two weeks in, and. . .
We love it here!
It’s hard to believe we’ve already lived in Montpellier for two whole weeks (longer than any vacation I’ve ever taken), and at the same time it feels like we’ve been here longer. Here’s a two-week update on how we’re settling in.
We ate out for lunch the first few days but knew we’d need to stock our kitchen. So we took an Uber to Odysseum, a large outdoor mall next to Ikea. There we discovered Casino–no, not a place to gamble away our retirement funds, but a “Geant” grocery/home goods/general store. Think of a Walmart-type place, but with far better food. Since we had to schlep everything, we bought only what we could carry. Then it was on to Ikea for a few essentials: trash can, a few kitchen things, etc. We took another Uber home to unpack everything.
Charcuterie aisle at Casino: Cousin Karyl would love this!
We quickly realized that Uber was not an affordable option for everyday errands, and fortunately our lovely friends Gwen and Tom, whom we’d met on our reconnaissance trip in July, came to the rescue with an offer of two 10-trip TAM cards. Tam is Montpellier’s public transportation via trams and buses. Being over 65, we’re eligible for free rides, but after three tries we still haven’t received our passes (Have I mentioned that France is famous for its Byzantine bureaucracy?). Tom met us to guide us to their lovely home on a private street only half a mile away, where we met Bella, their darling dog, and enjoyed a sumptuous coffee spread.
New friends whom we feel we’ve known forever!
My favorite thing to do here so far is simply wander the streets in Ecusson, the oldest part of the city. It’s easy to get lost and then found, and we love discovering beautiful ancient buildings, contemporary street art, and all the sights and sounds that make up this gorgeous place.
Random art? Political statement? What exactly is this?
The architecture of Montpellier is diverse, beautiful, and intriguing. The Montpellier Cathedral is one of my favorite sights; you round a corner and there it is! It has an interesting history you can read about here.
Our shipment of things from the U.S. hasn’t yet arrived, so we have very few clothes, no artwork, and aside from the basic equipment in our furnished apartment, not much to make the place feel like home. But we did rearrange the furniture, and we bought a rug, pillows, and a throw to make our living room a bit cosier.
We’ll wait until our shipment arrives in a few weeks to put anything on the walls, but we’ve bought flowers, a candle, napkins, and placemats to make it feel a bit homier. And we love our apartment! Not many people have a shower with a name, but I named ours Disco Inferno.
Burn, baby, burn!
I love to cook, so of course I’ve been making some classic French fare: blanquette de veau, boef bourginon, croque monsieur, etc. We agreed that we’ll stop our habit of eating meals in front of the tv, and so far we’ve adhered to that plan, enjoying meals “comme les francais, a table.” And most lunches feature a glass of local wine. Wine here is both plentiful and affordable, with many quite good bottles for under $5.
Lunch of croques monsieurs, salade, et vin rose
This city has so much to offer, and we’ve hardly begun to see it. The street art alone is worthy of many blogs!
More street art on a building
Just yesterday we happened upon a small chapel that’s raising renovation funds via an enormous creche that features an entire village, fully automated.
Just a small part of the amazing village creche!
We also continue to marvel at the elaborate trompe l’oeil artwork on the fronts of otherwise plain buildings.
None of this is real, but it’s real art!
So far we have seen no evidence of the rumor that restaurant portions in France are smaller than those in the U.S. However, we have seen some evidence that women’s body images are not as unrealistic as they are in our native country.
Billboard at bus stops, advertising underwear for real women
We have been walking every day, usually at least 10,000 steps. And it’s always a joy to return to our new home. Did I mention that we have to go through three locked gates to get there?
Gate #1 is automated and gives access to our parking area
Gate #2, access to the intermediate courtyard
Gate #3 into our private courtyard
We’ve developed a routine for these gates: I unlock each one, and Phil goes behind me and re-locks each one. Every time we come or go. . .
Door to our apartment
And finally we get to our apartment, which we love more each day. We are so very fortunate to be living this adventure, and to have a lovely place to come home to. We are so happy to be living our dream!