The Other Montpellier

October 6th, 2006

Well, I've now been to two Montpelliers. I spent about fifteen minutes in Montpellier, Vermont, when I got lost trying to find Sugarbush. It was pretty, but not overwhelming. Montpellier, France, is pretty and French, but not overwhelming. This Montpellier is a lively town, full of college students, very walkable and speckled with cafes and plazas.

Montpellier - Fountain at nightThing I just noticed about these "quaint" European cities is that there's nowhere to park. Streets are narrow and buildings have no driveways, no garages. Makes sense for a city built before cars existed. Most early residents walked everywhere, which also explains why American cities are so different. Downtowns never developed because everything was car-friendly, and the newer the city, the more that's the case. Boston is old enough that it has a real downtown, and driving is a nightmare. New York somehow manages to make things work, even packed with cars, though I'm sure it has a lower ratio of cars-per-person than, for example, L.A.

Another thing about France, the language sucks. Imagine a frog trying to

hock a looghy and failing: that's what French sounds like to me. Trying to speak it is torture. I don't understand why French exists. With Spanish and Italian, I can see how they may have evolved over time from Latin, but French pronunciation is so far removed that I have to think there was some alien influence.

Montpellier stepsI have become very good at saying "bonjour." So I do, I say "bonjour." Then nothing else for a couple seconds, savoring the moment when the person behind the counter thinks I speak French. The usual response is a torrent of verbiage that flies right past me. Then I launch into my "parley-voo on-glaze?" routine, shattering the illusion of fluency.