by Sarah Cross, Sciences Po Toulouse, France
Despite the impact of the strikes (see my previous post!), the trains both within and beyond the Occitane region of France have allowed me and my friends to visit lots of other towns and cities nearby. To make it even better, at the start of each months, some of these regional trains cost only 1 euro!!! We recently made the most of this with a trip to Avignon, Nîmes and Montpellier.
First stop was Avignon, famous for its 12th century bridge and other historic buildings. Coming from Toulouse, it is also one of the first cities you reach which is part of the Provence region of France. We spent the day exploring the bridge (which surprisingly ends half way across the river!), as well as the botanical gardens which were just near the Chateau. We finished the day with a drink on a rooftop bar, and a lovely French meal just opposite the town hall. We even saw another protest against the pension reforms here, heavily featuring pots and pans!!
On the way to Montpellier, we then stopped for a few hours in Nîmes, a small but gorgeous town, its main attraction being the large Roman Amphitheatre. Built towards the end of the 1st century, shortly after the Colosseum of Rome, it is 133m long and 21m high. At its time, it could hold 24,000 spectators and still hosts concerts, events and ‘gladiator’ performances today! We were able to explore all parts of it, from the lower seats reserved for the aristocracy, to those at the very top for the peasants. Arguably, we thought the peasants got the best views!!
The last, but certainly not least, stop of our trip was Montpellier. This was probably my favourite city we visited, but perhaps I am biased due to us having the best weather here! We had dinner and drinks in the sun at Place de la Comédie, which really did feel like we were on holiday. The next day we went to the Arc du Triomphe, which very much resembles that of Paris, before having a look at the Cathedral and Promenade du Peyrou. We spent the afternoon having a picnic in the sun at Jardin des Plantes, where there was a huge pond of little frogs. A crèpe au sucre before the train was then a must!!
Our trip was certainly one in which we saw loads, and got to experience different aspects of French culture outside of Toulouse. The cheap trains also made it pretty affordable. I look forward to our next one!!