Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE

Place de la Comedie

Montpellier's Arc d'triomphe
Typical French park
On May 5, we said adios to Spain and bonjour to France.  First stop: a week in Montpellier. Situated on the River Lez, 6 miles inland from the Mediterranean sea, Montpellier it is a vibrant and historical city. With a population of about 250,000, it is the 8th largest city in France and the fastest growing city in the country.  

Dancing in the plaza
Water skiing competition on River Lez
Antigone area is renowned for architecture

The Moors established medical schools here in the 9th century and the University of Montpellier’s school of medicine was founded in 1220.  The city is  also renowned for its architecture, parks and plazas.  

We were ideally situated in the Antigone area.  A few steps from the back of the Citadine Hotel (where we had a studio apartment with kitchenette), and we were in a wide pedestrian area lined with outdoor restaurants and occasionally a street fair.  There always seems to be some type of celebration or outdoor activity taking place -- water skiing, biking, dancing.  

A few more steps took us to a large shopping mall that opened onto Place de la Comedie.  Anchored on one end with an opulent 18th century opera house, La Place de Comedie is no doubt the largest, most popular square.  It has been called the living room of Montpellier.  From there, you can stroll through the historical district.  Wherever you wander, there are bistros and small cafes rather than fast food joints.  And the food is fresh and quite good.
The city has a fantastic tram system
Alan joined us for a few days


At a marina next to the beach
Four different tram routes serve the city and beyond.  The trams are decorated in bright colors and various designs.  One day, we rode the blue line to one end where we found a huge outdoor shopping mall and entertainment park.   A cinema, bowling alley, aquarium and planetarium were only some of the attractions.  

Some of you will recognize Alan Suslow from the 2011 Regent World cruise and others from previous appearances in this blog.  We were delighted that he stopped in Montpellier to spend a few days with us en route from Capetown South Africa to Colorado.  Together, we toured the historical district and one day took another tram to the beaches where we found a big marina and wonderful place for a leisurely lunch.  On Saturday, May 12th, we bid avoir to Alan and prepared to leave the following day for our next destination...  

CHATEAU-ARNOUX
Pénitents des Mées


Montfort


A tiny village in the Durance Valley, Chateau-Arnoux is between the French Alps and Provence. The area is known for quaint villages and an unusual rock formation called "Penitents des Mees" because they resemble a procession of hooded monks (so they say).
The owner/chef of La Bonne Etape shows us his garden
La Bonne Etape

While there, we visited some of the villages including Montfort perched on top of  a hill.  The roads were narrow and twisting and some, we soon discovered, were not meant for cars.  Ron did a masterful job of backing the Citroen up until we found a spot just big enough (with several maneuvers) to get us turned around.  

We would not have ventured into this region known as the Alps of Haute Provence were it not for a Luxury Link offer.  It included 3  days at an elegant 17th century post house called La Bonne Etape, a beautiful breakfast each morning and a 3 course meal one evening.  

The highlight of our visit, however, was enjoying the peace and quiet and relaxing at the beautiful pool.  

Tomorrow, May 15, we enter Italy. We will return to France in a couple of months.