Phase 2 is underway

New front entrance. The doors are made of perota wood, which is beautiful and resistant to termites.

The second phase of our home renovation has begun. All doors and windows have been replaced and the front entrance has been transformed from black metal sliding glass doors to a standard double door with side panels that open to let the breezes through. The fixed panels are now etched glass with a pattern that matches the windows in the new master bathroom.

Here’s the old front entrance. Sliding glass doors. A friend came to see us once and said, “You don’t have a proper front door.” Now we do.

Now we can start painting the house inside and outside, which is the second half of Phase 2.

Interior painting should begin by early September. We have chosen a nice neutral color that looks great with our artwork and rugs. The guest suite will be a nice light teal color with darker teal trim. We’re still debating about a color for the master bedroom.

Exterior painting, a nice light blue with white trim, will have to wait until rainy season is over. That’s probably early November. So we hope Phase 2 will be over by Christmas.

We had several of these around the house, trying to decide which color to use. We went with the big square on the right for the living/dining area and the office. The exterior will be very similar to the small blue square, upper right.

What’s next? Probably landscaping. We have a lot to do in the front because all the large plants were removed for the addition of the new bathroom. We also need to redesign the front patio and move the fountain, which right now is in an awkward place directly in front of the main door. Plants in the back are badly overgrown, so we need to look at that too. At some point, I’m hoping to renovate the office area, which doubles as the family room, or TV room. Phase 3 certainly won’t happen until 2022.

More photos below. Hasta luego!

The guys had trouble getting the old doors removed, so they ended up working pretty late to get everything installed for us.
New front entrance from the inside. More privacy, classier look.

Bonjour, Montpellier!

 

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The view from our window. The Prefecture is on the left and the post office is straight ahead. Place Martyrs de la Resistance is usually a busy place. The people-watching is great. Students congregate here until the wee hours, and we’ve watched locals let their dogs play in the fountain. Free entertainment!

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.

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Our nearly 500-year-old building. You can see Leslie waving if you look carefully at the fourth-floor window above the gray awning.

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.

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The stairs outside our apartment. Thank God for handrails!

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 Comédiein 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.

A bientôt!

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Place de la Comedie. A few days ago Leslie and I sat under one of those umbrellas and enjoyed a glass of wine while watching locals and tourists go about their day.