Few hours in Montpellier, France

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE: Montpellier is a nice cosmopolitan city in the Languedoc-Roussilon region in southwest France. We spent about few hours in the city center before heading towards Andorra the next day. We rode their bright yellow and red trams twice on our way to city center and coming back from there. The fare is cheap and they run very frequently every hour.

Surroundings of Promenade de Peyrou in Montpellier, France

TIME OF OUR TRAVEL: We were traveling in the 1st week of October, 2012. It was still pleasant there with some sun during the day time and little bit chilly after evening.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Quick Palace Montpellier here which was about 10 minutes’ drive from the airport (in St. Jean De Vedas) and surrounded by lots of other hotels and many restaurants. The tram station is within walking distance from here which takes you directly to the city center, Place de la Comedie.

Bright colored tram of Montpellier, France

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We barely spent few hours in Montpellier. We reached Montpellier airport around noon, then checked in at our hotel, ate something, and off to catch the tram to the city center. Visited all the places on foot from there but had to head back to hotel early since the girls were REALLYYY tired by the evening after a long day.

Chateau d’Eau in Montpellier, France

1) La PLACE de la COMEDIE: This is the number one hot spot and a must-see in Montpellier. This oval-shaped square, dominated by the Comedie opera house (built in 1888), is one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe. Saturday market here makes this place even crowded during weekends. This lively place is packed with many shops, cafes, old & beautiful buildings. The nearby small streets are great for shopping and taking strolls. Take a walk thru Rue de la Loge, which is probably the busiest street there with all sorts of designer and local shops. The tram station is also right there very close to the plaza.

Place de la Comedie (Les 3 Graces can be seen on the right) in Montpellier, France

The center fountain of this plaza, called Les 3 Grâces, is one of the emblems of Montpellier. Created in 1773, the original marble statue is now located in the hall of the Comedie opera house.

2) ARC de TRIUMPH: This is only 10 minutes’ walk from Place de la Comedie on Rue Foch. At the end of the 17th century, this triumphal arch, a copy of the gates of Paris, was erected to honor King Louis XIV where one of the gates of the ancient rampart used to be. The Arc is adorned with medallions celebrating the highlights of the monarch’s reign. Ask at the Visitor’s Center for a tour of the Arc de Triumph.

Statue of King Louis XIV and St-Clement Aqueduct can be seen thru the gate of Arc de Triumph on Promenade de Peyrou

3) PLACE ROYALE du PEYROU or PROMENADE de PEYROU: This is on the other side of Arc de Triumph behind a gate. This historical landmark sight of Montpellier provides the setting for the mounted statue of Louis XIV on his horse forming a remarkable group of monuments, with the Arc de Triumph, Water Tower, and Saint-Clement aqueduct. The magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside has been exceptionally well-preserved since the late 17th century. The design of this esplanade was inspired by today’s Place de la Concorde in Paris. Two rows of trees were planted in the 19th century to form beautiful side paths.

Arc de Triumph and statue of King Louis XIV on Promenade de Peyrou in Montpellier, France

After passing the statue of King Louis XIV in Place Royale du Peyrou, comes aqueduct Saint-Clement. Built in 1754, it supplied drinking water from the springs in the town of Saint-Clement. You can climb up the stairs to see Chateau d’Eau from the top. Created at the same time as the aqueduct in the 18th century, the water tower held the city’s water reserves.

Saint-Clement Aqueduct in Promenade de Peyrou in Montpellier, France

4) FACULTE de MEDICINE or L’ECOLE de MEDECINE: Built in end of the 12th century, this is one of the OLDEST operating MEDICAL schools in the occidental world. Visitors can go inside the building for tour but have to book the ticket from tourist office ahead of time. It is located on one side of St. Pierre Cathedral.

Faculte de Medecine, one of the oldest medical school in the world, in Montpellier, France

5) SAINT PIERRE CATHEDRAL: This is a historical cathedral of the city from the 14th century with beautiful bold façade. The two circular columns that support this massive and dominating structure give this the effect of a medieval fortress.  The monumental porch, the bell towers, and the single nave are the Southern Gothic style. There was a huge renovation going on in front of the cathedral, so we really didn’t see the front view. From outside it looks like it was squeezed in between some buildings and narrow streets but inside is actually very big and nicely decorated with large paintings, old furniture, small pretty chapels, and a huge organ in the back. Finally, there is no fee to enter the cathedral.

6) TRIP TO ANDORRA: Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe and also one of the most unique countries I’ve ever seen so far. The whole country is situated on many giant mountains and its beyond just beautiful every direction you look at. 99.9% of the hotels you book here will have gorgeous mountain views. Andorra le Ville is the capital of this country and because it’s a tax-free country, Andorra is a shopping paradise for everyone.

Andorra la Ville, Capital of Principality of Andorra
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City of blue and white – Delft, the Netherlands

DELFT, THE NETHERLANDS: Delft is the type of city where I don’t mind going over and over again just to hang out and enjoy Dutch people and their culture. Yes, it is a typical Dutch city… meaning small canals running thru the city, old windmills here and there, cheese stores (one of my favorite features of Netherlands), and not to mention the crazy bikers. It is not a heavily touristic city, like Amsterdam, but the charm here is no less than Amsterdam. This small town is world famous for its history, famous University (TU Delft), and its tradition with blue and white ceramics. Even if you are not into ceramics, you will love watching master painters working on their projects and how they have kept their traditions alive over the centuries. Delft is also very close to (less than half an hour drive) Rotterdam, Gouda, Leiden, Dan Hague…perfect to combine these places.

