Why you should choose Montpellier for your study abroad experience.

I have just returned to Chile , after almost a year in Montpellier, France , I’ve graduated university and I’m ready to face new challenges.

The past year was , as corny as it may sound, the best year of my life. And I’m going to tell you why to choose southern France, specifically Montpellier for your study abroad experience.

(You can check out my first post about Montpellier here: “La vie à Montpellier” )

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1. Great Location and weather:  Montpellier is located in Southern France on the Mediterranean sea, this offers great weather on the summer and a mild winter.

Location wise it’s perfect for travelling around Europe. Barcelona, Marseille and the beautiful Côte d’Azur is just a short car ride away. And direct flights from nearby towns will take you to Morocco, Belgium, England, Holland, Greece, Turkey and more!

2. Entertainment and events all year round:  During the year I enjoyed different events and festivals such as “Les estivales de Montpellier”, the Open Sud Tennis Tournament, the FISE (International Festival of Extreme Sports) and even a concert by my favourite rapper Drake :)! Bottom line is , you will always find something going on in the city that will be of your interest.

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3.Diversity:  Something that I always enjoy when I travel is diversity. In Montpellier you canDSC_0704 find people from all over the place like Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Latin America and other places. The perks of this is that you get to experience other cultures on daily basis by eating their food, or celebrating festivities from different countries.

4. It’s a city that caters to students:With many universities and grand écoles,the majority of the population in Montpellier are students. Which leads to the next point….

5. Parties, bars and clubbing:  Nightlife in Montpellier is fun and crazy. You have endless options when it comes to bars, on Monday’s the place to be for exchange students is the “Australian” bar where you can get a pint of beer for 2.50 euros. As for big clubs, these are located a bit further away but easily accessible by tram or the “amigo bus” , a free bus that will that will take you to some clubs and back to the city centre.

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6. Government  funding: This applies all over France for students even if you are not French. You can apply to get government funding for your rent through “CAF” , depending on how many people you share an apartment with and how much you pay monthly, you can get CAF to pay for up to half of your rent!

7.It’s beautiful: I will never forget the first time I saw “Place de la Comedie”, it was so beautiful I just couldn’t believe that was going to be my home for a year. Even on my last night in Montpellier as I walked around town I was amazed.

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I will never forget the year and amazing friends I had in Montpellier. I recommend a study abroad experience to everyone, get out of your comfort zone and go explore the world 🙂

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Why Paris didn’t amaze me

The city of love and the epitome of fashion. The city that every hopeless romantic dreams about visiting with their better half and be proposed at the Eiffel tower. Unfortunately I have nothing new to say about it, no new perspective or useful tourist information other than what tons of other people have already written about. So for this post , I’m just expressing my feelings towards this city.

The first time I visited Paris was in 2006, and I remember not being impressed and for this second time, I just didn’t fall in love with it.

Don’t get me wrong, Paris is beautiful, the monuments, the streets, the impressive Louvre and more. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy my days in Paris, I was super happy to find a Forever 21 store and do some damage,  walk around streets sorrounded by little coffee shops and couture shops and just spend some quality time with my family. And at night I couldn’t help but hope that the car from “Midnight in Paris” would pick me up and take me back to the “belle epoque”.

I went to all the tourist places with my family, took cliché pictures of them and ate crêpes. I guess my issue with Paris was, that I didn’t discover anything new, and that’s entirely my fault. So for that reason I would love to give Paris one more try, to explore and find out the things that are out of the “typical” tourist paths.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

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Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

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Versailles

Versailles

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The tower

The tower, there was a pollution problem over the weekend and the skies looked gray…

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Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

2013 wrap up

10, 9 , 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 ,2 ,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

Fireworks at the beach back home.

Fireworks at the beach back home.

Before I welcome 2014 into my life, I want to first say goodbye to what has been an amazing year. 2013 has been a year of challenges, from January when I was doing my professional internship in Chile, to getting everything ready to start my exchange in France, to actually arriving in Montpellier. It has been an amazing experience, and I’m so greatful to have met such lovely friends, travelled and discovered new places. But also, I have to thank all my friends and family who support me from other places, they might not be here with me but they are always in my thoughts and heart.

