My original France plan was to 1. arrive in Paris, 2. spend a month doing informational meetings with the heads of communications for agencies and organizations that could give me work making videos about the European refugee crisis and other humanitarian issues, and 3. then head to the South of France to wander town to town until I found a sustainable place to base myself.
For various reasons, that never happened, and for better or worse, Paris seems to be becoming my home in France. But I did finally take a whirlwind tour of the South to at least see what I was missing. I spent five nights visiting five cities in Provence and Languedoc that I suspected I would love. And love them I did, though want to live in them, I did not – until my last stop.
But to begin at the beginning: Montpellier. I had seen such beautiful images of this place, I was convinced it would be heaven on earth. Here are some pictures:
Off the main plaza, there is a lovely park featuring rows of those gorgeous trees that are always featured in Impressionist paintings. I think they are called plane trees. Walking down a street lined with these trees is one of my favorite things in France.
The town is replete with white stone houses, some of which date from as far back as the 1100 and 1200s.
Another one of my favorite things in France is spotting gorgeous old signs like this one, on buildings that are just as charismatic as the lettering.
I have a policy of walking into every cathedral I see, and I found a surprise in this one. It was gutted, and in place of pews, there was an art installation by Jean-Michel Othoniel. The glass baubles and tiles were perfectly complementary to the space. Catching the light that came through the stained glass windows, they sparkled and shimmered and held their ground in the stunning space.
There is also a verdant and peaceful botanical garden (with free entry!), which I decided to explore right before it started to rain. I took refuge under a tree with enough of a leaf canopy to keep me dry, and I stared at a bamboo forest in contentment until the storm passed.
Then I walked across the street to the main cathedral of Montpellier, which was built in the 1500s.
Despite this being my fourth or fifth church of the day, I was really disappointed to read a sign on the door that said it was closed for renovations until next year.
Back to the main plaza. Just past the tree-lined park is Place de la Comédie, which is ringed with beautiful buildings.
Including the Comédie, i.e. the theater. Merry-go-rounds with opulent buildings behind them is a French photo combination that never goes wrong…
The long and the short of my visit to Montpellier: It was indeed charming, but also a little too sleepy for my taste. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the sights, but when my 24 hours were up, I was ready to move on.
Next up, Arles.