Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Montpellier, France - Monday December 31, 2001
We started the day with both Jennifer and Connie not feeling well but game to proceed.
We took the tram from the Marriott Courtyard to the old city. Our first stop was at the Comedie Plaza in from of Montpellier's oldest Opera House. We went immediately to the Tourist Office. The tour we had hoped to take was filled but we arranged for a private tour at 2. Then we set out on foot following the Tourist Map guide.
We walked for about an hour through the old city. One place we visited was the Convent of the Dominicans. The paintings and the stained glass windows were especially beautiful in this small place of worship.
We had lunch, returned to the Tourist Office and met our guide, Danielle Christol. What a wonderful guide! She took us on some of the same streets and lanes that John had led us to but we saw a lot more than in our first excursions. And we were able to enter several buildings that have limited entry. Here are some pictures that I took on our walk with a few comments associated with each picture. Don't forget that when you click on a picture you can see a larger version. When you want to return to the blog, just close the window. This applies to all pictures in the blog.
This is a statue of Les 3 Graces which stands in front of the older Opera House at Place Comedie. At midnight it was covered with people while fireworks exploded all around the Plaza.
Danielle got us to look up! Here we see the insignia of a wine merchant: vines and olive trees above the beautiful door.
And here is the cupola of another wine merchant's palace.
Inside the Eglise Saint Roche we found a beautiful window depicting the Cathedral Saint Pierre in Montpelliere. Also in the window we find Saint Roch, the patron saint of Montpellier.
One of the interesting things we found inside the old city were several examples of trompe d'oeil. These are walls painted to look like real parts of the object on which they are painted. Here are several examples.
One of the oldest places we visited was Le Mikvé, the ritual Jewish bath which was used fro the mid 1200s to the late 1400s when the Jews were driven out of Montpellier after Montpellier became part of France rather that a protectorate of Spain. The baths were used monthly by women and prior to important rituals by men.
Another fascinating building we visited was the Hotel Haguenot, a massive home occupied by a very rich merchant in the 18th and 19th centuries. The building is still owned by one family but is now divided into a number of very large apartments. Insert MBicycle
In addition to a tromp d'oeil on a wall we also saw several bicycles which began to appear on walls in the old city two or three years ago. Nothing is known for sure about the secret artist who has been placing these bicycles in the walls of the old city.
Montpellier also has an Arc de Triomphe. It is a lot smaller than the one in Paris but you can go to the top by way of a 92 step spiral staircase.
Here we see our group at the top.
Where was I? Well, someone had to take the picture! Can you imagine me on the top? I can't!
While the others were observing Montpellier in the thin air above the city, I walked about 100 more yards to a cliff where I could see the 18th century Aqueduc Saint Clement,that brought water to Montpellier from the village of Saint Clement.
We finished our tour by walking by the faculty of medicine, the oldest continually operating school of medicine in the Occidental world and the Cathedral Saint Pierre. We also passed La Giraf, a restaurant recommended by Danielle and operated by a young man and his wife. She was there as we passed so I reserved a table for tonight - New Year's Eve.
We returned to La Giraf at 20.00 for an absolutely stupendous dinner. There were seven courses. First, we had a glass of champagne with a gooseberry at the top and a cinnamon stick in the champagne (not pictured). This was followed by an amuse-bouche. It consisted of a small portion of salmon tartare, a small portion of fois gras pate, and a lentil expresso (heated cream infused with cream of lentils) (not pictured).
Next came an oyster and a sea urchin. This got my attention and I took a picture with my iPhone. Both were wonderfully delicious and attractively presented as you can tell from this photograph. The serving plate was what looked like a piece of slate.
This was followed by a wonderful serving of turbot on a bed of mushrooms and vegetables with a beautiful cream/fish stock sauce (not pictured).
I came to my senses for course 5 and took pictures of everything from here on. This course (number 5) was a delightful roasted pheasant which you can see here.
Next came the cheese course. On the left were three rows of what appeared to be cheese. The middle row, however, consisted of apple slices. On the right was a "salad" with a perfect oil and vinegar dressing.
The final course was dessert. It was chestnut ice cream topped with candied strings of brown sugar and accompanied by a blueberry, a blackberry, and lingonberries.
Oh my, what a gastronomic treat and celebration. Thank you, La Giraf!
Just before midnight we departed and walked back to catch our tram. We passed through the crowds at Place Comedie at exactly midnight. As noted earlier ,the statue of Les 3 Graces was covered, top to bottom, with people. Fireworks exploded all around.
We caught the tram (the last one) shortly after midnight.
Happy New Year to all.