Part 2 – A Brief Visit to the South of France
I’d heard of Montpellier before but knew nothing about it. The original plan was to stay in Avignon, also a place I knew nothing about. Why visit these places? one may ask. Why not? could be the reply. But the answer is actually that there wasn’t anywhere particular that I wanted to visit between Barcelona and the beginning of what I dubbed ‘Stage 2’ of my trip, Stage 2 beginning with Vienna. So anywhere I visited between Barcelona and Vienna was just a stop off on my way to Vienna. Not that I wasn’t interested in seeing what these places had to offer me, they just weren’t places I was excited to get to beforehand.
Anyway, Montpellier is small, lovely, and charming. I really quite enjoyed my stay there in no small part to the place which I quite accidentally ended up staying at.
Besides Zurich and Paris, the places I stayed at were all found on airbnb. When I messaged this guy David he replied to say that he was unable to accommodate me. A day later he messaged me again and asked if I was still trying to find somewhere to stay. I was. He offered to host me in a place that was his friends, his friend being on holiday and her flat being empty. I accepted and it was a fantastic place. It was in an old building and it added to the experience of being an anti-tourist. There was a lovely big bathroom and a kitchen area, which I ended up using to cook some pasta.
The rest of Montpellier was very pretty. My favourite thing there was the defunct aqua-ducts. The arches are really interesting. On a Friday night there is a festival type thing in the park. For 5€ you get a glass that you can fill up with 3 different wines of the many that were on offer, so you get to try any or all of them out. I, of course, don’t drink, but I did think this was a great idea and for once felt like I was definitely missing out for not being able to drink. What interested me was that there were hundreds of people there, all drinking alcohol, but everyone was allowed to carry around a glass glass. No one seemed to worry that someone would get drunk enough to smash the glass into someone else’s face. A minor detail that I may have looked too much into, but I saw it as a sign of a culture that in general had a sensible attitude to alcohol.
I saw two films whilst there: To Rome With Love by Woody Allen, and The Dictator by Sasha Baron Cohen. About a quarter of To Rome With Love was in Italian and there were French subtitles so I had to infer meaning from context. Allen is very wordy though so I think I may have missed a few jokes. Both were average, not too impressive but entertained me whilst I was there.
Back at the flat I spent time chilling listening to a CD of Django Rhinehart that was already there. I felt awfully French and wonderfully chilled out. It’s safe to say that I had a great time there. It was tough to keep a vegan diet in France. I stayed vegetarian, but cheese was everywhere. Eggs were also pretty common. I bought a pizza and took it back to the flat to eat. It was surprisingly good. I was expecting plastic-y shit, but it was fresh and pretty nice. I also cooked some pasta with some green beans and tomato sauce at the flat. I can’t think of much else that I ate except for snacks. I don’t think I ate very much on the entire trip, which I guess isn’t a very healthy, given the amount of walking and cycling I did, but I didn’t want to eat too much cheese and too many eggs, and I wasn’t really sure where to find vegan food (some research would have been good, but I didn’t plan that far ahead). A lot of places just had meat on their menus. France and the Czech Republic were bad. Austria and Germany were better. I feel that if I knew the language a bit better, or at all, I would have been able find a bit more of what I was looking for, or better explain what it is I wanted to eat in a restaurant.
I wouldn’t mind coming back to Montpellier. What I like about it is that it’s pretty small so good for a weekend break. There is also a beach just outside of the city limits, not too far to travel. I’d like to take a look. David, my host, says that it’s very beautiful there.
I had to leave pretty early. As I mentioned before, I originally wanted to go to Avignon. I didn’t end up there because the Avignon Festival was on. It’s a theatre festival that happens every July and a lot of productions are on, both inside and out, both free and ticketed. I couldn’t find a place to stay there and Montpellier was on the way to Avignon, so I decided to stop there instead.
But before I decided to change destinations I had already booked a ticket from Avignon to Mulhouse and I had to get to Avignon pretty early, which means leaving Montpellier even earlier. There were no local trains (free with the Interail pass) that I could take that would get me to Avignon on time so I had to suck it up and pay for a reservation. This was the beginning of a pretty long journey to Zurich, which is Part 3.