Eh oui!! We’re on the move again! When we set off in Harry over a year ago, there was one region in France that I really, really wanted to see … the south. We’ve spent holidays here but it’s difficult to see everything and immerse yourself in the region when you have just a one or two week break. On our way down to Spain, this area was experiencing devastating flooding, and then on our way back northwards we were 1 – in a hurry to get back to Paris and 2 – the weather was appalling. So the Hubster kept his word and has brought me down south!
We left the Dordogne just before the mad influx of summer holiday makers. France is renowned for “Le Grand Depart” which is when people are on holiday and there is a mass exodus from Paris and other cities, most people making their way south for the summer months. The weather was superb and so we had a quick last visit to La Roque Gageac and Beynac which will always be two of my favourite little villages in the Dordogne.
The first thing you notice as you come further south is the change in landscape. Everything is much dryer and less lush than the Dordogne. We stopped at a picnic area off the motorway and were treated to a wonderful view of Carcassonne which we had visited in Harry!
The other thing that we love about this area is the smell of the pines, the sound of the cigales and wonderful cypress yew trees.
We had a good journey down, and are now installed in Montpellier, a first for both of us. It has been quite a shock to the senses after having been cocooned in the delightful peace of the Dordogne! We are now slap bang in the middle of the Historic Centre our window gives onto the square where there is a beautiful church, now used as an art exhibition centre.
We were in for even more of a shock, as when we arrived it was the “Fete de la Musique” Well boy, do these people know how to party? Every square was set up with stage, speakers, chairs etc. There was everything from Rap, Garage, Reggae, Opera, Rock, Pop you name it they had it! Our little square was firstly entertained by a fantastic group of comedic musicians dressed in red and white bathing suits – it was fun and it was the start of a manic and very, very loud and lively evening. The “swimmers” were replaced by the French equivalent of Sid Vicious who sounded like a very angry young man, then we had a great guy singing the majority of songs in English, and the last group were very obviously Stones fans as we had everything from “Satisfaction” to “Jumpin Jack Flash”! We had ring side seats and ended up sitting on the window sill with our legs dangling over the edge, just absorbing the atmosphere watching the crowds growing and dancing along. It went on till about 3 am, we eventually retired to our bed with ears thumping!! But what a great introduction!
And then as if that wasn’t a brilliant start, the next night we were treated to a concert by the pupils of the Conservatoire de Musique!
They were absolutely amazing and so talented they played classical pieces as well as more contemporary pieces such as Austin Powers and Skyfall themes, totally brilliant and not such a late night for us oldies!! (Well 3 am isn’t regarded as late here!)
Montpellier is the 7th town in France and has the largest pedestrianised centre in France. My first impressions of Montpellier are definitely positive. It is a lively, quirky, buzzing and very young city. I’ve seen more tattoos in the two days we’ve been here than I’ve seen in my entire life. It has a huge student population and there is definitely a creative air here. The youth are attractive and arty. (Not to mention very beautiful, brown and have very long legs!!) I’ve seen blue hair, green hair, purple hair, red hair, a young girl walking her rabbit. Every mode of transport is available here, but especially bikes, trams (designed by Jean Paul Gautier no less!) scooters, skateboards, Segway and of course the trusted mobilette.
** A word of warning for anyone wanting to visit Montpellier, if you are coming by car, don’t think for one moment that you can drive into the city! This city has one of the most complicated systems in existence! There are many park and ride car parks on the outskirts of the city and for the price of parking, you receive a ticket for the tram system. We’ve not yet used this as we have Charlie and dogs aren’t allowed – having said that Charlie is deteriorating and is refusing to walk anywhere which has added to our problems and is restricting what we can do. However today we did leave Charlie in the flat and we went off for a little bit of an explore! It is very, very hot here at the moment about 33 in the shade, so excursions are kept to a minimum and I quickly learned that the locals walk in the shade, only the tourists walk on the sunny side of the street! I now regard myself as a local! Another thing that is so very different to the UK, here it’s the cafes in the shade that are the busiest!!
Here are a couple of photos that I took this morning, a little taster of Montpellier, I have a feeling there will be a lot more to follow!!