“The only thing constant in life is change” ― François de La Rochefoucauld
Leaving Belgium on the train, the early morning view through our window was like looking into a landscape painted by one of the old masters. The low morning light bathed the peaceful idyllic countryside. The cattle in the pasture, crops in the fields, and the small village in the distance was just as it was painted centuries ago when Belgium was one of the major centers of the art world.
The direct train from Brussels to Montpellier, a distance of about 1000 km (600 mi), took about four hours with a few brief stops along the way to allow passengers to board or depart. The countryside changed as we passed through. Between the few large cities, the flat agricultural lands in the north gave way to rolling hill country that skirted the Alps to the east and the Massif Central to the west. Corn fields were replaced with vineyards, and the gray slate roofs of the homes and buildings were now covered with red clay tile.
The weather varied along the way from sunny to cloudy to stormy, but by the time we pulled into Gare St Roch in Montpellier it was sunny and warm. Ah, back in the South.
We were met at the station by Maylis, who with her husband Cyril own the apartment we would call home until December. She seemed to recognize us immediately, from the photo we had sent. The cute photo of her, her husband and their young child on the apartment website wasn’t useful for identification – they were playfully all sticking their tongues out.
In our email exchanges, Maylis had said that her English wasn’t very good, but in fact she spoke very well. The apartment was only a few blocks from the station (la gare) so walking was the most logical way to go, as parking along the narrow streets can be difficult at best.
We walked the three flights of 20 steps each to our new home. As the door opened, we entered a bright comfortable flat. The view from the large front window with a small balcony looked out onto the street lined with similar buildings. We could be comfortable here.
After giving us the tour and explaining how everything worked, Maylis departed. We unpacked a few items, and then went out for a walk to rediscover Montpellier.
The time we spent in Rennes was so wonderful. Of course, since it was the start of the adventure, everything was new and exciting, our location was superb, the nearby options for shopping and food were excellent, and we had made friends there. So leaving was bittersweet.
This time, as we walked through Montpellier, we thought that this place will not be able to live up to our experience in Rennes, even though we a wonderful time here for ten days last February. Now that we have been here about two weeks, we understand that indeed it will not be the same as Rennes, but it is good. It takes a while to feel comfortable no matter where you go. We have now rediscovered the markets to shop in, found good restaurants, taken some trips to some wonderful towns, met some wonderful people and made some new friends.
Yes, the adventure continues.