MONTPELLIER'S ARC - Located at the main entrance of Montpellier, France, this arc was built at the end of the 17th century to honor Louis XIV. CNS Photo by Sharon Whitley Larsen.
I had just told her that this charming, historic university town reminded me of a smaller version of Paris, one of my favorite cities. It may not have an Eiffel Tower, but it has an Arc de Triomphe. Located at the main entrance to the city, this arc was built at the end of the 17th century to honor Louis XIV. Montpellier's Antigone area has a replica of the Paris Louvre Museum's "Winged Victory of Samothrace," and its imposing 19th century opera house, on the popular Place de la Comedie, reminded me of the neobaroque Garnier Opera House in the City of Light.
This was my second visit to this 1,000-year-old city, the capital of Languedoc-Rousillon, the largest wine-producing region in the world, with 300 days of sunshine per year - ideal not only for harvesting grapes but for outdoor sports: swimming, golfing, sailing, biking, strolling, tennis.
With a quarter of the 250,000 residents comprised of university students, the ambience is full of youthful energy, with sidewalk cafes dotting the cobblestone plazas and medieval passageways. This is the town where renowned 16th century physicians Nostradamus and Francois Rabelais studied, worked and hung out.
Today, as France's eighth-largest city, Montpellier continues to thrive as an important law, medical and high-tech research center, a cultural and economic melting pot boasting universities, museums, theaters, libraries, art galleries, a marina, fountains, botanical gardens, dance festivals and musical venues, including symphony and opera. And exquisite shops and boutiques.
"Shopping in the medieval, narrow streets is a must," Caroline Berland of the tourism office told me.
My favorite area is the historic town center's Place de la Comedie, a large pedestrian area that's great fun to walk around or sit at an outdoor cafe, listening to street musicians and just people watching. It's easy to get around here, too, by walking, bicycling or hopping on and off the modern tram system, which opened in July 2000 and carries some 100,000 passengers a day.
Founded in the eighth century, by the 10th century Montpellier, due to its great Mediterranean location, had become a regional trading center hub for those from North Africa, Spain and Italy, mostly for fabric, jewels and spices. Sold to France in 1349, Montpellier endured the tragedy of the Great Plague and the effects of the Hundred Years' War, became a Protestant stronghold during the Reformation's influence in the region, and by the 19th century was an industrial center.
Today, Montpellier offers stunning architecture, from 17th century mansions with wrought-iron balconies to the neoclassical Antigone area, developed over the past 25 years by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill. This area includes an Olympic pool and Central Municipal Library. The Odysseum, a 10-minute tram ride from the center of town, encompasses a multiplex cinema, France's first mixed-use ice skating rink, Europe's first immersion planetarium with 3-D digital video technology and an aquarium.
During my stay in Montpellier, I visited the Mikve, a Jewish ritual bath from the late 12th century, housed in the basement of a private mansion at 2 Rue de la Barralerie, and one of the best preserved in Europe. Both the Jewish and Arab communities had a strong role in this area's successful development.
This pedestrian-friendly town has numerous popular landmarks, including the twin-towered St. Pierre Cathedral, originally built in 1364 and redone in the 17th century. Its adjacent former monastery has been the site of a medical school and library since 1795.
I also decided to visit the peaceful Chateau de Flaugergues winery and gardens just a few miles outside of town. Constructed in 1696 for an aristocratic family, its mansion - which has not undergone any significant architectural change since the mid-1700s - has been passed down 10 generations. Since 1972, it's been home to the Henri de Colbert family and, since 1981, it has been open to tours. In fact, some 30,000 people visit each year, enjoying a wine tasting with the award-winning wines, walking the gorgeous French and English botanical gardens and seeing the chateau's 17th century Flemish tapestries, 18th century furniture and porcelain, and a spectacular, tri-level staircase with wrought-iron banister.
"This is linked with history and our culture," said Pierre de Colbert, Henri's son, as he showed me around the house where he was born and raised. "We are a family here and we want to keep the history alive. This is typical of Mediterranean culture and 18th century way of life."
As Berland of the tourism office summed up the region's theme of "art de vivre" (art of living): "Montpellier is life - not just a city where you can see things, but where you can live things, to really feel the city."
And, although it's more than 1,000 years old, she sums up the area's vitality: "It's a very young city!"
IF YOU GO
You can drive or fly here from Paris - the airport is eight miles from town, and it's just over an hour flight - but I took the TGV high-speed train, about a four-hour ride. There's a train station conveniently connected to the Charles de Gaulle airport.
It's also convenient to take the train to nearby Carcassonne, Beziers and Nimes. For more information visit www.raileurope.com or call (888) 382-RAIL.
