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What’s it like to live in Montpellier, southern France?

Paved street with colourful flags hanging across it in Montpellier, southern France

Journalist Jenny Eagle left London for a new life in Montpellier, Occitanie (formerly Languedoc Roussillon). She fell head over heels for the stunning architecture, the vibrant buzz of the city and beautiful beaches. We talk to Jenny about what it’s like to live in Montpellier…

What did you do before you moved to France?

I was working as a freelance journalist in London. Doing night shifts on the Daily Mail, uploading content, photos and videos for subscribers to the Daily Mail newspaper on iOS and Android and working as a sub editor on the Mail on Sunday Live magazine.

What attracted you to Montpellier?

A Roman looking arch at the end of a street, lined with smart, Parisian style buildings in Montpellier

I saw a job advertised here and I went for it! I’ve lived and worked in Australia, Argentina and Dubai and have a love for travel but wanted to be closer to the UK, so this was perfect. I was familiar with the Côte d’Azur but never this part of France. I feel like I hit the jackpot because Montpellier is a hidden gem. The architecture is beautiful, it’s not overrun with tourists, it has a buzzing student vibe with lots of bars and restaurants, the wine is excellent and there are plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from.

How did you find your property in Montpellier?

It was hard at first given the language barrier and I mainly found rentals through word-of-mouth. I decided to buy a one-bed flat 10 minutes from the town centre about three years ago because I basically pay the same each month as I did when I was renting and it has a huge south-facing terrace. I’ve been here six years and I’ve started the process for nationality.

What does your job entail?

I write articles and produce news videos on the food and beverage industry worldwide. There’s a big push towards sustainability right now, following the global plastics debate and I cover trends such as 3D printing, digitalisation, robots and Industry 4.0; ie the ‘Factories of the Future’.

What do you love about living in Montpellier?

Market stalls against the walls of a tall aqueduct, plane trees cast shade over their colourful awnings

The food and wine, the blue skies and sunshine, the beach bars (paillotes) and the fact it’s three hours by TGV from Barcelona or Paris.

You’ll find me at the beach every weekend during summer either at La Paillote Bambou in La Grande-Motte; Carré Mer in Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone or La Ola in Sète.

I love going to the Roman aqueduct near La Promenade du Peyrou where there is a market in Les Arceaux every Saturday under the archways. The location is stunning and there are dozens of stalls to browse. There is also a chic venue, which opened a couple of years ago, called Marché du Lez, along Rives du Lez (a coastal river) which has a food truck village and the newly reopened Les Halles Laissac, a covered market in town.

There are some great restaurants in Montpellier. My favourites include Michelin starred La Réserve Rimbaud, along the river, run by chef Charles Fontes. The lunchtime menu is a steal at €40 (Entrée-Plat-Dessert). Le Parfum cocktail and Dimsum bar in the Beaux-Arts district in the centre of town and Bonobo in the heart of the old town, for brunch and coffee (the American-style pancakes are to die for).

Tree-lined, cobbled street with tables and chairs outside a cafe in Aigues-Mortes, a town in southern France

And for getting out of the city, we are spoiled for choice here. There’s Pic Saint-Loup mountain, 20km north of Montpellier; kayaking in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and the fishing port Le Grau-du-Roi. There’s also the medieval city of Aigues-Mortes; La Camargue and Les Calanques national parks. Not far is the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard; Arles Roman Amphitheatre, Les Baux-de-Provence and Carrières de Lumières, a former quarry with art-based multimedia shows. You can escape to Porquerolles island; Cévennes National Park; la Plage des Aresquiers in Frontignan. And, finally there’s Bouzigues, famous for its oysters.

Is there any aspect of living in Montpellier that surprised you?

Montpellier is expanding at an exceptional rate with the opening in 2019 of L’Arbre Blanc (The White Tree), a 17-storey apartment block with rooftop penthouse bar; le Jardin des Sens, a hotel, fine-dining restaurant, bistro and champagne bar in a 17th-century former city hall building; MoCo Centre for Contemporary Art; Halle Tropisme (a former military base turned into a start-up space), and extending the tram line out of town. The airport is expanding; and a second train station Montpellier Sud de France, opened in 2018.

What advice would you give to expats thinking of moving to Montpellier?

Brush up on your French as much as possible – it’s the only way you’re going to integrate into society. Research which area you want to live in. The town is growing and each quartier has something different to offer. Throw yourself into an outdoor activity, the natural beauty will astound you.

And, be prepared for lots of admin and taxes…Guide to Montpellier old town
Montpellier new town – an architectural wonderland

Find Jenny on Instagram @montpellier_mademoiselle

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