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Overnight in Montpellier or outside for an easier getaway? Suggestions please...

Overnight in Montpellier or outside for an easier getaway? Suggestions please...

Old Jan 14th, 2008, 12:54 AM
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Overnight in Montpellier or outside for an easier getaway? Suggestions please...

Hello fellow fodorites, in late May we will be travelling from Toulon (probably departing around 5pm) to Le Bugue in the Dordogne region, where we will be staying for a week.
According to viamichelin, we will find ourselves in the vicinity of Montpellier about 2 hours after departure (all being well.) I would like advice/suggestions on where to overnight - is Montpellier difficult to navigate in/out of or is there somewhere smaller and slightly off the beaten track (or autoroute) where we could break our journey? We generally prefer smaller 'charming' hotels rather than large chains but also acknowledge this is an overnighter not a holiday but nice surroundings for a walk and dinner if they can be had, would be great.
Thanks in advance as always.
ozgirl is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2008, 04:50 AM
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I think Montpellier would make a terrific stop, it is a lively and vibrant city with a karge student population. I personally enjoy Montpellier that we've stayed there 3 times at the very nice 4 star Sofitel in Place Comedie. There is a simple Ibis very close by as well as Mercure if you can't find a charming local hotel that you like. Montpellier comes alive at night with the student population. It's very easy to navigate simply by following the Place Comedie signs.

Alternatively, you can also stay in Nimes. We've stayed at L'Orangerie(local and cheaper 3 star) which is somewhat close to the freeway. http://tinyurl.com/284hhj
However I would choose Montpellier for its more vibrant surrounding. I'm sure you can search through tripadvisor to find a good local hotel.
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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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Thankyou DAX, will look into these suggestions.
Any other suggestions?
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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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We stayed at the Hotel du Parc last year. It's a very pretty and charming hotel, a bit outside of city center. If I were to return to Montpellier, I would stay there again.


Here's a link to a blog I started about our trip...the two latest entries are about Montpellier

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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 05:21 PM
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Hi Liz, the Hotel du Parc looks lovely but your blog entry about finding it doesn't inspire me with confidence!
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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 08:29 PM
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Liz, I like Hotel du Parc pictures, it reminds me of L'Orangerie in Nimes, simple but with charm. What was in the immediate surrounding? Anything worth strolling for? I can imagine the nightmare if you drove through the really tricky Avenue Jean Mermoz to get to the hotel. One has to know all the weird turns just to stay on the street plus the traffic jam is one of the worst in Montpellier.

That said if the surrounding is lively, then it can be reached easier from the direct south (by taking the subsequent freeway exit)to avoid Jean Mermoz street.

I personally prefer to stay in Place du Comedie which is the heart of Montpellier student/commercial life. I would even stay in the plain IBIS hotel room just to have the direct access to Place du Comedie, Rue Foch & the old town pedestrian area. We utilize the fancy & fast street trams once we park our car inside the hotel parking lot. Our favorite is the Sofitel because their larger rooms with a 42 inch flat screen TV are very comfortable (standard rooms are not that good). It is connected to the large shopping mall which connects Place du Comedie with the "futuristic" Antigone. Access from the freeway is also much easier with no traffic due to the above ground roadway.

Montpellier is really worth an overnight, just make sure you come in from the south toward Place du Comedie. The pedestrian zone in Montpellier is so large & attractive that you don't need to go beyond. One of the cheap and fun places to eat is any of the outdoor cafes on Place Jean Jaures. Good for people watching just like Place du Comedie but more intimate. There is a Michelin star restaurant on the square by the Prefecture that gave us a fantastic culinary experience.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:47 AM
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The Hotel du Parc is in a fairly quiet residential area. We also like that there was a courtyard where we could sit at night when we returned to the hotel before going to bed. But from my memory, I recall that it is only a 10-15 minute walk to the northern edge of the historic district.

If you wanted to be in the midst of things, accomodations near Place du Comedie would probably be better (it's also closer to the train station if that's an issue).

I chose Hotel du Parc, because I thought for the price, it was one of the prettiest hotels I found. And in for our budget, I preferred the charm of Parc vs location near the train station.