Chateau de Flaugergues, 1744 Ave. Albert Einstein. For more information visit www.flaugergues.com. E-mail: email@example.com.
Besides sampling the great wines of this region, I also dined in some of Montpellier's fine restaurants, including Maison de la Lozere. A favorite of locals, it was a real treat, with such dishes as foie gras, sea bass and rabbit. Located at 27 Rue de l'Aiguillerie. For more information visit www.celliermorel.com (Web site is in French).
For information on the City Pass or guided tours in English, visit the Montpellier Tourism Office's Web site at www.ot-montpellier.fr. Click on "International Area" then on English version. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.sunfrance.com and www.franceguide.com.
Sharon Whitley Larsen is a freelance travel writer.
If this article has helped you in some way, will you say thanks by sharing it through a share,
link, or an
email to someone you think would appreciate the reference.
Fried Frank’s Permanent Paris Partner Eric Cafritz Leaves Firm Fried Frank's permanent partner in Paris, Eric Cafritz, who was also the founding partner of the firm's Paris office, is leaving for London. This would leave the firm without any permanent partner presence and with only a few lawyers in Paris. The only other office of the firm in Europe still has one partner - corporate specialist Juergen van Kamm in Frankfurt.
Paris: Day One Get prepared for TONS of pictures! I took about 500 pictures while I was in Paris, so I had to be really selective with what I put in these posts. Even then, there are so many! Haha hope you're ready! When I arrived in Paris you couldn't wipe the grin off my face. Leaving the airport I took the metro line to Gare du Nord (Gare = train station), which was just a couple blocks from my hostel: Smart Place Paris. Since I was too early to check-in, I ...
Paris: Day Two Most of my second day in Paris was spent outside the city at Versailles. In case you missed it, here's My Take on Flying Internationally, and Paris Day One. I loved taking the metro out there because I left when most people were leaving for work, which made me feel like a Parisian leaving for work! Haha. IMG_1176 After waiting in several lines (and quite a debacle of entrances, language issues, getting lost, and one very helpful woman) I took ...
Reed Smith opens office in Paris Reed Smith opens office in Paris
Thompson & Knight forms alliance with RCJE
Salans hires five from Clifford Chance
Chesler elected presiding partner of Cravath Swaine & Moore
White & Case opens office in Munich
Porter to become COO of the Americas
Justices debate a key issue of attorney fees
Armstrong Teasdale opens office in Las Vegas
The Sweet Life In Paris-Book Review Hey everyone! I hope you all had a good start to your week! I had a fun but rough one with Tina's tabata workout yesterday morning! WHEW! But in such a good way, I loved it! I promised a re-cap of my busy and fun Saturday, so here we go! On Saturday morning I headed out to Oak Park for Core Power Yoga, and afterwards I met up with Chelsey for breakfast at Delia's Kitchen. The omelette I ordered (Mediterranean with olives, spinach and feta) wa ...
Paul Weiss closes up shop in Paris Paul Weiss closes up shop in Paris
Labor law firms re-unite in merge
New hire gives Greenberg Traurig new Silicon Valley practice
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart continues DC growth
Perkins Coie's Managing Partner in S.F. defects to Orrick
Boston firm adds two litigators from the public sector
Florida State President joins Hunton & Williams
Pittsburgh firm expands FL office
Paris Side trips create an atmosphere of medieval times As I walked through a narrow path avoiding the brush of nettles, I passed into a clearing of crows circling a beige-blanketed wheat field. It was a familiar setting that I had seen many times before. It was here that Van Gogh created his memorable ''The Wheat fields with the Crows,'' one of 78 paintings completed in 70 days before his death in July 1890 in this medieval village of Auvers-sur-Oise. Nearby was the Eglise Notre Dame, the church immo ...
University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Los Angeles, CA Coming in just behind its cross-town rival UCLA yet again, USC's Gould School of Law is ranked a very impressive 16th in U.S. News & World Report's ranking of top law schools in the country. USC's School of Law began as a series of night lectures, which developed into an association of law apprentices in 1986, which later was incorporated into the Los Angeles School of Law. The Los Angeles School of Law became affiliated with USC more than 100 ye ...
I had little job search experience, but the advice and support provided by LawCrossing was was invaluable. Thanks! Anthony
LawCrossing Fact #54: Users of LawCrossing are more likely than those who don’t use the site to find their dream jobs because LawCrossing has a staff of hundreds of employees working just for them.
New Legal Jobs in Last 7 Days
Job of the day
Corporate Attorney in New York City, NY USA-New York City
Senior Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Digital Media
Duties: Provides legal services required in the operation...
job search tip
Review and role-play the most frequently asked questions. Prepare your answers to questions like: Why are you leaving your job? Why are you interested in this position? What do you know about our company?