I have travelled to a lot of cities in the world in my relatively short life (Paris, San Francisco, New York, Cologne, Geneva, Milan, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Vienna……) and there are quite a few more that I want to knock off the list before I step off this mortal coil. Well, this week, I did just that and spent a wonderful day ambling around the old southern French town of Montpellier. The city is a university town with a strong commercial base, oodles of history and some of the swankiest French urban architecture outside of Paris. Access to the city from Britain is easy: a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Gatwick.
I know that there is a lot to gripe about with France: the taxes, red tape and as we know, considerable problems with a large and angry underclass, made worse by a lack of assimilation of its Islamic population. However, from my point of view, if newly-elected Nicolas Sarkozy manages to cut taxes somewhat and reverse some of the daftest labour market restrictions, then any advantage to living in Britain rather than France will look increasingly slender. (I see no sign that Britain’s petty brand of health and safety puritanism has completely taken hold). I am not the first person to make that observation, of course.
Mind you, the beer is alarmingly expensive, but you can buy wine for a Euro a litre – and it tastes good. Emigration never felt so compelling.