My Languedoc town
History-wise, unlike most places down in the South, Montpellier has no Gallo-Roman background. Early records are « only » from Early Middle Ages. It soon became a major trade centre at the crossroads of the Mediterranean world, and therefore the Jewish and later on the Protestant communities, played an essential role.
In the 19th century, Montpellier was a significant industrial centre partly due to the private line train companies.
In the 1960s, it's population grew dramatically after French settlers in Algeria were resettled in the city following Algeria's independence from France.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the city drew attention to itself with a number of major redevelopment projects, such as the Corum and especially the Antigone District.
This area at the South of the old centre, used to belong to the Army.
The University of Montpellier is one of the oldest in France as it dates back from 1220.
A few facts:
Montpellier is the capital of Languedoc Roussillion. It's situated half way between Nîmes & Béziers, 10 kms inland from the Mediterranean Sea (at Palavas les Flots).
It takes 3 hours and 30 minutes on the TGV to reach Paris.
It has 220,000 inhabitants and 420,000 in the Metropolitan area (« Agglomération » in French) That includes an average of 70,000 students which probably explains why 37% of it's population is under 25 years of age.
But there isn’t any rational explanation as to why it’s the 2nd gay city after Paris. Finally on the subject of population, I need to draw attention to how quickly it has grown: in 1970 there were only about 70,000 inhabitants!
If you’ve already been to Montpellier the « Place de la Comédie » is most probably familiar to you. Well, you’ll be interested to know that it’s been completely free of cars since 1985. Since then it’s been the largest pedestrianised square in France.
One of my friends who’s been here for several decades once told me « if I had to leave Montpellier one of the things I’d miss most would be « La Comédie »
I am not actually sure how the sight of this all year round bustling square made me decide to move to Georges Freche’s city (he's a controversial local political figure who has been mayor for decades and is now President of the Region). I have been around since 1993 (after 6 years in U.K.) and being first near Calvisson (situated half way between Nîmes and Sommières) and then in Nîmes, I always have been a regular visitor in Montpellier. So I suppose gradually I learned to like it. Eventually in June 2005 I took the plunge : I moved in.
Why do I like it then? Well, I think this city has all the advantages a big city can offer without it's disadvantages. That is, if you’re ready to give up your car whilst in the city, go on foot and / or get one of the 2 tram lines. Everything you need is within easy reach.
A lot of cultural events – formal or informal – are taking place all year round. Quite a few welcoming English places (restaurants, pubs, bookshops, libraries, associations…) are available. On one hand the old centre offers a lot of interesting buildings to see (tourist office visits are invaluable) and on the other hand the new districts are the most interesting. The Antigone is the particular one not to be missed. Either you like it or you don't, is not the point. It has a certain grandeur, an astonishing unity.
Last but not least thanks to it's proximity to the sea, it's climate is indeed very mild and sunny. The official city motto is actually : « la ville où le soleil ne se couche jamais ». Which has a double meaning: living day and night; always sunny (300 sunny days guaranteed over a 12 months period).
So, are you ready to take the plunge ?
To find out more :
Tourist Office http://www.ot-montpellier.fr
Official City http://www.ville-montpellier.fr
Happy to help whenever we can.....
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A series of articles by residents describing their towns and villages. Why not add yours ?