When I was not a french speaker by then, and my mom kept repeating a name of a place that I could hardly pronounce, let alone remember, I’d thought never hear the name again. It was Montpellier. Reason why my mom liked it was the spelling was intriguing; mont- pe-ye or mont- pe-li-ye. I didn’t care that much, then.
Until sometime in France, and there’s a sudden urge to go there. I love the beach, and I’ve been to the almost southern side of the country : côte atlantic (south west – Biarritz, San Sebastian), côté d’azur (mediterranean sea – Nice, Cannes, Antibes, and around ), but I’ve never been to the other primary south – Montpellier. The place just pops out of my head, out of nowhere, that I wanted to go there. Had a row at the office and to calm me down, I needed to see the sea. So summer direction : Montpellier for a week!
Cheap tickets and me, are inseparable, and this time my train departs not from the city centre, but from the suburbs – Marne la Vallée, from Disneyland, to be precise. It’s a low cost train of SNCF – OUIGO, where the tickets varies from 10 euros to around 50 euros…I remember that I booked the tickets less than 90 euros return trip – first class. So it was quite a bargain! Had I booked early, I could’ve had the ticket for 10 euros, for sure….
I wanted to couch surf, but it was in plain summer, so the locals were not there to host either. I booked through airbnb instead, and I got a very nice host and great experience together!
I was briefed by one of my team who used to study there, so at least this time I had some plans already. Plus, I downloaded an app called “Montpellier tours”, a self guided walking tours, which allows you to make your own walking itinerary, or simply follow their guide.
My airbnb apartment is just 5 min walking from the main train station, and it’s already in the city centre – and plus, it’s just walking distance to Old City.
Montpellier vielle ville is a living medieval city where you can stroll along narrow street, surrounded by old aged houses, buildings (of the 17th and 18th century), but now is mixed with some modern colors. It’s one of the student cities (thus prices are nicely friendly), and you can see bars, restaurants scatter along and in the corner of the city, side by side with the ancient church and other historic buildings.
You can find the important monuments and landmarks easily just by walking, and don’t worry to get lost. By getting lost, you’ll find the other things that’s maybe not in the list. For the first time, you can’t miss Place de la Comédie, just in the central, where most trams stop, and where the tourist information office is located. There in the Place, you’ll find Opera House standing, and on the other sides are some streets leading you to some churches with their beautiful quarters. City centre is not too big, but if you are not too good with orientation (the colors and buildings look almost the same, streets alleys too), don’t try to make a meeting point “in front of X church” since there are some. My fave : Saint Roch church, Saint Anne church with its carrée saint anne, Montpellier Cathederale, and other small chapels.
If the city and its old town already offer an interesting view and history, remember that Montpellier has everything you need when it’s hot summer days : the beach!
There are some beaches reachable by public transportation, and during summer there are always shuttle buses. You can have the schedule at tourist information or check online at http://www.herault-transport.fr/
But for sure, you can take tram line 3 to Pérols-étang de l’or and get on the shuttle to Grand Travers beach. I hesitated between some beach destinations, but you can always decide on the spot and pick the bus you want. Note : there’s one beach where there’s spot allowing you to be totally nude. Just saying :-)))
One day trip to another city is possible too, if you’re bored with Montpellier. I went to Sète, a nice fishing village just next to Montpellier city, you can cross with bus, or the train. Good seafood, nice ambiance, laid back bus schedule (heeeeeeeeee), and great beaches……totally recommended!
Or even further, you can visit Guilhem le desert, they said to be one of the most beautiful villages in France (I forgot which year), a mountainous cobbled street village, and one of the chemin de jacques de compostelle – a pilgrim trekking path of Jacques Compostelle. The trip to the village it self was like a pilgrim to me, passing the drooling vineyards, beautiful landscape, and passing Pont de Diable, a small lagoon with breathtaking view, just 30 min away from Guilhem le desert.
The price of everything is relatively less expensive (again, I compare to Paris), if I can say : cheap! Where else to have coffee and snacks for 2 euros only, where in Paris I pay 2,3 euros for espresso. That’s why it’s a perfect place for students, or even for those who wanted to learn French! Not to mention its bustling night life….rue Tessier, quarter Saint Roch or Saint Anne, or simply hang out near Place de la Comédie or Esplanade Charles de Gaulle…
Montpellier, as one of cities in the region of Languedoc Rousillon, has its famous wines, has its thick accent (not just southern accent, but it’s the place where the Langue d’Oc is spoken), and has laid back profiles. Like where SNCF postponed out train to Sète since the train line to Bordeaux had an accident in Lunel, and there was no certainty at what time the train would be back on track. I had to wait there for three hours and me, with parisian bitch gene, fidgeting and frustrated by the lack of sufficient information. And the agent asked me if I was from “75?” (it refers to Paris postal code) since it was only me among the hundreds passengers who got furious with the “Je ne sais pas, madame” shrug answer. And the others just sat there, patiently, no protest, and so understanding. Imagine if métro in Paris got late by 5 min or line interrupted due to “malaise voyageur” or “colis suspect” or bus route deviation or simply “service partiel“. Revolution, my friend, happens every 10 minutes in the capital.
So I guess breathing southern air was indeed a good thing for me who needed fresh air!
Thank God that it is compulsory for us in France to take 2 weeks in a row during summer, so i could flee to the south sun. A week is quite just to spend in Montpellier, enough time to explore, discover the city, adventure the food (where else other than in the south you can eat seafood anytime, and cheap???), great wines (of course!!!), and create new friendship!
I’ll split some stories of Montpellier in different sections, otherwise it will be tooooo long to write. In the mean time, perhaps you’d want to treat yourself some oysters and white wine?!