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Clare
Clare

Day 1: Montpellier

When we were booking Bank Holiday flights back in January, a 06.20 flight from Gatwick seemed like a good idea. Or, at least, I assume it did! When we started trying to work out last weekend what time we would need to leave home at today in order to make the flight... and realised it would be 2am... it started to seem like less of a good idea. It feels like it's been really difficult to find any cheap flights at all this year though and Easyjet to Montpellier was definitely the most reasonable price I could find for this particular weekend. The flight time aside, Montpellier itself sounded like an attractive destination, with a good chance of it being warmer and sunnier there than in the UK.

Getting up was painful as I'd anticipated, but we got to Gatwick with plenty of time to spare and our flight even arrived in Montpellier 30 minutes ahead of schedule. That didn't actually help us, because there's only one airport shuttle bus every hour and we'd just missed one by a couple of minutes, but it did make Easyjet seem efficient and they didn't even play a self-congratulatory jingle over the tannoy as we landed :) Montpellier itself is inland, but it turns out that the airport is quite near the coast. Until about 30 seconds before the plane touched down, we were still flying over the sea and hoping that the pilot could see some land ahead which we couldn't!

Montpellier airport is quite small and so it didn't take long to get through passport control; definitely an improvement on our experiences at Charles de Gaulle earlier this year. There was a very visible security presence; as we sat drinking a much-needed coffee in the airport cafe, we saw an armed solider patrolling past us. I realised later there were quite a number of armed soliders positioned at different points inside and outside the airport.

Getting from the airport to the centre of Montpellier itself is a little complicated, despite the fact that in terms of kilometres it isn't actually very far. First of all you have to catch the airport shuttle bus, which runs once an hour and drives for 15 minutes, before depositing passengers at Place de l'Europe, a square on the outskirts of the city. From there you have to catch a tram, which runs from the square towards the main train station. You can buy a combined ticket which covers both parts of the journey for only €2.60, so it isn't very expensive, but it's a bit of a pain having to change transportation halfway through.

We arrived in central Montpellier around 10.30 and found a very sleepy town, almost devoid of locals. It seemed like they might all still be in bed, whereas we were calculating how long we had left before we could respectably try to have lunch! It was good though, because it meant we were able to wander around the streets of the old town without dodging hordes of other people.

From the tram stop at the main train station, it wasn't far to walk until Montpellier's central square - Place de la Comédie. The square is home to Montpellier's opera house.

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There are also a number of other very pretty buildings and a fountain.

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From the square it was easy to start walking through the old town.

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Before long we'd caught sight of something in the distance which looked rather reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe. It's not quite as big, but this is Montpellier's triumphal arch.

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It is called the Porte du Peyrou and was originally built in 1693. Further detail was added to it in 1715 to glorify King Louis XIV.

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Behind the arch is a park, complete with statue of Louis XIV on his horse Hercules.

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From the statue we had a good view back towards the opposite side of the arch.

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We were walking along what is known as Promenade du Peyrou, an esplanade first created in 1689.

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This unusual structure at the end of the promenade is a water tower.

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It was built in 1768 to help distribute drinking water to the town. From this side it just looks like a pretty monument...

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...but from the other side you can see that it is actually attached to an aquaduct.

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If you climb up the steps at the side of the water tower there is a really great few back along the promenade towards the arch.

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From there we walked back into the town, looking for the cathedral of St Peter.

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This must be my favourite building in Montpellier :)

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The conical towers at the front are really unusual and reminded me of some of the towers in the old walls of Carcassonne.

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It was almost lunchtime by this point, so we wandered back towards the centre of the town in search of places to eat. We found a nice restaurant in the main square, and it was (just about!) warm enough to sit outside while we ate some delicious steak and chips :) The hotel I had booked is just off the main square, so we headed there to check in straight after the meal and then decided to have an hour nap... which ultimately turned into more of a two-hour nap... before we set out again.

We had seen most of the old town of Montpellier during the morning, so when we emerged from the hotel later in the afternoon we wanted to see some of the more modern parts. On the map we could see that there were some newer developments by the river, so we decided to head in that direction. We soon found the river Lez, which was surprisingly big for a river we'd never heard of.

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There are some very modern-looking developments by the river. We particularly liked this office building which mirrors the shape of the triumphal arch :)

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We found our way back into the old town via a series of atmospheric little streets.

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Montpellier is a really pleasant city and we've had fun exploring today.

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Unfortunately the weather isn't forecast to be quite as bright here tomorrow, so we're investigating whether there are some other towns we can visit with a lower chance of rain :)




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