I also started this blog, and I want to thank everyone who has ever read any of my posts, or maybe skipped the written parts and just looked at the pictures, which is cool too 🙂

But enough of the cheesy stuff, here’s to a great 2014, to fulfilling dreams, being adventurous, travelling, laughing, loving and trying to accomplish our new year resolutions 🙂

Montpellier

Montpellier

Going back to medieval times in Carcassonne, France.

Continuing with my cheap weekend travels in the south of France, I visited Carcassone and Toulouse.

The first stop was Carcassonne,known for its walled city called “La cité médievale” which is a part the UNESCO’s world heritage list and is also said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s ” The Sleeping Beauty”. 

The history of  “La cité” dates back to Gallo-Roman times, who fitted the town with ramparts and worked on fortifiying it. After centuries of witnessing battles and acting as a fortress used to protect the border between France and Aragon, the town lost its strategic importance when the “Pyréneés” region was signed back to France. Later it was restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc , the same architect in charge of the restoration of the “Notre Dame” cathedral in Paris.

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As I entered the walls of this madieval fortress, I found the cutest medieval themed candy and souvenir shops as well as restaurants and coffee shops, but everything is ridiculously overpriced.

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What is really worth entering is the Chateau Comtal and ramparts area, for which you have to pay an entrance fee of 8.50 euros for adults, but it’s free for youth up to 26. Inside you can walk on the ramparts, see the inside of the Chateau and watchtowers and get amazing views. Walking on the ramparts I will admit that, at one point my friend and I run around pretending like the “bad guys” were coming and we had to dodge arrows :p

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After exploriing “La Cité” for a few hours I made my way to the lower part of town ” La Ville Basse” , there’s a few worth visiting spots like Place Carnot, a small town square sorrounded by restaurants, and Saint Vincent church in which you can make your way up the bells tower after 238 stairs and get a wonderful  view of the whole city.

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I would say one day is enough to explore and get to see all the attractions of Carcassonne, which is what I did. Since I was travelling to a different city the same day in the afternoon, the first step was getting a map which you will find just outside the train station at a little tourist office. Also if you have any baggage you can leave it for about 1 euro at “Hotel de la Bastide” to walk around freely and with no extra weight.

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Weekend in Toulouse

My weekend in Toulouse consisted of visiting a good friend who happened to live in the cool neighbourhood of Carmes. We basically walked all weekend exploring the streets and scoring a bunch of free things!
All the french cities I’ve posted about in the past are located in the Languedoc-Rousillon region, but Toulouse is at the heart of Midi Pyrinees region lying at the banks of Garonne river. This is the type of city that I like, metropolitan and vibrant but with its charm intact.

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For those who like visiting churches , you will love this city. The Basilica of St. Sernin is a UNESCO world heritage site, but I didn’t visit this one :p. Instead we visited “Le couvent des Jacobins” , actually we stumbled up on it as we were walking around town, but I’m glad we decided to enter. It’s a gothic style church with a beautiful courtyard garden (4 euros to enter,but free for students).While inside we got to see a beautiful singing performance by a woman with an amazing voice that echoed all around the church. Another fun thing is that one of the pilars has a mirror installed all around its base so we spent some time trying to take cool pictures.

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Continuing with our lucky spree of scoring free things, as we made our way to “Garonne” river, we took part in a game for an oil brand campaign and after playing we were entitled for a free boat ride on the river! So we not only had fun and made fools out of ourselves, but we actually got to take a boat which usually costs 8 euros.

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Another important spot in Toulouse is the “Capitole” which houses the city hall ,and its square is always full of life, from dance shows to wedding celebrations and activists with megaphones fighting for different causes. After enjoying an ice-cream we made our way to the closest “Galeries Lafayette” mall, not for shopping purposes but instead going all the way to the rooftop to get view of the city.

I’m going to skip the night life experience as we did not find any place that we actually liked to stay for more than 20 minutes.

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The next day started with a -free again- cup of hot chocolate at a little chocolate festival, and a visit to the Royal Gardens. After a nice walk around the park and snapping a few pictures we walked past “Le muséum de Toulouse”  and a sign that said ” Free entrance today” , so obviously we went it ! 😛  ,usually the entrance fee is 6 euros.

