Montpellier, the exquisite French city just inland from the Mediterranean, is big with students. With nearly half of its inhabitants under 30, you know this is a city geared up for the party crowd.
Our hotel, Baudon de Mauny (00 33 4 67 02 21 77; baudondemauny.com) at 1 Rue de la Carbonnerie is an understated 18th-century townhouse with just eight rooms. We barely have enough time to take in the décor – walls adorned with bold flamingo-print wallpaper contrasting with mottled mirrors and Perspex side tables – before we're off down the road to quirky L'Heure Bleue (00 33 4 67 66 41 05) at 2 Rue de la Carbonnerie. A tearoom, art gallery and antiques shop rolled into one, we rehydrate here with exotic cups of tea and plan our evening.
First, we head to Chez Toto (00 33 4 67 92 53 37) at 20 Rue du Palais des Guilhem, a hole in the wall with a smattering of tables crammed into an alleyway. It serves only the freshest catches of the day and we feast on baked sea urchin, garlic razor clams and steamed scallops, all washed down with the palest salty rosé. Next, we wander over to the city's dining hub: Place de la Chapelle Neuve. When we arrive it's buzzing, so we park ourselves at Restaurant Duo (00 33 4 67 66 39 44; restaurantduo.fr) to soak up the vibe, along with a few glasses of wine. It's not long before we're stumbling across Au Petit Grain (00 33 4 67 52 72 82; www.aupetitgrain.com) at 4 Rue de la Carbonnerie, a gem of a bar specialising in organic wines. No sulphates equals no hangover, right? We never had a chance to find out, as we undid our good work by attacking the honesty bar at the hotel.
The following morning, after a short black coffee in the 14th-century conservatory, we set out in search of hangover cures in the form of freshly baked croissants at artisan bakers Boulangerie de l'Aiguillerie (00 33 4 99 62 54 19) at 36 Rue de l'Aiguillerie. Then we rummage around the old books and bric-a-brac at Chic et Boheme (00 33 4 67 10 99 94; chic-boheme .com) at 31 Rue Proudhon before settling into its restaurant to feast on salads, Italian dried ham, gazpacho, feta and a small, perfectly formed tart of cherry tomatoes.
In the afternoon, a friend offers to take us to the coast. Many visitors to Montpellier head to neighbouring Sète – too touristy for our liking. Instead we drive to Le Grande Motte, where pretty young things parade around in front of various beach clubs. We'd call ahead and reserve some plush white beds at La Paillote Bambou (00 33 4 67 56 73 80; lapaillotebambou .com). Here chill-out music and cocktails are delivered to our sun loungers, and we happily bask in the sun until the early evening, whereupon we drag ourselves up to feast on local oysters and langoustines from the crustacean bar while sinking a bottle or two of the local picpoul. The music gets louder just about then – and soon we feel like we may never leave.
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