Urban utopia or rural retreat?

I read a very interesting blog post recently on Our French Oasis which essentially posed the question: Where would you prefer to live? Town or country? So I’m adopting a similar approach to today’s blog post: Are you drawn to a rural or urban lifestyle?

Having recently spent a couple of weeks cat-sitting in the middle of Montpellier, the question was genuinely posed several times as we wandered the city streets, sat at a pavement café watching the world go by, or just while we perused the many and varied shops… Having lived for the past 17 years in Hong Kong, I do miss the buzz of the city. I miss the availability of goods and services virtually 24/7. The array of restaurant options just in my relatively small home town of Sai Kung rivalled most of the towns we have visited in France so far. But with the hustle and bustle comes noise and pollution. France retains that olde-world charm of long lazy lunches and deserted roads, quaint villages and beautiful scenery. We’ve certainly enjoyed exploring the area around the château in all directions but we feel that our hearts are drawn further south.

So we’ve made a decision.

We’re leaving the château!

Don’t faint. We’ve had a fantastic time here and we’ve loved having the opportunity to live in such an amazing building (I must admit that we are always comparing properties to the château and almost every time, it wins hands down). It’s just that we feel there are other areas to explore and so we’ve rented a little house in the Languedoc region in the South of France for the next 6 months of our French Adventure.

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Having just returned from our latest dog-sitting experience, I wanted to share with you some of the sights we encountered. Above was the view from the kitchen window of the property we were looking after. It was a barn conversion perfectly positioned in a village with a bakery, little supermarket and pizzeria just around the corner. The church bells woke us at 6am every morning (after their hiatus from midnight to aid our slumbers)! We could walk out of the door, cross a little river and be in the local vineyards walking the dogs within a couple of minutes.

 

 

It certainly helped our step counts with two good walks a day. The only time we cut it a bit short was the day of snow. Yes, SNOW in the South of France! Quite unusual as you can imagine! The river flooded and the swimming pool froze over so we stayed indoors except for two brief walks that day.

 

 

Luckily there was a wood burner in the lounge so Rich set about making a fire which soon warmed us up. The next day the sun was out and the snow had all gone and soon we were playing in  the garden with the dogs again!

 

 

The dogs were really well-behaved and happy to be left in the garden while we went exploring for a couple of hours. We went back to Minerve again (one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France that we had last visited on a cold and wet January day). What a difference!

 

We wandered around for about an hour, taking in the amazing scenery then we stopped for a delicious lunch at a recommended restaurant called Le Relais Chantovent. Rich generally disapproves of me taking photos of my food but I managed this quick snap of my amazing dessert!

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We also found a quirky mobile fish and chip truck near Narbonne that was actually a converted boat on a trailer! The lady parks it in the carpark of a local hardware store so it felt a bit surreal eating fish and chips while watching people come in and out carrying planks and tins of paint but there you go! Rich let me photograph that one because it was so unusual!

 

We finally said goodbye to the dogs and returned to the château where Spring seems to have sprung.

 

So I’ll leave you with the question I posed at the beginning: where would you prefer to live? In the town or country? Urban or rural? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

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À bientôt, bisous.

22 thoughts on “Urban utopia or rural retreat?

    • Having grown up in the middle of the countryside where a car was needed to get anywhere, I reckon we have paid our dues to the countryside! Ideally I’d be a walk away from a good flat white, a bakery and a little supermarket!

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  1. Despite our town being ugly and chavvy (according to a teen child!), it is ideally placed for both the ruralness of the New Forest and the cityness of Southampton. Everything we need is available by walking or public transport (except my work which is rubbish to get to by anything but car) and yet we are only ten minutes drive from the beauty of the forest on one side and ten minutes from an international airport on the other. And there’s coast quite near too. Ideal positioning!

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  2. Honestly, I don’t know… rural but close to a town but I love the idea of living in a centre of a small old town with plenty in walking distance. At the end of the day friends and socialising are important… I’d love to do a rural town with good access for a few years… but not a city…. does that make sense? A French Chichester rather than a Southampton size…
    But eventually rural…. living ‘the good life’ and painting but in a village with other people nearby.

