Arc de Triomph, Montpellier, Languedoc France
The late bus in Montpellier is nicknamed "Le Rabelais" after Francoise Rabelais, who was born near Chinon, where his father worked as a lawyer. Leaving monastery he went to Montpellier to study Medicine, and thence lived in Lyon, where he apart from being a doctor wrote Pantagruel, that would be the start of his Gargantua series.
Rabelais, in true Languedoc style, espoused the virtues of wine, food, and being merry - the good things of life through the main character Pantagruel. His riotous humor and audacious ideas were protected by the patronage of King François I. After the Kings death, he was threatened with hereticism for some time, so he had to go into hiding.
From 1534 to 1539 he taught medecine, and this anti-cleric became curate of Saint-Christophe-du-Jambet in Northern France before his death in Paris in 1553.
His famous quotes include:
“Everything comes in time to those who can wait”
“In their rules there was only one clause: Do what you will.”
“When I drink, I think; and when I think, I drink.”
“I have known many who could not when they would, for they had not done it when they could”
“Half the world does not know how the other half lives.”
Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus) was born in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France. His father had converted to Catholicism, before he was from a Jewish family.
After being at Avignon University, where he left because of the Plague, he travelled learning about herbal medicine. He then went to study Medicine at Montpellier in 1529, where he was expelled because he practiced apothecary which was considered a manual activity and therefore unworthy for a student.
By 1531 he had left Montpellier, for Agen, where he married. He created a "rose pill" to fight the Plague, and after the death of his wife and children, spent time travelling in Italy, eventually trying to stop the Plague in Salon-de-Provence and Aix-en-Provence.
After 1550 he took the name Nostredamus, and soon wrote Les Propheties - one thousand mainly French quatrains that made him well known to the present day.
He surprisingly was not persecuted by the Church, and recieved support from Catherine de Médicis, the queen consort of King Henri II of France.
Born of a wealthy protestant family in Montpellier, Bazille began by being a medical student, then moving to Paris, to further his studies. In Paris he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley and enthused over Impressionist Paintings. After not passing a medical exam he became a full time artist, sharing his studio with Claude Monet, and later Renoir. Camille Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, and sometimes Courbet would often visit his studio - he gained respect for being able to verbally spar with Edgar Degas.
At the age of 23 he painted most of his famous paintings including "The Pink Dress - View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault" (Musee d'Orsay, Paris)
Unfortunately at the age of 29, he was fighting for the French against the Prussians in the France Prussian war in Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande (near Orleans) where he died whilst leading his unit attacking the enemy. He is buried in the Protestant cemetary in Montpellier
Juliette Gréco was born in Montpellier in 1927 to a Corsican father and a mother who became active in the Résistance, in the Hérault département of southern France.
She moved to Paris, where she dressed bohemian style all in black with her long black hair. She was friends with Boris Vian, Jean Paul Sartre, Miles Davis, and Jean Cocteau - who filmed her in "Orphée" (1949).
Sartre at one time asked why Miles Davis did not marry Juliette Greco (Greco and Miles were lovers).
American movie producer and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who was Gréco's lover, cast her in several films from the late 1950s to early 1960s .
From 1959 to 1963, she dedicated herself to singing, meeting and getting to know contemporary singers: Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, Guy Béart and Léo Ferré.
In 2009 she has created an album with songs written by Olivia Ruiz and rapper Abd al Malik
The youthful vibrant energy of Montpellier is seen at its best in the place de la Comédie, a broad pedestrianized street, encompassing street market, cafés, the Opera Comedie (1888) and the newer L'Opera Berlioz at Le Corum. There is always something going on and if you just want honest shopping you can go to Le Polygone shopping mall with shops such as FNAC and Habitat The Odysseum has IKEA and APPLE stores.
Buses are frequent from Montpellier to Palavas-Les-Flots where you will find Montpellier's popular beach resort, with 7 kms of sandy beaches and 57 restaurants. In 1743 the construction of the Ballestras Redoubt, a small 18th century fort, became the center of this fishing village. The fort is now the home to Musée Albert Dubout, Dubout was a satirical artist working in cartoons and illustrations that created some comic masterpieces that were initiated by this lively resort. His posters are masterpieces in popular art and have been used for films such as Clochemerle and Marius (a film of Pagnol). Some of the best beaches are towards Maguelone.
Also worth seeing is the Parc Zoologique de Lunaret that covers a huge 80 hectares of land with nearly 10 kms of paths, with 90 species and 500 animals. There is also an Amazon greenhouse.
Or visit some of the wealthy properties that surround the city - including Chateau de la Mogère with its considerable collection of antiques and artworks; or the Chateau de Flaugergues where you can take a private guided tour, or visit the lovely gardens, or taste the wine from the vineyards; or the Chateau de Lavérune with its exotic park and Hofer-Bufy Museum where you can see contemporary art.
Click to see more art galleries in Montpellier
Montpellier is very good for nightclubs and discotheques - some recommended include Cargo (go to website to possibly download free entrance pass) - good for salsa, students, and varied disco; Discotheque Le Fizz for good all round fun with good variety; Rockstore, Montpellier establishment with concert stage, discotheque, and cafe bar for good mix of live and late night madness.
Theatres and Venues
Jam - part school, part jazz club performance space with 120 concerts a year from serious to funk; La Cicrane Comedy theatre; Le Kawa Comedy theatre; Theatre de Treize Vents - National Drama Centre with various productions at Domaine de Grammont; Montpellier Opera - at Opera Berlioz/Le Corum and other venues; Le Zenith Sud - various performances, events, concerts (Lenny Kravitz April 09, Indochine November 09, Peking Circus March 10); Montpellier Dance Festival (June 19 - July 4 2009) - yearly event with some of the best names in dance strutting their stuff! (Mark Morris Dance Group 2009).
Montpellier is excellent for restaurants and places to dine out at.
Terminal # 1 by Pourcel
For a more traditional restaurant in Montpellier try Restaurant les Vignes.
Looking for a restaurant stylish, quiet, with natural views but only 5 minutes from place de la Comedie try La Reserve Rimbaud.
Also Restaurant Domaine de Soriech (5 kms from Montpellier, near Lattes) with excellent dining and a lovely garden view - menus start at about 29 euros.
Vietnamese food? - try the highly recommended Nha Que at 30 rue Frederic Bazille - open only Thursday to Saturday evenings! Average menu 26 euros. Tel 06 16 88 89 74
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More about Montpellier
For a quick trip out of Montpellier visit the 12th century Cistercian Abbaye de Valmagne the largest wine producing monastery in France - its also beautiful just to visit and explore.