On the Contemporary Art Trail
in Languedoc-Roussillon, France
The city of Montpellier sits on a hilltop and winding narrow streets and alleys spread like a spiders web down. On the bottom is a part of the city named Antigone, with a futuristic Jetsons look designed by Barcelona architect Ricardo Bofill.
Since Nostradomis was a student here a look to the future has always played a part in Montpellier’s present. The city's fantastic Fabre Art Museum has been closed for renovations but is now back up and better than ever.
Montpellier is a remarkable city and thankfully filled with lodgings for all tastes and budgets. A very special place to stay is the five-room Baudon de Mauny, a chateaux like building smack in the old section of the city. It was pure elegance. It dates from the 18th century but has all the modern conveniences. With a few steps sit an amazing assortment of restaurants and bistros awaiting your lordship. That is just how you will feel.
Not far, only about thirty miles from Montpellier is the seaside city of Sete, a fisherman’s place with all that that implies, seafood so fresh and tasty you will not believe it possible. The market is the place to get a feel for the bounty of edible treasure.
In fact beds of mussels and oysters are farmed just after the breakwater, and colorful boats cruise down the cities canals on their way to harvest from the Mediterranean. Sete doesn't dress for the visitor, it doesn't have to. Her charm is authentic and real.
One modern addition to the city is the Centre Regional D'Art Contemporain (CRAC), a museum designed for the artwork it displays. During my visit the exhibition Open Frames was running, photos that will strike the soul. The museum uses modern technology to guide visitors, a place to scan your smart phone is provided with information on the displays and building.
Sete is a marvelous city to stroll and my hotel the Hotel de Paris was equally welcoming and well appointed after reopening in 2010. The artwork will have you feeling as if you're still among masters. Its location on 2 Rue Mistral is perfect for exploring the surrounding streets and restaurants serving some of the best seafood I’ve ever tasted.
A Rich Combination, Serignan and Beziers
CRAC has another museum located in the town of Serignan, its colorful glass walls make it very hard to miss that it also houses different displays and exhibitions, many local artists work is featured. In fact works by well known artist Dado can be found. Dado was very fond of the area. A visit to his studio can be arranged and offers a rare glimpse into his creative mind. In fact Dado's studio was my favorite find on the trip.
Most interesting are the paintings collected by Jean Moulin, the famous resistance leader during WWII. In fact his cover during the war was as an art dealer.
The city itself is a place to soak in the local lifestyle amongst history and a stroll along part of the Canal de Midi is highly recommended. The city’s cathedral was rebuilt after thousands of Cather where burned alive inside the old church. Todays peaceful Beziers had a very turbulent past.
For a very peaceful repast a stay at the Chateau Hermitage de Combas in Servian is highly recommended. The Chateau is located amidst vineyards and stunning. The rooms are more like apartments with kitchens and full service. A great chance to hit a market and try the bounty, at the least great wine and cheeses. The grounds are meant for walking and make the perfect base for the whole area.
Nimes New Art Scene
The view from the restaurant at the Carre d’ Art a Nimes looks a Roman Temple scrubbed blinding white, built almost 20 centuries ago in the center of the city. The modern building housing the Carre was designed by Sir Robert Foster and built in 1992.
The museum houses permanent collections of works by Hanati, Richard Frize, Gherrad Richter and Richard Long, a who’s who of contemporary art. The other half of the building is the library. The whole building is itself a work of art.
Pleasant thoughts of my few days exploring the new art in Languedoc and Roussillon filled my last afternoon sunning in a café surrounded by a perfect French square. It all became clear to me, find a Medici like family to back me.
Learn an art skill and move here. Until then I’ll have my memories. I continued that dream through the night in the fitting Royal Nimes Hotel, within view of the Carre.
If You Go
My flight to France was on Air France,
consistently great service and seating. Connecting flight to Montpellier was easy to make and all legs of the trip on time.
As always when heading to France I start my research with the French Tourism’s website. A great resource for all things a visitor might need to know.
Local areas also have sites filled with information for the visitor including the Museums:
Languedoc – Sete Serignan Nimes Beziers-
Montpellier has more styles of lodgings than most cities I’ve visited, from one to five star. I found the same to be true throughout my journey. I felt the ones I stayed in were wonderful so I have included links.
Chateau Hermitage de Combas-
Hotel de Paris, Sete-
Royal Hotel Nimes-
Baudon de Mauny Montpellier-
GoNOMAD's Senior Travel Editor Kent St. John is making a recovery to his former hard traveling ways after many bouts against cancer. Now once again he's ready to hit the road in 2012, and we wish him all the best! Read his blog, Be Our Guest.
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