Thoughts from a post-Montpellier world

I still can’t believe Dave is basically finished with his first year of school. We’re already almost a week into living in Bordeaux and while it’s still probably too early to rate it fairly, I already like it a million times better than Montpellier.

When we moved to Montpellier, I knew there would be some changes to which I’d have to adapt. Not only was it an entirely new country, but new cultural behaviors and our lifestyle would be different. Upon moving here, neither one of us had jobs anymore and money was really only flowing one-way (not the good way, either!) so that necessitated a tightening of the belt, as it were. Little things, mostly. We never eat out, save for the special birthday dinner. Not that we ate out all the time in Napa—we both love to cook—but we were also used to buying whatever exotic ingredients we wanted to try in our dishes. I’ve since gotten quite adept at making various types of beans (cheap and elegant, as my dad is fond of saying) or cooking with leftovers (with a few minor and cheap additions, yesterday’s tomato soup can easily become today’s creamy pasta sauce). I can honestly say I think my cooking has improved. I used to be one to rely heavily on the measuring spoons. Now, unless I’m baking, the spoons are just another item to hand-wash, so eyeballing ingredients is key! I’ve been fortunate enough to develop my business and we’re happily enjoying the peace of mind that comes from knowing there’s some cashflow in the positive direction. More importantly for me, I’m enjoying the work. It keeps me busy and I’m loving what I’m doing; so for that, I’m grateful.

I’m exceptionally grateful to have been as busy as I was with work in Montpellier because that city just didn’t do it for me.

(Editor’s note: I began writing what turned into a long list of grievances of Montpellier, each with its own commentary, but that just seemed like one big giant waste of energy. So instead, I give you the following, with this bit of information: Montpellier was not a city for me.)

I’m not a city girl, for starters. I don’t mind being near it, but I don’t want my home to be in it. We’d originally thought being in the city’s center would be easier on me, not having a car and all, but in the long run, I think we would have gladly traded convenience to a grocery store for proximity to school. It’s no secret that I hated our house. It’s location, it’s inability to retain heat yet grow mold (gag). Sigh. I don’t mean to list again. I just really did NOT like my time there. Overall, I mean.

Montpellier certainly had its bright spots. My friend Natalie and her husband and adorable baby girl lived there. That made it much more bearable. And in turn, when they moved back to America in March, was a huge bummer for me. I liked the habit I’ve developed of walking to the market every day. I like the weekly farmers’ markets better. There was a bakery near us that made the most amazing apple-speculoos tarts and we indulged from time-to-time. But rather than look back fondly on our time in Montpellier, I think I’m going to look back and think, I made it through. I’m stronger for it, I suppose. And not just because I’ve learned to elbow fellow shoppers along with the best of them, either.

The best article I have read regarding Montpellier was one written by John Daniel Davidson on his website “The Bygone Bureau”. Davidson is an American writer/journalist living abroad while his wife teaches at the University in Montpellier. I feel like he completely nailed what the environment is like in Montpellier’s centre ville in his article, The Rust Belt of France: Montpellier, which he penned last year. Definitely read it. (Sidebar: I never went into the area where Davidson and his wife first lived in Gambetta, nor Mosson. Dave and I decided that it probably wasn’t best for me to visit on my own and we never got around to going together during the day.)

Bordeaux, on the other hand, already feels better.

We actually live in Talence, a smaller city outside of the Bordeaux city-center. It’s a bit of a hike from Dave’s school, but given the circus that was our housing crisis two weeks ago, it is doable for one month’s time. Plus, we’ve already noticed that we can better enjoy our walks since we don’t have to constantly look down in order to dodge dog poop left on the sidewalk by the mutts of the “crustpunks,” as we did in Montpellier. I am no longer forced to do my grocery shopping between 1:30pm-4:00pm in order to avoid going at lunchtime or before dinner. Previously, this timing was necessary to avoid throngs of people (many of whom are bratty kids who I often see gathering in the candy aisle, circling themselves while the one in the middle swipes bags of oreos and gummy candies).

