Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Last weekend I was in the centre of Montpellier doing a little browsing and musing on Christmas presents. I don't, in fact, buy much in actual shops. I like window-shopping, but I buy most things online from UK shops.

The 'mall' Polygone was awash with tempting items adorned in glitter and sparkly lights. The centre itself was a little disappointing. This year it is decorated all in blue and white, and while this is very tasteful and discreet, there is something lacking. It's so discreet, you're barely aware it's there. Maybe the whole panoply of decorations has yet to be installed.

There are three levels to the Polygone. When the third was added, I was hoping M&S would open up a shop, but it was at the time when they were closing all their international outlets, so many of us were terribly disappointed. There is a good variety however, from Galeries Lafayette, C&A, numerous clothes boutiques, Yves Rocher, a toy shop, music shop, eateries (Flunch, an oriental fast food joint, MacDo, coffee shops) and my favourites: The Body Shop, and Nature et Decouverte.

N&D is full of things I'd love to use but feel I don't have the lifestyle for, plus wooden toys, CDs of world music, whale songs, New Age compilations; an inside fountain that not only has running water but emits a smoke containing some aromatherapy oil which looked very dramatic. It was supposed to reduce stress so I can imagine days when I'd be sitting underneath it getting a continuous fix...

The Body Shop is always a delight. I buy nearly all my make-up there and love their Vitamin E face wash. This year they have some sparkly cranberry creams as part of their Christmas product line. The fragrance is a little strong but the sparkle is super.

Out in the open on the Place de la Comedie, a huge crowd had gathered around a group of musicians and singers. Being small, I couldn't make out much of who was doing what, but the music was certainly encouraging the audience to jig about. The genre was vaguely African, but the chorus of singers standing on the steps of the Opéra were all sorts.

Up rue St Jean we came across a street artist. He was recreating 'grand masters' in chalk on paper stuck to the paving stones. The best street artist I've heard of is Julian Beever who takes street art to the third dimension and should be on every perspective in art course going. The guy in Montpellier wasn't doing badly, but his stuff wasn't very inspired or individual either.

Anyway, I'll probably be doing my shopping from Hawkins, Mindware, and Ebay France and UK. I sometimes venture into ToysRUs, but I think I may be able to avoid it this year. As we'll be spending the New Year in the UK, we'll have a family Christmas then, so I have the presents bought in the UK and sent to my parent's address and that way I don't have to carry them over on mean old RyanAir with their draconian baggage limits.

It does mean I can mooch around town and enjoy the items on offer without panicking about having to buy or carry endless bags about. I love the internet.


  1. I see that M+S have online shopping now (probably been going for ages but I've only just discovered it), Unfortunately they don't send abroad for the moment but they are working on it.

    Watch out when you fly - it is impossible now! The other week when I was in England I had a carrier bag with me in Gatwick - my sister-in-law had put in a pot of damson jam - well that was consficated straight away, shoes off and then when I remarked that I was going to miss my flight (having been in the airport for 2 bloody hours fighting the queues), they then decided to search my handbag and tried to confiscate my fountain pen, incase I stabbed someone in the eye with it!

    It is just so awful that even if there are low cost flights I am going to look seriously at travelling by train - okay, it takes longer but the two hour check in now takes three, so that's already six hours lost, often one ends up in funny airports miles from one's destination (Geneva is okay as it's the only airport but Stansted for me for example is a good hour and a half's drive from my family - if the M25 isn't grid-locked).

    So when you pack the minute suitcase that Dan Dare allows you, make sure you put all your dangerous weapons in it and look at the contents of your handbag with a new eye!

  2. I took the Eurostar in the summer and loved it, as did the boys. It just so happened that RyanAir was cheaper when I wanted to go this time. A lot cheaper too.

    Unfortunately, it means that our return flight is at 6.05am which is so uncivilised as to be worth several second thoughts. Ah the joys of watching pennies...

  3. Am I right in thinking that British shopping centres are much more concentrated into one small area that French ones ? At the risk of raising an entirely different issue (ie cloned high streets) you do tend to have your WH Smiths, Boots, Next, etc all within a short distance of each other. In the French towns I've been too, the shops all seem mixed up with lots of other things, apartment blocks, services (medical, legal etc). Being diluted out means there's usually much further to walk if one is simply trying to do a shop.

    Why this difference I wonder ? Does it represent a difference in the way the French perceive a town centre - for living in as well as for shopping ?

    Whatever the reason, is this why French women are rarely fat (or so they would have us believe) ? And why chiropodists and shoe repairers seem to make a good living ?

  4. With regard to Montpellier, there are boutiques in the old Medieval center, but the department stores are all in the Polygone which is a classic shopping centre. So, if you want to do straight-forward shopping, the centre has it all in one place, but you can also wander in the old town and enjoy the quirky things in the vaulted stone shops there.

    It is also completely closed to traffic so you are obliged to work.

    Some French women are skinny because they smoke rather than eat, and are all nervy. There are plenty of others who are normally covered, however, these days especially.


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