Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Montpellier, France

This past weekend, Kathleen, Payton and I went on our first weekend trip since arriving in Switzerland. We loaded up the car and headed to Montpellier, France. It was about a 5½ hour drive, mostly through southern France. The terrain reminded me of Texas hill country - especially that of the Fredericksburg area. It was hilly, rocky, red dirt, low trees and scrub brush. I like the Fredericksburg, Texas area so I thought that southern France was quite beautiful.

We drove down on Friday and checked into our hotel - a Holiday Inn - late afternoon. Except for a side trip that we took, we left the car parked the entire weekend. We walked around the old historical part of the city into the dark. We are finding that cities over here seem to have transformed their old historical areas into pedestrian areas. The streets are filled with people and cafe tables. All the restaurants and cafes set up tables outside on the sidewalks and streets. It is really special to sit and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the city.

Saturday was spent looking around the city more and riding the intercity tram. We strolled easterly through the city until we reached Les Rives du Lez. Then we hopped on the tram and rode to the higher west side. We were smart, walked downhill and rode uphill. We got off the tram, hiked a short distance to the highest point in the city. From there we leisurely headed east again through the city. It was on this leg that Payton enjoyed his Nutella topped waffle as you can see in our pictures.

Sunday we took Payton to an aquarium. Surprisingly it was one of the best aquariums I've been too. One interactive display I enjoyed was riding in the wheel house of an ocean fishing boat. A lifesized display that rocked and rolled and shook. All the while a film played before you showing the seas getting rougher by the minute, waves washing over the deck and splashing the windows. It was cool.

After the aquarium we got into our car for our side trip. We headed north to Millau, France. La Viaduc de Millau is there. This is a very cool bridge that opened in 2004. The Discovery Channel has a show about its construction. It's worth watching if you get the chance. Fortunately I've seen it and had a understanding of what I was seeing. A very impressive bridge.

We looked at the bridge from many view points before heading home. I thought I didn't need to drive across the bridge. Heck, neat as it is, it is still just a bridge. I was being cheap. I knew there was a toll to do so - around $20 I thought. I had second thoughts and decided I had to drive across it. I started driving looking for the north side of the bridge. I turned up this road and that road. After driving quite a while my own son started telling me I was lost! This cracked Kathleen up. He wouldn't let up, "Dad's lost!" I wasn't lost. I had a GPS and was moving, never seeing the same thing twice. I wasn't exactly sure where I needed to go, but where ever it was I ended up there. Me lost? No way. I'm glad I decide to cross the bridge. I would have been mad finding out after we left that the toll was only $5.50. Our family can always remember that we drove across La Viaduc de Millau.

On Monday we headed home. On the way we stopped in Nimes, France. There we saw the amphitheatre of Nimes - a Roman amphitheater. It is the best preserved amphitheater in existence. We also saw the only completely preserved ancient Roman temple in the world. All of it was pretty cool stuff.

That's about it. We had a full weekend. So full that our drive back home was at night. Click here to see some pictures of our trip.