Montpellier and Agde


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Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Montpellier
March 8th 2019
Published: March 8th 2019
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Sunrise in MontpellierSunrise in MontpellierSunrise 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?You looking at me?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.
New constructionNew constructionNew construction

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 venteuseUne journée venteuseUne 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
Wall muralWall muralWall mural

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
Life saverLife saverLife saver

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 ticketJust the ticketJust 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!


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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New regional buildingNew regional building
New regional building

This building includes the beautiful new library. The bit sticking out is the auditorium. The story of how they keep it attached to the main building is fascinating.
Back side of the buildingBack side of the building
Back side of the building

Gives a good idea of just how big the building is.
Building of PierrevivesBuilding of Pierrevives
Building of Pierrevives

We watched the hour long video in two very comfortable chairs using head sets. There were many stations like this spread around the room. You can see the feet of the young chap watching his movie next to us.
Reading stationsReading stations
Reading stations

While you can't take the books home, kids can sit in all kinds of interesting stations to read at the library. The librarian said they were very popular.
Lazy day at the zooLazy day at the zoo
Lazy day at the zoo

This guy was soaking up the sun while about 5 or 6 little monkeys were running back and forth over him.
No translation requiredNo translation required
No translation required

The zoo property is quite large and not exactly flat, as one can figure out from these pictures.
Lost in translationLost in translation
Lost in translation

Our first cappuccino fatality. We stopped at a coffee shop advertising "Seattle's greatest coffee". We ordered cappuccinos but got espressos. Not fatal but disappointing. At least they came with two free cream puff balls. We also shared this eclair.
River Hérault in Agde.River Hérault in Agde.
River Hérault in Agde.

Seems like all the towns we visit are on a picturesque river. Agde is no exception.
One of manyOne of many
One of many

Can't be an old French town without lots of fountains.
Church of St AndreChurch of St Andre
Church of St Andre

The nicest church we visited in Agde. Built in 1525 on the site of the first church built in Agde in 506 AD. This was around the same time as an important church council in Agde. Lots of history here.
Private townhousePrivate townhouse
Private townhouse

Built in the 17th century. I often wonder what it was like in these places when this building was first built and the original owners moved in.
L'Écluse RondeL'Écluse Ronde
L'Écluse Ronde

This three way, round lock is not unique but may be one of only two in France.
Chateau LaurensChateau Laurens
Chateau Laurens

This is the interesting site that is currently being renovated. If you click the line in the text you will see why we liked it.
Santa?Santa?
Santa?

We found several cases of Santa's continued presence in town. Not sure why he is hanging around.
Picture in the MuseumPicture in the Museum
Picture in the Museum

Part of the display in the Museum was about the Chateau. This one shows it just before it started its decline.
Museum roomMuseum room
Museum room

Typical of the 26 rooms showing what life was like in Agde over the years.
Red carpet treatmentRed carpet treatment
Red carpet treatment

A good chunk of the old town was being worked on. They laid out these paths to show you were you could walk "safely".
Mussels and fritesMussels and frites
Mussels and frites

Who would believe I would order mussels with a Roquefort sauce? I sure wouldn't. It was delicious and extremely filling. Dianne had a garlic butter type sauce on hers. I think I won that one.


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