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Published: March 8th 2019
Sunrise in Montpellier
View from our balcony.
In the last blog I mentioned I had come down with a nasty cough and cold. It really got in the way of being an energetic tourist and blogger. Fortunately, Dianne didn’t succumb to the cold and I seem to be on the mend.
During this period we took it pretty easy. Fortunately our base camp is well situated for walks around the old city and, being near a tram stop, we can jump on a tram and go all over Montpellier to start our walks in different locations.
The low point of the trip so far, was Thursday, February 28th
. How do I know? Well, Dianne took exactly one picture. It was of me taking a nap. Zoo
Getting to the zoo involves a long tram ride followed by a transfer to a local bus. We had been to the Zoo a couple of times on the last trip but we couldn’t remember what bus we needed to take to complete the journey. Two buses were waiting at the stop. Dianne asked one driver if he spoke English. “A little” was the standard reply. He did his best to explain he wasn’t the bus we wanted
You looking at me?
I often wonder what is going through his mind as he surveys his kingdom from his balcony perch
but couldn’t quite get the words to tell us where the info we wanted was displayed. Instead, he closed down his bus, jumped off and took us over to the sign where it told us how to get there. A big smile and he was off. Some people are so friendly and helpful.
The Zoo is a natural tourist attraction. And it’s free! There is a charge if you want to go in the Amazon Rain Forest exhibit but we had done that last trip so settled for strolling around the huge area. There aren’t a large number of visible animals but the ones that are there are interesting. Especially interesting was trying to read the signs to figure out what the animals are all about.
The weather was absolutely beautiful so there were a large number of family groups out enjoying the day. Surprising number of school-aged children considering it was, we thought, a school day. Nice to see so many families all having picnics and enjoying the day. We brought our own picnic lunch to enjoy in a quiet, treed area. Agde
We did manage one day trip to the coastal town of Agde.
Quite a contrast to the buildings in the old town. This building was under construction the last time we were here.
It was one stop further down the coast from Sete which we had visited on two day trips last time. They are both old towns and not that far apart so you wouldn’t expect them to be too different and in a way they aren’t. But there are always some interesting differences.
The Musee Agathois Jules Baudou museum is in a building that used to house the Hostel of Charity in 1699. It has 26 rooms recounting the history of Agde. The building itself has many of the architectural characteristics of private townhomes of the era.
The Canal du Midi really starts here on its way to the Atlantic. Hard to believe back in the mid-1600s someone figured out how to put a canal that far. The thought of shipping product from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic without having to go around Spain and Portugal must have been pretty exciting. We encountered something that is apparently a bit of a rarity: the Ecluse Ronde, a round lock.
There are three sets of water levels so three sets of doors. You can go up towards Toulouse and the Atlantic, down to the City of Agde and
Une journée venteuse
The fountain usually shoots straight up. When we crossed the nearby bridge we got quite a spray even though we were quite far away.
the Mediterranean or out to the Étang du Thau, a large salty lake that, in turn, leads to the sea. Not used commercially anymore but there are lots of pleasure boats on the canal. We did a lunch cruise on it near Beziers on our last trip.
One of the most interesting sites in Agde is one that is currently closed for renovations and it isn't even one of the oldest buildings in town. In fact, it isn't really in town. It is on Belle-Isle, a small island on the edge of Agde formed by the River Hérault, the two branches of the Canal du Midi that come out of the Ecluse Ronde.
We tramped around this area before we discovered what it was all about. There was a dwelling on this site since the 1660s but it was in the 1890s that Emmanuel Laurens inherited 20 million gold francs and upgraded it by the early 1900s. Some bad investments between the wars cost him his fortune and the place deteriorated rapidly. It was eventually taken over by the City and is currently under a three year restoration plan. I found a great web site talking about
Lyon isn't the only town with murals. This one is across the street from St Roch Church which can be see in the refection in the painted window
the Chateau, well worth a read, click here Montpellier Library
Because of her long involvement with school and public libraries, Dianne had to look into what Montpellier had to offer. The Department de l’Herault built a massive new building to unify three institutions – the archive, the library and the sports department – within a single envelope (to quote their website) . The building Pierre Vives is incredible and looks somewhat like a cruise ship (the architect, Zaha Hadid, is Anglo-Iraqi and she describes it more like a horizontal tree. Her story is worth reading.).
The library portion is somewhat unusual to us as it is open to the pubic yet you can’t take our any books or other material. You go there to read a large selection of books, watch movies in an extremely comfortable environment or use a huge collection of computers. We had a great chat with a librarian who told us about all their services. Apparently, the building was built in an area with a large immigrant population and the library has many programs to help with their integration into French society. She set us up with one of the video machines
Our host couple doesn't drink coffee and has an induction stove top. We brought a stainless steel espresso maker with us so we can make Americanos just like we do at home.
to watch an hour long documentary on the design and building of Pierre Vives. It was fascinating.
The library is also a central site which warehouses a lot of library materials and circulates them to the many libraries in the Department de l’Herault. Walkabouts
I’ve probably said this before, but one of the nice things about spending 35 days in the same location is that you don’t have to be on the move constantly to see everything there is to see. We decided to check out a supermarché as we hadn’t been able to find the brand of popcorn we wanted at our other stores. After checking Google Maps and getting the general idea of where it was, we set off cross-country. It was only about 3 kilometres but I managed to make a couple of navigational errors. Pas de problème. Just wander around until you find what you are looking for.
In this case we found an interesting-looking house that Dianne wanted a picture of. While I was waiting I discovered an old church just off the main street. We wandered in and had a good look. There were two ladies
Just the ticket
Parking is at a real premium around here. All the streets are pay parking. This car has five tickets on it. The top one is 33 euros. If he parks any longer he might have to sell the car to pay the fines.
“working” there and one came over to chat. We believe she was a Nun and was Spanish. This made our conversation a little tricky. We understood about half of what she told us (in French) and we did have quite a few laughs as we sorted out the French translations. We think the church was built in the 1200s but at some point had a major fire and what we were seeing was the rebuilt version. This interaction was great and would not have happened if we hadn’t had time to leisurely check out this other store. We didn’t find the brand we wanted but we did get popcorn. What’s next?
Montpellier is on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (one route anyway). One of the major stops is St Guilhem le Desert in the Hérault valley which has kept its medieval imprint (I read a lot of web sites). A day trip to the market in Lunel and surrounding areas, as well as trips to Carcassone and Avignon are still to be planned. Whew! Good thing we have lots of time. So this is ToBeContinued!
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