Traffic wasn't the issue in finding our hotel. There are alot of one way and dead-end streets that on our map, didn't appear to be so. I don't know if arriving on a Sunday made things worse (i.e, more of the smaller roads being closed to non-residential traffic). The Avenue Jean Mermoz does seem to ring a bell.....We also tried navigating streets through the old center and sevral times, a road would have metal pylons that would prevent you from continuing through. Though we did witness several times, that the car just before us could get through. We assumed that these were residents who were allowed access.

Montpellier was an overnight stop for us also. We chose it b/c we wanted to experience something we hadn't seen before and needed to stay in a city where we could drop off our rental car(this was our third trip in three years to Southern France). Normally, we prefer staying in the countryside.

If you do stay in Montpellier, I think DAX gave you some good advice. And if you choose Hotel du Parc, I would try to email them ahead of time for the driving directions to help you navigate Montpellier and avoid our dilema.
lp_nyc is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 07:25 AM
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Hi ozgirl,
Another vote for you to overnight in Montpellier. I studied there for a semester in college and loved it. It is a beautiful, vibrant city and would make a perfect stopover. Be sure to enjoy an espresso while watching the world go by on Place de la Comedie. I can't give advice on hotels since I never had to find lodging there, but anywhere within the central historic district should be fine, as it is all very walkable.

If you have time, you might take a stroll through the arch at the Porte du Peyrou to the lovely Place du Peyrou, where you can see the St-Clement Aqueduct. It was one of my favorite places to watch the sunset.

hausfrau is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 11:40 AM
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I really liked Montpellier and don't think it's too difficult to navigate, but it is a major city, so don't be mistaken about that. I stayed at the Royal Hotel just between the train station and place de la Comedie, and I also recommend staying there, not out farther (such as where HOtel du Parc is located) for only one night.

I don't remember any Sofitel right on place de la Comedie. There is one a bit farther on the other side of that newish mall (Polygone). that's where the Ibis is, also, I think. It isn't too far away and might be a convenient place to drive to, though, as it's in the new Antigone area. There are lots of other hotels in that area, also, though.

I really liked the Royal, it's a nice 3*, nothing deluxe. I didn't have a car to park, though, and it's on a pedestrian street. There is a large car park just a couple short blocks at the train station, though, I imagine. I rented a car there and I think there is parking.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Thank you all for such detailed replies.
I think Montpellier sounds like an ideal place to overnight.
Given that it will be late May, I am not sure if I need to book somewhere or just 'wing it' in case we do get away from Toulon earlier and subsequently cover more distance than Montpellier.
We will have a navigation system in our car for the first time ever in Europe - I wonder how much difference this will make to finding the hotel!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 04:01 PM
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I also agree that Montpellier is well worth a stop. We spent a month there when we went to French language school, and we were pleasantly surprised by the beauty and terrific ambience.

One thing to keep in mind: the area around Place du Comedie is wonderful, but parking is an issue. Since you will have a car, I would choose a hotel with a good parking arrangement.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:06 PM
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Another vote for Montpelier, though I don't have a hotel suggestion. I always think of it as "little Paris", a very young college town (lots of students), with one of the oldest universities/ med schools in Europe. A ton of Roman ruins, an aqueduct and so much more. Well worth a couple of days.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:33 PM
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A couple of years ago we stayed a night or two at the Sofitel Antigone in Montpellier (1, rue des Pertuisanes), which was quite nice although a modern chain hotel. It has a pool on the roof, which in late May might be pleasant. It is in the Ricardo Bofill-designed Antigone section, which is connected with the center of town by a large shopping mall.

However, I'm not sure what route you're taking between Toulon and the Dordogne and if Nimes is on your way I agree with DAX that it might be a good stop and easier to navigate into and out of.

There's a wonderful little hotel (I think about 6 rooms) called Les Jardins Secrets that I would go some distance out of my way to stay at again. Charm galore, large rooms, lovely breakfast, gorgeous pool in a lovely garden, all hidden behind walls that give no hint of the delights behind them. And Nimes is worth seeing.

shellio is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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Just another point of view: we were not at all impressed by Montpellier. I would 100 times rather stay in Nimes, which we thought was beautiful and fascinating. Montpellier's biggest attraction was a shopping mall.

