It only took 3 months (one month with a car), but we finally visited France’s most up and coming city, Montpellier. It was clear to see what all the hype was about when we arrived. It was a Tuesday morning in January and there were still loads of people about from various cultures, ages and backgrounds. The easiest way for us to travel was to do the park and tramway which is definitely a benefit of Montpellier. For 4.90 euros we both could park all day at the Odysseum and ride the trams and buses. A unique feature of the trams is that each line has a different pattern, line 1 was blue with whit swallow, line 2 is colourful “flower-power”, line 3 was “warm and dreamy colours”, and line 4 was bright. You could see clearly which tram was the one you needed to get, making it very easy for tourists!
We spent the day in the centre Place de la Comédie which was awesome and full of history. It is one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe and is dominated by the Comédie Opera House. It also contains Les 3 Grâces which was created by Etienne d’Antoine in 1773, and the statue is one of the emblems of Montpellier.
Unfortunately we did not have time to see all the historic monuments (an excuse/ reason to go again) like the Arc de Triomphe, towers and churches. However, we did stumble across an amazing 3D painting on the side of a building of an old French street. It was so realistic!
There are other areas of Montpellier that would be good to explore as well, such as:
The Odysseum- which is a large leisure and shopping centre with an IMAX cinema, indoor activities and shops, as well as the planetarium and aquarium.
Montpellier zoo- which I visited on New Year’s Eve with my sister and was surprisingly big considering we went out of season. It took us about 3 hours to walk around including the Amazon centre and a break for our picnic lunch, which was necessary as the only place where you could purchase food was at the entrance, which isn’t ideal if you’re on the other side of the site. The lemurs were, of course, my favourite as were the cool coloured frogs in the Amazon centre. All for 3 euros! We were buzzing!
The heritage sites such as:
- Aqueduc de Castries- the biggest hydraulic system in France built by Pierre Paul Riquet.
- Pignon- contains L’Abbaye de Vignogoul which is the only remaining part of a Benedictine then Cistercian monostry from the 12th century.
- Villneuve-lès-Maguelone- situating the Cathédrale Saint- Pierre de Maguelone which is a Roman monument by the sea, marshes and vineyards.
- Lattes- an archaeological site and museum of Henri Prodes.
Although we visited a French city, we tried Argentinean food because, why not? They were empanadas which were like little pasties with your choice from 8 fillings. I had an empanada verdura which contained vegetables of the season and cheese with a side of pesto and salad- so good!
However, you can’t not go out in France and not stop at a patisserie! So before we left we stopped to get a sugar kick before the drive home. I had a chocolate éclair- classic, and Caitlin had an apple tart- mildly healthy! It was fair to say we needed it for our hour plus drive home singing along to Camp Rock and Busted (we bought them for a euro each in an old music shop in a backstreet- don’t judge), followed by an inhuman moment of lifting a really heavy 2 metre kitchen cupboard, that nearly crushed us, out of the kitchen to be collected in the early hours of Wednesday.
Montpellier is definitely a “must visit” for anyone who is interested in French culture, heritage, shopping and leisure activities. It is more than just one day out. If I go back I would love to see it in the evening where the city apparently comes more alive! We shall see!