Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015 -- Montpellier, France

I started re-reading a book about bicycle racing on my Kindle yesterday afternoon. I'll be back in Phoenix next Thursday, and two days later I'll be doing my first bicycle race of 2015. I will not have been on a bicycle for over a month, so I'll probably do poorly, but I am nevertheless getting the bicycle-racing bug. I'm psyching myself up by mentally rehearsing going through the one high-speed 90-degree turn on the course without panicking. A 72-year-old guy should probably not be taking corners at high speed elbow to elbow with other cyclists, but those other guys in the racing pack will also be close to my age, so I won't be the only aged nut out there.

The predicted rain for today turned out to be an all day very light drizzle. It was not enough to stop me from being out and about. One thing I have observed not only here at the youth hostel but also by touring the city at large is that very little in Montpellier is what it seems to be at first glance. Also such concepts as logic, reason, planning, etc. are not valued. I commented in earlier blog entries that almost everything here at the hostel is out of repair, but many things in the city outside the hostel are also not what they should be. The two things that do seem to work are the city's tram system and the railroad station. Of course, the latter is run by the national railway company and not by the City of Montpellier, and I haven't actually ridden the tram.

Everywhere one looks, the streets are torn up, but very little seems to actually get done. Some of the construction sites have workers present, and others just have machines sitting idly on the torn-up section of street with no one tending to them.

In the picture below, one of the guys is actually using a tool to do something. There is an operator seated in the machine, but I didn't observe the machine doing any work. The operator spent part of his time hanging out the window chatting with one of the other "workers." The guy in green seems to be checking messages on his cell phone, while one of the men in the orange vests watches the other rake some dirt around.
City employees hard at work
I'm staying in a very historic district of Montpellier, one of the original settlements that were later joined to form the city. Below is a shot of the street where I am staying. The two lighted globes on the left mark the doorway to the youth hostel. If it hadn't been for my GPS telling me "destination is on left," I would have walked by several times without realizing that the hostel was there. There are no visible signs until you are actually in the doorway. That may help explain why the hostel is almost empty.
The street where I am staying in Montpellier
Less than a block from the hostel is the statue of Jeanne d'Arc or Joan of Arc as we call her in English. If the picture looks blurry, it's because the statue itself is blurry. That is, it has been so badly eroded by the rain that Jeanne's facial features can no longer be made out. You might think that the statue has been standing there for hundreds of years, but it was erected in 1917. The sculptor must have been on a budget and not able to purchase a weather resistant stone such as marble. Apparently the custom of doing things poorly has been around for some time.

A statue of Jeanne d'Arc
Below is the city gate of the area where I'm staying. Well, actually it's not. It is made to look like the old city gate, but it is a recent construction.
A faux historic city gate
What I yesterday thought was an old Roman aqueduct, similar to the Roman aqueduct that carried water to the city of Nîmes, is actually neither Roman nor quite as old as I at first suspected. It is called the Aqueduct of Saint Clément and was constructed in the 1600s to bring water from a spring and reservoir 800 meters across a valley. It was, of course, built copying old Roman technology. An Italian I met while surveying the aqueduct jokingly told me it was a copyright violation and that he, a genuine modern Roman, should be receiving royalties from it.
The Saint Clément Aqueduct in Montpellier
The aqueduct terminates in the tank shown below, from which the water was distributed to fountains in the city below. The building that houses the tank looks to me a lot like the building in Nîmes that houses the remnants of that city's Roman water distribution center, except that in place of a metal tank, Nîmes' distribution point has a stone basin.
Water tank at end of aqueduct

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