Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Magical Monty

Less than 24 hours after returning from Aix-En-Provence, I was invited to join another excursion to the beach. August in Paris is void of natives, full of tourists, and most inhabitants left behind can't help but feel like they too should be frolicking in the waves of the South. Three of us gals from various walks of life have become a little trio of late, so when the only one of us with a full-time job wanted to take advantage of a three day weekend, the other two of us eagerly jumped on the bandwagon. After a short bout of brainstorming, we settled on Montpellier so we could be in a fun little city with a very convenient commute to the beach. We booked trains, an airbnb, and asked various folk for restaurant and night life suggestions. Done and done... and done.

It was not only my first experience traveling to Montpellier, but also my first time riding the Ouigo train line, which is a discount competitor to SNCF. The station departs from Disneyland Paris so my American friend and I decided to share an Uber in hopes our journey would be a little less traumatic. It ended up being a much quicker ride than we had anticipated but simultaneously a much more expensive one. The train itself was relatively comfortable, but our car was filled with well over ten children with their parental units. Interestingly, it was the parental units who managed to be the loudest and most obnoxious en route. (This has clearly not been my summer for comfortable travel. Strike one to Uber, Ouigo, and easyJet!)

At long last, we made it to our destination. We had been advised to stay in the center of town, and we couldn't have found a more convenient spot. It was less than ten minutes from the train station to our apartment for the weekend. Along the way, we were able to see slim streets bordered by fun architecture and the beginnings of street art all around. Our weekend flat was cute and functional, though rather musty and sparse. No matter to us when the goal is to be out and about! We decided to check out some of the town before heading to dinner so we basically dropped our bags and got going. 

We were staying right near Church Saint-Roch with its pristine facade, and were only a stone's throw from Place de la Comedie with its expansive panorama. The Opéra Comédie stands superior at one end, with the Fontaine des Trois Grâces holding court in the middle. I was particularly enchanted by the Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle and the various fountains sprinkled around. Give this girl some beautiful buildings, shimmering water streams and a touch of flowery fanfare, and I am one happy little hobbit.

Fortunately, I am also an obnoxious little planner and had had the foresight to book us a dinner reservation. As we found out the following night, most of the restaurants in our weekend hood did not take kindly to walk-ins. Even more fortunately, the restaurant we chose was literally a two minute walk from our place, so I had ample time to primp and pamper for the night. Our table was situated on the terrace with the perfect view of Montpellier's bustling Saturday twilight. We had a delicious dinner of typical French fare, accompanied by an aperitif, lots of rosé, and a digestif. When we finally hauled ourselves up from our satisfying seats, we found that the man at the register was also doling out shots of some sort of alcoholic concoction. When in Rome slash Montpellier!

Now, you'd think we would have been all tapped out at this point but that idea was received with a resounding nay. We toddled across the street to a bar another friend had recommended and had that well-placed night cap so appropriate for a Saturday eve. Since our apartment was 60 seconds or so away, it was quite the no brainer. When we had finally settled into our futons and couches for the evening, I had a moment to think back on the day before drifting off to dreamland. I was thoroughly entranced by Montpellier. The food, the history, the general vibe... magical. Now to sleep in preparation for the next day's beach land bonanza.

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