Montpellier, the first phase

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May 13th 2017
Published: May 13th 2017
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View from the deckView from the deckView from the deck

Beautiful weather on our first morning. The Mediterranean is out there somewhere.
On the train

The trip from Lyon to Montpellier was easy. The French train system makes travel pretty easy once you figure out how to buy the tickets. The signs in the station are very clear, the notifications of the next station and how long it will be before you get there take the guess work out of travel.

The Housesit

We met Sheila in the station and had a short walk to their apartment. Very convenient. Kevin was out picking up some groceries. Even more convenient. We met Mr. Darcy who, in typical cat fashion, couldn’t really care less who we were. After lunch at a lovely outdoor restaurant, while Sheila did some last minute work related tasks before their two month trip, Kevin took us on a walk around the old city.

It’s not as old as some of the cities we visited in Italy but the old city is still a maze of twisting and turning alleys mixed in with some really nice, wide pedestrian ways. By the time we got home we were completely turned around.

The next morning we saw Sheila and Keith off at the train station and walked
Mr. DarcyMr. DarcyMr. Darcy

Our roommate for the next while. Doesn't say much but is very friendly.
to our first grocery store. Easy walk home. But we couldn’t get the door open. Nice. We had contact numbers for people to help us while Sheila and Kevin were away but these numbers were in a book IN the apartment. Luckily, Dianne remembered the door was a really tight fit. After unlocking it you really had to give it a push to get it to open. Whew. Little did I know it but things could get worse.

Mr. Darcy is particularly easy to live with. He sits sphynx-like all over the apartment just watching us. He eats, sleeps, poops etc. just as one would expect. He is much more used to us now and gives licks; he also purrs a lot. By the time we leave he may actually be communicating more frequently with us.

The Old City

The “old” city is referred to as the Shield because of its appearance on the maps. It’s only a 10 minute walk to Place de la Comédie, a beautiful square on the edge of the old city, which dates from the mid-1700s. Many of the buildings on the Place are mid 1800s and really spectacular. We soon learned
Sharing a drinkSharing a drinkSharing a drink

I have never met a cat who drinks out of a glass. Never slips a drop. After a few days, he even liked us to pet him while he ate and drank.
this was a very convenient location to start our exploration of all parts of the city.

On our first trip into the heart of Montpellier we missed a turn and actually had trouble finding our way back to the apartment. Pretty funny (in retrospect) as we are so close to everything. Later, we discovered the problem: there is no street name on “Rue de Barcelone” whereas there are on all the other streets. A couple of other times we have missed turns and walked a lot further than we expected.


Not sure what I expected but we had a lot of rain and wind when we first got here. As I write this we are about to have breakfast on the deck in beautiful sunshine looking off towards the Mediterranean. We can’t actually see it but we know it’s there. Yesterday it hit 29C. Can’t complain about that.

What to do

Because we were coming back to Montpellier for three weeks after our trip to Brussels and Paris, we decided to spend most of our time walking around the city rather than going to places like museums or other towns. We knew where the
Rue de BarceloneRue de BarceloneRue de Barcelone

At the end of this street, turn right and one block to the train station. Can't get much more convenient.
tourist bureau was and managed to stock up on maps, timetables etc. Walking around this town is greatly assisted by a great tram system. The trams criss-cross the town and you can actually get there from here. But even if you aren’t using the system, the tram tracks are very helpful in figuring out where you are and where you are going. On board, they tell you the direction you are going and what the next stop is so you can be prepared. We have used the trams to get to several outlying attractions and, using our trusty tourist maps, have gone cross-country to link up with other trams to get home. Very pleasant way to see the city and its environs.

Today we are going back to the zoo to see the Amazon Zone which we chose not to go into last time we were there. You have to get off the tram and jump on a bus to get to the zoo. But wouldn’t you know it, there is a nice cappuccino bar at the meeting point.

Meeting people

It doesn’t happen so often in town where many people are carrying maps, but out in
Market DayMarket DayMarket Day

Our first Sunday we stumbled around trying to find the Church and what do you know? There is a huge open market beside it on Sunday morning. Food for the body as well as the soul.
the outlying areas, if you stop to look at your map, somebody will stop and ask if you need help. We had a great chat with one fellow about the pilgrimage trail, Santiago de Compostela, one part of which winds through Montpellier.

In another encounter, we were talking with a salesclerk in a very crowded pharmacy. I told Dianne I would wait for her outside. The clerk stopped me with a look and said “No, you have to stay and pay”.

Lots of fun encounters with servers in bars and restaurants. People have told us the French are not particularly friendly to tourists but that has not been our experience. Maybe things will be different in Paris but, so far, the trip has been great.


