Today's only fixed plan was to be at the Comédie tram-stop at 12:30, to meet Peter and another guy for lunch. This was, as usual, something to look forward to. Peter is something of a phenomenon, having been semi-retired in a village about 40 minutes north of Montpellier as the Peugeot flies, and using the other half of the semi to set up The Languedoc Page some years back. As you can see, it's a huge compendium of facts and links, including a very useful forum, all in English, all dedicated to this part of France. He's constantly networking, constantly making it better, and that's why he was putting me together with a guy who's just started some magazines in English, each dedicated to a different department within this region. (Departments are sort of like counties).
We all agreed there was nothing for me to do until I moved down, but it was a pleasant enough lunch and discussion, and I led the two through the back streets of the historic center so that the Le Mag guy could see various businesses serving the expat community.
Naturally, because I still haven't so much as looked at a place, I brought up my problems here. Peter told me that, as a landlord who rents a few studios up around his place, he often sees agencies he deals with asking for a year's rent in escrow. There are, however, other ways to go about it. What you need is a dossier, which is French for "pile of papers." Documents showing how much you earn, who employs you, things like that. It also helps to have someone who has a French job which brings in three times your month's rent serve as a guarantor. I took this all in, and by the time Peter and Le Mag blasted off, there was only a little time before I was to meet Nick at the Vert Anglais to see if his cousin could help me.
But over lunch, Peter had had a very good idea. "Why don't you rent a furnished studio and move down here temporarily, so that you can network with a much easier deadline?" he said. "School's out, and a lot of people rent student flats to tourists for the summer. You might find a place and have to eat a month's rent, but that would be better than trying to rent a place from Berlin." As I wandered the back streets in the hilly region over by the cathedral, some of Montpellier's most picturesque streets (including several I don't believe I've ever seen before, and I've walked lots of this town), I turned this over in my head.
I was lucky when I got to the Vert Anglais. Lou, who's working there, was sitting outside with a post-work beer. We sat down and had a long and intense conversation. She agreed that renting a studio for a couple of months was a great idea and, as seems to be her wont, whipped out her cell phone and SMS-ed a friend who had one to rent. Eventually, Nick showed up and apologized for not having gotten back to me, but, having learned that his father's real ill, I wasn't about to be anything but sympathetic. He promised to get ahold of me in the morning if he can reach his realtor cousin.
So thanks, Peter, for Plan B. I'm already on the track of a couple of studios, and it'll be easier to compile my dossier back in Berlin. Meanwhile, a miracle could happen, and I'm open to it. But I think that my mistake, if I could be said to have made one, was in misjudging the very laid-back tempo that attracts me to this place and thinking that I could score an apartment as quickly as I could in Berlin.
The new plan makes sense, and gives me something to spend the money for the work I'm currently doing on. It'll involve a bit more travel, and it'll involve spending more time here. If I wind up finding a place, I might even not have to eat the extra rent: a friend of mine in Italy has expressed interest in coming here, and I could toss the place to him for the remaining time.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm headed back to the Vert Anglais. As previously mentioned, Andy's getting the charcuterie tonight.