Tag Archives: Montpellier

Visiting Southern France in Winter, Episode 148

My guest today is Christine Hegerty from Australia, and she joins me today to talk about visiting Southern France in winter. They started their trip in Nice and exited the country via the Basque Country, so they really went all the way across.

What is it like in France in the winter? Are the weather conditions good enough for touring? Aren’t most attractions closed? Christine answers all my questions and brings a lot of zest and astute observations about visiting southern France in winter.

Places Mentioned in this Episode: Nice, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nîmes, Pont du Gard, Uzès, Montpellier, Carcassonne, Mirepoix, Forges de Pyrène, Grotte de Niaux, Foix, Camon (09), Rennes-le-Château, Carla-Bayle, Grotte du Mas d’Asil, Toulouse,  Albi and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Moissac, Bordeaux, San-Sebastian, New Caledonia.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

Visiting France in winter, Christine and husband

Visiting Southern France in Winter, Episode 148

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

  • [7’15] Why did you choose to come to France in the winter?
  • [8’50] What sort of weather did you encounter?
  • [10’30] Flying into Nice instead of Paris
  • [12’30] Finding accommodations where we could park a car + using a car elevator in Toulouse
  • [15′] A lovely cooking class in Nice
  • [22′] Panisse and Socca, food specialties from Nice
  • [23′] Aix-en-Provence and Marseille by Regional Bus
  • [24′] Cours Mirabeau, Les Deux Garçons, and the Christmas Market in Aix-en-Provence
  • [24’45] A day in Marseille: Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, great street for restaurants, rue Sainte, lunch at Les Echevins (best steak ever says John!),
  • [28’30] Walking tour with a volunteer greeter, meeting on Quai des Belges in Marseille, a look at the Mirror Pavilion by Foster
  • [30′] Musée Archéologique de Marseille in Le Panier
  • [31’45] Marseille City Greeters
  • [33’06] Lovely Tea House called Cup of Tea, tea shop and book shop
  • [34′] Great food in Marseille, and not just Bouillabaisse!
  • [35′] The realities of planing a trip from home vs. taking the trip: cutting things out
  • [36′] Worries about leaving luggage in the car and Annie’s recommendation about that
  • [37’48] Two nights in Nîmes and what they loved about it: les Arênes de Nîme, la Maison Carrée
  • [39′] Carré d’Art by Norman Foster in Nîmes, a great place for photography, among other things
  • [40′] Stumbling Upon a light show projected on the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. This happens a lot around Christmas, not just in Nîmes, but in other French cities too.
  • [42′] Around Christmas is busy for people, but tourist attractions are empty.
  • [43′] Pont du Gard and getting lost looking for it. Don’t set your GPS to the village called Vers-Pont-du-Gard. Set your GPS to either the attraction called Pont du Gard OR the village of Remoulins or Collias.
  • [46′] Lunch at Uzès on Place  Aux Herbes, great place to spend a couple of hours.
  • [47′] Tour Magne, Le Jardin de la Fontaine, le Temple de Diane in Nîmes
  • [48′] Montpellier, a large and charming city. Air B&B apartment that used to be a butcher’s shop for one night.
  • [50′] Musée du Vieux Montpellier, running into churches with Crêches and Santons, and
  • [50’30] More podcast listeners eating at L’Entrecôte, they should sponsor the show!
  • [52′] What’s nearby? Sète, Camargue
  • [53’30] Daylight hours are shorter in winter, fewer hours for touring.
  • [53’47] Christmas in Carcassonne, lunch at the Michelin Star at the Hôtel de la Cité, La Barbacane.
  • [57’39] Carcassonne is not busy and crowded in the winter, and certainly not on Christmas Day!
  • [58’33] The Christmas Market in Carcassonne.
  • [62′] Staying in Mirepoix for one week.
  • [65′] New Year’s Even in Mirepoix, le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre with a group of all-French people who didn’t speak English! <–Funny
  • [68′] Typical New Year’s Eve celebrations in France
  • [72′] Attractions near Mirepoix: Montsegur (Cathat, hike), Les Forges de Pyrène (demonstrations of old techniques), Grotte de Niaux (painted caves), Foix (hike).
  • [78′] Most Beautiful Villages in France: Camon. Beautiful but completely empty this time of year. This is an obvious problem with visiting southern France in winter: many things are closed!
  • [80′] The Arriège is a part of France that doesn’t get a lot of tourists any time of the year, and in the middle of the winter, you have to find ways to keep busy.
  • [81′] Market Day in Mirepoix is Monday, the town comes to life. Visiting Rennes-le-Château, must read-up on the conspiracy theories. Pack a picnic!
  • [83′] Even in a remote part of France that is not very touristy, the food is quite good.
  • [84′] Visiting Carla-Bayle and the Grotte du Mas d’Asil on the way to Toulouse. Don’t go in the middle of the winter, it’s empty!
  • [86′] Toulouse is like a small little Paris, a lot of life, even in the middle of the winter.
  • [88′] Going to Albi and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel (Cordes is also dead in the winter!)
  • [89′] Museums in Toulouse: Natural History Museum, Musée Saint-Raymond, Basilique Saint-Sernin, Musée des Augustins, Musée des Abatoirs, Les Jacobins where Saint-Thomas Aquinas is buried.
  • [91′] Which Toulouse Cloister is nicest: Jacobins or Augustins?
  • [93′] General observation about French Museums: they are well curated.
  • [94′] Go to the big open-air food market in Toulouse (Marché du Cristal, 33 boulevard de Strasbourg), every morning.
  • [97′] WizEat in Toulouse and the Toulouse accent.
  • [100′] Stop in Moissac to visit the chruch with beautiful cloister–but the cloister was closed on a Saturday morning (again, an issue with visiting southern France in winter).
  • [102′] Bordeaux: swapping the red stone of Toulouse for the white stone of Bordeaux.
  • [104′] The shopping areas were busy in Bordeaux (probably due to sales coming up, people like to “stake-out” the stores where they want to go back on the day when sales start.
  • [104’30] Attractions in Bordeaux: Saint-André Cathedral, Flea Market near the Saint-Michel Church, Marché des Capucins (covered market).
  • [115′] Instead of walking to the Cité du Vin, they took a ferry which gave them a great perspective on the city.
  • [118′] For a great view, go up the Tour Saint-Andrée, fantastic at sunset time.
  • [118’40] Another great thing to do at dusk in Bordeaux is to go to Place de la Bourse to see the water mirror.
  • [120′] Taking the bus between Bordeaux and Saint-Sebastian. They used OuiBus and had a good experience. The bus took them through several cities between Bordeaux and Saint-Sebastian and they enjoyed seeing them briefly. Christine recommends taking the bus.
  • [126′] New Caledonia, also in France, even though it’s close to Australia.

