Europe 2010: Montpellier – September 25

We arrived in Montpellier a mere three hours after leaving Paris to find ourselves in the relaxed land of the south. Our hotel had all the mod cons and was very conveniently located near the old city. Montpellier is just lovely – lots of old winding streets with atmosphere stone houses. In addition, there is the new Antigone area – a rather monumental mall of large neo-classical buildings built in the late 1970’s.

Gregg in Montpellier in front of the Fabre museum
 After arriving, we grabbed lunch and headed for the Fabre museum , reputed to be one of the top art museums in France. The featured show was a retrospective of Cabanal, a super technical painter in the “academy” style from the 19th century. His work is remarkable for its realism but room after room of it got to be a bit over the top. We wandered into the permanent colletion to find some Manets and Morisots done during the same period but what a difference! The Berthe Morisot in particular was amazingly loose and fluid—a very stark contrast to Cabanal’s painstakingly veristic paintings—almost painful in their detailing. We’d bought a book on Morisot in Paris. She really is an amazing painter and should be more well known.
The Fabre museum is laid out in the most confusing way imaginable. We were hopelessly lost most of the time despite the efforts of the numerous helpful guards that directed us up and down staircases and elevators in search of the impressionists. Anyway, we emerged into the windy and sunny afternoon and returned to the hotel for a rest.
On the way, Gregg picked up a new suitcase that will be much easier to pull around over the next four weeks. His suitcase was extremely difficult to maneuver. This new, hard shelled plastic number is quite spiffy and on sale for just 70 euors.
In the evening, we enjoyed our last meal in France in an ancient stone vaulted restaurant in the heart of old Montpellier. For once I have to say that the food was not that great. In fact, when the waiter came by to ask me if I liked my dinner I had to confess that I didn’t. “Vous ne l’aimez pas?” I nodded miserably – “Je ne l’aime pas.” To my surprise, the waiter whisked my plate away and about ten minutes later brought me a fresh plate of the same chicken dish Gregg had ordered and was enjoying. The chicken was much better than the rather weirdly sauced seafood dish I’d ordered.
At the end of the meal (three courses for 13.50 euros each that included half a bottle of wine!), the waiter brought us both snifters of brandy on the house as recompense for my distress at having ordered food I didn’t like!
We were feeling no pain as we wound our way back through the moonlit, traffic free alleys of old Montpellier to our very comfortable hotel.