After taking my sweet time to abandon La Grande Motte, I decided to do a fly-by in Montpellier. I hadn’t been there since my big backpacking trip almost 20 years ago, and I was totally curious to see how it had changed after that time. Actually, nothing rang a bell except for the beautiful Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, and I even started to wonder if I’d ever been there at all. I mean, honestly. Tree-lined esplanades are all over the map in France. I parked in the “Antigone” district of town as it seemed a good starting point. But as I ascended out of the parking lot, I found myself surrounded by large-scale modernized Romanesque buildings. It almost made me feel like I was in Las Vegas. Then I continued along the grand promenade which leads directly into a huge air-conditioned shopping mall, and I thought – My God! I must be in Vegas! No, I kid…but anyway, after getting out of the shopping mall (I did linger a tad), I ended up on Place de la Comedie, which is the main square of Montpellier. From there, little cobblestone alleyways vein off in all directions ushering you throughout the old town. It is an impressive old town, in size and charm, but what put me off is that it was so overrun by pizza shops, Starbucks, tattoo parlors and juice bars. When I want that, I’ll go visit my home country, thank you very much. But, it is a student town, after all, and I needn’t let my romanticized, nostalgic musings get in the way of finding the present-day heartbeat of a town. I’d like to give it another chance with a much longer visit someday.
Memory is funny like that – it’s way more malleable than we’d like to admit most of the time. I had imagined some kind of Paris of the south…or was that Marseille? We are all also different people than we were 20 years ago, and the things that I was attracted to and fascinated by then are certainly not the same today. There are definitely wonderful museums, exhibitions, and events that I missed out on. And time permitting, I heard that Montpellier has a lot of cool second-hand and antique shops to hit up as well. Now that I’ve covered up my old memory of Montpellier with a new and updated one, I can approach it again with new eyes next time.
Next stop…Arles. See you soon!
All photos were taken by June Liechti-Adamson