Instead, I smile as I hear the banter of the ladies who are doing their household shopping together, or the nursery school kids playing outside at the preschool around the corner. It’s a completely different vibe. Case in point: the three ladies in front me at the checkout line? They clearly were laughing and talking amongst themselves and every once in a while would make a joke to the cashier. I have no idea what any of them were saying, but the friendliness was evident when they looked at me, as if to include me in their chatter.

Dave and I went exploring in our neighborhood last night. He’d heard of a wine bar that everyone talked about so we walked over. It’s around the corner from our place in an area called Forum. We each enjoyed a glass of wine and some cheese, plus friendly conversation with our server (yes, he spoke English) but even his demeanor was more welcoming than previously experienced with Montpellier English-speakers.

It could be the sunshine here. I wore shorts yesterday (sorry people of Talence. Hope you had your sunglasses on.) Sunshine, even warm temperatures on a cloudy day, improve my mood by leaps and bounds. Either way, I’m reinvigorated being here and won’t be missing Montpellier anytime soon.

6 comments on “Thoughts from a post-Montpellier world

  1. Isn’t bordeaux fabulous? I love it there! I love the electric trams, the vibe, the ambience, the elegance. Fave French city. Glad you found a place to live!!!!!! hurray!!! Pics please! when you get a chance.

  2. Great review of your time so far Colleen. I’m sure as time goes on, you will remember more of the things you liked about Montpelier than the things that bugged you. But what a great experience that you are getting, even if it’s not all easy! I’m impressed…and happy for you that you’re now in a place you like better! 🙂

  3. Hi Colleen,

    I normally live in Bordeaux, but am on temporary leave until August.

    I know the area you live in very well. I went to the wine bar you went to a few times and I must ask, what time did you go at? It’s really, really hard to get a table in there, although it’s easier in the summer because they have outdoor seating and people just stand around outside. The food platters on offer are really good and there is a wide selection of wines available.

    Avoid the American-style restaurant that’s in the same square. It’s cute inside, but the food is nothing special. The up-scale restaurant beside the boulangerie is not bad, but you can pay less for the same thing in the centre of Bordeaux.

    One place you should try is Le Café Bleu. It’s not in the same square, but if you continue south along the tram line you will see it. It’s really close to Forum, just a 1 minute walk from the Forum stop. I think the crêpes in there are really good. I also enjoy the salade de chèvre. I always finish off with a Salidou crêpe for dessert. The best thing is that it doesn’t cost very much to eat there.

    I hope you enjoy Talence!

    • Hi and thanks for checking out my blog! We went to the wine bar around 6 or so, I think. We did sit at a table outside and it was wonderful. We also heard to avoid the Ed Wood Cafe as well. Funny two people have the same sentiment- we will take your advice! I pass by Cafe Bleu when I walk to the Geant Casino and you’re the second person to recommend it, though we haven’t been yet. We will definitely have to check it out before we leave. Thanks for the suggestions!!

  4. Hi Colleen,

    I like the insights you provided about Montpellier. My boyfriend just recently relocate in Montpellier ( he got a job at uni for a year) and he seems doesnt like the city. He told me that the city seems not safe. Is there any up side of montpellier rather than the down side as discussed in the article written by Davidson?

  5. Hi Mei,

    Thanks for reading! I never found Montpellier to be unsafe, but I can relate to your boyfriend’s view of the city. I do remember hearing one part of the city, Mosson I think, wasn’t the best to visit at night.

    My favorite thing about the city was probably that it is big enough to have various farmer’s markets (traditional markets) almost every day in different parts of town. If I remember correctly, the best market in Les Arceaux is on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Antigone is on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Also, the Comedie was always lively, which was fun. And they have a movie theatre there, with movies in English if you’re like me and your French isn’t great 🙂

    In which part of the city does your boyfriend live? I’d be happy to answer any questions you or he might have. Feel free to email me at LoveMySports10{at}yahoo{dot}com.

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