TheNewYorkTimes 12082012 36hoursInMontpellier(1) .pdf


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THE NEW YORK TIMES, SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2012

TR

9

36 Hours

Montpellier, France

PHOTOGRAPHS BY REBECCA MARSHALL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

FROM LEFT Place Paul Bec, in the Antigone neighborhood; images of Hemingway adorn the walls at Papa Doble, named for a daiquiri favored by the writer; a tram decorated by Christian Lacroix.

By SETH SHERWOOD

N

OSTRADAMUS, a former
resident of France’s eighthlargest metropolis, might
have put it this way: “The
lord of multicolored pants /
Will conjure two iron serpents / And a
bald builder shall erect / A mighty blue
monolith.” It would be an apt prediction
of the splashy new projects appearing
in this Mediterranean city, which has
recruited titans of fashion and architecture to inject some style and modernity.
Christian Lacroix, celebrated for his radiant clothing lines, has decorated two
recently unveiled tram lines, while the
superstar architect Jean Nouvel devised the plans for the enormous new
monolithic (and very blue) city hall.
Throw in a forthcoming futuristic municipal archives building from the architect Zaha Hadid, and this university
center and night-life hotbed may be
France’s most forward-looking city.

Friday
5 p.m.

• Streetcar Named Lacroix
1

To surf Montpellier’s design wave, ride
tram No. 3 (1.40 euros, or $1.70 at $1.20
to the euro) to the Moularès station.
Designed by Mr. Lacroix, the kaleidoscopic tram cars — covered with
strange sea creatures and exotic marine flora — drops you next to the new
Hôtel de Ville, or city hall. The $130 million 12-story blue monolith was created
by Mr. Nouvel and his co-architect
François Fontès to anchor Montpellier’s fast-rising Port Marianne district.
Walk around the building and admire
the canals, light shafts, pixilated windows and dazzling silvery panels in the
courtyard. Brasserie de l’Hôtel de Ville
(80, place Georges Frêche, 33-4-67-8522-96; bdhv-montpellier.com) is a
pleasant spot to admire the architecture while sipping pastis (2.60 euros).

7 p.m.

• Song and Dance
2

Another iconic French designer —
Jean-Paul Gaultier — has helped reinvigorate Montpellier by doing the cos-

tumes for “The Marriage of Figaro,” for
the reopening of the opera house (Place
de la Comedie, 33-4-67-60-19-99; opera
-montpellier.com) this June after nearly two years of renovations. For modern moves, Agora (18, rue Sainte
Ursule;
33-4-67-60-83-60;
mathildemonnier.com) is a 1641 convent that has been transformed into
Montpellier’s Cité Internationale de la
Danse, a haven of contemporary dance.

The sleek new 123-room Courtyard
by Marriott (105, place Georges
Frêche; 33-4-99-54-74-00; marriott
.com/mplcy) is next to the new city hall
and has a heated outdoor pool and
Mediterranean restaurant. Doubles
from 108 euros ($130) in August.
More intimate, Baudon de Mauny (1,
rue de la Carbonnerie; 33-4-67-02-21-77;
baudondemauny.com) is housed in an
18th-century town house with five
rooms done in impeccable taste, from
Marimekko fabrics to Cole & Son wallpapers. Doubles from 165 euros.

Nice

Montpellier
R ES
RUE
SAINTE
SA
A
AINTE
INT
TE
E
URSU
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UR
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SULE
SU
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ANDORRA

Blac
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Black
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acck
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She
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hee
eep
ep

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oona
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l 2
dee laa D
Daaanse
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nse
ne

Marseille

Cannes

Mediterranean Sea

SPAIN

1000 MILES

BLV
B
LVD
VD. B
BONNEO EONNEE
NOUVE
NOU
N
U E
ELL
ELLE
LE

bream (with pistou). The artichoke
variant is enlivened with red-pepper
olive oil, Parmesan flakes and speck.
Main courses include hearty meats like
entrecôte and côte de veau, but the occasional swordfish special (served with
ratatouille) is also worth reeling in. And
is that a hamburger for dessert? Non.
It’s a bun-size coconut macaron with
blueberry purée inside. A three-course
meal for two costs about 90 euros.

