montferrier sur lez jardin parc terrasse chateau hotel de ville mairie metropole montpellier © 3M

Montpellier, traditional and modern

The 31 municipalities of the Montpellier Metropolis are filled with unexpected treasures: mazes of streets, talented craftsmen, historical buildings, majestic landscapes… The Tourist Office invites you to walk around the ‘circulades’ (circular patterns) of the towns and villages where happiness awaits at each bend.

If Montpellier is only 10 minutes away from the Mediterranean sea, it is also a very short drive to the countryside.

A few kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, a man leaning on a stick crosses a village square, a newspaper under the arm. We are in Montferrier-sur-Lez, a small village of around 3500 inhabitants, north of the Metropolis Capital. The village overlooks hectares of vineyards.

The man is walking through a maze of streets. « I walk here every day with my dog » says the man from Montferrier who is in a hurry to get his morning coffee. « I get lost, I meet people…I have lived here sixty years and I still discover something new everyday. The rue du four…. It is magnificent. »

Here, as in the other villages of the Metropolis, the streets are full of surprises, discoveries,  small delights. Wandering the streets, aimlessly, without a map, is like taking a step back in time and seeing things as they were. Not to be missed.

The paved streets of the old village of Cournonsec, the arches of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Murviel-lès-Montpellier, the street of Vieux-Prades, that leads to an ancient doorway the medieval walls of Prades-le-Lez, or the  surrounds of Notre-Dame-de-la-Pitié chapel in Beaulieu are some of the nuggets of the vast treasure trove that constitutes these ‘circulade’ villages .

On the street corners, numerous craftsmen perpetuate the traditions: cobblers, bakers, stone masons, butchers, chocolate makers, jewellery makers, carpenters, fishmongers and florists are the soul of the villages.

« There is always a little aspect of an Asterix village on the streets of our villages » says a Castelnau-le-Lez inhabitant who does his shopping there every day. Don’t hesitate to open the doors of all these little shops...

« Here, the bull leaves his field in the morning and comes back in the evening in top shape and in one piece! » cries this ‘courses camarguaises’ (bull running) devotee who is against corrida (bullfighting). « What is the difference? » « But they are completely different! » answered his colleague at the bar, opening his eyes wide. « Do you know the difference between rugby and curling? »

The ‘courses camarguaises’ in the Hérault and especially in the villages around Montpellier is a sacred tradition.

The raseteurs (youths who try to get the rosette from the bull) are local stars. They run into the arena to try to get some rosettes attached to the bull’s horns.

« Without any killing! » reminds a man who helps himself to another glass of Pic Saint Loup red wine in this well-established Pérols bar.

Since the 1st May 2015, the Metropolis has created its own courses camarguaises trophy. At long last !  The aficionados of the rosette would say.

The courses camarguaises tradition is also at the heart of the celebrations which punctuate the summer of these little villages. « The abrivados? That is something to experience ! » advises a bull enthusiast who is not afraid of getting close to the bull’s horns.

Perpetuating the tradition of leading the bulls from their fields to the arena, the abrivados (or bandidos taking the bulls back again) release several hundred kilos of muscle in the closed-off streets of the villages… It would have to be a brave person to touch the bulls’ horns !

cournonterral tambourin sport metropole montpellier © 3M

The traditional sport "Tambourin"

The tambourin is a very popular sport around Montpellier. It has been  played on village squares since the 19th century.

Our ancestors used to play tambourin on a regular basis as their sport of choice, but even some decades later, this sport has not been abandonned . On the contrary. Some forty clubs keep the tradition alive in Hérault, among which many are based in the Metropolis.

On an 80 metre-long ground, two teams of 5 players hit the ball back and forwards to each other with their tambourin. In was in fact a cooper from Mèze (a few km to the west of Montpellier) who had the extravagant idea  in 1861 to make these little wood circles on to which were stretched leathery parchment. The tambourin was born.

In Montpellier, the first games recorded were in 1864 on the market square.

« You need lots of technique and training, the ball flies very fast, around 200 km/h » explains a casual player who has been playing the game since he was 10 years old. « You must stay focused ».

The game is not uncommon to see on the playgrounds of Cournonterral, Cournonsec, Vendargues or Lavérune. At the end of October in Castelnau-le-Lez, the indoor Euro tambourin competition took place this year and delighted the enthusiastic public .

« It is a wonderful sport » says Michel, a tambourin fan who came to Castelnau-le-Lez to see these european championships. « You should try to hit a very small ball with a small tambourin on such a big ground! You need the eye of an eagle and amazing dexterity. »

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