Having made the decision to move to France, and convincing my employers to support the move, the next question was, where do we live.
I’ll be honest, my knowledge of French geography is basically limited to “is there a football team there?”
Thanks to Football Manager and a slight obsession for the FIFA World Cup of 1998 in France, I have built up an extensive knowledge of French cities and towns where football is played. Even down to clubs outside of Ligues 1 and 2. I was able to surprise my wife a few times with knowledge of provincial villages that at one time may have had a successful team. I also like to watch football and visit stadiums.
So we started with a Google Map view of France while I recited the names of football teams, in the hope that we would live somewhere I could easily get to a match. (hey…football is a universal language for me).
Before we selected a location, there were a few prerequisites that we had to work through in order to determine where to focus our search.
One of the agreements that I made with my line manager at work was that, as I don’t drive (through choice), I would need to be able to easily reach an airport with both regular flights back to the UK and connections into other French and European hubs. This narrowed the search down a fair bit, while also (conveniently) tying back into my knowledge of cities that have football teams.
One of the other key factors was having a support network available to us. Having an 18 month old girl, and with me travelling away from home a lot, it was important for us to be able to have family and/or friends nearby to fall back on.
I offered up the suggestion of moving back to my wife’s home town in the North of France. I thought that would be a logical place to start as it would give us a ready made network of friends and some family to move near. The response is not really one that I can type. It contained several expletives, but mainly nasal French sounds that I just don’t know how to spell. The response from my wife was that if we are moving from the UK, the weather needs to be different, and the North was just too similar to what we experienced in Yorkshire. Basically, grey all year round.
So then that meant a third prerequisite was it had to be warm. Which ruled out everywhere except the South of France. This meant we were looking at cities with airports, where there was family nearby, by the Mediterranean. My first suggestion was Marseille, but I was told that was not really a place we could bring up a child. I then suggested Limoges, but was laughed at. Apparently, Limoges is boring (sorry to anyone that lives in and loves Limoges).
So that left us with two possible options. Nice and Montpellier.
My wife’s Father lives just outside Nice, and we looked into it, but the costs of property, either to rent or buy was out of our price range.
My wife’s Mother and brother live just outside of Montpellier. Plus my wife had spent a year at university in the city. The weather was warm most of the year round (relative to the UK at any rate) and on top of that, Montpellier had won Ligue 1 in the past 5 years. It seemed like a no brainer.
We would focus our search on Montpellier and the Herault region.