Anytime I leave my homestay, I walk past beautiful architecture. From the Aqueducts to the Jardin, even the simple apartment buildings are beautiful. Staring at the prettiness can make a tourist fall into the traps of getting around in Montpellier.
While admiring the sun setting through the arches of the aqueducts, it is important not to forget to hopscotch around the dog shit and broken glass that accumulate on the streets. You might ask me: “Why is there so much dog shit on the street? Don’t the French have small little lap dogs? How could those little things excrete so much?” Well, the French do prefer to have little dogs. That is, the rich French prefer to have little dogs. Montpellier has a sizable homeless population. This includes the gypsies that try to solicit money from you on the tram when they play their accordions. The homeless in Montpellier all have dogs. They have big dogs. This seems weird, but they are pretty slick. The police do not arrest the homeless and try to kick them out when they have a dog. This is because the police would then have to figure out what to do with the dog. Because Caroline cannot work anymore after her illness, she often volunteers at soup kitchen type place. Caroline tells me that they get a hot meal at lunch and a sandwich in the evening. They can even get a hot shower somewhere. The dogs also get fed. The problem is that there is no room in Montpellier to have a homeless shelter.
Next hazard:traffic. Je ne get it pas. The French drivers don’t stop for anything/anyone and the French pedestrians just cross the street without looking. The French can definitely tell I’m foreign because I hesitate and look both ways before crossing the street. I don’t understand how people don’t die here. The French drivers are crazy! The rules for driving here differ from those in the States, but the French don’t follow them anyway. It disturbed me slightly when I realized how often I put my life in the hands of a crazy French pedestrian because every time I have to cross the street, I stand next to a French person and think to myself “You go, I go, boo.” The sidewalks are not very wide so when cars and bikers pass you going the French speed limit of ridiculously fast, it can be quite startling.
Just as dangerous as the French drivers are the French pedestrians. They do not share well with others. If you are walking on the sidewalk and a Frenchie is coming in the opposite direction, he will ram into your side instead of remaining on the right side of the sidewalk. Also, the typical French breakfast of caffeine and nicotine puts some spring in their step. They like to bolt past you and ram into your side as they do.
Taking the tram can also result in a variety of bruises. I’m used to waiting for people to get off the bus/subway/elevator before I get on it. As soon as the doors of the tram open, people rush in and off the tram at the same time. If you do try to wait for the people on the tram to get off before you get on, the French person behind you will give you a little shove to get moving. If you hesitate at all trying to get off the tram, you don’t get off; you get shoved to the back.
Walking to anywhere here poses a mild level of danger, but it is not the red level alert you would have to have driving anywhere.