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  3. Oh wow Lucy, how exciting! I’m so pleased you’ve had a good time at the Château, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the next stage of your adventures. (Definitely city living for me by the way, 100%!)

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  4. Am I the only carrot cruncher here? Space, quiet, greenery, great views – scientifically proven to be better for the soul than city living!

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  5. Oh… Anne liked it down there. In my Claverham French Adventure 35 years ago, I spent a few days there on the beach where the teachers/monitors shouted, ‘You, You over there. Yes you – the fat red boy. Cover up! Your’e burning’ or ‘in the bag! Be sick in the bag’ or ‘Cook, you’re supposed to be sailing not failing”
    Although a city has some advantages, I prefer the countryside and in Spain every small village has more bars than inhabitants. I like the north though it’s coolish, green and mountainous, Hope you both have a great time and look forward to hearing about your new adventuress

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  6. After 25 years in HK and Shanghai I’m well pleased to be rural and want to remain so. Even t
    his little town of 3000 gets a bit much at times and then I’m happy to high-tail it to the country for a while. That’s me.
    Thanks for your moving news and I look forward to hearing how it all pans out.

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  7. Wow, deep thoughts here but I think you’d probably be able to guess which I would go for………….rural of course !
    Not surprised that you’re going further south…….but where ?
    X x x

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  8. One blog behind at the moment so have only just read your March 10th as well as your yesterday (26th?) one. Town or country? Well I guess where we live is almost but not quite both but having spent most of the first 28 years of my life living in the sticks I do prefer a bit of civilisation nowadays, as long as we’re not too far from the countryside! We do enjoy our stays in London visiting the nephlettes mind you, but wouldn’t want to live there permanently.

    Now to those little huts by the road – I wondered if they were pill boxes from WW2 but they’re probably a bit small for that so not really sure.

    We sympathise with the hurdles you are having to jump to get your car changed over to the French system. We had a similar problem in reverse when we bought our L/H drive VW Polo in France and had to get it legalised into the UK system. Nightmare!

    Montpellier is where Zoe (eldest Niece) spent 6 months while enduring the tough life of doing her languages degree at UCL. We were going to visit her there in December time, via Eurostar & TGV, but on the day we were due to go we woke up to monumental SNOW! We couldn’t even get a taxi to the station and even if we had done, we soon heard that not only were the local trains not running, neither was the Eurostar nor most of the TGVs!. Very disappointed but we did manage a trip out there a couple of years later in September which was lovely and hot and sunny. Loved the old town but not so taken with the really modern bit (Antigone?) as you go from the centre, east towards the river.

    Great that you’ve been to Minerve and enjoy it so much (despite its very bloody history!) I first went there two years ago when staying with little bro’ at his flat in Carcassonne in March ’16 and went there again the following October, again with Ian and took a load of photos for a little exhibition I was involved in in November that year. (Was Le Relais Chantovent actually in the town? Can’t remember where we ate but it was one of those in the town centre). On the March visit the river was almost dry but on the October one the river was very full and had been even fuller a few days prior to our visit apparently. Absolutely love the place and would love to go cycling in that area. Went cycling a few years ago from Montpellier and that took in Narbonne Plage which was very empty and deserted at the time, mid May and HOT!

    Very sad about the shooting in Trebes last week. On the March ’16 visit Ian & I cycled there along the Canal du Midi from Carcassonne and found a fantastic little fish shop/restaurant right by the river there. I’m sure the town will be in mourning for some time to come and will never completely forget the horror of last week, but life will return to normal and it is a very pretty little town, well worth a visit if you get a chance to go while down that way.

    As ever loving your blogs and the super photos, the next best thing to actually being there!

    Keep up the good work!
    P&Dxx

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    • Dear Pete & Deb,
      Thanks so much for such a long message! You sound like you know the area quite well. I agree about Montpellier’s Antigone area…
      Le Relais Chantovent was right in the town of Minerve. There were several other places to eat too.
      We too were shocked about the shootings in Trèbes having been in the area over Christmas it all seems a bit too real.
      Thanks for the continued support for the blog and the photos. It’s a nice way to keep people up to date with our adventures!
      Much love to you both,
      L&R xxx

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