Friday, November 27, 2009

Peeves – Pet and Other

Some observations about our life in Montpellier:

Practice makes Perfect?
Our apartment is located in a neighbourhood called Les Beaux Arts. It’s home to professionals and artists, but apparently not professional artists. In our courtyard, we have two guitarists. One is two floors above us: plink…plink…plink…out on the balcony she plays the same chords over and over and over again, morning, afternoon, evening, day after day. The other guitarist is in an adjacent building. He practices less often, but listens to other guitarists for inspiration…but not to the first guitarist. When she’s out plinking, his balcony door is closed. There’s a violinist next door; a sax player somewhere else in the building. And, very late one night, an eruption from an opera singer. Whaaahhhhh…

Enfant de Chienne!
I love France. But after all these years and innumerable visits, I still find one thing incomprehensible: their tolerance for dog shit and piss in public areas. On sidewalks and parks, it’s impossible to walk more than a few minutes before encountering a pile or a puddle. Mind you, nowhere else but France have I seen so many street cleaners. So, is this part of the social contract? Dogs help reduce unemployment? Is it a program to promote agility? It helps mine!  Last year, when we stayed in the Rhone Valley, the nearby course allowed golfers to bring their dogs with them while they played.  And yes, the dogs left another hazard for my golf ball to find.  Yech.

Fess Up
We went back to La Cave des Arceaux for the weekly “Meet the Producer Day”. I love talking to producers about their wines; they’re all so passionate. We tasted 3 wines. The third bottle was corked (that wet dog smell) but the producer absolutely refused to admit it. Why do wine producers refuse to acknowledge cork taint?! You insult the customer. It’s not as if the taint is the wine producer’s fault. It doesn’t mean every bottle is flawed. Just admit that it happens, open another bottle, and move on. Otherwise, no sale.

Can I help whoever is not next?
Whenever cashiers open a new lane at the nearby supermarché, they ask if they can help the last person in the next line over. No one finds this weird, except us. I guess it prevents the awkward cart-jockeying that happens in Canada.

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
It seems like there so many more smokers in the south of France than in Canada. Is it so? Well, yes. In France, the smoking rate is 27%; in Canada, it’s 17%. But it looks much higher than 27%, especially among the young. One reason? In 2008, France banned smoking in bars, clubs, and restaurants (thank God). The smokers congregate outside on patios and sidewalks, so they seem more numerous.

The Book on Languedoc-Roussillon Wine
Since I arrived in Languedoc, I’ve been looking for a reference book dedicated to just the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. I’ve checked bookstores, wine stores, and wineries. No luck. Oh, I found an over-the-top coffee table book at 60 euros. Ouch! And I found reference books on French wines (with a small section on Languedoc-Roussillon) at 25 euros. Nah. Languedoc-Roussillon is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine regions, but here? On its home turf? Just before we leave for home, I find one more bookstore. I comb through the wine section and, voilà! There it is: a 96-page book, just on Languedoc-Roussillon – covering everything I need: history, soils, grapes, the top producers (including contact info...for our next trip) – all for 5.50 euros. A story with a happy ending.

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