A potter round Montpellier

Anyone who really knows me will say I’m not really a city person. I’ve always lived in small villages or on the edge of small market towns and although I enjoy spending the odd day in a large town or city – I usually can’t wait to escape & head back to the countryside. I can’t put my finger on it but there is something about the pace of life in large cities that leaves me feeling drained after about 24hrs. There are of course some in England that don’t quite fit the city mould, which I enjoy visiting as they have something else to offer – these include Bath (stunning architecture and great small shops away from the main streets and of course its spa!) and Exeter (my local city and again nice to potter around, particularly near the old Quay and its quirky shops and cafes), but generally I do try to avoid cities where possible.

In October though I found myself house-sitting near Montpellier, so with the clouds gathering overhead I ditched my idea of a walk around the pretty Lac Du Salagou and instead took to my car and drove towards Montpellier for a day in the big city.

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When the weather’s like this – what else can you do but head into a town?

To be honest I didn’t imagine I’d be there long – I’d had a look at the website http://www.montpellier-france.com & it looked as if it would be a nice place to have a quick walk, a sit in a cafe and a bite to eat on an otherwise soggy day, but that was about it.

 

The one thing I had found on a website http://www.tam-voyages.com was the tram system that has been installed across the city, with satellite parking in a number of places on the outskirts and I headed towards one of these, finding it very easily just off the northern ringroad. I must admit I then just jumped on the first tram heading towards the city centre, although I had to ask which stop I needed to get off at.

Using the ‘Park and Tram’ system is actually quite easy, the trams leave regularly and from Mosson, where I parked, there are 2 routes that take you straight into the centre, taking 15 – 20 mins. The one thing I discovered when I got back, is that you need to validate your card by putting it into the machine just inside the door on each tram you use, which does bring down the cost of the parking – but at least I’ll get it right next time!

When I reached my stop I must admit I wasn’t particularly taken with what I saw, which was a large concrete structure, but once I had walked past that and into the Place de la Comedie, my view started to change.

The Place de la Comedie is a stunning open , oval area, edged by beautiful old buildings that are now home to many cafes and bars, a great place to sit down, get my bearings over a coffee and watch the people passing through (a favourite pastime when I’m on my own) and I quickly got the sense that Montpellier is a gentle, less frantic city than others I have visited.

From this ‘square’ the roads go off in all directions with the main shopping street taking you up towards the central market hall. It was once I walked up past the market and turned off into a side-street that the city took on a whole new feel. Gone were the high-street chains and glaring lights – I felt I had stumbled into a different world of narrow lanes, filled with quaint, small independent shops with a wonderful smattering of crafts thrown in.

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One of the pretty lanes in the City centre, just off the main shopping street

I have to admit that I am a real sucker for this type of place, where the shops are all independently-owned with lots of different things on offer from vintage clothes through to contemporary jewellery and incredible ceramics. One street in particular was decorated with bunting made from old fabric and had a delightful range of vintage shops, selling everything from clothes and shoes to jewellery and homewares.

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The ‘Vintage’ Quarter, the bunting, although slightly soggy looked great

I was particularly taken with the pottery figures in the window of one of the shops and so went in to see what else was on offer.

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This just made me smile

When I entered it was clear that this wasn’t just a shop, but a potter’s workshop too. There was a very friendly young chap working at the back of the shop, who went on to tell me that he was one of 3 people working there and that they were one the ‘Ateliers St Roch’- a group of artisans opening their studios in the area.

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The studio at the back of the first shop I went into

He went on to tell me that many people come to Montpellier just to visit the studios that form part of the group and having spent the day there I now understand why – I was just surprised that I hadn’t seen anything about this, very unique, shopping experience before. He handed me a leaflet, which contained a map showing all the participating artists, together with information on what they produced and I headed off with a new purpose.

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some of the stunning, bright pottery on sale

You will have gathered from previous blogs that I am particularly fond of good quality, individual crafts and so the chance to spend the rest of the day wandering the very pretty lanes of central Montpellier hunting out new pieces put a new spring in my step.

The studios are all located in the pretty, narrow streets in the heart of the old city and the map guides you easily around the area, ensuring you can visit all the studios that are involved – it even has a sheet at the back of the booklet where you can make notes on what you have seen. More information can be found about the studios together with a copy of the brochure I was given at http://www.ateliers-st-roch.com

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Shopfronts like this just make me want to go in to browse

There are 17 different studios to visit, all offering something different. There are brightly coloured ceramics in studios including ‘500 degres’  www.500degres.com and elegant fine pieces too in others such as ‘MademoiselleS Ceramique’ http://www.mademoisellesceramique.com. There is quirky, bright jewellery in ‘Merveilles’ http://www.atelierdmerveilles.fr  ……..

