Monday, October 22, 2012

Montpellier Marathon

Back in August when we were on holiday in Spain an email popped into my inbox from Aidan of Conjugating Irregular Verbs inviting me to a Blogapalooza in Montpellier. I had enviously read about these ex-pat gatherings before thinking how fun it would be to meet some of my favourite bloggers in person so I jumped at the chance to attend. I waited nervously to see if Aidan would choose the weekend I was available in October which she did, and then waited a bit more while Keith heroically adjusted his business travel so that he could be back in France to look after the kids. I booked a train ticket and a hotel room, arranged sleepovers for the big girls and childcare for Florence and packed my bags.

Montpellier 1
On the Friday morning that I was due to leave for my weekend away, Florence woke up with a temperature and my jaunt to the South of France seemed doomed. All was not lost however as my mother's sixth sense had caused me to book the more expensive train ticket, changeable right up to the minute of departure and I had followed Kirsty's advice to book the hotel through which also allows free last minute cancellations. Half an hour on the computer and I had rearranged my trip to start on the 8:06 out of Gare de Lyon on Saturday morning when Daddy would be home all day to look after the girls.

Chez Boris
It's an easy three and a half hours on the train from Paris to Montpellier so I was there in plenty of time for lunch at Chez Boris where I was reunited with Kirsty and Jennifer who I've met before in real life and met Aidan, Karen, Julie, Sarah, Heather, Jennifer, Abby, Meredith and Colleen for the first time. With Florence continuing to be sick all last week, I'm late to the party in posting about the lunch, but Kirsty captured the event perfectly and her photos came out much better than mine! Suffice to say I had a wonderful time and four hours never passed so quickly. It was such a treat to have been included and it was a pleasure to meet so many lovely ladies and hear about all their different yet similar experiences of living in France.

Montpellier 2
That evening after everyone else had gone home I went out by myself to find dinner. Montpellier is a university town and has a lively nightlife. I wasn't entirely comfortable being out on my own (which made me glad I hadn't also spent Friday night there alone as originally planned) and after a simple dinner I headed off for an early night.

Montpellier 3
I stayed in the Hotel Eurociel which just opened this year and was well reviewed as a place to stay for lone travellers. It was clean and comfortable and just a few minutes walk from Place de la Comédie, Montpellier's centre. Each floor was named after a different European country. I was on the Greek floor in the Kos bedroom. The next morning as I checked out I noticed that in addition to London, Cardiff and a few other well known British cities one of the rooms on the British floor was named Jersey. If I ever go back I will have to request that room and I'm sure I'll feel right at home!

Montpellier 6
At the lunch, Kirsty had tried to persuade me to get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to make the most of the light to better photograph historic Montpellier. Having had to get up before sunrise the day before to make my early train, I didn't quite fancy another pre-dawn alarm, but I did get going quite early to explore the city by day. I set out to the sounds of church bells ringing for morning mass.

Montpellier 4
Quite a contrast to the sounds of busy nightlife that had accompanied my walk home the night before. Now the bustling, slightly seedy neighbourhood of my hotel was shuttered and quiet.

Montpellier 5
In the daylight I could relax and admire it's faded charm and gorgeous details.

Montpellier 7
I arrived in Place de la Comédie just in time for the start of the Montpellier marathon.

Montpellier 9
Once all the runners were on their way I found myself a café in the main square.

Montpellier 10
And sat down for breakfast and a spot of people watching.

Montpellier 11
Fortified by my café au lait, croissant and baguette slathered in Nutella I was ready to spend the rest of the morning exploring the maze of streets and alleys in Montpellier's old town.

Montpellier 12

Montpellier 13

Montpellier 14
A place where people grow oranges on their balconies.

Montpellier 15

Montpellier 16
...and lace.

Montpellier 17
The streets were deserted except for this man in a top hat carrying a bunch of pink balloons! Qu'est-ce qui se passe?

Montpellier 18
All the shops were shut which certainly saved me some money, but I wish I had found this lovely little mercerie 'Before & After' on Saturday.

Montpellier 19
Look at those gorgeous buttons!

Montpellier 20
As I had my nose pressed to the window of the fabric store I could hear the strains of organ music coming from the church of Saint Roch.

Montpellier 21
Sunday morning mass was nearly over in this nineteenth century church built along the route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Montpellier 22
French friends leaving church.

Montpellier 23
I spent the rest of the morning wandering the streets getting to know Montpellier and really starting to like it.

Montpellier 24
Stumbled across some fun street art. Maybe it was a sign as when I got home I discovered that Keith had spent the weekend buying Georgia & Savannah new bikes. Impressive on his own with four kids in tow!

Montpellier 25
More by luck than planning I arrived back in Place de la Comédie just as the first runners finished the marathon. Three hours pounding the streets of Montpellier and I didn't even break a sweat!

Montpellier 26
After my marathon photography session, it was time to find my way back to the train station and leave the tropical south for rainy Paris. I feel so lucky to have had this weekend away. Thanks so much to Aidan for inviting me to her gorgeous home town and to Keith for holding the fort back home.


  1. Well done Nicola! Thank you for taking me back to Montpellier where I lived for a while with my family in the 1970s (my mom's family is from the area.) I can tell it has not changed that much. La place de la Comedie is still as busy as I remembered it. Lovely breakfast and promenade you treated yourself to on Sunday (so you are a Nutella girl, too, eh?) Loved going on the walk with you. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Your photos are great. I went almost straight home so didn't see half of what you saw. You ran a good marathon :)

  3. Some lovely piccies there. I caught the marathon too because it went through Grammont where I took my son and 2 pals to do BMX. The traffic was really getting in a mess when we left so we took the long route out via the autoroute home.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your stay, Montpellier really is a lovely city.

  4. so happy you were able to get away! it looks..and sounded like a wonderful weekend..even though little florence was not feeling well. we've all been sick here too. hannah is home from school today and griffin is still coughing. i think our bodies are trying to adapt to paris weather!
    hope you're well..let's get together soon!

  5. Montpellier sounds great. Never actually been - may have to schedule a weekend...

  6. A lovely mom of four really needs a couple of days relaxing with great friends!

  7. You got some great shots! I love the marathon ones, the winners look like they're sprinting. Where do they find the energy?
    So glad you made it to the Blogapalooza, it was great to catch up again!


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