I’ve noticed I write a lot about the things around Montpellier, but not so much about the town we live in, so I thought it was high time to fix that. We’ve only got three months left here (sob) and it’s making me cherish every moment we have in our little southern city.
Everyone who has ever been to Montpellier had loved it, though a lot of people skip it as it’s not on the traditional tourist route. We’d heard good things so we thought we’d give it a try but, if I take you back to when we first arrived in Montpellier, you’ll see that we weren’t initially sold. It wasn’t quite as happening as Paris, it didn’t have the sophistication of Bordeaux and it wasn’t as charming as Aix-en-Provence. But it was sunny and we kept being told it was an awesome place, so we stayed.
After a short while, what it wasn’t gave way to what it was. Montpellier is special. It is very French in many ways but has its own unique vibe. It draws inspiration from Parisian chic and adds southern charm (complete with a cute accent). It takes provencal tastes and add hints of Spain and flavours of North Africa. Its architecture is a daring mix of modern innovation set amongst ancient buildings. It takes all that, sticks some palm trees in the middle and then covers it in sunshine. As you can probably tell, it’s grown on us a lot.
Montpellier’s greatest charm lies in its old town. An entire small town of walking streets where cars have to drive underneath the town to get from A to B. Lining the streets are boutiques, restaurants, hairdressers, florists, boulangeries, patisseries and bars. These all sprawl onto the streets and multiple squares in summertime and welcome you into their cosy and deceptively large stony interiors in winter time.
Instead of hearing car horns it’s the bells of bikes and trams, people chatting and music that fill the streets; all day, every day. In the Place de la Comédie (main square) there is always music being played, on accordions, didgeridoos or even household items. People are always dancing in the square, usually break dancing or some kind of theatrical mime/dance which you can’t help but stop and watch.
As a visitor there aren’t that many tourist attractions that you have to visit. There are a couple of great museums (which I haven’t visited yet – bad expat) but walking around the old town, shopping in the old shops, sipping rosé in the sunshine, eating tartes in the squares and then sitting on one of the fountains munching on macarons is enough to fill several days of joy. For an area so small there are an enormous amount of restaurants, more than I could ever hope to try, but I am in the process of creating a page dedicated to the best things to eat, see and do as we speak.
Ok so lets talk about that sunshine. Spring has just arrived but it’s already hitting 20 degrees. Those photos (apart from the little train at the top, that was taken last September) were all taken today, in March. That is basically Montpellier’s sky, most of the year. Famous for having 300 sunny days per year while missing out on the ice cold “mistral” that sweeps through Provence regularly throughout the year, it’s rare to get a bad day here.
One of the reasons we shifted our wedding plans was because we decided we loved Montpellier, and we wanted to show it off to our friends and family too. The good thing for me as I tend to go back and forth to London a lot is that Montpellier is a hop and a skip away. Easyjet flights are as little as £30 one way. It’s also just over three hours from Paris by train (amazing considering how far it is. You gotta love French trains) Trains can be as little as £30 too, but they’re usually about £100 so you don’t see me popping to Paris all that often.
In conclusion, I am so glad we chose France’s eighth city to live in for a year. Have I sold it to you yet?