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Montpellier, France 2017-08-01T21:27:27+00:00

Overview

For this review I am relying on a friend who grew up windsurfing in Montpellier, or more accurately the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  I’ll update with a personal report as soon as I get there. (We are moving there for summer 2018).

There are so many kitable areas along the mediterranean coast in the south of France that it would be futile to review just one.  On almost any given day you can kite somewhere within 45 minutes of downtown Montpellier, usually with a few options.

The entire region draws people all over the world to its famous warm water, expansive beaches, and glorious lifestyle.  Montpellier in particular is an epicentre of European windsport culture and a marvellous exemplar of French culture.  The city itself is richly cultured, offers many amenities to the visiting beach-going family, and is well known for its historic landmarks.

Check out ActiveAzure.com’s Kitesurfing in the South of France for more details on 30+ kite beaches.

Travel To And Around The Spot

Getting there is pretty straight forward.  There are flights that will connect you to Montpellier–Méditerranée Airport from Paris, London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, locations in Mediterranean Africa and a few other regional airports.

Europe is a wonderful, if pricy, place to roadtrip.  Consider flying into one airport, making use of the world-class train system to get to Montpellier area, and flying out from another.  Some good options included Paris (3.5hrs), Barcelona (3hrs), Nice (3.5hrs), and/or Geneva (4.5hrs)  Trains are efficient, cost effective, and give you a great sightseeing experience.

Once in Montpellier, WikiTravel and TripAdvisor have an excellent rundown of the transportation options, but I will summarize and add to it as well.

  • Walk – The city dates back to at least 985 and you will find echoes of medieval Europe around every corner.  Spend time strolling and meandering through the streets at different times of day to get the full experience.
  • Bike – There are VéloMagg Public Bike Share kiosks around town.  Use them for 24/7 self-guided exploration that is convenient, affordable, and gives you a unique view of the city.  Get a bike-friendly map from the Montpellier Tourist office.
  • Bus – Lots of them and very good service coverage. Find the Interactive Map here.
  • Car – Montpellier has a car free downtown zone (the largest in France?) and the areas where you can drive are very busy, confusing to the uninitiated, and expensive to park (if you can find a space).  Basically, don’t drive.   Take the tram from outlying stations and walk/bike/bus.
  • Tram/Streetcar – It is fast, efficient, and gets you to all the good city spots. Buy your pass before boarding.
  • Taxi cars and vans can be hired for half- and full-days.  Google ‘Van Transfers’ to find the charter companies.

The Launch/KiteBeach

The Guide de Spots Kiteboard Languedoc-Roussillon has detailed info for local areas.  ActiveAzure.com is also a fantastic resource for the popular kite spots along the French Mediterranean.  They list 34 distinct areas, but keep in mind that each may encompass kilometers of beach and kitable zones.  It’s crazy.  You will find anything from beaches with lots of sunbathers and moored boats to long expanses of wild beaches with wide open water.

UniversKite has awesome 4K drone footage of a number of kite spots in and around Montpellier.  Note: The water is about 15km from the Montpellier city centre.

The Mistral and Tramontane are the prevailing winds in the region.  These creates off-, side-on- and side-off shore conditions depending where you are.   Anti-erosion rock groins extending perpendicular to the shore also break chop and leave nice flat water on the leeside. That makes for some beauty butter-flat water on the open mediterranean. Watch for straight off shore conditions as the next stop is Morocco.

In addition to the open sea, the area also has enclosed coastal waters called Etangs (translates roughly to brackish ponds) where people kite in shallow flat water.  These are especially common on the coast nearest to Montpellier.  Though conditions are highly desirable, this is no place to mess around.  People often get injured after being dragged into, onto, and over rock groins, walls, and roads.  Prepping gear, launching, landing, and rescue can be very tricky. Be careful.

Romain recommends the following beaches:

Etang D’Ingril (get a load of this incredible drone footage!) is west of Montpellier and is not for all riders.  There is little to no ‘shore’, the recommended launch is in the water, hazards included nearby roads and rock dykes, and a mistake can be costly to you and others.  Drop into Tiki Centre Kitesurfing School for local tips.

Le Boucanet offers a nice kid-friendly beach area with gently sloping beach (i.e. no sharp drop offs).  It also has seasonal restaurants along the beach.  Kiting is only permitted in the evenings in summer.

Plage Sud is a popular area near the very large Port Camargue. Kiting is banned in the summer holiday season but September – November offer great winds and weather too. The long groins make for nice flat water but can also be a hazard.

Plage de L’Espiguette is near the eastern end of the Montpellier area and is a more natural or ‘wild’ beach.  One of the TA reviews says it was too windy to sunbathe comfortably, which is a good sign for kiters but not so good if you plan to take the young ones there and don’t have shelter.  You’ll find lots and lots of wide open beach and water.

Accommodation

France is one of the most visited countries in the world so you will find many sites offering vacation home share such as AirBnB: Montpellier and VRBO.  There are plenty of units available in the city, near the beach, and up and down the coast.

You will find hotels concentrated in the city centre and on the coast at Palavas-les-Flots, Carnon, and La Grande-Motte areas.  Pick one depending on how often you wish to visit Montpellier and where you want/are able to kite.  Carnon is serviced by tram/streetcar #3 for easy transit into the city.

Booking a spot on the sea is obviously ideal for kiteboard families but be aware that some beaches closed to kiters in the summer.

