Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28, 2015 -- Montpellier, France

[As always, you can click on any photo in this blog to see it in a larger format. Then use your browser's back button to return to the blog.]

I’m not sure when or how I’m going to upload this to the Internet. The WiFi connection here in the hostel conked out again this morning. So I’m writing this offline, and then I’ll probably go to a Fast Food joint and try uploading the text and pictures separately.

I once taught electronics, and I believe that if I could get five minutes alone with the router and WiFi access point, I could fix the problem, but the manager here insists that it’s a complicated problem and only the service provider, Orange in this case, can fix it. But then, there is very little in this hostel that isn’t broken, and given the attitude that everything is an immense problem that requires great effort to resolve (and therefore won’t be resolved). Well, it’s not my problem, although I feel reasonable confident that if I could spend 15 minutes alone with the equipment, I could have the problem resolved.

I did some random exploring of the city today to see what I’d stumble upon. The first thing I did stumble upon was the cathedral, which seems to me to be another example of the local custom of not doing things right. As you can see in the following picture, the accumulated grime was sandblasted from part of the outside, and then the job stopped.

Inside the cathedral while I was there, there was only one other person, a woman who was “working” behind a window. I put working in parenthesis, because she was talking on her cell phone, although there was a sign in the entrance prohibiting cell phone use in the cathedral. I suppose she was supposed to provide services to visitors, but she paid no attention to me.

I can’t get over the work that went into building these old cathedrals. I don’t know about this one, but I do know that most of the grand cathedrals of Europe were built during centuries. The stained-glass alone must have an enormous task.

Like Paris, Montpellier has its Arc de Triomphe. OK, the one in Paris may be many times as large, but who’s taking measurements? I’m sure that the people who commissioned this one were just as proud of it as the Kings of France were of the big jobbie in Paris.

The central square in Montpellier is the Place de la Comedie. I suppose it got its name from the Comic Opera House, which is the building at the rear of the picture. This is the place to hang out. Those who have money sit in the sidewalk cafes sipping coffee or beer, and those who do not sit among piles of empty beer cans on the sidewalk, usually with at least two dogs per person. It seems that to qualify as a genuine street person in France, you have to have at least two dogs, and you have to be in a state of constant inebriation.

There seem to be two main means of transportation in Montpellier, bicycles and light trail, called the tram here. There seem to be far more bicycles than cars on the streets, at least in the section of town where I am staying, and automobile drivers are very careful about yielding the right-of-way to both cyclists and pedestrians. As to the trams, one comes by every few minutes; each one is several cars long; and they are all packed with people.

Like many other European cities and even Mexico City in North America, Montpellier has a public system or rental bikes. When you subscribe to the system, you get a magnetic card, which you can use to unlock any of the bikes in one of the automated bike racks like the one shown in the picture. When you reach your destination, you leave the bike at another rack in the system, and a computer calculates how long you have been using the bike. This station is solar powered.

Another of the items that I stumbled upon is what looks like an ancient Roman aqueduct. If I had an internet connection, I would research it. Exploring it father is one of the tasks I have set for myself for tomorrow.

I also need access to a weather forecast. The last time I checked, rain was forecast during my stay in Montpellier. Today was warm compared to most winter days in Europe. The jacket over a sweatshirt felt good in the early morning, but by afternoon, I began to wish that I only had the sweatshirt with me and not the jacket.

Now, I’m going to visit someplace with free WiFi and hope I can sit there long enough to upload and format the pictures and text and make this look like a decent blog entry.

PS/ I sat out in the cold in the Place de la Comedie uploading the above and formatting thee pictures, and when I returned to the hostel, the manger and the day clerk were gone. A Dutch lady was working the desk. I explained the problem to her, she unplugged the correct WiFi/router box, plugged it back in, and within five minutes we had WiFi again.

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