only group in the city. The english pub offered various beers in pints or demi-pints. What could be more french that half a beer in a frail little glass?
I upgraded my new friend to a full beer, and bought myself a guinness, as I hadn't eaten anything yet and decided a proper meal time beer was needed. I used it to get down the first of the french prescriptions I had received the day before. That's certainly not recommended, but the poor judgment was not held against me that day. My body was getting fairly used to a cocktail of foreign drugs and alcohol by that time, and was chugging along well despite it all.
After the beer lunch, we headed back through the central comedy area. The comedy is large plaza anchored by the century old opera theater. Later in the afternoon, we stopped to get a turkish kabob (what they call a pita bread pocket with meat) and then shot some french pool in an arcade. The french version is mostly the same, but played on a small table with small yellow and orange balls in place of our solids and stripes.
Making a large loop through comedy, past the main train station and out into the suburbs is a newly built lightrail system that we took back to gabriel's house to meet max that evening.
I was engrossed with the train and its design and layout, which was very similar to the plan I laid out to stitch together san francisco's soma with the northwest richmond district, and central downtown, north beach and chinatown neighborhoods. But more about the train later.
More information about the the south of france and the french:
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