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I had a great weekend in Toulouse with my friends and I would definitely go back 🙂

Sète , a charming mediterranean port.

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DSC_0120One of the perks of living in Montpellier is that it’s located close to many beautiful french cities and just hours away from Barcelona. This is perfect for cheap short weekend trips, and following last week’s trip to Nîmes, I decided to get out of Montpellier on Saturday and spend the day in Sète,a port city with a series of canals that connect the lake “Étang de Thau”, which is the second largest french lake, to the Mediterranean. The city is situated at the foot of Mount St. Clarie and it’s the most important port in the region. It doesn’t have big museums or great buildings to visit; its charm lies on the streets and canals themselves, the beautiful view from the top of Mount St. Claire and the peaceful beaches.

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We started of our day strolling around the streets along the main canal “Canal Royal”, made our way to “La Criée” , a fish auctioning house where buyers from restaurants and fish shops come to get fresh fish and seafood. Unfortunately it’s closed on the weekends so we couldn’t witness the action going on inside, but we got lucky and just outside there was an importan rowing race going on.

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We then made our way to a quiet beach to relax for a bit and  prepare for the climb up the hill all the way to the top of Mount St. Claire.

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There are stairs that will lead you right up to Mount St. Claire, but we took the road instead, which may have been more exhausting but the plus side was that we got to see the beautiful and huge mediterrean style houses built on the mountain. I was very tempted to trespass and jump into the swimming pools of these houses.

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DSC_0201As any other port it offers a wide range of seafood dishes being oysters and mussels the most popular ones. I am not a seafood eater, but I felt like I at least had to try the fish. In all honesty the best thing on my plate was the lettuce and it freaked me out that they served me a fish with the head and skin on. My friends had mussels and they were not impressed either, but they are tough judges taking into consideration that they are from Belgium and one of their typical plates are mussels or “moules-frites”. DSC_0200

But leaving the cuisine aside, if you are travelling around the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France,Sète is definitely worth a visit for a day or two.

Nîmes, french city with a Roman touch

This weekend a short train ride from Montpellier took me to the beautiful city of Nîmes which is also located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.
Dating back to the Roman empire. Nîmes was actually an important Roman colony and “Via Domitia” , the road constructed during the empire to connect Italy to Spain passes through this city, so there is also some Spanish influence.

DSC_1209I was only there for one day so I visited  3 of the main sites and explored the streets of the city.

Amphitheatre “Arénes”

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Back in the Roman empire days the amphitheatre on it’s 2 stories could accommodate 24.000 viewersDSC_1460

Roman Temple  “Maison Carrée”

One of the best preserved Roman temples

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Tower “La Tour Magne”

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The tower stands in the highest point of the city and played a military role as it was part of the walls built sorrounding the city . The view from the top is spectacular and you get to go up for just 3 euros (2.50 for students)DSC_1296 DSC_1313

To get to the Tour-Magne you have to enter the “Jardins de la Fontaine” (“Fountain Gardens”).

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But what was special about the weekend was the “Feria des Vendanges”, a grape harvest festival that takes place every year for 3 days in September which celebrates 2 traditions, wine making and bull fighting.The athmosphere on the streets is amazing, it’s really a party that takes over the city. There are open air concerts, bars blasting the speakers and filling the air with music and paella and sangria everywhere you look. At night you can hit the clubs, but the best idea is to just stay on the streets where music is playing in every corner and people are dancing everywhere till around 3 am.

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The only thing I disliked during my visit was the bull fighting, which is one of the main attractions of the weekend and takes place in the amphiteathre. During these fights, toreros kill around 6 bulls per performance with spades and make a show out of it. I understand that this is a part of many cultures and it’s done in other places of the world but it’s just something that I will never be in favour of and would never pay to watch animals get killed. Hopefully traditions like this all over the world dissappear eventually.

After the “show” was over, I snuck in the amphitheatre just to take a look at the inside, I wasn’t impressed but the sky looked beautiful.DSC_1443 DSC_1462

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My first wine tasting experience

-Les Estivales de Montpellier-

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For eight years now the “Estivales de Montpellier” take place every summer once a week. This year every Friday night, since June till September 6th at the “Esplanade Charles de Gaulle” in Montpellier, this fun fair has been taking place offering wine, food, crafts and music.

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