I wrote the blog today on the train trip between Montpellier and Marseille, on the way to Nice. Sadly, it has been lost to cyberspace, so here I go again.
Yesterday morning, I took a very fast train from Barcelona to Montpellier. Montpellier is the 8th largest city in France, and the third largest French city on the Mediterranean. It is also the quickest growing city in France over the past 25 years. This may be because it is home to three universities as well as three higher education institutions, which would explain the amount of young folk in the city.
Anyone who reads my facebook statuses would already know how taken I was with the beauty of this city. It certainly isn’t as well known as the other places I have visited during this trip, but it has been every bit as rewarding. I have to admit, I love the feeling of Montpellier as well as the beauty.
I walked from the station to my accommodation, Hotel de la Comedie, which didn’t take very long at all, (although I found later on rome2rio that there was a more direct route). The hotel is easy to find as it is probably less than 20 seconds walk from Place de la Comedie, a vast public space that is surrounded by beautiful old buildings full of life and people in the buildings latest uses, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. Opera Comedie, the opera house, dating back to 1888 is at one end, over looking a fountain with statues in the middle. This public space, shared with modern, colourfully decorated trams, is used so diversely and so well by the people of Montpellier, that it reminds me of Fed Square in Melbourne. When I was there, aside from the very French way of tables and square market umbrellas belonging to restraurants and cafes on the fringe, there were market stalls, a peaceful protest, a second hand book market, as well as folk just hanging out there.
At the other end of the Place de la Comedie from the opera house is another fountain, which also happens to be at the start of a beautiful leafy avenue, which yesterday was venue for some sort of ‘sustainability’ event, with tents and stands hugging each side of the avenue. It’s funny walking through such an event when you don’t speak (or read) the language.
From there, I decided to wander through the streets set back from the Place de la Comedie. Shops, restaurants and cafes are close to the heart of the city, but the further I ventured, the less mainstream the shops, etc were. It was fascinating to just wander the narrow streets without concerning myself too much where I ended up. Surprisingly, I found myself walking under quite a reasonable sized arch attached to a smallish tower, which I am guess is part of the city wall. As I continued, I found myself at the other end of the leafy avenue, and about half way along, there was another fountain.
Close to the Place de la Comedie is a very modern shopping centre, discretely tucked around the corner. As I approached it, I wondered what the people could possibly be lining up for, a mid afternoon night club, maybe? No, bags were being checked and shoppers were scanned with metal detectors. France is taking it’s security seriously in light of recent incidents. It is not uncommon to see machine gun toting military members wandering the streets. Police presence in very obvious and even takeaway places have security guards at their door. Funny thing is that it doesn’t make me more nervous, it actually makes me more secure.
I haven’t mentioned my room! As with all my accommodation, I had booked a single room, so I wasn’t expecting anything to spacious. It was on the 4th floor, reached by riding in the smallest lift in the universe. But when I got in my room, everything melted away when I saw the very french window with ornate guard looking across the building’s court yard. Very French, oui, oui.
Anyway, after my mammoth walking tour of the city of Montpellier in the afternoon, I headed back to my room. I still had Barcelona’s blog to post. Besides that, I was knackered, (you can take the girl out of Australia…..). So after a shower and this and that, including re configuring my packing. I laid on the bed and fell asleep before I knew it. I had planned to go out before dark to get something to eat, but you know how the best laid plans tend to go, it was dark.
As I walked out of the hotel’s front door, I was just taken with Montpellier at night. It was even more beautiful at night. The buildings are brightly lit with accent blue light. The people were different, they were well dressed for a night out; ladies were walking around with single wrapped roses, a gift from their gentleman, and the market umbrella covered tables for the restaurants and cafes were filled with diners and music. It just had a really lovely vibe.
I again wandered around, just taking photos. I was really surprised, you know me, I worry about all sorts of things, but this city felt as welcoming and safe as Fed Square. There was no way I was going to be out and about in Barcelona by myself after dark. I got a salad and just sat there and had a really good people watching session. I didn’t even mind the machine gun toters as they walked by. After a while, I returned to my hotel. When I entered my room, I could still hear the gentle tones of the music at street level. I set my alarm for this morning and surprisingly, I slept until it went off.
This morning, I packed up my bags and left my room for my french breakfast. This consisted of a baguette, croissant, chocolate danish, orange juice and a cup of Earl Grey tea, OK, I will grant you not all of it was authenticly french and not all of it was eaten. After breakfast, and checking out of the hotel, I consulted rome2rio as to the most straight forward way to Montpellier Sant-Roch railway station. Yes, it was more direct and much quicker than the way that I had walked there, although I have an idea that it was through the late night entertainment area of the city. Really though, it really didn’t matter as anyone who was partying hard last night were nowhere to be seen at 8am today.
I got to the station in plenty of time for my train to Marseilles and then on to Nice.