Leslie and I have arrived in France, our sixth and (maybe) final candidate for a place to call home. For the next six weeks, we are living in Montpellier, capital of the Hérault department, which is in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. It’s just a little west of Marseille and about 10 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast.
Montpellier is the seventh largest city in France, and the nation’s fastest-growing city over the past 25 years. In 2014, the metropolitan population was 589,610, while 275,318 lived in the city itself. It’s a university city, so there are a lot of young people here — one estimate I saw said almost one-third of the population is university students. The city is old and charming, but the vibe is young and energetic.
Our one-bedroom apartment is on the fourth floor of a 16th-century building that overlooks Place Martyrs de la Résistance in the historic center of town. (If you’re thinking World War II French Resistance — you’re right!) The Prefecture, essentially the state police headquarters, is right across the street and so is the post office. There are lots of bars and restaurants within a two-minute walk, and several markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. Two grocery stores are an easy walk from our place — except when there’s an unexpected shower or thunderstorm!
So the location is excellent, but there is a downside — no elevator! I pictured us trying to navigate four flights of stairs and thought the exercise might be good for us.
Nothing prepared me, though, for the stairs. Not four regular flights — a spiral staircase that very well may be original. Feels like it, anyway.
Turn right just outside our front door and you’re on Rue de la Loge, which leads directly to the heart of Montpellier, Place de la Comédie, in less than five minutes. This huge open area is always covered with people of all stripes, including several street performers. There’s an historic fountain, lots of restaurants and bars, and a small antique carousel. Walk only a few more minutes and you go from old to new as you enter Polygone, a big American-style shopping mall on three levels. Then there’s the tree-lined Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, where I’ve been jogging in the morning.
Turn left as you leave our apartment and you’re on Rue Foch. In just a few minutes you’re walking under the Arc de Triomphe and going into a nice park called the Place du Peyrou with a statue of French King Louis XIV. We’ve been in this park twice now, and both times it’s been full of young people and families having picnics and playing games.
First impressions of Montpellier are good, but only when we’re on foot. Driving in this town is impossible with the narrow streets that are usually one-way but may change direction without warning. And it’s hard to get used to sunset after 9 p.m. Even at 8:45 p.m., it still seems like broad daylight.
There’s a lot to do and see in this city, and we’re just getting started. Next week, we plan to take a city tour, check out the history of this city and investigate cultural opportunities.
6 thoughts on “Bonjour, Montpellier!”
Love you visuals and descriptions. Once again, thanks for taking us along! I am 1/4 French. Bonjour
Thank you, Joyce. Good to hear from you! If you had a French grandparent, you may be able to apply for a French passport. Then you could travel Europe at will, not bound by any visa requirements. Having a second passport can come in handy, especially in times like these. There’s a French consulate in downtown Chicago. I’m sure they could assist if you’re interested. Bonne chance!
Hi Mike and Leslie. I have been reading every entry of your wonderful blog. Just wondering if you will stil be in France in early August. I will be there Aug4-Aug 10. It is on my list of my possible retirement locations. I will leave there for Switzerland and Austria. Would be nice if we could cross paths. Enjoy!!!
Thanks Yolanda! Oh, that would be great but we’re heading back to the U.S. in mid-July. Maybe we can catch up before you leave. I will email you when our arrival date is firm (July 12?). Hopefully there will be some overlap. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!
Enjoying your travels and photos! Looking forward to the next report from France and that daunting staircase! (Couldn’t do it after a glass of wine but perhaps it is better that way?!)
Thanks, Lisa! Apparently no problem after ONE glass of wine. Additional research? Maybe not. Hope the rainy season is mild for you this year.