I went to Montpellier to meet a friend from the US, but didn’t realize she was actually at a town 40 minutes away!  I’d taken the train because my weekend discount card gets me great train costs, plus cheap parking and a 15% discount on train meals.  Unfortunately, the public transportation to see her really only worked for Saturday, so I had to make plans for the rest of the weekend on the fly!

Idea #1: Cheap Tram to the Beach (or not)!
A quick internet search revealed that tram 3 runs to a beach . . . for just 3.80 RT or 4.30 for a 24 hour pass (the city card is also cheap if you want to throw in a free 10€ tour, with a choice of tours offered).  Unfortunately, the A/C wasn’t working on the tram I was on.  In 93 degree weather, it’s a little crazy to run a giant glass and metal box with no windows or A/C!
 
Be warned that the nearest beach, per my GPS, was actually an hour walk away!  I discovered this after following the French for over 30 minutes and no beach.  I would have kept going, but I didn’t have the right footwear for an hour walk and was already getting blisters!
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So close, yet so far away!  
If you use any public transportation, certainly pay and validate though!  At one stop, at least 1/3 of the people were pulled off and fined – €45 for not validating, up to €150 for the worst penalty.
Idea #2: Ready for a Break from French Food?  Skip the Chains & Have a Truly Good Burger.
I was in the mood for a burger and there are good burgers in France, but I’ve had plenty where the meat had very little flavor and they relied solely on the toppings.  Not the case at Grand Slam Burger (near the Comédie).  In fact, the burger was so delicious that I returned on Sunday to try a chicken sandwich.  The first night I did the basket, which was a ton of food!  The cajun fry sauce is delicious, but I barely had room for fries (I wish places would allow adults to order a child-size burger or offer “petite” burgers more often).  The chicken sandwich called to me because I was intrigued by the idea of green apple chutney – it did not disappoint!  Nor did the chunky salsa, which appeared to include avocado.  It looked pretty empty when I showed up, which I realized was because many people came in and took their food to go.
Idea #3: Go to the Swimming Pool
Ok, so I went swimming at a private home; however, there is a public swimming pool with two pools.  One is for exercise swimming and the other, with a retractable roof and slide, is for leisure!  If the epic quest to find the ocean doesn’t appeal to you, this is an easy way to cool off with a nice dip in the water.  The nearest tram stop is Place de l’Europe on lines 1 and 4.
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Idea #4: Eat French Food with an American Twist
This weekend is only the second time I’ve visited with an American since arriving here, so perhaps that explains my food choices!  When I saw Le Pat’Daniels and read what the concept was (French food that have been modified to add Jack Daniels), it sounded like the kind of place that an American in France really should visit!

 

From the minute that I walked in and learned the owner had made a table for me (my reservation was just to eat at the bar since he was already booked when I contacted him the night before), I was really impressed with the hospitality.  The owner is a burly, bearded guy who was wearing a kilt!  The restaurant is clearly a labor of love for him and the Jack went well with the dishes.  It gave the perfect little kick to the sauce on my pork and my dessert, coffee ice cream with Jack and espresso, was perfect!  Even better, when I indicated that a digestif was not necessary, he threw in a tiny warm amount of seasoned Jack Daniels – really, have the digestif.  You won’t regret it!  For the record, I never tell restaurants, hotels, etc. that I have a blog or will write about my experiences.  I prefer to see how they treat their customers normally.

 

Idea #5: Go for a Walk
This is really one of my favorite things to do in any town and a great way to see surprising things.  I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant (I ate a lot) and saw a random pedestrian area.  There were fountains, several places to have coffee or eat at an outdoor table, etc.  It didn’t seem busy at night, but was busier during the day (so perhaps more popular with the working lunch crowd).  The next day, I walked to the meeting point for the tour and the park just off of the Place de la comédie is really lovely!  There are a ton of trees, ample shade and areas for children to play.  I’ve found some of my favorite places in cities by walking around and just seeing what I find!

 

Idea #6: Go on a Tour
I can’t really recommend the particular tour that I took, which was through the tourist office on the open roof bus; however, the tourist office had other tours that I wish I could have tried.  The main walking tour in English was at a time that didn’t work for me, so I tried the bus.  It’s nice if you don’t want to walk, but the information was pretty sparse.  I’m fairly certain that Montpellier is more interesting than the tour made it sound.  If you’re in town for a week, there were different themed tours offered each day as well – it certainly seems like the effort is there to create an enjoyable experience, the execution just wasn’t that great on the one I chose.

 

There is also a very popular ice skating rink, museums, an aquarium and planetarium, but I didn’t have a chance to visit any of them, so I can’t say much!

Overall, I had a great (but very hot) time in Montpellier.  It was lovely to visit with my friend from the US and her daughter – my second of three American visits this year.  She was a surrogate for a French couple, who were also very lovely and kind enough to invite me to join them all for a barbecue (and a swim).