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 the sparkling Nicole Hammond as Ramoneta of the Month. Many of you might know her as the driving force behind the Facebook page Ladies in Languedoc and their derivatives. But she also works as an expat consultant for Renestance and does loads of volunteer work.
I am a fifty-something single mum to Isabelle, 17 and William, who passed away 11 years ago, but who would be 13 now. I live in Béziers (1 & 2), having moved here in 2021 after 18 years in the countryside between Béziers and Pézenas. I’m sociable and outgoing, but feel I need to earn those social moments and so have a deeply instilled work ethic. I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t work! I also have many nicknames, including La Facilitatrice (for connecting people).
Settling in Languedoc
2002 – my half-French cousin, who was born and grew up in the UK, started exploring his French roots and bought a domaine here. He found out on the family grapevine that I spoke French and asked if I’d like to help him set up a luxury golf holiday business – I didn’t hesitate! I’d trundled over here for good within months with just what my car would hold.
I’ve been working with Dennelle, the founder of Renestance (3), for well over eight years now. Pre-move, we help people move to France. We can organise everything from visa guidance to shipping to finding them a place to buy or rent – often with the client in absentia. Then for the newly arrived, we hand-hold through the quagmire of setting up a bank account, getting internet and mobile services, utilities set up, and visa obligations sorted out. Further down the line, we can help folk join the French healthcare system and exchange their driving license (if possible). And finally, to renew their visa to secure their first actual Carte de Séjour. We also help set up small businesses and can translate in most areas. Of course, we help with many other ad hoc situations as they arise.
Ladies in Languedoc
I set up the LIL Facebook group (4) in January 2013, following the loss of my toddler son, William in July 2012. I was ready to give something back, to do something good in his name, and this came to me. It was a case of right time, right place. I started with 12 ladies from my supper group, and it just snowballed from there.
Before long, I started regional groups, which could converse and exchange information about local events, artisans, etc. These Facebook groups are still active: Ladies in Carcassonne, Ladies in Perpignan, Ladies in Avignon, Nîmes & Uzès, and Ladies in Aveyron. As the main group grew, so did the admin team, and we have a good, tight team now. We all work hard behind the scenes, giving our time for free and with good humour. There came a time when we saw that it would be advantageous for further subgroups in the LIL brand to be created. And so, we now have LIL Classifieds, LIL Businesses and- new in April this year- LIL Immos.
LIL is there as a support group, and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to disassociate the commercial aspect from the main group. Therefore, we support many charities, such as Cancer Support France and LSR (Languedoc Solidarité Réfugiés). Charities can post their fundraising events etc. in the group. We also helped local residents, for example, after the huge floods in Montagnac a few years ago. And, of course, there’s much more!
We’ve helped within the group and often behind the scenes. Think about women in trouble at home or at risk, women who are emotionally vulnerable or deeply lonely. If we can’t help directly, we put them in touch with a specialist who can help. This is the invisible part that the everyday LILs don’t see. And I’m proud to, for once, have the opportunity to say that this is William’s legacy and how his loss has led to the creation of a conduit to help for many others.
Living in the South of France
Well, I think you need to be realistic in your expectations. Things are always different when you move to another country. As well as learning a different language and adapting to new customs. The admin journey in your first year can be frustrating and tedious (and I’m not just saying that because that’s what I do!) – France is renowned for its red tape complexity. I would definitely recommend that you try to learn the language. This helps you to enjoy all aspects of your life successfully and enthusiastically here.
And this part of France, the Languedoc, is almost like a country within a country! The pace is slow; rurally, life is often simple. But the food is seasonal, fresh and tasty, great wine is produced on our doorsteps, and we have a lot of SAD-banishing sunshine! What’s not to like?! Besides the easy-going way of life, I love the rich infrastructure of friends that I perhaps would not have had if I’d stayed in the UK. I’m friends with people of all ages and many nationalities. Also, we are near to the coast, the hills and the ski resorts, as well as being able to easily drive into Spain for short trips.
Best Languedoc wine
For sparkling, I just adore the blanc de blancs from the Domaine de l’Arjolle in Pouzolles. As a summer wine-tasting go-to, I covet the muscat sec from the Cave Co-operative de Sérignan. And for a year-round choice at home, I love everything from Les Vignerons Montagnac Domitienne – delicious and affordable!
That’s a toughie! In terms of higher-end, I’d say it is between l’Harmonie in Sérignan or Au Lavoir in Colombiers. In Béziers itself, where I currently live, for everyday eating, I’d recommend Les Bons Amis or Le Patio for a menu that isn’t the usual homogenous bistro list. And my newest find is the out-of-the-ordinary La Carte Timbrée in Thézan-lès-Béziers (5). They have a totally delicious menu with a great-priced formula, including a glass of wine or coffee, on weekday lunchtimes.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
Either a long dog walk with my friends and their respective pooches in the Arrière Pays (backcountry – the foothills of the Cevennes) or a morning at a vide grénier (car boot sale) or flea market followed by lunch and bronzing at a paillotte (6) (beach bar/club) with friends.