Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Ita about 8:45pm here France time, and I thought I’d jot down today’s adventures before heading off for a bar somewhere. I was horribly jetlagged last night, and didn’t get to sleep until about 4am—meaning I missed breakfast and didn’t wake up until almost 11am. The sleep was golden though!
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The first thing I did was to call Air France to check on my bag—they still hadn’t found it! (I was starting to get worried, however the customer support people were extremely nice and reassuring.) So, I hit the city of Montpellier, walking west down the rue du Baudin to the Place de la Comedie which is kind of like the heart of the city. This bazaar-like area is flanked by centuries-old marble buildings which now house fashion stores, cafes, and tourism info sites. A very modern and convienent train system makes a stop here, making it very easy for me (or anyone) to get around town. There is also a beautiful fountain and a huge carosel, which seems out of place to me.

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I steer into the first cafe I see. “Bon jour! Une cafe, sil vous plait.” I get stares. “A coffee?” I say tentatively. “We’re closed, madame! It’s nearly 11:30! Mon dieu!!!” Unbeknownst to me, from 11-1 is a strange no-cafe land where most eating establishments are closed unless they specifically state otherwise. So, I just go where the people are, and get a coffee there (actually a noisette, and not serving lunch yet!). This was also my introduction to the 45-minute coffee, as the food service, while friendly, is rather less than prompt on all fronts. However, an arts and crafts fair was going on in the square, so I bought a croissant for a euro from a street vendor, which was heavenly! After “breakfast” I went shopping at a walking mall called la Polygon and bought toiletries and some overpriced clothes (ahhhh clean clothes!). Everything in France is more expensive, and Cover Girl is no exception. Back to the hotel to check on my bag—still no luck.

Around 5:30pm, I’m pretty starving so I head out to find some dinner. A Creperie (purveyour of crepe pancakes in a variety of ways) fits the bill, and has outdoor seating. I was invited to sit with some giggling French boys who ostensibly wanted to “practice their English” with me (noticed I was American after I was reading “The Republican War on Science” in the cafe.)

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Live music of many types was performed in the Place de la Comedie, for example Native Americans singing/dancing to traditional songs (as well as pop-culture compositions from The Last Mohicans and Dances With Wolves!) and what I can only describe as mime-slam-dancing. After dinner (mushroom and gouda crepes, chocolate crepes, and crisp apple cider) I walked towards the Corum, the convention center where the Inner Ear Biology Meeting is starting tomorrow, and passed these flower markets.

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I climbed up the stairs to the top of the Corum, where you can get a birds-eye view of Montpellier. Many couples were up here, or a few people watching the sunset. I had stumbled upon a little local hangout, so I stuck around and watched the sun go down; I could even see the hint of the French Alps to the East and the ocean to the South.

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(More below the fold, however parental discresion is advised!!! :D)

On my way back down the Corum stairs, a man on a bike said “Bon soir.” I answered, and I suppose he took this as his queue to start talking to me. He asked me if I was a student, where I was from, etc, and proceeded to ask me out to a drink. I made up some story about having a boyfriend waiting for me back at the hotel and was trying to weasel away……

Bikeman: “So, what do you think of the men here in France? Very different from American men?”

Me (uncomfortable): “Um, everybody’s different I guess. I better get back to the hotel.” (fake laugh)

Bikeman: “Wait, do you want to see the effect you’ve had on me?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Bikeman: ” I cannot think of the word…..the effect that you have on men…….you know?”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Bikeman points down to his spandex shorts. There is an obvious case of….er……cause and effect going on in those pants. My eyes must have been the size of saucers!

Bikeman: “You see? French men are much more direct that sissy American boys. Now let me show you…..” Fidgets with pants…..

Me: “NO NO thats ok, I have to be getting back to my hotel now. Bon soir!” (Practically running away….)

Bikeman: “Whatttt? You do not what to see? You American blonde tease you!”

———-

Anyway, just got word from Air France that they found my bag and it should be here in the morning! Hooray!!!!!

Comments

  1. #1 Alberto
    September 16, 2006

    Europeans tend to be more direct on some things. You will discover more cultural differences, some of them very annoying or even embarrassing. The delights of traveling abroad!

    (I hope you post some photos of your grey amazon).

  2. #2 JD
    September 16, 2006

    Hey, I’d walk around all day with my hangdown out if it weren’t for that damn court order.

  3. #3 Jennifer Ouellette
    September 16, 2006

    It can be tough being a young woman alone, traveling abroad, inevitably running into Neaderthals who think your only purpose on this planet is sexual, even if you’re in town for, say, a serious scientific conference. European men might be more “direct,” but that guy was a creep in any culture.

  4. #4 Corkscrew
    September 16, 2006

    that guy was a creep in any culture

    My understanding is that, in France, the concept of “creep” has become far more institutionalised. Hence the accosting. As with everywhere, there are nice guys too, it’s just that (again, as with everywhere) the assholes are noisier.

    At least they’re generally less physically dangerous than the American equivalent.

  5. #5 somnilista, FCD
    September 16, 2006

    So he tried the old rolled-up-sock-in-the-shorts bit, eh?

  6. #6 Scott Simmons
    September 16, 2006

    Plus ca change … A Reader’s Digest humor piece on the difference between the English and the French, published, I think, in 1950-something, relates the (English) author’s wife’s experience as a young woman travelling alone in Paris. She had become nervous about a man who had been walking behind her for quite some time, and felt quite relieved to finally see a gendarme. “Officer,” she gasped, “I think there’s a man following me!” His alleged response: “I am so sorry that my duties prevent me from doing the same, madamoiselle.”

  7. #7 somnilista, FCD
    September 17, 2006

    Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21. Go Big Blue!

  8. #8 Jennifer Ouellette
    September 17, 2006

    Um, Scott, that’s a cute story from the 1950s, but there’s a huge difference between that level of flirtatiousness, and some random French guy offering to show Shelley his erection. [And yes, it occurs to me that "huge" might have been a poor choice of adjective. :)]

  9. #9 pansauce, FCD
    September 17, 2006

    There is also a beautiful fountain and a huge carosel, which seems out of place to me.

    Say it’s not so. Carousels are never out of place.

  10. #10 Joe
    September 17, 2006

    Hail to the Victors, indeed. Game wasn’t televised in Europe though. :-/ Thank goodness for Internet radio.

  11. #11 Scott Simmons
    September 17, 2006

    Yeah, probably, Jennifer. Although I’ve noticed that when I follow strange women around, it seems to make them really, really nervous, even when I’m not masturbating while I do it. That’s probably because of my eerie resemblance to the late Marty Feldman, though.

  12. #12 csrster
    September 18, 2006

    That’s a tautology Scott. No resemblance to the late Marty Feldman could ever be anything other than eerie.

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