5 Musée
usé
u
ssée
éee Fabre
F bre
b

10 p.m.


3

Arrea
A
Area
Are
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ea
e
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de
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det
etta
et
tail
tai
aiill
ail

An
ntigone
n
t gone

Top Meal, Top Deal

Is L’Atelier Gourmand (17, avenue du
Pont
Juvénal;
33-4-99-51-75-23;
lateliergourmand-montpellier.com) a
gastronomic temple or a design emporium? Judging from the chef Pascale
Vende’s modern menu and the dining
room’s burgundy walls and neo-Moorish tiles, both labels apply. With an ace
three-course dinner menu for only 29
euros, the year-old town-house restaurant is practically a philanthropy as
well. Appetizers include cold green and
white asparagus with tangy asparagus
foam; dessert might be warm liquid
dark chocolate in a highball alongside a
glass of chilled white chocolate with
raspberry jelly. In between, the duck is
robust, with avocado mousse.

PLA
P
LACE
LAC
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RU
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E RIC
R
RICHE
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ICH
C
CH
CHE
HE
H
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EL
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LIE
LIE
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EU

11 Sunday
Sun
un
nd
nday
daayy M
d
day
Marke
Market
Ma
Mar
aark
ar
arke
rk
rket
ket

9 Le
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aain
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8
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THE NEW YORK TIMES

• Papa Knows Best
4

Ernest Hemingway would have loved
Papa Doble (6, rue du Petit Scel; 33-467-55-66-66; papadoble.fr). The stylish
underground bar is a shrine to two of
the Nobel laureate’s favorite things:
booze and himself. Images of Hemingway are all over the cool, cavernous
interior — and a daiquiri favored by the
writer provides the bar’s name. But the
real resident genius is the owner, Julien
Escot, an award-winning bartender
whose concoctions are a global journey,
from the Caribbean Julep (dark rum,
mint, sugar, cinnamon, Pimento Dram
liqueur; 9.50 euros) to Tokyo Society
(vodka, Nigori Yuzuchu sake, lemon
juice, sugar, vanilla bitters, Sichuan
pepper; 9.50 euros). He’s even a writer
as well, with a new book, “Cocktails:
Leçons de Dégustation.”

11 a.m.

• Art of Darkness
5

At the Musée Fabre (39, boulevard
Bonne-Nouvelle;
33-4-67-14-83-00;
museefabre.fr), bet on black. Sure, the
venerable institution brims with colorful paintings by Dutch masters and
other notables, but the real jewels are
the dozens of black canvases donated
by the French abstract artist Pierre
Soulages. Some look like giant Rorschach blots, others like oversize Chinese ink brush swaths. For additional
darkness, the temporary exhibition
“Corps et Ombres” — “Bodies and

Shadows” — features another dark figure, Caravaggio, through Oct. 14.

2 p.m.

• Worship Cod
6

If you can’t get to the sea, get to La
Morue (23, rue du Palais des Guilhem;
33-4-67-52-82-62). Opened last year, this
tiny boathouse-chic restaurant does unfussy preparations of nearly anything
with fins, gills or shells. (The name
means “cod,” a menu staple.) Tender
anchovies are fried just enough to give
a snappy coating without overcooking
the soft meat within; a light touch also
brings out the undersea flavor of the
grilled cod fillet. For dessert, the tiramisù with Nutella is dangerously rich.
Lunch for two runs about 50 euros.

4 p.m.

• Dogs, Dresses, Design
7

Walkers rejoice: L’Écusson, Montpellier’s historical core, is one of the largest pedestrian zones in France, and the
twisting passages of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and 19th-century buildings contain the city’s coolest shops.
Those hard-to-find white fire extinguishers embossed with pictures of
dandified dogs (108 euros) are on sale
at Metropolitan (30, rue Foch; 33-4-6767-18-70; metropolitan-ad.com), an art
gallery and home-décor shop. At No
Comment (47, rue de l’Aiguillerie; 33-467-60-85-91), the leather designer Marc
Jaillot can zip you into a violet sleeveless dress (370 euros) or fuchsia pants

(350 euros). You may expect to run into
Robert Crumb (who lives in the region)
at En Traits Libres (2, rue du Bayle;
entraitslibres.blogspot.com), a haven of
underground
comics,
illustrated
T-shirts and posters by local artists.

