Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Want To Take You Higher

You learn something every day. The day in question was my recent appearance at the English-Friendly Montpellier get-together, held in the Belvedere Room of the Corum. Now, the Corum is the big opera house-cum-meeting facility that anchors one end of the Esplanade, a not horribly ugly modern building that's perfectly utilitarian inside.

I chose this shot because it's at least got some color in it, but the stairs also go off to the right, at which point there are more stairs, which lead to a long passageway with grass in it and onwards to even more stairs. These lead to what I think must be the highest publicly-accessible space in downtown Montpellier, the Corum Terrace. It's got a helipad in the middle of it, and today the wind was blowing hard enough that I'm glad I walked instead of taking my chopper.

Now, if you keep walking, you get to some steps which take you down to the aforementioned Belvedere Room (which, it turns out, is also accessible by an elevator), but let's stop and check out the view.

Here, we're looking approximately south. The brick building in the middle distance is the Lycée Joffre, the local high-school, a former fort (appropriately enough) which still has its star-shaped fortifications. It was plopped down there to remind the locals that Paris was watching them, since they had a tendency to get unruly. On the far right, the Ibis Hotel peeks into the frame, with the Polygone shopping mall to its left and the Polygone office building next to that. It is just possible that, between the first and second (counting from the right to left) of those white high-rises, you can see the Mediterranean. Or so claimed a couple of the students I talked with as we left the conference; I have yet to see the local beach. In the foreground, a pedestrian bridge leads over the train tracks.

This next photo shows some of our lovely urban sprawl.

This is approximately northeast, and shows the train tracks heading towards Lunel, where many of the vegetables I get at the market come from. There's not much of import here, but you can see the Avenue de Saint-Lazaire curving off to the left, on which, in a couple of blocks, you'll come to Montpellier's only Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel, the Jardin des Sens. I haven't been inside, but it seems a rather dull location for a hotel, just a few blocks from the immense cemetery. The food had better be good. In the far distance, to the left, the thing that looks like a castle is the chateau d'eau, or water tower, in Castelneau-les-Lez.

Due north, we can see Pic St. Loup looming on the left, and the mountain with the basalt columns to its right (still can't figure out what that one is). A little closer in is the steeple that sent me on a couple of my epic walks last year. I finally figured out it's in the military encampment, and not accessible to the public.

Looking due west (and trying to avoid a young couple who were virtually having intercourse on the wall -- kids today!) over the historic center, the St. Pierre Cathedral being the most notable thing on the skyline, but the coolest building, which can't really be appreciated from the street, is the Ursuline convent, now known as the Agora, and the center of the annual Montpellier Dance festival. This is pretty much in the center of the photo, with two identical cubes with cone-shaped things on top. And you can see the hill as it rises away from all of this to the left.

A little further on, slightly to the south, the hill is more pronounced:

Here you can see the steeple of St. Anne's on the left. In the foreground the Sully Center, where some sort of international studies are conducted and occasional receptions are held. It has, unsurprisingly, a very nice garden just behind that row of flags.

In the bottom of both shots, the Parc Archéologique's arch peeks out. Here's a better view:

This is a remnant of the old city wall, and there are also some old foundation stones, but nothing terribly interesting. Of more interest are the outlines of the ceramics ovens near the tram-stop just to the right of this, where faience pottery was made (outside the city walls, of course, due to the fire danger). Some examples are shown in the superstructure of the elevator which goes up to the Esplanade.

You can also reach the Esplanade via the stairs you see here, which will take you to the Parc Archéologique.

With this, I've gone about 360º atop the Corum, so there you have it, pretty much the whole dang city. Time to come down off the roof and walk in a straight line to the Comédie and home.

(Note: I had to reduce the size of these photos so that some of the stuff I mentioned would fit on my screen. You can click on them to see larger versions.)


  1. The promotory to the right of Pic St-Loup is Hortus (pronounce the "s"). Have you been out there to the Pic St-Loup wine country yet? There's a lot of nice hikes.

  2. Thanks, Sean, I've been wanting to know that since I moved here!

    I'd need a car to get to the wine country, but I've enjoyed the product -- as well as the Grise de Montpellier and St. Georges d'Orges (or however you spell it) since I moved here. I don't hike per se, but I do like to walk around.


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