TO KNOW | LA RAMONETA OF THE MONTH
Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we would like to find out why they are living in this beautiful region, what they are doing for a living and some of their Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Dennelle Taylor Nizoux as Ramoneta of the Month.
I’m originally from California, growing up on the southern coast. My third year of university was spent as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence. This is where I became fluent in French and a novice in French culture. It was a difficult year, but when I left, I knew I had to come back. Living in France was now my dream.
I pursued a Masters in International Affairs in Washington DC and was lucky enough to land a job that sent me to Paris in 2000. I didn’t know anyone there, but I was determined to brush off my French and create a social life from scratch. I had not expected it to be so hard to make friends. Fortunately, I succeeded, and in 2001 met Alexandre, who became my husband in 2003. He’s an IT engineer from Normandy but speaks very good English thanks to many trips to Canada and the US with his mother. Our daughter was born in 2004 and her brother in 2007.
First time in the region
Some work friends and we came down for a holiday weekend in La Grande-Motte (1) in 2001. I was not impressed with the architecture, but the weather sure beat Paris’! Alexandre’s best friend from Rouen had settled in Montpellier, so we met up with him and his future wife while we were there. Over the next nine years, we came back often to spend time with them and got to know the region and their friends.
Living in Languedoc
We moved here in June 2010. Our kids started Petite Section (pre-school) and CP (1st grade in the US) in September, and I had my home office set up in the back, as I was working remotely for the same US company. But Alexandre still had to go to Paris for work every week, so the move wasn’t complete for him until he got a local job two years later.
From Paris to Montpellier
Our Parisian apartment was getting too small for our growing family, but we didn’t want to move to the suburbs (banlieue) like so many of our friends had done, and we couldn’t afford to buy a larger flat in Paris. Also, we’d tried for two years to get our daughter into the only international school near us, but there was never room. And being from California, I’d had enough of Parisian grey skies and rain.
By coming down to Montpellier (2), we were able to live in a big house with a pool, get both children into a bilingual school (at a fraction of the cost in Paris!), and see our friends here on a regular basis. We are also much closer to the mountains (both Pyrenees and Alps) and can enjoy the beach all year-long. The salaries are much lower down here, but the overall quality of life is way higher, and you can’t really buy that.
Best part of living in this area
Many of the advantages of the region that I could give would also apply to other areas in the South of France. The sunshine, easy lifestyle, wine, fresh local food markets, beach, dynamic cities, rich cultural heritage, proximity to nature, ease of national and international travel… But what I think is unique to Languedoc is the friendly, open attitude. I’ve spent time in other cities and towns along the French Mediterranean and not felt the same warmth and smiles. It took time for us to get used to the slower pace, but now we are used to giving people the time and space to make contact with others, chat with the baker, etc. It makes life so much more pleasant.
© Eric Brendle
I started Renestance (3) in 2015 to help English-speakers realise their dream of living in France. The name connotes rebuilding one’s nest far away. Having been through the move myself (twice), and knowing how many others shared that dream, I wanted to make it possible for more people to enjoy the wonderful lifestyle here. People need assistance from the minute they get the idea, because they have a lot of questions and don’t know what’s possible. Sometimes they also need assistance after they’ve been living here for several years, because the reality of daily life is not matching up to their dream. So we provide everything a person or family needs to successfully renest: accurate and applicable information, hands-on personal assistance with house-hunting or French administration, and a community of expats and reliable, English-speaking professionals. We have staff throughout the former Languedoc-Roussillon region and can assist people remotely all over France or in their home countries.
The French lifestyle dream
From my personal American perspective, being surrounded by historic charm and having universal healthcare, nearly-free university, job security, lower property costs, accessibility to the rest of Europe, fresh local food, and reduced violence is a dream come true! But the real secret behind the high quality of life in France wasn’t even something I was aware of until being here a while. The French lifestyle is based on an attitude or a mindset that is uncommon in the US and many other countries. It’s valuing experiences over material possessions and personal relationships over social status. People here work hard and care about what they do, but they also take regular, real vacations, because they work to live rather than the opposite. ‘Living the dream’ in France is more about authenticity than an impressive Instagram account.
Best Languedoc wine
As it’s summer right now, Puech Haut rosé is my go-to wine.
I really like Leclere in the heart of Montpellier’s historic district. The food is always ultra-fresh and prepared with heart. As they focus on quality over quantity, there aren’t many tables, so reservations are a must!
Perfect day out in Languedoc
I’d start off with a jog around the trails in La Maison de la Nature in Lattes (4), early before it gets too hot. Then a family hike with a picnic to eat at the top of Pic St. Loup. Maybe pop into the centre of Montpellier for some street-strolling, shopping and ice cream. And then the best finale would be to head down to the beach at La Grande-Motte with friends to watch the sunset and have drinks and dinner at a paillote.