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Which French city is the best to escape to if you quit Paris?

Montpellier has been ranked as the city stressed-out Parisians would most like to escape to to live, but other surveys, including The Local's own, suggest they would be better off moving elsewhere.

Which French city is the best to escape to if you quit Paris?
Photo: Wolfgang Staudt / Wikimedia

In 2016  80 percent of high-earning Parisians  were dreaming of leaving the stresses of the capital for alternative cities, according to job site Cadre Emploi.

A new study by the blog Paris Je te Quitte (Paris, I’m leaving you) published on Wednesday names Montpellier as the most desirable place for Parisians wanting to escape the capital.

The southern city close to the Mediterranean gained the highest combined score from seven criteria, these being climate, quality of life, environment, geographical location, culture and leisure, security and employment.

Photo: Empoor/ Wikimedia

Just 8km to the beach, plenty of sunshine hours and an average rent of 595 euros, Montpellier shapes up well.

But is it really the best alternative to the Paris rat race?

Previous studies tout other cities as the ideal change from Paris

A city on the rise

A survey in September 2016 showed that among top-earning Parisians, 56 percent of them would choose Bordeaux as their ideal spot to start a new life should they leave Paris.

Bordeaux is on the up for employment and city life following years of investment. “Huge investments have turned Bordeaux into a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, which – in comparison to other major French cities like Paris, offers remarkably good value for money,” Helen Robinson, one of the directors at local real estate agency Bordeaux and Beyond, told The Local.

Improved links to Paris make the city an even more attractive proposition for resettling Parisians, as of July 2017 you will be able to get from Bordeaux to the capital in two hours by high speed train.

(The new museum of wine in Bordeaux. AFP)

So only a short trip away if you start to miss Paris life, you could even commute there and back if you were really committed.

However, all of this interest has a downside; property prices are soaring. Bordeaux has the fastest-growing prices of any major city in France.

“With property prices shooting up, there is a fear that the average man on the street will be priced out of the city,” British writer Scott Gilmour, who has made Bordeaux his home for 10 years, told The Local.

A small town vibe

(Nicolas Vollmer. Flickr)

Some recent studies suggest the best alternatives to Paris lie out west, in Brittany.

A comprehensive survey by L'Express magazine this week ranked Nantes as the best place to work in France, due to the city scoring well in categories such as jobs, low unemployment, transport connections and ease for young people entering the jobs market.

But what if you are a foreigner looking to flee all those Parisians?

Does that change anything when it comes to choosing an alternative city? It certainly does according to our own study.

If you’re a foreigner living in Paris and looking for somewhere new to start, then we say Rennes (see photo above) in Brittany offers the best choice for you.

In our own study on the best cities for foreigners in France, the western city came out on top of all 13 cities included (including the capital).

While it may not be able to boast the booming investments of Bordeaux, Rennes is a city for those seeking the quieter life outside of Paris and to improve their all round quality of life.

“A city with a small town vibe” is how Georgia Wyche, an American English teacher who has been living in Rennes for two years, describes it. “The size of Rennes is quite comfortable and not intimidating,” she told The Local.

(Maltman23.flickr)

You’ll certainly be able to a be a little looser with your budget in Rennes, it was only beaten by Clermont-Ferrand for low rent prices and had the lowest unemployment rate of the cities studied by The Local at 8 percent.

And you can spend the cash you save in one of Renne’s many bars, one for every 1,670 inhabitants.

“You know Montmartre (in Paris) with its little streets and the village feel? There are parts of Rennes that are quite similar to that, with lots of bars and cafes,” said Stewart Bennett, who runs O'Connell's pub and has lived in Rennes for 15 years. “But of course it’s not nearly as expensive as Paris.”

The categories where Rennes fell down was in its places of culture and number of Michelin-starred restaurants, art and fine-dining lovers might be at a loss after living in Paris.

But it's not just us ranking Rennes top of the table. An EU study in 2016 put Rennes top of the table of all French cities for quality of life with 95 percent of inhabitants saying they were happy with life there.

But in the end it's up to you? Or would you just rather stay in Paris?

by Rose Trigg

 

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BORDEAUX

‘Parisian go home’: Why all the hostility in Bordeaux towards the capital’s exiles?