Conclusion

Visiting southern France in winter can be a wonderful experience with a little planning and some awareness of peculiarities of rural France in winter. Christine shares some great insights, listen close if you’re planning a similar trip!

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Southwest of France with Children Trip Report, Episode 114

Southwest of France with Children


Southwest of France Jennifer Ditchburn



Jennifer Ditchburn visited the southwest of France with her husband and children in June 2016 and she comes on the show today to share some of the highlights of their experience. Jennifer is the Editor in Chief of a magazine called Policy Options in Canada, she speaks beautiful French and has visited France on several occasions. But, this is her first time in France with her children, so they selected child-friendly activities. Because we recorded this episode the day the results of the Brexit were announced and because Jennifer is a political junkie, we discuss this news event at the beginning of the show as well.

Hotels Recommended in this Episode

People often ask me to recommend a hotel in Toulouse, and it’s hard for me to answer because in Toulouse I sleep in my own bed! I recommended the  Novotel Compans Caffarelli to Jennifer and her family because it’s close to everything at a reasonable price and has a good reputation. Jennifer and family liked it very much. I would also recommend you look at the Mercure Compans Caffarelli because that’s where Airbus sends a lot of business visitors and they all seem happy with it.

 

Places Mentioned in this Episode

Montpellier, Plage de l’Espiguette, Arriège, Foix, Sète, Toulouse, Niaux, Paris.

Visiting France? Find the Best Deals & Reviews at TripAdvisor.

To Prepare for Your Trip: The Return of Martin Guerre


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Continue reading Southwest of France with Children Trip Report, Episode 114

Tips for Visiting Montpellier (France), Episode 105


Tips for Visiting Montpellier (France)

Tips for Visiting Montpellier (France)

On today’s episode we give you tips for visiting Montpellier (France) and why you should consider going next time you’re in the south of France! We know even our most dedicated listeners probably haven’t visited it because it’s not on the “major tourist track”,  but what charm and what a great lifestyle! We love it and we hope you will love this episode too!

