Halfway through our voyage, we stop in Montpellier. I book us into the Pullman Antigone hotel, unable to resist the rooftop pool.
Location wise, the hotel is just a two minute walk from the Place de la Comedie, a large and lively square which is home to the city’s ornate opera house, cafes, restaurants and buskers.
While there are less bucket-list attractions to see in Montpellier, the city offers a certain joie de vivre. Montpellier’s lively old town has an abundance of elegant architecture and plenty of pretty open squares.
We stumble upon the Place Marché Aux Fleurs, a petite square lined with bars and restaurants, centred around a lovely old fountain. It’s my favourite square in Montpellier, and I judge the bars on the quality of their Rose.
Wandering further through Montpellier’s narrow back streets, we find the popular Place de la Chapelle Neuve, a great spot for an alfresco dinner and some people watching.
There are some amazing unspoiled beaches just south of Montpellier, however without a car we decide to head to Sete.
Sete is set in between a lagoon and the Mediterranean Sea, and we visit this busy port town to check out the lesser-known beaches of France’s southern coast.
It’s a twenty minute train ride away and we arrive with no map or plans. We walk the long way from the station to the centre of town (I blame these dodgy signs!)
Theatre de la Mer?
Visitors to Sete are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches – the beaches of Lazaret, Corniche and Villeroy are all close to the city. Adam and I walk along a sometimes paved, sometimes dusty path along the cliffs of the coast in the direction of Lazaret, searching all the while (unsuccessfully) for another inflatable yellow tube.
It’s a 50 minute hike from the station, but well worth it for a day by the sea! (We later realize that a regional bus service is available). It’s a busy beach, the water is beyond calm and clear, and I have to wonder how often the lifeguards are called to action.
Travelling further west still, we land at Carcassonne, a medieval walled city which has to be seen to be believed. We are enchanted as we approach the city in one of Carcassonne’s (we believe) three taxis. No cars are allowed within the city walls however, and we enter the city via an actual drawbridge.
I describe Carcassonne to Adam as a virtual Disneyland for adults. The city is decorated with 13th century cobblestones, turrets and towers. Like Disneyland, however, you can expect long queues for the rides, and our initial enchantment is tested by the swarms of tourists who cram the walkways.
We stay within the city walls at L’Echappe Belle, a small B&B. Our host is wonderful, room quaint, breakfast typical continental, but we don’t make any friends among fellow guests when we return to the hotel at 12.30am and are unable to get the front door open!
It’s a definite advantage to stay overnight in Carcassonne, as the city by night has a really special atmosphere and there are less fellow tourists around. Make sure you walk out of the city and on to the Old Bridge at dusk and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views.
I am turning into the girl who cried “best dinner in France” one too many times – but my next post will tell you all about our dining experience at La Marquerie in Carcassonne.