Moving to Béziers - The first few steps by Holly Howard

Moving to Beziers The first few steps 1My husband Alastair and I now live in Béziers. I like the way that sounds! We have made a den for ourselves, between — I would say mountains, but I wished they looked that formulated, so let’s just say — a lot of boxes and a camping stove in the shell of our beautiful, old, ‘new’ apartment and already our London life feels a long way away.


So I’ll start at the beginning, if there is one, as moving to France has been a day dream floating on the horizon for as long as I can remember.


It was about 18 months ago, really, that Alastair and I decided to make it a concrete something. Alastair had started training to be a web developer and so knowing that he could work remotely from London and indeed the UK gave us the little kick we needed to get going on our adventure.


We spent many evenings, in those first few months, researching areas of France. Growing up on Guernsey — one of the Channel Islands — and spending the last five years in London, made me adamant I wanted to be by the sea. The size of the town/city, being close to an airport and general travel connections were our other focuses.


So, in January of this year we flew out to Béziers for the first time. It’s a funny thing visiting somewhere new thinking - do I want to live here? You look at everything differently and with far more scrutiny than you do to your local area at home. You know it ‘looks good on paper’ but you’re very aware that you need a feeling; that stomach flipping, stomach churning and everything in between feeling.


We loved it straight away; the tree lined avenue, the views from the cathedral, the paved shopping streets and open squares. We found it very run down in some areas and retaining its old grandeur in others, but our main feeling was of how lovely everyone we met were, and that moved us more than the street cafes and the sun on our faces.


Moving to Beziers The first few steps 2Buying our apartment, considering we were first time buyers and so generally nervous about everything, went smoothly. It is a step up from our 37m² London flat and we’re enjoying being able to be in different rooms! It has beautiful tiled floors in the three main rooms, three worn French doors looking out onto three tiny balconies and more polystyrene ceiling tiles than we know what to do with! We’ll tackle those first, once we’ve bought an oven, and go room by room as I’m sure the mess will be all consuming for a while.


This was one of the main focuses for our move to France; buying our first home together. We can’t wait to strip it down and build it back up as our very own apartment. So that’s where you’ll find us, after a day at our computers, arguing about how much sanding down the windows need and why we bought so many pots of the wrong coloured paint. It will make Béziers seem more quickly like home, I hope, having our own four walls that we can play around with as we wish.


That will be our next six months, but right now I love being back on foot in Béziers. I’m not a born and bred city girl so a capital like London was beginning to wear me down. I really appreciate the size of our new city; big enough for the hum drum but small enough so that hopefully soon it’ll feel like it’s ours. A walk down to the canal and famous bridges only takes 20 minutes and each pocket of the city is already feeling like it has its own identity. After living in London, where anonymity is your friend, I really want us to integrate into our area and have a few local shops knowing our name.


One of our favourite new routines is going shopping in les Halles. I say shopping, sometimes I just wonder around looking at the stalls or Alastair and I might grab half an hour out of our working day for an espresso (I still make flat whites with our machine in the apartment but I’m trying to make French choices out and about!) The buzz at the weekend is great and we feel lucky to live close by.


Generally, we are excited and exhausted all wrapped up in one. It’s summertime, the street cafes have their chairs sprawled out and people are sprawling too. The Mediterranean is twinkling Mediterranean is twinkling at us and I can’t wait to explore the region’s national parks and show friends and family as they visit, wanting to lengthen their summer sun. So I am sure it will be the winter months - when the city starts to pull its blanket around its own shoulders - that tackle our reserve. But really, who knows, and in truth, I love that feeling. I think it’s all about not putting too much pressure on ourselves, to know we’ll be trying out best and so to try and just ebb and flow in this new French breeze.