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Some of the jewellery on display in Merveilles

……..and very beautiful precious pieces made by ‘Franck Deseuste’. If glass is to your taste then there is beautiful fused glass at ‘Atelier Myriam A’ or stunning leatherwork at ‘Carlos Arthemis’

I think it would be fair to say that there is something for everyone – certainly in ‘Cubik’ http://www.cubik-lagalerieboutique.com  where 48 different designers display their products.

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Wonderfully bright pottery outside another studio on the trail

I have to admit to wandering the lanes for a few hours, before I realised it was well past lunch-time & so settled into one of the pretty little restaurants for a much-needed bite to eat.

After a quick detour into the Montpellier Rugby shop, for gifts for the boys I collapsed into a tram to head back to the car & home. What I had thought would be a quick visit, just to tick Montpellier off a list of places to see, turned into a full and enjoyable day and a firm commitment to return in the future.

The city is a delight, it has a wonderful, relaxed and very gentle feel and is I suppose similar to Bath in many respects, but it is now a firm favourite of mine and I’m looking forward to another visit soon. It may be that I can even couple it with a Top 14 match at Montpellier Rugby Stadium to make it an attractive proposition to the rest of the family! I can but try !

Sharing this post via this week’s Suitcases & Sandcastles #FarawayFiles 

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36 thoughts on “A potter round Montpellier

  1. You brought back some lovely memories! My favorite spot is Place Canourgue which is a lovely square surrounded by limestone buildings with blue shutters, rose gardens and cafes.

  2. We last visited some 15 years ago, and last time were frightened off by the trams as we were driving through the centre but reading of your experience we will give it another go as sounds great. Thanks for reporting so well!

    • Thanks – I must admit it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been, but certainly the trams are a great way to get in. I must admit I loved the feel of the city – very similar in lots of ways to Bath for its quirky, crafty feel – enjoy your next visit !

  3. Your photos brought back some amazing memories – I spent a year in Montpellier when I was 20! There used to be an amazing creperie on place de la comedie
    Visiting from #citytripping

    • Thanks & I’m pleased you liked it – I really love the city & took my hubby & youngest there for a quick visit on our way across to Toulouse airport last week. I’m happy to say they loved it too – so I’m sure we’ll make it a regular stop in future. Must admit we didn’t find a creperie, but had a great meal just off the main Market Square in the centre of the City!

  4. What a lovely unexpected day – I’ve stayed in the area near Montpellier a few times but have never made it to the city itself. It sounds like the perfect place though, I love wandering little twisty streets and stopping to browse the boutiques, especially with such gorgeous individual crafts on sale. #citytripping

    • Thanks – it’s such a great place to potter around – I took my hubby & youngest there again last week ( I did manage to sort the tram out this time) – happily they loved it too & it was even better second time around!

  5. I’ve heard good things about Montpellier but have yet to visit. We really must. I love all the pottery. Glad it was a city you enjoyed visiting… There are so many smaller cities to discover that are perfect for those who are kind on big metropolises. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Thanks – it is a lovely city with a small-town feel & as a lover of crafts & vintage pieces I just loved it. I popped back last week with my hubby & youngest son, who also thought it was a great place to go – so we’ll certainly be back!

    • Thanks – it did me too!! I now love the city & have been a couple of times since, but not on my own again. I just loved the little working ‘ateliers’ & it was great to see that the city authorities were doing so much to support it too. #FarawayFiles

  6. Loved re-reading this for #FarawayFiles. You’ve made me very keen to take a pottery tour of Montpellier and explore its pretty, narrow streets. That pottery all looks gorgeous! Thanks so much for linking up.

    • It’s absolutely perfect for that – it’s so nice finding a city that has such a high concentration of local artisans in such a central location – certainly lots of coffee places & superb lunch stops too!!

  7. So close!!! We spent a week in nearby Nimes in August, but never thought of visiting the bigger city next door. A real pity, because we would have loved these independent shops. Thanks for informing us; maybe next time! #FarawayFiles
    p.s. love the pun in the title! ;o)

    • Thanks it really is worth a visit & the tram makes it so easy to get into. Wandering around the pretty & narrow side streets with all the independent shops is a real pleasure – hope you get there next time #FarawayFiles

  8. Persistence really pays off sometimes doesnt it? Love the street with the bunting and all the little artisan shops. The perfect place to spend a wet afternoon. Thanks for sharing Montpellier with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks – we’ve been back a couple of times since & all being well will be there on Christmas Eve this year as we’ve booked a family trip to watch the rugby in the evening (as long as the players don’t strike – which they’ve been threatening to do! )

  9. Love that street with the bunting – even in the sog. How charming is this town! Thank you kindly for sharing and engaging with #FarawayFiles – I can’t wait to see what you’ll share with us this week! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

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