Chapter Twelve – Meandering Through Montpellier

Chapter Twelve – Meandering Through Montpellier

Day Twelve – This Drop Off Ain’t No Drop Off, Comedie Central, What’s This Wet Stuff, Monet’s Talented Friend, I Don’t Think You Smoked The Entire Pack Yet, Montpellier Meanderings, How Art Thou, We’re #1 & One Of The Joys Of Traveling

Another great breakfast…

…and we were off early to scope out the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier, but first Tracy and I had a job to do.

When we had picked up the car at CDG, the Europcar guy had given us the address in Montpellier to drop the car on the morning we were to head out on the train back to Paris.  To make things easy that day, we thought we’d do a trial run on this morning.  I’m glad we did.

We approached the address given to us, but there wasn’t a rental car agency in sight. Tracy jumped out to find the address as I illegally parked, much to the consternation of other Montpellier drivers.  As quickly as she departed, Tracy was back with some interesting and distressing news. “That address is an apartment building,” she said.

Not wanting to scope out a place to live in Montpellier, we pressed on.  Fortunately, about a 1/4 mile from the apartment was the train station, so we headed in that direction and spotted the small (very, very small) sign for the Europcar drop off.  Following the arrow, up the circular ramp we dove.  After reaching the top (with no EuropCar sign in sight), down the ramp we went again. After finding a guard, we finally found Europcar…in the basement.  We were now confident we wouldn’t screw up a few days later (well, as confident as we can ever be).  I would have hated to be in that situation knowing we only had an hour to make a train.

For our walk around Montpellier, we parked at Place de la Comedie, although the traffic in town to get there was no laughing matter. Once up the stairs, we were greeted by something wet, a rain squall that lasted all of a minute.


We picked up our map at the nearby TI, and we were on our way.


First stop was the Musée Fabre, founded in 1825 by painter François-Xavier Fabre.  It was €10 each for our tickets, and we entered the already fairly crowded museum (lots of tour groups).


The museum is split into three main sections: Old Masters, Modern Movements and Decorative Arts. The most interesting exhibition was from Marseilles-born Fréderic Bazille.  Bazille was a close friend of Monet and Manet, and there was a large room devoted primarily to his works. What might have been? Unfortunately, Bazille was killed at the age of 28 in a battle during the Franco-Prussian War.  (Since the museum does not allow photos, this is one of his paintings…Family Reunion… from the internet.)

We probably spent close to an hour in the museum.  As stated, there were no photos, except from scofflaws like ourselves who “accidentally” took a couple. Sadly (for us) many of the museum’s best paintings were on loan to other museums, so this experience could have been better.


We walked for a short while…

..but somehow we were still hungry, so we decided to take an early lunch at Eprit Vin on the Place Chabaneau.  The clouds had parted so we ate out on a patio near the lovely fountain of Fauré Carole.

While enjoying my classic burger with bacon, cheese, Iberian ham and Béarnaise sauce (with frites, of course), and Tracy was consuming her Italian salad consisting of beefsteak tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, jambon, smoked duck and pine nuts, a rather smelly fog enveloped our table.


It seemed the well-dressed gentleman seated at the next table was attempting to smoke the most cigarettes during one sitting in French history (not an easy feat, I might add).  He made “The Smoking Man” from the X-Files look like a piker.

I glanced at his ashtray, and I assumed Marlboro stock was skyrocketing through the roof.   We departed before the waiter diagnosed him with lung cancer.

The pretty Rue Foch contained some lovely examples of 19th-century architecture, and we walked past the Palais du Justice, a building that was completed in 1853.

                        Straight before us stood the Arc de Triomphe (they’re everywhere).


This arch was constructed to celebrate the victories of Louis XIV.

It also goes by the name Porte du Peyrou due to the fact it is located near the Promenade Royale du Peyrou, where we would be in just a couple of minutes.

Sure enough, there was the old Sun King himself getting a tan on a horse, his arm pointing to the Pyrenees. This was not the first statue that was supposed to stand here.

There was a statue made in Paris in the 1690s, but after finally reaching Montpellier more than 20 years later, it fell into the River Garonne, where it was finally found by Revolutionaries in 1793.

A monument stood nearby the equestrian statue. The 1768 Château d’Eau du Peyrou is a neoclassical fountain. Its water basin still supplies water to various fountains throughout the nearby park.

According to legend, “the buildings of Montpellier were not permitted to rise higher than this place, and even more specifically, they could not rise above the stretched out arm of the king’s equestrian statue.”

                   Leaving legend and Louis behind, Tracy and I made like wealthy ladies and gentlemen in the old days and strolled in the shade of the sycamore trees.

                                                 There’s a little tourist train that can take you around town, but we enjoy risking heart failure by walking seven or eight miles per day.

We headed along Boulevard Henri IV toward a church we wanted to visit, and on the left was the Jardin des Plantes, established in 1593. There are more than 2,500 species of plants and more than 250 medicinal plants.  Since I wasn’t sick on this trip, we moved on.


Before hitting the cathedral, I ducked into a building (I do not recall the name))…


…where there was a memorial to those killed in World War II.

The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier, a former Benectine chapel “was built inside the enclosed area known as Commune Cloture in 1364, at the instigation of Pope Urban V,”…


…which I guess makes it the one of the first examples of Urban redevelopments.


We spent a little time time…


…inside the church…


…before heading back up toward town.

After walking up a hill that nearly killed me, we attempted to see L’église Saint-Roch, but we didn’t have a prayer to see it because it was closed.

We quickly ducked into Carré Sainte-Anne, a church that was deconsecrated in the 1980s and now hosts art shows.


Then we headed down the rue Ancienne…

…and since I was feeling quite ancient by now, it was time to head back to the car.  Although the crowds had become a little larger, the old quarter also had its quiet streets to walk on, too.


Back at the Place de la Comédie, we admired the beautiful architecture…


…and the Fontaine des Trois-Graces, made of Carrera marble and featuring some cool mythological sculptures.

We actually made back it to Pézenas in time to take a little nap before our dinner at what was rated the #1 restaurant in town.  What Cafe Brasserie Chez Hansi (6 rue Anatole France) lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in great food, and the hardest working man in Pézenas.

There were not a lot of people on this Friday night (actually he was only open for lunch and dinner on Fridays during the off season).  Our server/owner/chef/bartender/dishwasher explained the selections he showed us on a chalkboard, and we chose wisely.

Tracy had a delicious salad with warm goat cheese in Phyllo wrappers to start and followed with the rabbit.


My foie gras to start was stupendous…

…as was the steak tartare that was made table-side.

During our meal, we began chatting with the British gentleman sitting in the booth behind Tracy. He loved to travel, but his wife had an illness that precluded her from taking these trips now, so he was on his own.

As dessert time approached, we invited him to join us so (1) we didn’t have to talk so loudly and (2) Tracy wouldn’t get a sore neck from turning around so much.

One of the joys of traveling is meeting people like this interesting man, and we stayed long after I finished my dessert chatting away.

Our next day would include another early start as we would travel in the other direction and back to the Middle Ages to spend part of our day at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Next: Day Thirteen – Beating The Crowds, Did She Really Throw A Pig, Yep…More Ramparts, Russian Choir Practice, Morning Cassoulet/Wine Tasting Event, Not Ducky, Where’s That Church?, Picture Perfect, A Pézenas Stroll and Dinner Deconstructed

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