Stickers have been appearing in Bordeaux telling Parisians in no uncertain terms to go back home. while Bordeaux's mayor says he is ashamed, is his city really turning against new arrivals from the capital?

'Parisian go home': Why all the hostility in Bordeaux towards the capital's exiles?
Photo: AFP

In recent years Parisians have been fleeing to the south western city of Bordeaux when they have tired of life in the capital.

Indeed a 2016 survey of top-earning Parisians found that 56 percent of them would head to Bordeaux to start a new life if they ever left Paris – putting it well ahead of any other French city.

And drawn by the slower pace of life, the nearby beaches, the sunny climate, the chance to buy a decent sized property and the beauty of the city itself, the capital’s exiles are heading for Bordeaux in bigger numbers than ever before.

But it appears that they are no longer wanted, at least among a certain section of the Bordeaux population, who resent the influx of monnied residents from the north.

They blame Parisians for the recent hike in property prices that has made apartments in Bordeaux unaffordable to many “locals”, the lengthening of traffic jams in and around the city and the densification and gentrification of neighbourhoods in the centre.

While mayor Alain Juppé heralded the opening of the new high speed Paris to Bordeaux TGV line in the summer that cut journey times to just two hours, some locals saw it as the final straw.

Hence the appearance of the “Parisian go back home” messages (printed along with an image of the TGV) in recent weeks, that have prompted “ashamed” Mayor Alain Juppé to threaten legal action.

“The anti-newcomer attacks in Bordeaux are a shameful, I'm considering taking legal action,” said Juppé this week. “Bordeaux will always be a welcoming city,” he added.

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A new group has also become active on social media in recent weeks. They blame Juppé for doing too much to promote the city to attract newcomers, whilst forgetting about the existing residents.

The Bordeaux Liberation Front against Parisianism (FLBP) has mobilized against the “surge of Parisians”, albeit more with satire than real vitriol.

But in an open letter to the city published on Twitter the group does list a number of concerns felt by the locals over how the city is changing rapidly.

“Bordeaux let’s talk for five minutes. You are trying to play a role that does not suit you and we can see it. You are a big city in the south west, a little bourgeois, but also a little redneck we must admit.

“Your inhabitants are sons and grandsons from Les Landes, the Basque country, Charente and yes Spanish, Portuguese, Moroccan, from everywhere in fact. You are a city of good living, gastronomy and until recently Rock.

“But you are not a European capital and definitely not a global capital. To pretend you are is ridiculous.”

“For two years you have neglected your children. You do not even offer a roof to all of those who come to study at your universities. You are relegating your families to live forever in cardboard houses 30km from the centre, so that your latest conquerors can take even more selfies in your company.”

On their Facebook page the group writes: “Parisian friends, thank you for restoring the old Bordeaux, but suddenly the city is empty of its original inhabitants who cannot afford it anymore.”

Elsewhere there has also been graffiti appearing in former working class neighbourhoods like St Michel that has criticized the gentrification of these areas.

The anti-Parisian feeling has also manifested itself in other more humourous ways. In cafés Parisians risk paying more if they ask for a pain au chocolat rather than the locally used term chocolatine.

Nevertheless one Parisian who recently moved to Bordeaux with his young family told The Local he had not experienced any hostility, although he admitted that the city did have issues.

“I’m out and about all the time and I’ve never seen the stickers,” said Simon Letellier. “I’ve never felt any resentment when talking to people and we never feel we have to hide the fact we are from Paris.

“It’s true that there is a gentrification of the centre that has come with a hike in property prices, but even many Parisians can’t afford to buy in the centre of Bordeaux now.

“You can’t blame Parisians for the traffic jams, because the mayor, just like the mayor in Paris Anne Hidalgo has tried to cut the number of cars in the centre.”

He also highlighted that there are positive sides to monied Parisians upping sticks to move to Bordeaux in that they can help create jobs.

But perhaps the more “Parisian” Bordeaux becomes, the less attractive it will become to Parisians. And there are other cities in France, don't forget.

After topping so many “Best Of” surveys in recent years, Bordeaux found itself surprisingly relegated down to 11th place in a recent study of the best French cities to live in when it comes to jobs and affordable housing.

Lille in the north topped that ranking. Parisians might not fancy the rainy northern city near the Belgian border but at least they'll be able to order a pain au chocolat without fear of being ripped off.