My first post from France! Sorry for the delay, I had to figure out the adapter/converter situation for my laptop charger. Now that a whole week has gone by since we left, it's hard to even begin describing everything. We've squeezed so much into every day, and there are so many new sights and sounds.
The city of Montpellier is so gorgeous, and it's the perfect mix of medieval and modern. In the older parts of the city, winding cobble-stoned streets curve uphill and downhill and every which way, fronted by warmly-painted buildings. There are intricate wrought iron railings beneath rustic peeling-paint volets (shutters), and dangling flowerboxes that bring color to the streets. Little cafés extend out into the narrow streets, and occasionally a car or motorbike will squeeze through. Historical buildings and monuments are everywhere, such as the College of Medicine, which has been open since 1220.
In contrast, the modern part of the city is more crowded and lively. The main central part of Montpellier is the Place de la Comédie, a large plaza named after the adjacent Opéra Comédie. There are fountains, the most famous of which is called Les Trois Grâces, and a big carousel. There are frequently street performers in the middle of the plaza, and so far I've seen some pretty cool dancers and a creepy gymnast clown haha.
As for transportation, there's a tram system here with four main lines that extend from the city out into the suburbs. I love the trams because each line is color-coordinated with brightly decorated trains- the train I take to get to my host family's house is covered in neon flowers. There are also 30-some different bus routes, and to get into the city I have to take a combination of bus and tram rides.
We met our host families the night after we arrived, and mine turned out to be incredibly nice. I live in a village called Le Crès, in a neighborhood of confusingly curving streets and pretty terracotta-roofed houses behind tan walls and decorative gates. Nearly every house here has a pool, which makes sense because it is SO hot for most of the day. I have my own room, with a window that looks out onto the pool and all of the flowers in the backyard.
My host mom is a kindergarten teacher, and my host dad is a commercial director for car repair companies. They have two black cats that laze around on the garden walls and only interact with us when we're eating, and a cute little terrier mutt named Nono. The thing I was most worried about coming to France was meeting my host family and getting through the awkward getting-to-know each other phase, but everything went a lot smoother than I expected. I really feel like we're bonding and will become very close.
School-wise, we're signing up for classes today and starting them on Monday. I'm taking required courses like French grammar and writing, and will also take some integrated classes- as in, actual French classes with actual French students! Kind of nervous but excited to see what they'll be like.
I guess I'll finish up by summarizing some of the things I've done so far: swam in the Mediterranean Sea (and taken a catamaran cruise), made so many great new American friends through the program, legally gone to my first bar, seen the city from the top of Montpellier's Arc de Triomphe, eaten baguettes and Camembert with my host family, tried a different kind of wine every day, seen Signac paintings at the Musée Fabre, sampled figs from the region, driven through vast vineyards, sipped a Cosmo at a café (just because), wandered through little boutiques, and overall have just had so much fun.
Some things I've learned:
-Sadly, Crocs have made their way to France. Really, the fashion capital of the world?!
-une barre croustillante= granola bar
-There are a lot of homeless people here (les "SDF"- sans domicile fixe), and they keep dogs because that way they avoid getting arrested. Police don't want to deal with finding homes for the dogs.
I'll post again soon! À bientôt!