The local camping options are many.  Some are what many Canadians, such as myself, would consider ‘Glamping‘, but they are the perfect family setup. There are a few to choose from but these ones stand out:

  1. Camping Capfun Le Boucanet is a neat little full-service campground with direct access to the beach.  They have simple beachside cabins, tent/car camping, pools, waterslides, beach gear rental, etc.  You can kite 20m from your front door while the kids nap (check seasonal closures).  Perfect.
  2. Sandara – Camping Les Tamaris is also right on the beach (and near and has free kids activities and programs.  Pools, slides, cottages, tenting, RV parking accommodates almost any preference. Nice to be a ~20min beach walk to the Etang d’Ingril launch as well.
  3. Siblu Villages – Le Lac des Reves gets great reviews on Trip Advisor and although it is not right on the coast it is close.  Pros include family-friendly activities, pools, waterslides, live entertainment, and easy access to nearby villages.  Think KOA meets ClubMed.
  4. La Forge de Montolieu lets your kids feel what it is like to sleep like chickadees in a hanging nest.  Explore the tiny house or take shelter in the for the night in this bucolic setting ~1.5hrs inland from Leucate.

Non-Kiting Activities and Resources

As always, Trip Advisor offers user-generated reviews that I have found to be very helpful in selecting activities, accommodations, and other services.

When first visiting Montpellier, the perfect place to start out is Place de la Comedie.  The pedestrian-only main square is the hub of busker music, markets, meet-ups, people watching, and always has a glass of wine waiting for you.  The tram runs right through the centre for easy access.

Right next to the square you will find the tree-lined Parc Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle with a nice little children’s playground and the Montpellier Tourist Office.

There are a few examples of early and inspiring architecture including aqueducts (Aquadukt Saint Clement and Aqueduct de Castries) and historic, religious, and cultural buildings.

A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without a wine tasting or vineyard tour.  See more activities on the Montpellier Tourist Office page.

Popular attractions in any city often include animals and Montpellier is no exception.  Check out the Parc Zoologique Henri de Lunaret or the Aquarium Mare Nostrum.  Looking for an evening excursion?  Take the kids to the summer nightly Luna Park in Palavas Les Flots or Carnon.  PLF has Minigolf de la Plage and if it is too hot outside try indoor laser tag and mini golf at Black Light City in Lattes.

If the wind isn’t up, try out WakeParkCable in La Grande Motte where you can practice your handle passes or boost and grind to your heart’s delight.  Get your heart pumping at Altissimo Climbing Gym or Mad Monkey, which is very kid-friendly and family-focused.  Test your skills in the Rebound World trampoline park’s Ninja course.  Siiiiiick!

Health and Wellness

Good news is that France does not (as of this writing) have mosquito-transmitted Zika Virus.  Languedoc-Roussillon region is likely a safe option as a kiting destination for pregnant and soon-to-be pregnant families.  Get the Zika lowdown.

Medical

French Health care is generally funded by the government and is known as one of the best healthcare systems in the world.  There are both universal public and private health care centres.

Montpellier is home to the oldest medical school in Europe and is know as a centre of teaching and learning.   There are many hospitals offering every kind of treatment.  For all emergencies anywhere in Europe you can dial 112. In France for health-related emergencies dial 15, police dial 17, and accidents dial 18.  See complete list here.  Click here for more local health services.

Located just northwest of the town centre, Hospital Center University De Montpellier is a collective of 12 hospitals and universities that will attend to any health issue.  Dial 15 for the emergency operator or follow signs directing you to the emergency room or “salle d’/des urgences.”  See a map of all hospitals in Montpellier area.

Food and Water

France is, well, France.  They basically invented haute cuisine, fresh bread and stinky cheese, beautiful wines, long elegant meals as a pastime in an of themselves.  You should take the time to explore the different places, plates, and palates of the famous south of France.  Other than commonly unpasteurized foods, cheese mostly, that pregnant women should avoid, there is no concern over food safety.   Water is good and clean.

If you are a plastic bottle averse family like we are, consider the LifeStraw Go 2-stage Filtration Bottle for each member of your family or the larger LifeStraw Mission for extended periods of water scarcity or uncertainty.

Wellness

Many French might tell you that a good meal of mediterranean specialties accompanied by sparkling conversation is the key to overall wellness and I might be inclined to agree.

You will also find yoga studios, massage and physio, spas, and CrossFit gyms (if you think that counts as wellness), most of which are concentrated in Montpellier.  There are many options so find something close to you and check reviews.

Childcare and Other Resources

Childcare

Disclaimer:  We do not endorse any of the care providers due to liability issues.  We are passing along publicly available contact resources for your consideration.  Always conduct your own due diligence when selecting a childcare provider.

Yelp may be handy in finding the locations and contact listings of some childcare providers.  Websites like GreatAuPair.com show listings of available individuals but see disclaimer above. O2 Care Services also has babysitting options for hotels and resorts.  It is always a good idea to ask your accommodation hosts for their recommendations as they likely have trusted contacts familiar with your needs.

Food and Clothing

France is a very fashionable and trend-setting place.  What you see here will show up in your hometown in about a decade, that is how progressive it is.  Clothes are trim fitting, scarves are common, and hair product is a must.  Keep in mind that you are only 3 hours from Grasse, the ‘World Capital of Perfume‘.

You will have no problem finding food and clothing for your kids.  International and French brands of diapers, baby food, beach and casual wear will all be very easy to locate.

We have always used cloth diapers and have found it to be easy and convenient at home as well as when on vacation.  You will just need to ensure that your accommodation has laundry and that if it doesn’t work well you are prepared to scrub.  I advise packing compostable liners to minimize soiling.

Tips and Tricks

  1. If a deal sounds too good…it is.  Don’t be a sucker.  Read up on popular tourist scams before you travel anywhere.
  2. Drink wine.
  3. Eat bread and cheese.
  4. Soak in the culture of the South of France.
  5. Travel to different beaches to kite but give yourself the entire day to visit other sites along the way or get lost on a side adventure.

Family Rated

Getting Around
Launch Area
Non-Kiting Activities
Accommodation
Wind Quality
Value for Money
Average

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