Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why she lives in this beautiful region, what she does for a living and some of her Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Caroline Vink from Midi Décor in Saint-Chinian and SecondNew by Caroline as Ramoneta of the Month.
Born and raised in Vlaardingen, Holland, my now ex-husband, our daughter, and I moved to France in 2004. We started on the west coast, near Saintes, where we ran a campsite with a restaurant and we added a chalet park later. After a few years of fun and hard work, we were ready for the next adventure.
Settling in Languedoc
Six years ago, I encountered the Languedoc region for the first time. And I had a very good first impression! Actually, I prefer it to Aquitaine, as here I find the people more welcoming, warmer even. Maybe it has something to do with the good weather?! It was quite a change of scenery, though. However, rather quickly we found work by managing several gîtes, including table d’hôtes. At first, our daughter was a bit sad to leave all her friends on the west coast behind. But soon enough, she had settled in well and found some great new friends.
Over time, I ran the gîtes, and the dinners, by myself. I had a blast living in the South of France, but it was a tremendous amount of work to maintain the gîtes. One day, I coincidentally met one of the owners of Midi Décor through friends. She offered me a job at her shop and a place to live, and I felt like my life fell into place.
Nowadays, I work five mornings per week at Midi Décor in the centre of Saint-Chinian (1 & 2). This paint shop sells UK paints and accessories only, with brands like Crown, Ronseal and Sandtex. Our paints cover all materials, from metal to wood and anything in between. Because we can mix colours very precisely, we can create any colour you like. All the paint codes are kept in a file. So, when you come the next time, we can mix exactly the same colour again. Even the town halls of Saint-Chinian and neighbouring villages know how to find Midi Décor. That’s why you will see us all over town in the colours of the street furniture. We’re also proud to represent Frenchic. This versatile range includes all-natural, chalk and mineral paints for furniture and walls. I absolutely adore working with it!
SecondNew by Caroline
As I’m gifted with the DIY gene, I love to tinker with old furniture and objects. Most of the time when I bring my waste to the ‘déchèterie’ (waste collection centre), I come back with some new finds. Abandoned chairs, crooked closets and old doors are among the many items I have taken under my wing. With a bit of love and care, I give them a complete make-over or transform them into new objects like candle holders, chalkboards or pieces of decoration. They are for sale in the shop of Midi Décor or via my Facebook page SecondNew by Caroline (3 & 4).
Living the French Dream
Although I miss my parents and friends, I realise how lucky I am every time I walk my dog Oscar (5). Where else do you find views like here in Saint-Chinian? I love to take him out early in the morning. And even after all these years, I can’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful surroundings. The landscape is so varied and contrasting with its vines and limestone ridges, so there is always something new to discover.
Best Languedoc wine
Saint-Chinian is the oldest winemaking area of the former Languedoc region and officially protected by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or Controlled Designation of Origin). Therefore, there is plenty of good wine around! One of my favourite wines is the Viognier of Vignoble Belot, a family-run winery. However, I also like going to the Cave Coopérative in the neighbouring village of Cébazan. Now and then, you can buy rejected wine bottles for next to nothing. We have discovered some excellent wines this way.
My ultime favourite is Auberge de la Croisade (6) in Cruzy. If you drive from Cruzy to Carcassonne, you can’t miss it. This lovely restaurant along the Canal du Midi serves delicious lunches, and dinners too, by the way.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
I start the day with a coffee on the beach, followed by a bike ride along the Mediterranean coast. Lunch will be somewhere where my bike takes me. Anywhere will do, as long as it involves a good glass of white wine. As I already had lunch outside, I’ll invite my friends over for a nice and relaxing barbecue at my place. A great way to end such a perfect day.