Three years ago (very shortly before we moved from the US and I started the blog) my husband had applied to a position to work for the French government as a researcher. The position would have been to work with a research group in Montpellier University in Southern France. It was/is a beautiful city, but honestly, I could not remember much from that trip (It was a very stressful time in my life that involved doing the move from the US to Madrid in just seven weeks).
So, this year, when my husband decided to apply again for the same position, we decided we would go to Montpellier together. His main reason for this trip was to practice for his upcoming interview. Our main reason was to re-aquatinted with the city, with an eye for living there in the future. It is a very odd feeling to go to a city, not as a tourist, but as a potential future resident. However if he doesn't secure the position, we might not ever be back and we should do all the touristy stuff, right? Maybe? Turns out that we did not have time.
Luckily the AVE (Spain's high speed train) now goes directly from Madrid to Montpellier. (No stopping to transfer trains at the boarder!) It takes about 5.5 hours and trains are really a more comfortable way to travel. The only real downside to the train is that the schedule is a little odd. We came in Late Sunday night and had to leave early Wednesday morning. Two days, three nights.
Javi's department talk was first thing in the morning, so I had the morning to myself to explore the city. Swallowing my fear of being in a country where I barely spoke the language, I set out towards the center of the city.
Side note - I might seem like a world traveler to some, but I often do not feel that I am. In fact look back at my travel history and there is rarely a time where I have been to a country that I do not speak the language. I am working on conquering this fear, in fact I already have tickets to Bern in a month or so.
|Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre from behind|
The center of Montpellier is a beautiful medieval city made out of a light colored stone. Since we watched a lot of tourist videos before coming, I can tell you that Montpellier is the 8th largest city in France, and the one with the most growth for the past 25 years. It also seems like a place for artists (which I love). It is possible to walk up the steep cobbled streets and see art adorning the construction barriers, here the music coming out of the dance or music school and then come across this...
...amazing Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre with it's towers straight out of a fairy tale. (I you look closely it has gargoyle water spouts like Notre Dame has, as always click to enlarge.)
|Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre from the front|
|A cherub fighting two unicorns?|
Here is a look back down the street I came up (the plaza is much higher than street level). There is the Cathedral and in the distance, be still my beating heart, mountains! Yes Montpellier is close to the beach and also to these small mountains. Though, in a couple of hours drive you could be in the French Alps or the Pyrenees!
It is always very important to remember to look up in medieval streets because you never know what gems you will see. See that sign? A woman weaving!
This next building below used to be a convent, then a woman's prison, and now it is a choreography center. I love towns with history.
There were, thankfully, signs all over the place with maps. These old city centers are very easy to get lost in. There were also lots of little unexpected pieces of art up on the walls. Here we have a mosaic space invader.
This charming arch was in the Archeological gardens.
If you pass through the Archeological Gardens and up a lot of steps there is a great view of the North part of the city. Click to enlarge and look at that shadow art on the white building up ahead. Some of them are true shadows and some of them are painted. Have I mentioned I love the art and history this town has?
If I turn 180 degrees this is what I see - L'Esplanade park, with it's grand walkways, fountains and playgrounds.
Along the park are several cafés and I was able to successfully buy a bottle of water. At this point I found a bench in the shade (it was hotter there than Madrid) and knit while thinking of living in this city. I do find vacations can get overwhelming very quickly, and the act of knitting can settle my thoughts and leave me feeling refreshed.
|A charming building across the street|
|Charming row houses facing the park|
|The sign says "the mansion of the pigeons"|
L'Esplanade's Southern tip basically touches the main plaza of the city- Le Place du Comédie, which is beautiful.
Too soon it was time to take one of the trams (light rail) to meet up with Javi at the University. Luckily the Tram system means that we would not need a car at first to live here (another plus). Javi was practicing his interview talk at the University (the interview is this week in Paris, in English) and I was going to be his secretary.
I'll leave you with the sculpture in University II. Which I find both mystifying and amusing.
Tomorrow four of the five yarn stores of Montpellier, and more pictures from our day of exploring.