Eat: Aux 2 Fondues, 5 Faubourg de la Saunerie
While studying in Montpellier last year, I had the good fortune to sample many of the gastronomic delights. A good number are worth writing home about, notably Bleu Thé for the best crepes in town or Ma Première Cantine in the middle of the ambient Place Jean-Jaurès. However, Aux 2 Fondues is definitely a unique, slightly tongue-in-cheek, experience. You pay €18.90 for the whole shebang, and leave feeling tipsy & almost uncomfortably full - so you certainly get your money's worth!
I've always started with the 'cocktail maison', pictured above, but you can also get a glass of pastis or a soft drink to accompany the little snacks provided. The apéro is irrelevant though; it's ALL about the main course. The fondue pots are warmed up in front of you, while the waiters lay down platter after platter of bread, raw meat and chips (served separately!). You can also go for a cheese fondue, but I personally believe it's all about the meat.
While the food is artery-clogging good, the gem in the restaurant's crown is that the is wine served in baby bottles. A surreal, hilarious experience which is a great ice-breaker and/or prop for photographs! For dessert, if you don't feel like coughing up an extra €2.90 for a fruit & chocolate fondue, then you are presented with two balls of ice-cream and a banana arranged in a compromising stance!
Drink: Al Andalus, 8 Rue Vanneau
For litre-pitchers of wine head to elephant-themed pub Rebuffy, while beer-lovers can make a start on the 300+ types of beer at Black Sheep. My bottom will be firmly seated in Al Andalus, Mojito in hand.
In exchange for or €5 and a fairly long wait, you are treated to a pint-sized Mojito - and the barmen certainly don't skimp on mint, lime or sugar. Or rum for that matter! These bad boys pack a punch. The atmosphere is great, with music blaring and tapas served throughout the night. The whole place is decked out in Andalusian splendour, with strange lamp-shades and chairs all over the place.
Many a great evening was spent at the Spanish bar (we failed to learn the official name until it was too late). If rum isn't your thing, there are plenty of other thrifty juices - including hefty jugs of sangria.
Do: FISE, Rive Du Lez
Every summer, just south of the city centre, Montpellier plays host to thousands of skaters, bikers, and wake-boarders. FISE is a festival/competition which takes place in sunny May each year; this year it's running from the 7th - 13th. It's a pretty big deal for the extreme sportsmen amongst us, with participants coming from as far as the US and Australia. For the slightly more faint at heart, it's a great opportunity to soak up the sun on the river's edge, whilst gawping as bikers take the plunge from great heights.
Last summer I had the great fortune to be living five minutes walk from the river. My apartment became a base camp from which we would set off for the day, fully armed with provisions. The basic plan was as follows; amass as many baguettes & cheese as we could carry, fill a bucket with ice and beers, set up camp on our own little piece of concrete in the sun.
We were promised great views by day or night, and FISE certainly didn't let us down. If the sun ever got too much, we'd quickly board a tram and retreat to the beach with our beer bucket, for some much-needed (!) rest & relaxation.