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 Jane Griffin as Ramoneta of the Month. Over a steaming cup of tea, she told me all about her interesting life and original professions before she settled in the South of France to run the Café Déco in Capestang.
I’ve been living in France for over 16 years already, originally coming from England where I was a town planner. When I met my now-husband John, he was living on a Dutch barge. I liked the idea of a more adventurous life, so I quit my job in 2006, hopped on board and together we sailed from England to France. Soon enough, John and I bought an apartment in the French Alpes where we stayed during the winter. And in summer we travelled France and other parts of Europe by boat.
The first years, I had to find out who ‘Jane’ was without a job, especially when John was away for his work as a pilot. But being a ‘professional sightseer’ I had enough to keep me busy. Together, we published a book about Dutch barges, and I ran a hotel in Les Deux Alpes for a couple of years.
First time visiting the region
In 2010, we welcomed our daughter to the world, she was born in the North of France. By that time John and I had sold the apartment in the Alpes and lived on the Dutch Barge (1) full time. It was a wonderful time and we fully enjoyed the free life on the water. However, being an ‘earth person’, I felt like I needed a home as a stability factor for our family life. We had the first taste of the Languedoc region when we came down the river Rhône to Toulouse. Visiting the many villages along the Canal du Midi, the barge also brought us through Capestang (2). We both felt that this was the place for us. It has the perfect size, a lively community, and a beautiful square as the beating heart.
Settling in Languedoc
Once we had set our minds on Capestang, we decided to settle here in 2013. It felt so good that we even sold the boat! We found a village house with a huge barn at the back. I already had experience working with wood on our Dutch Barge, and the barn was perfect to set up a workshop. When our daughter started school, the time was ripe to set up my business in making furniture and utensils from wine barrels. People began to like my products, and via my Etsy shop and word of mouth, it started to roll. You don’t often see women working with wood, which added to the challenge.
After seven years of being covered in dust, it was time for a change. I already combined my barrel work with massaging dogs once a week. And I love creating symmetric art designs on canvas and boxes. As John’s dream was to open a coffee shop, we made a plan and decided to be partners in business as well. John and I had the opportunity to transform a hairdressing salon that had been empty for 15 years into the cosy coffee shop it is now. We had bought it in March 2022, spent a couple of months renovating and organising all permissions. And at the end of July 2022, we opened the doors of our Café Déco (3 & 4).
Our coffees, teas, smoothies and pastries attract locals and passers-by. Besides refreshments and treats, we also exhibit and sell art from local artists as well as local products and my own art. Since the opening last summer, it has been a big success! We’re open from Monday to Wednesday and Friday to Saturday from 08h00 to 13h00 and 14h30 to 17h00.
Setting up a business in France
I have found that people are very helpful if you take the time to go and see them personally. In France, you will get more things organised when meeting people face to face. Also, go to the right organisations like the Chambre of Commerce and ask questions. They will help you to pick the right legal form to create your business, and they can also help you with your business plan. It’s convenient if you speak French, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask someone to come with you. In the end, it will save you money if you do it right straight away.
Living in the South of France
I absolutely love living here. The French have been very welcoming to us, and I feel very much at home. I also enjoy being involved in the local community life. Of course, it can be challenging to achieve certain things, as you have to conquer language and regulation barriers. But every time when I succeed, it feels more rewarding than it would have been in England.
France, to me, is a rich country regarding culture and good food. There is a good balance between work and off-time, and family values are highly appreciated. Well, at least here in the countryside. On top of that, living here gives me the accessibility to so many stunning places to visit. It’s a great combination of history, architecture, being close to both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. When friends and family come to visit us, I see the region through their eyes and their amazement about the beauty of it. The Hérault is a very authentic and down-to-earth place.
Best Languedoc wine
The viognier wine of Laurent Miquel (5) is so good. The eighth generation runs this wine estate, and Laurent Miquel is doing an excellent job creating this fresh and crispy wine. For the Nord Sud Viognier, he planted his vines from north to south to protect the grapes from the midday sun.
Le Vauban (5) in Capestang has good vibes, good food and good service. Two young women, Léa and Coralie, run this restaurant. They have decorated the interior and terrace outside with great taste, and the price/quality of the menu is spot on.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
I would most probably take the dogs to the beach. When the dogs have finished running around, we would enjoy a family picnic with homemade goodies. Our go-to beach is Port Chichoulet at Vendres Plage (6), a remote spot even in summer.