Archive for the ‘Je Suis Touriste’ Category

A few weekends ago, my friend Boris Hennion (also an ex.e.r.ce) took me to his friend Jean’s new restaurant in Saint Hippolyte du Fort, an old silk mill town in the mountains north of Montpellier. Jean is working to establish a progressive boarding school. In addition to his tireless work to set up the school from an administrative and human resources angle, he is renovating a gorgeous old building nestled between the mountains; among the more impressive features is a pool that he made himself. How is that possible? The premises are in various states of decrepitude and repair at this point, as I prefer all things, especially when photographing. To raise funds for the school, Jean has hired a superbly talented and fresh-mouthed chef, Yugo, and has set up a restaurant, Villa Figaret. Though I didn’t really experience the town, I did drive through it and I think I can say that Villa Figaret is the best dining experience in Saint Hippolyte, so if you are ever that way make a point of stopping in. I spent the weekend basically reliving my former life as a cater waiter in exchange for great food, plentiful if cheap wine, and some exceptional company.

I got a bit teary eyed when I saw this bell. Doesn't this look exactly like New England?

In the restaurant there was an exhibit of photographs from former Soviet bloc nations. Also many pumpkins.

Jean's parents owned a restaurant supplies factory, and therefore the restaurant has tons of nifty things, like this quasi-alchemical salad dresser


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Crocodile chained to a palm tree = Nîmes, which is where the Roman legions that fought for Julius Caesar in the Nile settled after they served for 15 years. It is also where I went for the day on the recommendation of a friend who had studied in Montpellier some years ago. I planned the trip around a performance by some New Yorkers, which you can read more about here . This trip was in part for my Mom, who wanted to see nice pictures, but of course my camera batteries ran out half way through the adventure. I tried the best I could.

The fame of Nîmes rests on all the old things it has, which are older than most other old things because they are Roman. The first I saw was the Arènes, which was big.


Next was the Maison Carrée, some sort of temple that has this beautiful color gradient, perhaps because of exposure to the sun or uneven cleaning? It was beautiful.


This was about where my camera ran out, which is a shame because the most beautiful stuff was next: the Temple of Diana (no historical connection to Diana), which is filled with pigeons and carved graffiti both Roman and contemporary, and looks like it might have been sawed in half along a diagonal; a beautiful network of pathways leading up the hill; at the highest point in Nîmes, the Tour Magne, which looks something like a bombed out conch shell; and, on the way down, some little waterfall fountains to walk underneath. Regarding the last, those from southeastern CT might think of a smaller version of the waterfalls at the old Mystic Falls mini golf course and batting cages. 

At the temple of Diana I noticed somebody walking out of a darkened hallway zipping up his fly, and my first thought was “Christ these people will piss anywhere.” At that point I realized that I’d seen more public urination in the South of France than anywhere else I’d ever been, even New York. I don’t know if this generalization has any foundation but regardless it endears me to this place all the more.


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On my second night in Montpellier I was delighted to find that the experimental guitarist Rhys Chatham would be performing at a local university for the Festival Sonorités, along with many other performers, lecturers, etc. I first encountered Chatham as the vaguely sexy but mostly blurry figure with guitar in hand in an old video of the DTW premiere of Karole Armitage’s “Drastic Classicism.” I’ve always wanted to interact with his work more, and was excited to blog about it tonight. 

However after yesterday’s 30 hours of traveling I had forgotten the date. The performance had been the night before.



Such is life. This afforded me a free night to wander around the area surrounding the local Centre Choregraphique National (CCN), the center where I will be studying for the year. I walked through the old town center, which has of course many restaurants, cafés, meeting places, and a good helping of old world charm, comme ça:


I kind of want to eat it, I love old stone work. 

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