Here is a blog entry my husband wrote about our day in Montpellier. (I will say the weather wasn't great the day we were there, which can influence your feelings about a place, but it is not some place I'd be inclined to go back to.)

nonnafelice is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:51 PM
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Thanks again everyone, Shellio your suggestion near Nimes looks sensational but a little over our budget for overnight unfortunately. Would love to stay there for a week!
Without doubt Montpellier seems to be a popular choice, the decision I have to make I guess is whether to commit to it, or not book and "see how we go on the day" in case we manage to cover more miles than anticipated.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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Sorry nonnafelice, I think I posted at the same time as you. Thanks for an honest alternative view.

I am torn between checking out this city which is obviously much loved by many and finding somewhere small and navigable that won't delay the journey too much .... I know, the trick is to enjoy the journey not just the destination (and we do I promise), but I don't want to spend hours trying to find the hotel either!
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 06:55 PM
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The accor hotels have a 6pm same day cancelation policy for their normal rates if you want to book at Ibis/ Mercure/ Sofitel as a back up. If you book early the normal rates tend to be better. I've cancelled at 6pm from the freeway thinking that I could chance finding a charming local hotel, but I ended up staying at the Sofitel for the third time.

Montpellier is huge so it's easy to miss the good parts of the city. Antigone is indeed the strangest part of Montpellier but if you contrast it against the old grand roman architecture along the palm tree lined boulevard and the roman aquaduct then you appreciate the thematic harmony of the greek futuristic Antigone. I hope you revisit Montpellier someday so you can fully appreciate it. I think you also missed the cafe life and culture in Montpellier. We really enjoy the outdoor restaurants & bars in the historical section.

I also find driving through the southwestern part of Montpellier fascinating as I watched the multigenerational Algerian population & their version of the lay back mediterranean lifestyle. They gave another contrasting flavor in a french architecture setting with all the meandering charming lanes.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 09:03 PM
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Thank you DAX, that is a good thought.
I wonder if Montpellier knows it has such an enthusiastic fan club on Fodors!
Thanks everyone again.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 09:40 PM
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I think what I like most about Montpellier is actually the energy from the large student population. It also has a subtle feel of an international city.

We also like Nimes and have stayed there twice but it's a more of a regional city and it doesn't have the energy of Montpellier. Still, if time doesn't allow you to reach Montpellier(45 min beyond Nimes), staying in Nimes will be just fine. You can have a subdued dinner in the restaurant area around the Arenes roman amphitheatre. In the morning the only other "must see" is the tiny but well preserved roman temple Maison Caree and perhaps the art museum across the street. From there you can walk a couple blocks to the Quai de la Fontaine and follow it toward the Jardin de la Fontaine before driving on.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 08:25 AM
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I wouldn't worry too much about finding your hotel if you are going to have a navigation unit. (Personally I find traveling in Europe much less stressful with a navi, supported by a good map!) Just be sure to print directions provided by your hotel so you have something as backup.

I think what DAX and others are trying to say is that Montpellier is a thriving college town, a place where you can experience how the "real people" live, not necessarily a tourist attraction. I mean that in the best of ways - I just got back from living in Stuttgart for two and a half years, and while it isn't high on the typical tourist checklist, Stuttgart is repeatedly voted on of the best cities to live in Germany, and I loved it. I feel similarly about Montpellier.

I personally never liked the Antigone area either - nonnafelice, from your husband's description, it seems like it is just as empty and impersonal now as it was when I was there over 10 years ago. Wandering the streets of Montpellier's historic district and finding a nice outdoor cafe or cozy restaurant for dinner is a much better way to spend your time. I wish I could remember the names of some of my favorite haunts, but since I am in the middle of moving, I can't find my old journals at the moment!

I also enjoyed a day trip to Nimes while I was living in Montpellier; the Roman structures there are fascinating, but for a quick stopover (which I think is what ozgirl is looking for) I would still choose Montpellier.
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