In September 2017, I have made the decisions both to regularly travel in France over the course of a weekend every 4 to 6 weeks, and also to reconnect with old friends or relatives every time I could or felt like it. I have set in motion these decisions almost immediately, as the next weekend already, off I was to Montpellier where I’d meet with My-Linh, an old friend from University whom I hadn’t seen since she had left Hong-Kong and her expat job about 9 years ago. She now lives in Ardèche in the countryside, and drove to Montpellier for the weekend too, so we each met almost half-way.
Montpellier is located in the South of France. From Nice, I traveled about 4.5 hours by train, checked-in my hotel, and met My-Linh and her daughter on the main square of Montpellier, called Place de la Comédie (picture below). Her little girl in really cute, smart, polite and already very mature for her young age, which made her very easy to have around, even though we had adults conversation. We started by strolling around in the vicinity of the main square on a large pedestrian alley (picture above) and stopped for an hour or so at the nearby playground, so that the sweet kid could play while my friend and I were telling each other everything about what our lives have been made of during the past 9 years.
Then we moved back to Place de la Comédie for a snack, and before we went to have dinner in Le Bol d’Or – a very nice Thai & Vietnamese restaurant – I got a few information about what was nice to see in town (I had no time to prepare anything on such short notice). My-Linh insisted that on my second day in Montpellier I’d go to the Musée Fabre and enjoy free entrance during the Journées du Patrimoine, the annual national event days during which all public monuments and museums are open to the public and free of charge. I’m glad I followed her advice. This museum (located along the nice alley and across the kids playground) was really interesting, it presented a huge collection of paintings over several floors and multiple galleries, and although they were not the style of art that I prefer, but I must admit that I was pretty touched by the overall impression that the museum left on me.
On the second day, after a good night sleep and a really nice evening eating out with my friend, her daughter and her husband who joined us too, I was all ready for a touristic day in my country and this new town. I got a bit lost during my first hour out, but it gave me a chance to see some areas of the city that I had not planned to visit (lol). No problem with that, as my time was not lost in vain, and actually Montpellier is a small town and visiting it back and forth within a single day is totally doable. Back on track, I walked passed the City Hall (picture above), reached the Court of Justice via a very nice maze of cute streets mixing clean architecture and old buildings (pictures below), and ended up at the Aqueduc Saint-Clement, built in 1765 to bring water to the city. Nowadays, the old pedestrian path that is to be found and followed next to and on the aqueduc, is slowly being re-instated so that tourists can walk it from the water source in the village of Le Lez, all the way to the inner city of Montpellier. I hope I’d be able to walk it myself someday.
When lunch time approached, I thought I’d wait a little bit later before I’d sit somewhere, as I was all by myself and I don’t really enjoy sitting alone at a restaurant terrace, being alone and feeling weird when service is in full swing and customers are happily chatting together. I rather wait for less crowded times and enjoy a late lunch atmosphere while other people are having coffee next to me – or further. So I kept walking in the old town of Montpellier, strolling around in narrow streets, admiring the architecture and watching people eating from afar.
I made a stop at La Panacée, also known as Museum of Contemporary Drawing. Many different styles and techniques were presented, drawings with a large variety of tools, some students exhibited their work as well as real official artists, and all in all I loved the visit of this museum with many very interesting and surprising pieces. Walking to there, I figured that Montpellier, like many other small towns in France, is all about small streets and small squares. At any time of the day, people are enjoying the sunshine or sitting in the shadow of big trees or larger umbrellas. They simply take the time to enjoy the simple joys of life. And in Montpellier, it always takes place near a monument, a church or a museum.
This last museum visit was so exhilarating that I felt like following my friend My-Linh’s advice and immediately going to Musée Fabre, which I enjoyed a lot too, as I previously said. On my way back to Place de la Comédie when I began getting ready for my return trip to Nice, I stumbled upon a very unexpected site of interest in the old town. Indeed, I came across an old Mikve, the traditional Jewish spiritual bath, around which the life of resident Jews used to be organized in medieval times, like around the Mikve were to be found a synagogue, a school and a butcher selling kosher meat. Some signs on the wall explain that Montpellier is currently working at re-instating this Jewish medieval heritage, and making it a cultural site of interest for all visitors. A great surprise to beautifully finish my nice weekend away!
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.