A weekend away. Nice. A weekend away alone with one of my daughters? Heaven! As a mother of three girls, I cherish those rare moments when I can spend time with them individually. This lively, energetic place would also be a great destination for a girls’ weekend away!
Place de la Comédie.
A year ago I was invited to a blogger’s luncheon in Montpellier, France. This event made the perfect excuse to take my oldest daughter, then 11 years old, away for a weekend to shop, eat and stroll together.
Montpellier, a university center, is a colorful, vibrant city in southern France—the eighth largest and one of the fastest growing in the past 25 years. Historically, this city, located very close to the Mediterranean Sea, has been a trading center since the Middle Ages.
Rooftops in Montpellier. Photo: Can Stock Photo Inc.
Over the years, world-class architects have added their showpieces to this city. Even the designer Christian Lacroix designed cars on two of the tramlines. This elegant, cultured, dynamic city is a must-see, as it’s truly a mix of history and modern life.Emilie and I arrived by train on a Saturday morning from Bordeaux. Our plans: enjoy lunch with the others and then explore the city together.
The oldest street in Montpellier.
We were served a fantastic meal at Chez Boris, its specialty beef, the decor colorful and the food delicious. After lunch, my daughter and I headed to our hotel, located in the Antigone area.This neighborhood is the modern section, designed in 1979 to be proportionally and thematically related, unifying the boulevards, plazas, parks, shops and schools. An urban project that includes the Esplanade d’Europe, it was the biggest single development of its time, designed by Ricardo Bofill.Loosely based on the architecture of ancient Greece, the link has been kept with street and building names such as the Polygone, rue de l’Acropole and Place de Marathon, just to name a few. Both of us being avid photographers, we clicked away at the larger-than-life buildings.
Three Graces Fountain.
After we left our luggage at our hotel, Emilie and I headed back up to Place de la Comédie, the focal point of the city. In the center of the square stands the Three Graces Fountain.
The facade of the Opéra National de Montpellier dominates one end, and an adjoining large, open, tree-lined area, the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, is on the other end, with narrow streets of the historic district running off to the north and west.
Opéra National de Montpellier in Place de la Comédie.
Many cafés and restaurants line this square, allowing numerous culinary and style choices. It’s a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal and take in the fun spirit and ambiance. We wandered down the narrow streets to the west and loved the feel of this medieval, older section of town. The Musée Fabre, an excellent art gallery/museum, is located in the area.
Emilie and I love to shop together. She has great taste and style for an 11-year-old and truly knows what she likes. We found both the Polygone and streets heading into the historic center great places to find fun French boutiques and stores. We laughed together trying on hats in one shop and scarves in another. After our little shopping venture, we headed to a small crêperie, le Kreisker, just off Place de la Comédie, for dinner.
Place du Peyrou.
This was a cozy, delightful place to get a light dinner. Walking back to our hotel after dark, through the Place de la Comédie and the Polygone, was mesmerizing, showing us how spirited this city is at night, too. It was so relaxing to crawl into bed that night, chatting and telling stories of my youth to my daughter. Mother-daughter time is so extraordinary!
Arc de Triomphe.
The next morning we wandered further uphill, into the historic district on the west side to admire the Arc de Triomphe, Basilique Notre Dame and Promenade du Peyrou. On the west side of this arch is the Saint-Clément Aqueduct, which dates back to the 17th century and covers an 800-meter span across “The Arches” district of the city. It was used to bring water from the Saint-Clément spring, 14 kilometers away, to a water tank near the Arc de Triomphe, where the water would run downhill to fountains and public water points of the city. There are views of the Pic Saint-Loup from this lookout.
This particular weekend happened to be the third annual Marathon de Montpellier, which provided great fun as we watched all the runners, but also some minor inconveniences for us as tripists.
For instance, the tramline and many roads in the center were closed on Sunday. For Emilie and I, this meant hauling our baggage from one side of town to the other about two kilometers. I am laughing now, remembering how tired our arms were as we arrived at the train station.
Next time, I think we will need to add a visit to Spa de Beaulieu, located between the historic center and Place de la Comédie, to round out a weekend away. We both enjoyed Montpellier; it’s vibrant, alive and full of spirit. It made for a perfect mother-daughter getaway.
Girls on the Go Know . . .
• Nostradamus lived here.
• See a dance performance at a former convent from the 17th century Cité Internationale de la Danse.
• Classical, opera and jazz from around the world will be performed at Le Festival this July in Montpellier.
• Plan to eat after 9 p.m. if you’ll be dining with Montpellier locals.
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The Antigone district
Place de la Comédie
Opéra National de Montpellier
Arc de Triomphe
Promenade du Peyrou
Marathon de Montpellier
Spa de Beaulieu
Cité Internationale de la Danse