If you find this episode helpful, you should also consider listening to The Best of Sète an even smaller nearby city with (arguably) even more charm; and a trip report on Camargue.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
 Episode Highlights
  • [4’40] Introduction to Montpellier and why we hadn’t talked about it before: “c’est la ville des bouchons”
  • [6′] Igor the guide dog who works in Montpellier
  • [6’30] Montpellier has a great reputation as a student city and a place to live
  • [7’30] Montpellier doesn’t have a port today, but it did, it is 7k from the Mediterranean Sea
  • [9′] Montpellier is a limestone city whereas Toulouse is a brick city
  • [10’20] Montpellier: 500,000 inhabitants and 8th larger city in France
  • [11’20] Montpellier has a large city center that was extended with the Antigone area in a neo-classical style
  • [14′] The consolidation of regions in France, Montpellier used to be in the Languedoc-Roussillon region and is now in the Occitan region
  • [19′] Montpellier has a Mediterranean climate and that is one of the reasons why it’s one of the fastest-growing areas in France, we love 300+ days on sun each year!
  • [20′] There aren’t a lot of ancient buildings left in Montpellier where an old building are from the 1800s, the Maison des Octrois is older, but there aren’t many
  • [21’36] Montpellier was heavily involved in the War of Religion and that is when a lot of the older city was destroyed or otherwise abandoned
  • [22’20] In the middle ages, the most populated cities in France were Rouen, Toulouse and Montpellier
  • [24’45] Montpellier is the city with the oldest medical school in France and to this day there are still a lot of medical conventions there
  • [27’15] Georges Frêche, mayor of Montpellier between 1977 and his death in 2010 positioned the city as a place for smart people, he is the one who funded the Antigone area built-in a Neo-Classical style
  • [29’15] Antigone is “démesuré” or over-sized, case in point: their city hall is much larger than the one in Toulouse when we have twice as many inhabitants!
  • [33′] Montpellier is a great city to live in, it has a very large library, Olympic pool, esplanade, parks, and a very good tramway system that can take people anywhere they need to go
  • [35’30] You need at least 2 days to see Montpellier, you can go from the neo-classical part, go through the shopping center called Corum, to the Place de la Comédie, and move on through the old city-center, go through the Arc de Triomphe, to the statue of Louis XIV, then the old Roman aqueduct, it’s a 3 km to 4 km walk and an interesting way to visit the city
  • [38′] You could also start in the center, at the Place de la Comédie and the Molière theater, go towards the old city center and its narrow streets
  • [41′] Montpellier has a great zoo and an aquarium, as well as a beach, which makes it a great place to go with children
  • [42′] Montpellier may be nicer to live in than Toulouse, as long as you don’t mind living in an apartment building or in a home that has very small yards
  • [43′] Montpellier and the whole area is heavily populated as are all areas with great weather and the beach
  • [46′] Museums in Montpellier: the Musée Fabre is one of the best art museums outside of Paris because it shows not only Western art, but makes a point to also show African and other pieces
  • [54′] In Montpellier you can go to the beach using the tramway + a bus
  • [55’45] If you have a car you can also go visit Maguelone, a great place to visit!
  • [59′] What to do if you run into Igor the Guide Dog: most sighted people are petrified of talking to blind people, but if you want to pet the guide dog, say hello the dog owner first!
  • [60′] Local wines: wines from Montpellier are gaining in quality and popularity right now
  • [62′] Local foods: Longuettes (or Zézettes) de Montpellier are a fun cookie, les Grisettes de Montpellier (candy with liquorice and honey), the Mediterranean cuisine is really good
  • [60′] Local wines: wines from Montpellier are gaining in quality and popularity right now
  • [62′] Local foods: Longuettes (or Zézettes) de Montpellier are a fun cookie, les Grisettes de Montpellier (candy with liquorice and honey), the Mediterranean cuisine is really good

Conclusion

If you’re going to spend time in the South of France, we think Montpellier is a great place to spend a couple of days, or maybe use it as a base to take day-trips, there is a lot to see nearby as well: Sète to just name one.

 

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