My trip to France – the REAL story

[If you follow my blog, or any of my social media, you know that] I went to the South of France over the holidays. About a month ago, I was just recovering from jet lag, and about to begin a week of adventure over there, with my husband and our youngest, aka Mademoiselle.*

Once back in the U.S. (but being in love with France, and all things French), I was ecstatic to tell anyone who asked (and would listen) where we went (Montpellier, Avignon, and Lyon), what we did, where we stayed, etc. etc.

I could talk for hours a long, long time about our vacation, but, not wanting me to go on and on elaborate/tell stories about it, what most people were satisfied to hear was: “We had a great time!”

And we did.

But before the trip completely in any way fades from my memory, I’ve decided to describe some of our special memorable moments and events.

  • when, the first evening, we three walked down streets decorated with Christmas lights, and had dinner at a lovely restaurant, Le Petit Jardin, that was closing for the holidays the following day;
  • when, the next evening, the three of us dined at Les Jardins des Sens, in the hotel of the same name, and it was fantastic;
  • when we wandered through the town that weekend and had coffee and tea at Mademoiselle’s favorite cafés, where she had gone to study and hang out during the semester;
  • when I marveled at how Montpellier had changed (and how it hadn’t) since I was there a long time ago on my year abroad, and, when I had moments of déjà vu (except that I HAD already vu‘d), as we explored the city, and wandered around;
  • when Mademoiselle didn’t mind  minded  began not to mind again, that I was speaking French to whoever I could, and I did decently  fine  pretty darn well, practicing my French and communicating with tout le monde, in their native language;
  • when we wandered around, window-shopping, and going to museums and movies when almost everything was closed on Sundays;
  • when, after staying at good-to-great hotels in Montpellier and Avignon, my husband and I checked into a fabulous 5-star hotel near our friends’ home in Lyon (Mademoiselle stayed with them) for a few days, near the end of our trip (and we want to stay there again, someday);
  • when our French friends welcomed us into their home for the holidays, took us to church with them, gave us (very French) gifts, and included us in their family festivities;
  • when Mademoiselle suggested visiting Palavas-les-flots (the beach town, 20 minutes away from Montpellier, and where I lived as a student) on a Sunday – but, unable to find transportation, we gave up (although we could have taken a taxi, but didn ‘t think of it). But just knowing that Mademoiselle wanted to go there with me was almost enough;
  • when we ate French cheeses, crêpes, patè, and so much other good food, and drank wine.

So, if you were curious about our trip, but haven’t had time  were too shy  forgot to ask, but woudn’t mind knowing, there you have it.

*See my “Postcards from Europe” posts, in which I share the postcards I received from all over Europe from Mademoiselle last fall during her semester abroad.


Above: a card we received from our friends after our return home. It’s an image of the Berges du Rhône et Hôtel-Dieu (the banks, or quays and paths, and the hotel on the west bank of the Rhône and the Presque-Isle – peninsula – between the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, which run through Lyon). The Hôtel-Dieu was a hospital for centuries, but is now being converted into a luxury hotel.

Avignon and Montpellier encore

Some parts of these two French cities haven’t changed for centuries.

This summer, during our five days in le Midi (the south of France), my husband and I spent an afternoon in Avignon. Arriving after lunch, we spotted and entered a parking garage near la gare with only moderate difficulty (having to back out of an unmarked a wrong entrance, and, with embarrassment, forcing the car behind us to do the same). Heureusement, I was driving.

It was a hot day and, during its July festival, the town was crowded with visitors from France and elsewhere. But perhaps because, as a student, though I’d lived just over ninety kilometers away for almost a year, I’d never ventured over to Avignon, I wanted to see le pont d’Avignon and look around — as a tourist.

We climbed les escaliers to this view of the pont, then saw the Palais des Papes on our way to Place de l’Horloge.

I wanted to visit another famous town in the region, Nîmes, but because we’re Americans (and therefore, had planned to do more than time would allow), we had to skip it and head over to Montpellier, happily* arriving there at cocktail hour.

At my request, our agent de voyage had booked us at a mid-priced more-expensive-than-in-the-U.S. (but still perfect for our budget) Best Western hotel, Le Guilhem, which we loved once we found it.** However, with no hotel bar evident, we set out à pied to find some alcohol a nice restaurant.

As luck would have it, we found one right next to our hotel on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau called Le Petit Jardin. Malheureusement, c’était complet (full — although it didn’t look that way). Undeterred (but unhappy that our agent hadn’t found and booked it, since we were celebrating our wedding anniversary), we got a table at another restaurant, Volodia, on the same rue, and ordered champagne.

The following day, a Friday, we did some exploring. Some parts of Montpellier were just as I recalled, and some parts of it were quite different. We walked through the campus where I had attended classes and had studied at la bibliothèque. We visited nearby Palavas-les-flots and found my old (and only slightly changed) apartment building. We toured Montpellier some more (mais pas en voiture) and learned a little of its historyIt was a strange but wonderful feeling to be in a place where I had missed mon ami.

Château d’eau du Peyrou

Aqueduc Saint Clément

In my upcoming novel, the protagonist and her girlfriends get around Montpellier and its environs very well. They often meet at a café in the centrally located Place de la Comédie, or at the statue of Les Trois Grâces in front of the Opéra National de Montpellier.

Les Trois Grâces in Place de la Comédie

All of which are still there — though somewhat changed.

* at heure de pointe (rush hour)! As we inched along in a traffic jam from the autoroute, a siren-blasting emergency vehicle passed us and several other vehicles with difficulty, due to a complete lack of room.

**See the post Le Tour de (Montpellier) France

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