03 April 2017

Why Sète?

Why Sète?

Several people have asked why we chose to live in Sète. I guess I could get flip, and say that 7 (Sète sounds like sept, or 7, engendering plenty of puns) is a magical number in mythology, Snow White had her 7 dwarves, or 2 à Sète is better than 5 à 7*. But no, it was the bread.

OK, the bread is fantastic! But certainly, the question deserves a real answer...

Over a decade ago, we looked into moving abroad. At that time, we made a list to help us narrow down countries - there were "must haves" and "wants."
Our musts were these, and we revisited them:

  1. Affordable (one of the hardest things to pin down, since you have to know what you have available, and what it takes to live there)
  2. Safety (politically, environmentally, and culturally)
  3. Able to live year round (weather, as well as residency rules)
  4. Religious freedom (no overwhelming, entrenched religion)

So, how does France stack up? Surprisingly, France is affordable! Our projected budget is less than we spent in either San Josè, Costa Rica or Albuquerque, New Mexico. France in general is safer than the USA. The weather in our area is comparable to the San Francisco Bay Area, where we had lived for many years, and the residency rules for us are reasonable. On top of that, France is not only officially secular, but some time ago, fought a revolution in part against the power of the church. (So, some serious religious freedom history)
France's iconic red poppy

When we said "let's move to France," we immediately thought of the places that we had visited in the past, and compared that time to what we know we like about life. We discovered a *lot* about ourselves when we lived all around in Costa Rica:

  1. we like city life
  2. friendly people are a must
  3. a sense of civic pride is nice
  4. weather (our kind) is important
  5. AND we really missed living near the sea

Some of the cities we stayed in and liked:

  • Sète - we live here now...
  • Nîmes - interesting history, carrying through to now!
  • Montpellier - great vibe! 
  • Toulouse - wonderful city; exciting aerospace (but quite cold when we were there in late May)
  • Perpignan - fantastic cultural mix

Others that only got a day-trip (so not enough to evaluate):

  • Carcassonne
  • Arles
  • Marseille
  • Collioure

We stayed in several very nice small towns ​as well, but knew that while they were great for relaxing, living there would just not suit us. There were several larger cities that were on our list to visit, but we never made it (so, no evaluation either).

Ultimately, the chance to live on the seaboard sealed the deal for Sète! Besides ticking all the boxes on our list, other big pluses are:

  1. it is extremely vibrant! From daily life to Summers full of festivals, there's something interesting going on. And Summer starts early and ends late!
  2. public transportation is fantastic! And when wanted, we can rent a car right in town. Buses run often (although I could wish they ran later at night), there is a fairly major train station, and (!!!!) it is France's biggest Mediterranean port (so, *lots* of boats!)!
  3. if public transportation doesn't meet your needs, it is easy to walk from one side of the island to the other (less than an hour)
  4. we haven't found a dodgy area yet 
  5. I don't think there is a poor view anywhere
  6. it's big enough at roughly 40,000 people to have a good infrastructure - various services, good tourist office full of information, helpful mairie, several museums, a school of fine art (with workshops open to the public), and various clubs (we've discovered a hiking club, and I'm keeping my eye​ out for others)
  7. I see great opportunities to further my experimentation in eating and possibly cooking "different" foods (there are a *lot* of types of seafood caught and sold here)
  8. rent is reasonable (although finding a place is a challenge!)
  9. seriously, the bread is just the best - crunchy crusts, springy mie, fabulous scent and taste...

* 5 to 7 p.m. is "traditionally" the time in a day that people spend with their lovers. So of course, the two of us in Sète, or 2-7 (5 hours) is much better ;-)


Frank Fish said...

Plus plenty of fish, the end of the Canal du Midi, always a great stage on the Tour de France, plenty of Salt and near the beautiful Agde. I confess, I spent many holidays there as a teenager, and later as an adult, went back with my own children. And my Mum, a French teacher, spent a year at Montpellier University - a beautiful, vibrant city, which I guess you know.

Julie said...

Lovely additions, Frank - thanks!