Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Saturday mornings in Montpellier

Place des Beaux Arts is my Saturday morning place. Something about needing to build some routines into a travelling life.

At the tabac I buy a magazine for French practice. I avoid the boulangerie that has queues and go the competition where I buy a fougasse instead of my usual croissant. The fougasse is a local speciality, often with olives, although there are also sweet varieties. Mine is salty and flaky and oily and perfect with the espresso.

In the middle of the Place at the fruit and veg stall the owner is calling out his specialities - asparagus, artichokes, strawberries. Beside me, though it is not even 10.00am, a man is having a glass of chilled rose with several cigarettes. Behind me the patron is at the table with a customer complaining about the strikes that are causing a fuel shortage. They laugh that they might have to ride bicycles to work next week.

Place des Beaux Arts is a five minute walk but it is just outside the old city and it has the feel of a village - there's a butcher, a fish shop, a hairdresser and a chemist, and the people are just locals doing their usual Saturday things.

Though people are a bit slow to get going in the mornings.

My centre right magazine, Le Point, says it is not the right, but the ultra-left that is crippling the country and it is time that liberalism was recognised as a better way forward. But people I talk with are more worried about the National Front. As much as they disliked Sarkozy, they fear that Marine Le Pen will succeed Mr Flummery (Hollande) for want of a credible alternative. Even Le Point ran a cover picture of Angela Merkel with the caption - If only we had one like this in France.

New labour laws are coming in and there are strikes and protests across the whole of 'Le Hexagon'.  Truck drivers setting up blockades in the countryside are responsible for the current petrol crisis. Trains and buses are likely to not be running. Helpfully for the suffering public, there is a website that you can consult to see exactly which services will be affected at any specific time.

I almost ran into an anticapitalist rally in Montpellier one night. It was after midnight on a Saturday (yes - me, out at night) and suddenly there was this chanting shouting crowd coming towards me, huge banners, smoke or gas clouds in the streetlights, heavily-armed special security police hovering around and a really menacing feeling that the crowd would start smashing windows any minute or maybe already were, I don't know, I melted into a quiet side street. Strange time of day for a demonstration though. Wine bar time.
The Esplanade, parallel to Rue Fabre 

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