Monday, March 29, 2010
Last Thursday was a wet day, reminiscent of Ireland. The house hunt was shut down for the week and I was feeling a bit blue. So, we decided to go to Montpellier's fabulous aquarium.
Aquarium Mare Nostrum is near city center and shares a space with the fairly new outdoor shopping mall, the Odysseum. In the lobby there's a free standing cylindrical aquarium filled with huge spacey-eyed fish calmly staring out in welcome. The Baby, not for the last time that day, bumped his head against the deceptive glass in an attempt to get closer to the fish.
You pass through a dark entry with mirrored floor and glass ceiling--the only barrier between a fish filled aquarium above; watery shadows reflecting from overhead causing vertigo and the sensation that you're walking on water.
They have a replica of a submarine and an old cargo ship. Inside the cargo ship you can steer the big wheel and push all the twinkly buttons. And then the storm begins and the floor feels as if it's bucking on waves as they splash water up onto the broad windshield and through windows, sprinkling those standing close with water. The windshield wipers crank away trying to cope with the deluge and the thunder and lightning clap and crack, eliciting screams and shudders from kids and adults alike. Ma Fille and the Middlest, who'd been up front and center steering and plonking away on the controls before the storm, came shrieking back to me, 'Let's go Mommy! We're scared!'
The most fantastic part for me was the ocean aquarium. It takes up the center of the building, more than two stories tall and visible in teasing peeks from different areas throughout until you finally reach the darkened room, with theatre benches and a slanting wall of glass the only thing separating you from the sharks, manta rays, swordfish and various other ocean life.
One requin in particular kept swimming up to us, pressing so hard into us that you could see his gills flatten out against the glass--all the while grinning so that he showed his rows of slanty, sharp teeth.
We touched starfish and concombre de mer, piecing together understanding from the very nice woman who explained all the small sea creatures to us in French.
It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy day, educational and in French.