Thursday 23rd September

After the grandeur of Bordeaux and the old town charm of La Rochelle, Montpellier provided us with a perhaps more authentic French experience. Though slightly rough around the edges – exemplified by a rather grotty train station and the joyless, budget hotel-lined street that connects it to the city centre – it had plenty of energy and history to keep us interested.

One initial hurdle to overcome was our choice of accommodation. While we’d opted for cheap hotels on our previous stopovers, this time we’d reserved a room at the auberge de jeunesse on the northern edge of the historic centre. Though conveniently located, it was inconveniently shut when we arrived to check in at 1pm. It seems the staff here were not going to let the needs of a couple of weary travellers stand in the way of their early afternoon siesta so we were forced to seek refuge with our luggage in a local cafĂ© while we awaited their return. Things went rather more smoothly after that, though we’d probably been a little spoilt by our earlier hotel experiences and weren’t especially enamoured by the long trek to the nearest shower facilities and public toilet strength light bulbs when we had to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning…

Like La Rochelle, the streets of the old town were mazy and narrow, but there seemed to be a younger, edgier vibe to the shops and cafes that lined them. At night, illuminated lanterns brought a whole new atmosphere to the place and we stopped off at a cosy tapas bar for a superb value cheese plate. The Montpellier crowd felt like it was comprised mostly of students and backpackers but the only person who made any real effort to engage us in conversation was a 20-something German man who, after I had told him where I was from, promptly proceeded to inform us of how much he disliked British “people, accents and culture”. For some reason, he still seemed very keen to talk to us (perhaps I didn’t fit the stereotype) but bearing in mind our early start, we decided to make a swift exit stage left…


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