Anytime a possibility to travel arises, I am more than willing to take the opportunity. Being in the actual location is the ideal situation, but the process of packing, checking in, security checks and departure lounges is something I could do without.
Once the whole ‘travelling to’ the place is out of the way and one’s hearing returns from the pressure on the flight, the part I really enjoy can begin. Walking, unwinding, being away from the familiar, getting acquainted – and sometimes reacquainting oneself – with the place one is in.
The destination for this trip was Montpellier…a place I have always heard great things about, but never had an opportunity to visit…until now. Montpellier is located in the south of France 10km from the Mediterranean and is also one of the few large cities in France without any Roman heritage.
It is clearly noticeable that Montpellier is situated on hilly ground. The city itself is built on two hills, Montpéllier and Montpelliéret, thus some of its streets, especially in what is known as the ‘old core’, have great differences in altitude. Within the ‘old core’ the streets are very narrow which gives them an intimate feel.
Cafés, shops, bars and restaurants occupy many of the streets, which is ideal for sitting outside with a drink or a meal in the summer months, but not at the start of the new year in minus 2 degrees.
There was hardly any time for having a break as the selection of motifs and places to photograph like L’Aqueduc Saint-Clément, la Place de la Comédie, l’Arc de Triomphe, and le Corum were plentiful.
When I normally visit a place, as much as I admire their grandness, I am never really drawn to the places recommended by the tourist portals at first. They tend to follow a distant second. Instead, I prefer to go walkabout and look for what catches my eye up close or from afar. Montpellier has these desired motifs in abundance. Be it a deserted side street that looks like time has stopped, or dramatic looking sculptures and cobbled pavements.
And from time to time one enters an open doorway that leads up an old stairwell dating back to some past century.
However, no place is just about the cityscape; it is the people who make it special. No matter where one travels, it is always the people that give a place its energy with their varied enthusiasm in the stories they have to share, be it from life experiences or the local folklore. It is always important to pay attention to these bits of local wisdom, the little stories of things from times past or even just a recommendation for a nice place to eat. This always adds and enhances the experience of a place and makes the stay even more memorable.
In Montpellier, the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed and I found the people amiable and helpful. Anywhere I went, they tried their best to communicate in English which I always welcome and duly appreciate. Mind you, I still remember a little of my French from my school days. It’s always good to have it in reserve. Thankfully, I did not need any of it here in sunny Montpellier. According to the locals about 330 days a year of sunshine make it the sunniest city in Europe. With the amount of sunshine I had experienced these past few days, I couldn’t agree more.
A selection of the images viewed here are available for purchase at www.jamesclancy.org
All images in this post ©James Clancy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Clancy is a fine art photographer and illustrator from North Cork, Ireland. In 1990 he moved to Cork City where he later studied film (with emphasis on camera and lighting design) and worked in film making, music and theatre, producing works which were presented and screened at film festivals and on national television. His love of photography grew from these experiences. Since 2004 he has been working solely in photography. Still being influenced by film James’ works, many of them are photo series, have a narrative character. Since 2006 James has been exhibiting widely in Europe and Asia. In 2011 he published his first photobook called “Border Country”, which received the predicate “Selected Title” of the prestigious Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2012. You can see and purchase his work on www.jamesclancy.org