Montpellier is technically on the Mediterranean but it is 10-12 kilometers to the beaches. We did want to see the sea at least once before heading north. The train trip to Sète was brief and we were lucky to arrive on market day. This interesting town is right on the coast and has many working canals. Sort of like Venice except there are plenty of roads. Many are one
Fontaine des Trois GrâcesFontaine des Trois GrâcesFontaine des Trois Grâces

This fountain has been moved several times but now resides in front of the Opera Comedié in the main square of the old city. In fact, this isn't the original but a copy.The original is inside the Opera building.
way so you have to pay attention when crossing the road. There was no map in English and the one we did have was a bit light on named streets. It show Mont St Clair and suggested it was a view point so up we went. All 175 meters in elevation, mostly straight up an old staircase with over 400 steps. The views were worth the climb. The chapel at the top was very different and we enjoyed our visit. The signs pointed to another viewpoint so we had to see it.

Sète is between the Mediterranean and the Étang de Thau, a large mostly salt-water lagoon. This lagoon is the largest of many such lagoons that run along the Mediterranean coastline. The Canal du Midi links it to some other waterways and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean! Considering it was built in the 1700s, I think it is pretty fantastic. We hope to see some of the locks when we go to Beziers on our return to Montpellier.

From the second viewpoint in a national forest we wound our way down the “mountain” but found ourselves on the opposite side from Sète city centre. No problem. The excellent
Another view of old and newAnother view of old and newAnother view of old and new

These buildings date from the late 1800s but now house new creations like McDonald's.
bus service posts route maps at each bus stop so even though we didn’t plan to take the bus, we followed the route that wandered along the beaches and always knew where we were. Enough was eventually enough and we hopped on a bus back to town. Lunch was overdue.

We couldn’t find the two restaurants we were looking for so just stopped for a quick bite at the equivalent of a fast food place. While we were waiting for our food, an older lady came in using a walker. The staff all cheered and there were many hugs and kisses. Obviously a local and a favourite. It was fun just to be there.

We decided to find a public washroom. Not that easy. But we did eventually find one and it was both free and clean. It was one of the automatic type that does a full wash down between uses. You don’t want to make a mistake in timing. As we started wandering back to the rail station we realized we had walked almost back to where we had caught the bus earlier!

Back home to hang out with Mr. Darcy and tell him about
Old BuildingsOld BuildingsOld Buildings

We love how they match the buildings to the winding streets.
our exploits. To Be Continued.


Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Arc de triompheArc de triomphe
Arc de triomphe

This gate is the obligatory entry of the Peyrou, the royal square dedicated to the glory of King Louis XIV. Built in 1691, it is a bit smaller than its more famous cousin in Paris.
A bit thinA bit thin
A bit thin

It looks more impressive from the front. On the side it appears a bit skinny. We did get to climb a circular staircase to the top to get great views.
Water towerWater tower
Water tower

This is the structure you see when you look through the Arc. It looks pretty fancy but is "just" the structure holding the water system.

View from beside the water tower showing the aqueduct heading off into the hills
Aqueduct from belowAqueduct from below
Aqueduct from below

We walked along its base off into the hills and eventually took a tram home.
Light standardLight standard
Light standard

Pretty interesting outdoor lighting systems
Cathedral of Saint PierreCathedral of Saint Pierre
Cathedral of Saint Pierre

One of the least imposing entrances to a church that we have seen despite the enormous columns on this "porch". But inside it was beautiful and full of families on Sunday.
Porte du Pila Saint GélyPorte du Pila Saint Gély
Porte du Pila Saint Gély

Remnants of the gate where pilgrims used to enter the city on their way to Santiago del Compostela in Spain. Rebuilt here after it was moved to make way for a tramline. But it still gives you an idea of what things were like.
Downturn in the weaherDownturn in the weaher
Downturn in the weaher

We did have some rain and lots of wind. Luckily it was never enough to keep us indoors too long.
May Day paradeMay Day parade
May Day parade

On May 1st, we had a big labour parade march right by our apartment building. It seemed to go on forever. With all the press about the election, and other reports about terrorism, we were heartened to see this banner in the middle of the parade.
Night skyNight sky
Night sky

Back home again from daily explorations, we got to relax with a glass of wine and visit with Mr. Darcy while enjoying a beautiful sunset
Cappuccino replacement?Cappuccino replacement?
Cappuccino replacement?

Aperol spritz and a cheese plate on a shady patio in a square in old Montpellier. Hmmmmmm. Might just replace that afternoon cappuccino in the nice weather.

14th May 2017
Cappuccino replacement?

A tough day of touring requires refreshment.

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