Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Busy in Montpellier

From Arles we went to Montpellier, which seems like the antithesis of Arles. Montpellier is as young (founded in the middle ages) as Arles is old (even before the Romans, Arles was either settled by or traded with Ligurians/Celts/Greeks/Phoenicians). Montpellier has a turbulent history, becoming Spanish as a part of the dowry for an Aragon King, only later to be sold to France. It was France's second city (to Paris) before plagues killed a third of the population....

Yet, Montpellier has one of the oldest medical schools in Europe. Today the Intellectual tradition continues. University students account for a quarter of the city's population. The city also prides itself for a history of social tolerance. Since we spent all the good weather days making trips out of town, we ended up seeing Montpellier on a raining afternoon, not best time to gather evidence. Also, the temperature dropped from 70s to 50s. It's probably a good thing; otherwise, Montpellier might be more crowded.

What was evident was that the city has a very extensive and popular public transport network. We made good use of it and so was everyone else!

From Arles we rode the local bus to Nimes, then took the TGV to Montpellier. As it should be, the Nimes train station is adjacent to the bus station. Here's the Gare de Nîmes.
Gare de Nîmes - Nîmes, France

On the TGV AVE. We booked a TGV but it turned out to be a Spanish AVE headed to Madrid. ;-)
On the AVE from Nîmes to Montpellier, France

Gare de Montpellier-Saint-Roch - that's some roof.
Gare de Montpellier-Saint-Roch - Montpellier, France

All 4 of the city's tram lines stop at the train station; and the intercity bus stations are located at tram stops outside the city. Very nice!
Montpellier, France

Place de la Comédie - the heartbeat of Montpellier in the sun and in the rain
Montpellier, France

Montpellier, France

View at dusk of the train station from our apartment window.
Gare de Montpellier-Saint-Roch - Montpellier, France

Our apartment stairs. 3 flights = 66 steps.
Montpellier, France

See it here in the red circle.
Our Apartment in Montpellier, France

Cinématographe PATHE.
Cinématographe PATHE - Montpellier, France

At dusk it was hard to get an infocus shot of this souped up touring bike with solar roof.
Montpellier, France

More train station.
Gare Montpellier-Saint-Roch - Montpellier, France

Walking around Montpellier on a very rainy day; cold too, we are wearing our rain jackets and rain pants mostly to stay warm.
Montpellier, France

Montpellier, France

Montpellier, France

Jardin des plantes de Montpellier.
Jardin des plantes de Montpellier - Montpellier, France

Jardin des plantes de Montpellier - Montpellier, France

From this angle, the Cathedral seems to be mainly two towers with a giant portico.
Montpellier, France

The Triumphal Arch circa 1715.
Porte du Peyrou  - A Triumphal Arch  in Montpellier, France

The 18th century Saint-Clément Aqueduct used to bring water into the city, ending at the the very swanky water tower in Peyrou.
Montpellier, France

Montpellier, France

Back streets in the heart of the old town.
Montpellier, France

Montpellier, France

An excellent trompe l'oeil.
A very good trompe l'oeil - Montpellier, France

Lots of competition in the food-delivery-by-bike business in Montpellier such that I could get two of the competing companies in one shot; that being Deliveroo and Foodora. Not shown is the green livery of the ubiquitous Uber Eats.
Montpellier, France




Sunday, May 20, 2018

Twofer: Pezenas and Beziers

John had his heart set on seeing the water management of the Canal du Midi in Beziers. The Canal du Midi, completed in 1676, is 250 kilometers long and is part of a system of waterways that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

During our train versus bus analysis, we realized that the town of Pezenas, where the Montpellier-Beziers bus switches, is a place of interest in its own right plus it's Saturday market day. At two euros for the 80 km bus ride, we could not resist the bargain.

We ended up seeing Pezenas during their Saturday market, then finishing walking around town on our way back in the afternoon. Pezenas' well preserved medieval center is the most architecturally harmonious town/village we have come across. Their Saturday Market is not unlike the ones we saw in Provence, maybe not so many international visitors. Many French families were simply enjoying a beautiful Saturday.

Beziers was bigger than I expected, though the historical center emptier than Pezenas. As everywhere else in France, there is much remodeling of public spaces. Beziers, started by Greeks, is one of the oldest towns in France; and with a tumultuous history.

Today Beziers still has an impressive looking fortress-like cathedral. The UNESCO Canal du Midi 1) goes over the river Orb on a bridge 2) drops precipitously at 9-stage lock on the edge of town. However, their main industry, wine, has seen much international competition in recent decades, so the town is not exactly booming. Yet, I think the town deserves more traffic.

The Pezenas Market.
Pézenas, France

Pézenas, France

And around town.
Pézenas, France

In the Jewish Ghetto
Pézenas, France

The Moliere Hotel.
Pézenas, France

On to Beziers. City Center.
Béziers, France

Church with boat image.
Béziers, France

Hotel de Ville (City Hall).
Béziers, France

Around Town.
Béziers, France

Béziers, France

Not easy to get an up-close view of the Cathedral...
Béziers, France

...but there are some great views from the Bishop's Garden - also = picnic lunch spot. See the old Roman bridge over the Orb at lower left.
Béziers, France

Beziers' Roman Arena is now an open space garden with just a hint of its past glory.
Béziers, France

Béziers, France

The views of the Cathedral improve as one goes down to the river and the old bridges.
Béziers, France

Béziers, France

Béziers, France

Béziers, France

Béziers, France

Approaching the staircase Fonserannes Locks of the Canal du Midi with 9 locks (8 basins).
Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

A boat is going downstream through the locks which generates excitement from young and old.
Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

We I could have watched the locks for hours, but there was a bus to catch so it's downstream to the Pont Canal where the Canal du Midi crosses the Orb River on a bridge.
Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

And then to the bus.
Canal du Midi - Béziers, France

A view from the bus window that is more or less towards Sete, France.
Looking from the bus window towards Sète, France