from Sandy Needham

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Montpellier/Paris Dispatch

November 23, 2006

Just a footnote regarding the one night Newton and his partners and I stayed at the Radisson Hotel by Stansted Airport in London. In the 4-story atrium in the center of the hotel stood a large square glass column with an interior column lit with colored lights, looking like the giant insides of a computer. We did not know that this was a tall, 4-sided wine rack until we realized that the blond in a leotard on a bungee cord inside the glass was retrieving bottles as she moved acrobatically up and down, sometimes upside down, on her cord. Cirque du Soleil meets happy hour! Watch:
video

We caught the last of our budget flights to Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast of France. This airline, Ryan Air, actually charged us to check our bags! I must say, all these economical little flights we took were on time except for the one that had mechanical problems, in which case we were rolling away from the terminal in a different plane one hour later. Some lessons for the big carriers, or unusually good luck?

I passed a lovely Sunday morning street market in the center of a boulevard as I was whisked to our Montpellier hotel by the boyfriend of the partner-company's owner (this was just a one-day meeting on a Sunday). I found my way back to the market on foot, enjoying the feel of the sleepy neighborhood on a Sunday morning. The market provided me with a circle of fresh goat cheese for breakfast, which I ate while listening to a young woman with a sax and two young men with guitars playing snappy Django Rheinhardt gypsy-jazz. Several children shared my enthusiasm for the group, and gladly placed my euro-change in the hat. I was fascinated to watch a very aggressive salesman feeding bites of persimmon to a gathering entourage of women. The faded orange color suggested to me the bitter, furry taste before that red stage which renders persimmons my favorite fruit in Brazil, hence a pinched up face among the curious.

I joined the business group for a true Sunday afternoon French lunch at a lovely, typical restaurant by the shore. It lasted four hours, and one could learn the art, observing the natives there, of eating as an end, not a means. The cast of characters at lunch was really something, and only more exaggerated later at dinner when we were missing the seemingly well-adjusted young engineers that had joined us for lunch. There was the snobby Brit who wouldn’t speak to most of us; his French Vietnamese boyfriend who exhausted everyone except the adoring Brit with his pursed-lip impersonation of himself. The smart German bachelor engineer arrived in his red Corvette with his Russian girlfriend in tow (who does not speak French or English). We all tried not to stare at the clearly anorexic, E.T.-looking face (mostly only eyes left), the emaciated shoulders and arms on this woman, who was exhibitionistic about eating mostly lettuce both meals. I don't even want to ponder the ambiguities this suggests about the Corvette. The foie gras still managed to stand out!

We all walked and walked through the glorious old center of the city before and after dinner, then said our good-bys. Newton and I were catching the TGV (bullet train) to Paris the next morning.

After an afternoon of wandering around the left bank of Paris, we met our dear Manhattan friends, Dick and Nancy Taylor, and their big fluffy white Samoyed, Troisieme, at the apartment they are swapping in Saint Germain. This is another of many stints in the neighborhood, where they also lived for eight years. We had a fairy tale dinner at an exquisite art nouveau restaurant. Troisieme was casually welcomed there! Dick and Nancy are the actual travelers of the globe, and I mean the desert, African tribes, and freezing tents in Ladakh, from which Nancy had just returned. The evening was way too short, and we were flying 'home' to Brazil the next day, so we look forward to a continuation of all those trains of thought!

Our 11th and 12th flights of this trip took us to Lisbon, then Natal. Whew.

Love,
Sandy

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