Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Weekend Away in Montpellier

This past weekend was the first weekend we decided to venture outside our little home of Le Cap d’Agde and explore the nearby city of Montpellier.  Several of my colleagues were going as well and we had heard it was a beautiful town.  As it is only a 30 minute train ride away, we figured this would perfect for our first get away.
Thankfully, our experience on the train was much better than our attempt in Paris.  We actually made it on the train and to Montpellier…yeah!  However, we did get a bit lost on the way to finding our hotel and ended up walking the last part of the way in the pouring rain.  We’ve decided that I am in charge of getting directions when we need them since I’ve been pretty successful at being able to communicate basic things in French, but the hubs is in charge of reading and navigating the map and streets.  Yes, it was me that got us lost this time.  The streets here are tricky for me.  So I have no problem letting him take the reigns here.  At least I can get us help when we need it which makes us a really good team.
When we finally arrived at the Hotel Ibis Center, soaking wet and hungry, we were happy to find that the room had a much more comfortable bed and pillows than those is our apartment and there was a restaurant that was still open…and serving food! 

After filling our bellies with food and drink, we turned in for a good night’s rest to prepare for a day of exploring.  Well, as good a night’s rest as you can get with a toddler kicking you in the face off and on throughout the night.
We woke up Saturday to a beautiful sunny day.  Thank goodness!  We really do need to invest in an umbrella, but I would have been pretty bummed if it had rained the whole weekend.  Although the hotel offered a breakfast buffet, we decided to venture out in search of a true French breakfast.
It’s odd to say after being in France for two weeks that I haven’t felt like I’ve been in France, but I haven’t.  The town we live in is so small, and there really are no signs of “typical French life”.  Montpellier was just what I needed to give me the French feel.  We took a short walk to an area of town called the Comedie.  It’s basically the city center and filled with shops, restaurants and cafes.  We chose Le Café Riche as our breakfast spot and sat down listening to the children street performers playing the accordion.  We shared a classic French breakfast of baguette, croissant, jams and crepe sucre as we sipped our café and the little one drank milk.  This is what I had been missing all along.  Finally, I felt like I was in France! 
After breakfast, we strolled through the streets window shopping and admiring the work of local artisans who had set up tables in the streets as a kind of outdoor market.  We found a wonderful culinary shop with all kind of goodies for sale.  The shop keeper let us sample some jelly, which was almost as good as my mom’s, and explained a package of thinly sliced tuna which was smoked in the same manner you would think of smoking salmon.  Unfortunately, it had to be kept refrigerated, so we couldn’t get any.  I could have looked around this small shop for hours.  What wonderful things they had!

Just before lunch, we found the Jardin du Champ de Mars, a lovely park with large fountains and a playground.  The little one was thrilled.  She told us we could leave, that she was going to work and had a blast climbing the ladders, sliding and running around with the other children there. 

We stopped for lunch at a place called Tomate Vert just on the edge of the park.  I ordered the most wonderful salad I’ve ever had, and kicked myself later for eating practically all of it before I realized I forgot to take a picture.  It was a wonderful bowl of greens, thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh mozzarella balls, shaved parmesan and topped with sesame fried mozzarella cheese sticks.  Amazing is an understatement!  I could have eaten two of them.  As a treat after lunch, we took the little one in a candy shop and let her pick out some treats.  It looked like a typical shop you would find in America, choosing the sweets of your choice from plastic bins and filling up your bag to be weighed by the cashier.  However, the treats themselves looked much different.  It was quite a sight to see gummy candy in the shape of a toothbrush and another in the shape of a sunny side up egg.  Inventive!
We then decided to head back to the hotel for a brief rest before dinner.  We knew we would be out late so the little one needed a break, as did we.  Since we didn’t bring her stroller with us this time, the hubs and I mostly took turns carrying her through the streets.  We were tired.  We found a channel similar to the Cartoon Network and snuggled up in bed watching cartoon sushi battle the bad guys in a quest to…do something…still working on my French here.  I was just so fascinated that the characters were actually different types of sushi that it really didn’t matter to me what they were talking about or doing.
Before dinner we went for drinks in an area of town called Plaza Jean Jaures.  This area has many different bars and is the most popular place in the city to have a pre-dinner or post-dinner drink.  It also made for some great people watching. 

For dinner we chose a place called Saveurs & Sems.  It was recommended in an online article I had read about 36 hours in Montpellier.  The food was very good, although more upscale than I would have chosen to take a toddler to.  However, the little one was a great sport, snaking on bits of frois gras, cheese, fruit, bread and duck from our plates.  After dinner, we stopped for a drink back at the Comedie and the little one entertained a group of people by dancing to the music of the accordion street performers.  I think more people were watching her than listening to the music, and the hubs joked that we should put out a cup and collect tips.

Sunday morning after testing out the hotel breakfast, we strolled through the park again allowing the little one some more play time.  This time it was much less crowded so I didn’t worry so much about her be trampled by the kids much too big to be playing in there in the first place.  She befriended a little French girl who couldn’t have been much over a year old.  Although the little girl only spoke French and my little one only speaks English, they seemed to have an interesting conversation about their parents before going on to play around the slides.  The hubs and I both thought it was precious.   
We spent some time exploring some of the architecture around the park before heading back to the hotel to collect our things.

There was also a lot of graffiti around the city.  This, by far, was our favorite...even if it was painted right next to a small playground in the park.
We ate a quick lunch of pizza and mozzarella salad at another restaurant on the Comedie before heading to the station to catch our train home.  I’ve been quite surprised by the amount of pizza here in France.  I’m hoping that by the time we get to Italy, I’m not completely pizza-ed out.  The waitress at lunch was the nicest and best we’ve had so far.  She even gave Lila a little box of toys, which kept her entertained for the brief train ride back home.
All in all, a very successful first weekend away.  This coming weekend, we are planning on staying a little closer to home, either taking a day trip on Saturday into Beziers or Agde.
Coming up this week in pastry...chocolate!        

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