Old town of Delft, the Netherlands

TIME OF TRAVELLING: This month my sister and her husband came to visit us from the USA. They’ve visited Amsterdam before. Delft being only hour and half drive from our home in Tervuren, Belgium, Delft was where we wanted to go before their flight back the next day. Although it was almost mid-June, it was a windy and cloudy day, no sun at all.

WHAT TO BUY AND EAT IN DELFT: The most memorable (and expensive) souvenir you can buy from Delft is of course the blue and white Delftware. If you want to be cheap or don’t care about real stuff, you can get these ceramics in replica items in any store in the old town. But if you want real hand-painted Delaware made in Delft, then you gotta empty your pocket bad. But hey, who knows when you will go back there again…so why not get the authentic Delft porcelain for some a lot more extra cash? Other than that, you will find wooden shoes, tulips, Dutch cheese, miniature windmills in almost all the souvenir shops.

Original hand-painted Royal Delftware

If you want to try typical Dutch dishes, have a raw herring fish sandwich with onion, or battered deep fried fish. You will usually find people selling these in the open marketplaces on weekends. We had our lunch in a restaurant little bit outside of the old town. I had a croquette (kroket in Dutch), which is a deep fried Dutch snack prepared with minced beef, potato, and breadcrumbs. It looked like a hot dog when the lady put it on a bun with ketchup and mustard.

PLACES WE VISITED: We spent about half a day in Delft, mostly in the old town. I just wish the weather was more favorable. If we had more time we could have check out some other famous pottery places in town. Another fun thing to do in this town would be taking a boat tour around the canal, which we didn’t do this time.

1) ROYAL DELFT (KONINKLIJKE PORCELEYNE FLES): Royal Delft, established in 1653, is one of the original 32 Delftware manufacturers and is the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century. The world famous Royal Delftware is still entirely hand-painted according to centuries-old tradition.

Master painter at work in Royal Delft

Royal Delft is about 20 minutes of walk from Delft Stadhuis or New Church. It is open every day from Monday to Sunday and all public holidays from 9-5pm (closed on Sundays and public holidays from November to March). There is an entrance fee of 12 euros per person to enter the factory that includes an audio tour (available in 8 different languages). The tour starts with 2 short films (1st one is the history of Blue Delft and Royal Delft and the last one is more like an interactive movie on its development and production process). After that you get to see the master painter at work, antique Delft pieces, building ceramics, ceramic tiles, one of a kind courtyard, the factory and finally their showroom. The museum also features a collection of Delftware that was owned the Royal Dutch families. Good part about the showroom is that while it has a comprehensive collection of hand-painted Delft Blue by Royal Delft, it also carries an extensive selection of earthenware and souvenirs from other Dutch companies. There are other stores in the old town which sell Royal Delft products and what I have seen, prices are the same.

Historic garden of Royal Delft

2) TOWN HALL (STADHUIS) & HUGO de GROOT MARKT: Delft Town Hall is located in the heart of old town, surrounded by many old buildings, Blue Delft shops, cafes, and other souvenir stores. Facing the town hall is a big bronze statue of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a jurist in the Dutch Republic.

Delft Stadhuis (Town Hall) in Groot Markt

3) NEW CHURCH (NIEUWE KERK): New Church was built between 1383-1510. Its present spire dates from 1875 and is 375 ft. in height. Many famous Dutch citizens and royal members were buried in this church including Hugo Grotius. The church is huge inside but rather a simple one with no grand alter or eye-catching ornaments. The stained-glass windows are also beautiful to look at. But the Mausoleum of PRINCE William of Orange, the FOUNDER of Dutch independence, in the back (1st to be buried in this church) is the focal point of this church. The tomb is nicely decorated with marble pillars, coat of arms, 4 female figures on the 4 corners, and then an image of the lying, dead Prince in the middle.

New Church (Nieuw Kirk) of Delft

New Church is also located in Hugo de Groot Markt, facing the Stadhuis. The church is open from Monday to Saturday 9-6pm. It is 3:50 euros to go inside, which covers entry to Old Church too.

Tomb of Prince William of Orange in New Church of Delft, the Netherlands

4) OLD CHURCH (OUDE KERK): This Brabant-Gothic style church is Delft’s oldest church, being built in 1246. This looked very similar to the New Church, especially its floor, organ, seating arrangement, altar, and the stained-glass windows. This also houses tombs of famous Dutchmen including famous Delft painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). All the way in the back is the tomb/monument of Lieutenant-Admiral Piet Heyn, which is there since 1639. The most INTERESTING FEAUTRE of this church is that it’s 75 meter high brick tower, built in 1350, LEANS about 2 meters from the vertical. During the construction, it became apparent that the base soil was not strong enough to support the building, so the church began to lean. Eventually they had to compensate for the tilt by building counter curves on the upper part of the tower.

Inside Old Church (Oude Kirk) of Delft, the Netherlands

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