One of my greatest joys in life? Discovering a new place with a dear friend.
And should said new place be where said friend makes their home? Double joy, what with the personalized tour guide-ness of it all.
For example, there was that time I was on a road trip with my pal Christine and we stopped off to explore the place she’s lived as an American expat for the last umpteen years:
Montpellier, the delightful capital city of the Languedoc-Rousillon region of southern France.
Only 6 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, Montpellier doesn’t get as much international tourist action as coastal hotspots like the relatively nearby Marseille or even farther east, the Côte d’Azur. However, I still think it’s worth a visit.
First of all, the city is known for its trompe l’oeil — which is pretty damn charming.
And the 19th-century main plaza, the Place de la Comédie, is simply gorgeous. Here you can while away an afternoon over lunch, wander through market stalls, people-watch to your heart’s content, or throughout the year, catch a free, public event like a party on a makeshift beach or a live concert.
Fashion designer Christian Lacroix has decorated two of the local trams with his fun, colorful designs.
The fanciful Beaux Arts architecture peppered around town had me feeling as though I was surrounded by tall wedding cakes. Or wandering through Paris. A little of both, really.
Found this leafy little gem at the cafe just outside the entrance to the elegant Museé Fabre. I don’t even like Perrier and I still think it’s amazing.
This is just your average, run-of-the-mill street advertising in Montpellier. I wanted to go to every event and/or steal every single flyer I saw.
I’ve never seen street art of Biggie Smalls in America. Nope, had to go to southwestern France for that.
On the Boulevard Sarrail (about a block off the Place de la Comédie), an events and meeting location called the Centre Rabelais is set in the former Cinematographe Pathé, an Art Nouveau movie theater built in 1907.
The produce in the food market at Marché de l’Esplanade-Comédie (Monday-Saturday) is absolutely gorgeous. If you want to see what the farms of the Languedoc have to offer, look no further. (Or, you could check out any of these Montpellier markets, too.)
I fell madly in love with the ornate 18th- and 19th-century buildings flanking L’Eccuson, the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. It can be a challenge to look up and not run into people at the same time, but it’s certainly worth a shot.
There seemed to be a lovely surprise around every corner: a quiet courtyard, a symphony of blue, a fluffy cat in a window, or the swaying strains of an accordion tune floating from an open door. I hope to go back someday and go for another wander.
To Montpellier, With Love
The Most Romantic Toy Store in the World
Montpellier Self-Guided Walking Tour
Design Sponge: Montpellier, France City Guide
The New York Times: 36 Hours in Montpellier, France