Monday 21 November 2016
Established in 985, Montpellier is one of the few cities in France without a Roman heritage and one of the few in Southern France without a Greek foundation. With around two hundred and sixty thousand people, one third of whom are students, it is the eighth largest city in France.
I strolled to the main square where stalls have been set up for Christmas.
…past the Opera Comedia
…and through some narrow streets full of bars and restaurants.
At the edge of the old city is the Pallas De Justice and the Arc De Triomphe with a wide Boulevard leading to the Chateau D’Eau and a statue of Louis XIV on horseback.
Under this was a reservoir at the end of the Saint Clement Aqueduct built in the 18th century.
I followed this to the other end where the original reservoir had been replaced by a water tower in the 1940s.
Heading west I followed a rather unique tramline with grass growing across the tracks and rather colourful trams transporting people around the city.
Continuing west along the tramline I discovered the city is well laid out with lots of nice buildings, old and new.
I was rather surprised when I came across what looked like a car-wrecking yard full of cars and old caravans. It turned out to be a place where people are actually living. I presume this was a gypsy commune.
Apparently the word gypsy came about when these people moved to England and the English thought they were from Egypt – hence the name. One view is that they were Romani, part of the military in Northern India. When they were invaded by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi and these soldiers were defeated, they moved west with their families into the Byzantine Empire between AD 1000 and 1030.
The tram line then headed north and east back into the city.
It has been a good day out in spite of the weather and a great way to see this rather nice city.
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
I headed east out of the hotel into heavy rain with thunder and lightening. Antigone, a 36 ha site to the east of the city, was originally the Joffre Barracks. In the late 70s it was redeveloped and with huge neoclassical structures it is very much in keeping with the old city. There is a Boulevard through the centre that leads down to the river Lez.
This style of building continues beyond the river with the large hotels and shopping complexes.
I headed back west to the main square for some lunch. Christmas decorations are being erected in the square; health and safety can’t be a big deal here as scaffolding is being erected with no safety harnesses.
Walking back through the shopping centre where security guards search bags as people enter, a beggar still kneels outside in the same place I saw him yesterday, today no doubt collecting more rain in his paper cup than money.
I picked up Sylvia from the Royal Canin HQ at Aimargues; from there we drove to Marseilles to catch our flight via Frankfurt to Bangkok.