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The Quiet Life - but what is it like living near to a busy city?


Goldie

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My husband and I are planning to make the move to France and have visited lots of potential businesses [b&b / Gite operations/ campsite] in the Langedoc area of France. Having move recently visited the area in January [just come back] we noticed that the villages [Olonzac, Azzile etc] were like ghost towns, with little or nothing to do. We also noticed that on a Saturday or Sunday it is virtually impossible to buy anything to eat.

We were expecting this as we have read many articles about how rural France comes to a standstill in winter, but we are wondering if this is the right option for us.

We are wondering if it would be better for us to look at an area on the outskirts of a big city such as Montpellier or Bordeaux. We would still like to be in the country but nearer to a bit of life for when we needed it.

Can anyone comment on what it is like in these big cities in the winter - and would it give us the perfect balance?

Many thanks

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Goldie, we are also in the Languedoc but in a village close to Beziers and about 40 minutes from Montpellier. I feel we have the best of all worlds as the village isn't really a holiday destination, although there is a small campsite and some villas to rent. The bar and restaurants open year round but seem to stagger opening hours during the winter so that something is open all the time. Being near bigger towns means that we also have options there. Maybe check out out some other villages that don't rely solely on summer trade and you will find something that suits you better. I know I prefer being able to access the bigger places without actually having to live there.

 

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I'm about 30 minutes from Montpellier. It functions like any other big place in the winter. Bars, restaurants, theaters, cinemas, jazz, blues and rock clubs all carry on as usual. Only thing missing are tables in streets and on terraces. Not absolutely sure what information you're after here [:)]

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"We are wondering if it would be better for us to look at an area on the outskirts of a big city such as Montpellier or Bordeaux. We would still like to be in the country but nearer to a bit of life for when we needed it.

Can anyone comment on what it is like in these big cities in the winter - and would it give us the perfect balance"

Yes I think it would, if you like to have some entertainment during the Winter months then you can still live in the countryside but choose somewhere close to a nice city.

Other pluses:

Good (year round) transport links if you want to go to Paris, the U.K. or  have friends to visit you.

Good hospitals (hopefully you won't need them but you never know)

 

Bonne chance et bon courage

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Depends how much "life" you need?  Ask yourself the same question but substitute in a country you already know well (wherever you live now).

  • If you answer "I'd like to live in the suburbs of London/Birminham/Glasgow" (say if you are a Brit) - then pick Toulouse/Marseille - great vibrant "proper" cities
  • If you come up with "Brighton/Southampton" - take a look at Montpellier - trendy coastal smallish city (bigger city? Nice is fab)

  • "little cotswold village" - try the Tarn, an hour from Toulouse but pretty and rural yet good social/arty scene too

  • "in the middle of the Highlands/Yorks moors/N Wales" - try Lozere or the Ariege, rugged, beautiful and quiet.
Best of luck.

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Hello Panda and thankyou for your response.

Actually we are considering Bordeaux and have heard that it is a lovely bustling place as you have described. What I think is nice is that is has all the seasons too.  We are visiting it next month, so fingers crossed, we shall find our dream business there. I shall let you get back to your bamboo and thanks again!

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Hello Ian and thankyou for your response.

Your absolutely right. People have varying degrees and perceptions of what they call a city.

Our idea of a fabulous city is Cambridge. Bustling with beautiful architecture, history, wonderful pubs and restaurants, quaint cobbled streets, and fabulous shops providing all the necessary things you could ever want. Its also nice to grab something to eat on a Sunday if you want to. We have visited Montpellier and Avignon which we thought were both very nice. We are yet to visit Toulouse and Bordeaux, which we are planning to take in on our next visit in February. Thanks again G

 

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We have a flat in Montpelllier and have gone there at all times of the year.   Before we bought we stayed there in the winter to check that it was all right.  It scores 12 months of the year.  We stayed the week before Christmas and sat out in the central square drinking a glass of white wine, and realised it was mid winter's day.  It never really rests with concerts and festivals going on and a regular market.  We've never regretted the choice and we're off to spend the weekend there in a week or so.  Of course it's more lively in the summer with scores of places to eat outside and you can sit down at 10 and be served.  If you decide to live in the outskirts then if you're near the tram system then you'll have good communcations as well.  Peter
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[quote user="Goldie"]

Our idea of a fabulous city is Cambridge. Bustling with beautiful architecture, history, wonderful pubs and restaurants, quaint cobbled streets, and fabulous shops providing all the necessary things you could ever want. Its also nice to grab something to eat on a Sunday if you want to.

[/quote]

I agree, Cambridge is great ... my guess as a Southern French equivilant....errr....tricky: How about Aix en Provence

  • Similar size to Cambridge,
  • Old town centre with 16th century buildings,
  • Cafe/bistro culture,
  • On a river,
  • Many picturesque (cobbled!) squares with loads of fountains,
  • It has (like Cambridge) a former corn exchange and it has long been a University town (beginning of 15th century .. i think),
  • Good road connections out into the countryside,
  • Decent public transport system,
  • Pedestrianized central bit,
  • A growing new computer software industry has sprung up alondside more traditional industries (wine, chocolate, olive oil etc),
  • It has hosted many artists and has a couple of musical festivals each year.

Aix is twinned with Bath in the UK as it is a spa town too, but I feel it compares well with Cambridge.

Good luck on your hunt.

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I have to recommend Grenoble.  It is a university town and has lovely architecture.  There is something to do all year round, winter - skiing, summer is beautiful but gets hot, but you can always escape to the mountains - which Grenoble is surrounded by. Autumn is full of festivals and fetes and so is Spring too.  You can dine on Sundays, it has lovely boutiques and cobbled streets, clean places. It also has a river which  runs right through it. Glorious weather all year round.  It is expensive there simply because it is so good.

Deby

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