Friday, July 15, 2016

Deep History, College and Culture in Montpellier

After our coffee in Sete, we continued on Wednesday to Montpellier for a quick walk through the historic center.  Montpellier is the capital of the Languedoc Roussillon region of Southern France, and the third largest city on the southern coast.  It has three major universities, and is steeped in history dating back to 985 AD.  The first thing I saw when we came up the stairs from the parking structure were these pillars that looked to me like Mermen, which naturally took my breath away.
Here's a closer look.
And a closer one yet.  The detail in his face is just great.
You're probably figuring out by now from my posts that this kind of building detail just makes my day.  Especially because they could be Mermen.  I haven't had much luck finding Mermaids in France, so these were really a bonus.  And on that same building, this was pretty interesting as well.
Dragging myself reluctantly away from the Mermen, we continued down the street, where I saw more beautiful details.  All of the architectural details in this part of town made me think of Paris.  Sigh.
And again there were plenty of those wrought iron railings on the buildings that are so prevalent in this area.
Of course there was no shortage of narrow streets,
and everything was so clean, thanks I'm sure in part to this adorable cleaning crew that was all dressed in green.
I noticed yet another one of those mural stickers that we've been seeing all around the South of France,
and although the church was closed at the time we visited, it of course had some beautiful details on the exterior.
There was a cute little tram running through the center of town,
and a soccer scoreboard outside of an Irish pub.  The finals were currently going on in Marseille.
All in all, we only had a couple of hours in Montpellier, so the things that most struck me during our very short visit were the building ornamentation, the cleanliness of the historical center, and the fashionable feel that you got there.  With more time, I'm sure there is plenty to explore, and I would love to visit this town again.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Impressions of the Enchanting Port City of Sete

Free to roam about the South of France, Julie and I headed over on Wednesday, June 29th for an afternoon visit the Port City of Sete.  Julie was on the lookout for possible interesting new locations to add to her agenda for Workshops in France.  On the drive over I noticed some fish graffiti.  Looks like this is about as close as I'm going to get to a Mermaid.
There is quite a bit of graffiti in the South of France, by the way.  And most of it is not that good.  I found that surprising for such an ancient and artistic place.  I think they need to step up their graffiti game!!

But what we did find in Sete was an absolutely enchanting town, built in the 1600's, known as the "Venice of the Languedoc" because of its network of canals, and bordered by the Bassin de Thau, an enclosed saltwater lake (where they raise oysters and mussels), on the southeast and the Mediterranean Sea on the southwest.
 It is definitely my kind of place.
You can see the ships on the Mediterranean Sea at the end of the Canal du Midi.
Because I live near the areas of Belmont Shore and Naples in Long Beach, California, I was reminded a bit of home, but with historic buildings thrown in.  It captured my heart.

Notice the sunken ship.  This poor guy had the one boat that was below the water, instead of above it.  Perhaps now a vessel for Mermaids?
There is a lot of wrought iron work in this area on the balconies of the buildings, and I remarked to Julie how they were just like New Orleans.  To which she reminded me, "No!  New Orleans is just like HERE."  Duh!  Of course!
The town center was filled with shops,
and of course, a Farmer's Market.  We just caught the tail end.
Boulangeries and Cafes lined the streets, and I got to have my first macarons since we arrived in France.
I went for the pistachio and the chocolate.  With un grand creme,
and a lovely view.
I also needed to give these little piggy cakes some press.  As my kids would say, they were totes adorbs.
 Here's an interesting boxed out window design that looked very French to me,
and some of the ornamentation on the Chamber of Commerce building.
But this is my very favorite building in Sete.  Look at these amazing figurative pillars.

Gorgeous work!  These kinds of architectural details just kill me.  One of my favorite parts about Europe.

I have since read that there are some very nice Mediterranean beaches in Sete as well, so I definitely want to revisit this beautiful place on my next visit to the South of France.

Next up, Montpellier.  Thanks for following!


Friday, July 8, 2016

A Two Night Stay in Frontignan in the South of France

On Tuesday, June 28th, our departing day from "Workshops in France",  our fearless leader Julie Snyder spent the morning and early afternoon delivering guests to both the TGV and Center train stations in Avignon for their various departures.  Some were going on to Rome or Paris, some to other destinations in France, some heading home.  Waiting back at the Chateau and helping guests prepare for departure, I watched the sunrise for the first time since I had been there. It was glorious.
After all had been delivered safely, we bid a fond farewell to the Chateau, and Julie and I headed for Frontignan in the South of France, about a two hour drive to the southwest, on the Mediterranean shore.  We passed fields of sunflowers,
and RV'ers, to whom I need to give a lot of credit.  The streets in the towns and villages are SO narrow that it would be a real challenge to maneuver a vehicle like this.
I watched wistfully as we passed signs for Barcelona.  So close, yet so far!  Note to self:  Must get to Spain on a future visit.
Upon arrival in Frontignan, we connected with our host for our Air Bnb, and got the keys to the apartment.  We were located two floors up on a tiny narrow street,
with a view of the rooftops and the birds swooping past our window at sunset.  It was charming. 
 We took a walk around the tiny village to get acquainted, and discovered it sits along the Rhone Sete Canal (sorry for no accent marks on my French here in these posts, but I don't have a French keyboard on my ancient laptop),

which was lined with pleasure boats.
Anyone who follows me knows I always love a good sign.  This one is a valid reminder of what happens if you get too close to the edge.
Two of the boats that we passed were playing a game.  Kids on opposing boats walked up the plank and batted at each other with some type of baton, to see who could knock the other one off the boat.  As a side note, notice that one of the boats says "Muscat".  I discovered later when reading about Frontignan that they are known for their Muscat grapes.  Had I read that earlier, I would have checked out our their Muscat wine!

Heading off into the village we passed another one of those large "sticker murals", like we had seen in Bonnieux.
In the Town Center sits the historical Hotel DeVille.  I learned that this is not a Hotel at all, but rather the Town Hall.
It's surrounded by shops and cafes.
We had a delightful dinner of pizza and salad outdoors at one of the cafes, and then headed home for the night.  The next morning, some of the locals on our tiny street hung their laundry out their windows to dry.
while cats napped in windowsills.
We took a drive to Sete and Montpellier, which I will tell you about in my next posts.  On our way back into Frontignan, we stopped at the Frontignan-Plage, their beach on the Mediterranean Sea.  It was early evening, and a fog had begun to roll in that made the whole place feel enchanted.
It didn't seem to bother beach goers in the least.
I got to dip my toes in the Mediterranean and pick up a few seashells, so I was a pretty happy camper.  We had dinner in our apartment that night and enjoyed their Farmer's Market the next morning, which happens every Thursday and Sunday.  You can find dried fruits,
scalloped zucchini,
and much more!  Coming up next are our side trips to Sete and Montpellier.

Thanks for following!