One of the priorities we want to embrace when we return to our long-term travels is that we don’t want the expense or hassles of having an automobile. The remaining options are bus, tram, train, and walking. Though there is a bike sharing program in Montpellier, right now it’s too cold, and when the weather is warmer they will likely be heavily used by students.
We’ve negotiated trams and trains. One day we took the tram to the end of the line just to get the lay of the land and to see just how big Montpellier is. It is pretty big.
Walking is our preferred mode of getting around. Jeannie wears a pedometer and has been recording 6-11 miles each day. It is a small price to pay for the delicious meals we have been enjoying.
Initially, a lot of our time is spent wandering – “Not all who wander are lost.” JRR Tolkein. The ancient streets and alleys are convoluted and meander to and fro with seemingly no organization. A map is essential, though sometimes hardly better than an abstract scribble. However, serendipity often leads us to treasures at most every turn.
We returned “home” late last night from an overnight visit to Aix-en-Provence a beautiful town about one-half hours train north of Marseilles (which is about two hours from Montpellier). Aix-en-Provence is much smaller than Montpellier but much more touristy, and quite a bit more expensive.
The staff at our small hotel, Hotel Globe, was most helpful in recommending a pair of small out of the mainstream restaurants. Each was small, friendly, filled with locals and both served exceptional meals.
Restaurants generally NEVER open before 8:00pm, so we were forced to walk elsewhere to have drinks while we waited. Though it was cold, we decided to sit outside at a busy bar as it was very loud inside and we were bundled up anyway. The near-full moon was high in the evening sky as we sipped our drinks.
Once the hour approached, we made our way through the quiet cobbled streets to the Restaurant Charlotte. When we had stopped by the restaurant earlier, it was not apparent that it was still in business. Shuttered windows, closed doors and situated on an empty, dark alley-like street it gave little appearance of what we would later experience.
We returned still a few minutes early and briefly waited outside of the now well lit little place. Moving out of the cold we entered the friendly but empty space and waited. We saw no staff, though all appeared ready for the evening’s servings.
At the start, it was just Jeannie and I, and a party of three who obviously knew the owner and staff. But within ten minutes the place filled with others all of whom also seemed to know everyone else. Over the course of the evening we not only had an outstanding meal and wine, but engaged in a conversation with a delightful couple and their friend sitting nearby. We likely would have never have found this little gem on our own, and even then may not have waited so late to eat were it not for the advice of our hotel staff. I am certain that our efforts to speak French and expressions of our desire to be adventurous led to the recommendations that we so enjoyed.
Images are impressions of Aix-en-Provence