6 p.m.

• A Blue Mood
8

You’ll cross paths with everyone from
Lolita to Miss Marple at L’Heure Bleue
(1, rue Carbonnerie; 33-4-67-66-41-05), a
cozy tearoom decorated in 19th-century
British drawing-room style. Those are
the names of two of the many tea
blends (4 to 5 euros) on the eclectic
menu, which is also full of coffees and
pastries. It’s the perfect spot to unwind
after a day of art-gazing and shopping.
Much of the décor is for sale, including
the set of 19th-century Baccarat liqueur
glasses (160 euros) and the hammered
copper lampshade from Afghanistan
(245 euros).

9 p.m.

• Bath Time

11 p.m.

• Red and Black
10

12

L’Atelier
L
err
Gou
G
Go
ourman
ou
ourm n
nd
d
3

Noo Com
N
Co
Coomm
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ment
m
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nt

River
Lez

Place
P
lace
lac
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Th
Th
hessa
he
essalie
eess
ssaali
alliiie

11 p.m.

Saturday

If You Go

ITALY

FRANCE

11/4
1/
/ M
MILE
ILE
ILE

9

A former bathhouse, the gorgeously
renovated 18th-century stone building
containing Les Bains (6, rue Richelieu;
33-4-67-60-70-87;
les-bains-de
-montpellier.com) now draws couples
and families who love to splash about
its warren of cozy, velvety rooms and
dive into its classic brasserie fare. Carpaccios are a specialty, and it seems
there’s nothing they can’t slice ultrathin, from salmon (with olive oil) to sea

The proliferation of quality wines from
the Languedoc region has resulted in a
parallel proliferation of wine bars
around Montpellier. A 2011 vintage, La
Robe Rouge (3, place St. Ravy; 33-9-5024-91-89; laroberouge.fr) is a small,
modern space with enough candlelight
for a romantic date. The 10-page wine
book, meanwhile, will ensure a tipsy
one. The Château des Karantes 2006
(5.50 euros a glass; 40 euros a bottle) is
a fragrant, inky, woody wine made
from syrah grapes. Beer is also ascendant in Montpellier thanks to the Black
Sheep (21, boulevard Louis Blanc; 33-467-58-08-65; theblacksheep.fr). The airy
ground-floor bar draws musicians and
artists for its roster of some 300 beers,
which includes Belgian cult favorites
like Chimay (3.50 euros), while the
basement beckons with live bands.

Sunday
10 a.m.

• Sunday Savior
11

Woe to the souls seeking a decent meal
on Sunday, when nearly all of the worthy restaurants are shuttered. Luckily,
a market (marchepaysanantigone
.free.fr) is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
along Avenue Samuel de Champlain,
filling the neighborhood with the smells
of roasting chickens. Établissement
Martin et Fils (33-6-13-54-73-78) sells
dry sausage (29.99 per kilo) and sticks
of dried chorizo (2 euros for five sticks).
La Muse Gourmette (33-6-84-03-12-27)
has a fine, gluten-free carrot cake with
cardamom (1.60 euros).

Noon

• Comedy or Tragedy?
12

Across the street, the surreal Antigone
neighborhood, named for the ancient
Greek play, is an interesting spot to
stroll or picnic while the city dozes.
Erected principally during the 1970s
and 1980s, the district sports a Hellenic
theme, and the towering blocks of ersatz classical buildings suggest a Las
Vegas casino complex that was sold off
as public housing. Admire the statue of
Dionysus in the square bearing the
wine god’s name, then find a bench in
Place de Thessalie and survey Montpellier’s first major attempt to add an
innovative new neighborhood. Whether
the result is comedy or tragedy depends on the audience, but one thing is
sure: It won’t be the last.
Æ


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