Thursday, 4 July 2013
The next day was very hot but we managed a little stroll around the local streets in the morning.
Our friends lived in the district known as les Arceaux (the arches), which refers to the mighty seventeenth-century aqueduct that brought water to a great tank on the hill opposite their house.
The big event of the day was the arrival of the Tour de France in the afternoon, so after lunch we armed ourselves with hats and sunscreen and walked over to the Avenue de la Liberté in time for the caravan which preceded the riders. It was a truly ridiculous spectacle.
An endless stream of decorated cars came past, disguised as shops, dogs, water bottles, sheaves of wheat, etc, each carrying excitable people hurling gifts into the crowd.
It was all rubbish, of course, but we scrounged for it with everyone else. The best float was the water bottle on wheels, which sent a cooling spray into the crowd as it went past.
At last the riders appeared with their heads down and vanished around the corner without a glance.
We retired to the apartment with our loot – hats, key-rings, biscuits, lollies – and later, when the heat of the day was declining at last, we strolled through the alleys of the old town, a part of Montpellier that our friends knew well.
The whole place was thronged with people promenading or dining at outdoor restaurants. We chose the restaurant Van Gogh in the Place du Marché des Fleurs, which was a large pedestrian square lined with stately buildings.
There was a wide, shallow pool in the middle with a statue, and trees around the edge shading the tables and chairs. The menu was €19.90 for three courses.
Both the gentlemen started with a “brick”, which turned out to be a pastry parcel, not nearly as heavy as it sounded, while the ladies had Caesar salads.
Then we had variously steak, prawns on skewers and stuffed squid for our main courses, followed by tiramasu (in a glass jar), lemon tart and café gourmand, which was coffee with a tray of three tiny desserts. In my spartan way, I just had a café crème.
While we ate we were entertained by an excellent busker in a clown costume, dashing around the pool on a monocycle as he sang. The walk home in the warm twilight was a treat in itself.