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 Gemma Giubarelli as Ramoneta of the Month.
A little about me… I’m originally from Scotland, but lived the high-speed London life for eight years. I originally moved to France in 2013 to begin learning French, planning on staying for one year only and then travelling the world. My plan quickly fell to pieces when I met my life partner and partner in crime Nick Breedon. Five years later I’m still here and loving it more and more every year! After several non-serious discussions about opening a restaurant, the opportunity came knocking on our door out on the blue and our project was underway. We are now the happy owners of a bustling little restaurant, called Bonobo (1), at the bottom of Rue Saint Guilhem in Montpellier.
Our restaurant is inspired by Australian cafe culture and offers a brunch style menu with a variety of food from a typical morning fry up and stacks of sweet pancakes dripping in organic maple syrup to a range of more health-conscious meals (2). We try to offer options for people with gluten and dairy intolerances, vegetarians, vegans and people who are trying to eat with consideration for the environment. We wanted to create a place where people who have food preferences could eat with their friends and not feel uncomfortable.
Although small, Bonobo has given us the gift of meeting so many of the wonderful inhabitants of Montpellier and most importantly realising one of our biggest dreams: to help fundraise for charities and associations local to Montpellier. This idea was one of the principle reasons we wanted a larger space, and we are ecstatic to have been able to host our first event named “Benefit@Bonobo” within the first year of opening. We love animals and therefore decided to give the first donation to local S.P.A. animal refuge. With a huge amount of help from our fellow customers, friends and other local businesses, the Benefit@Bonobo managed to raise over 1,700 euro for the abandoned dogs and cats in the region. To date, this is the highlight of opening the restaurant, and we are already planning the next one.
Different food culture
Food in Scotland has a particularly bad reputation. However, there is some excellent food in Scotland including fresh seafood from local waters, free-range, grass-fed beef and devilishly delicious cakes. It is more commonly known, of course, for that fact that everything is deep-fried which is only partially true. If you really search you can find deep fried anything anywhere including the legendary deep-fried Mars Bar! Traditional French cuisine is undeniably the best in the world. Yet, the biggest difference I found is that people take the time to appreciate the food they are eating and whilst doing so they, more importantly, take the time to appreciate the people they are eating with.
Living in Languedoc
My first memories of the region include seeing countless people enjoying a coffee or wine on terraces and laughing with their friends. This happens morning, afternoon and night all throughout the year, including winter. I remember wondering to myself: “When do these people work?”. As fate would have it, I soon realised that this is the best part about living in this region. I begin to embrace the year-round terrace culture and am now wiser in the knowledge that there is nothing better than enjoying the company of the people you love on a beautiful sunny southern French terrace (3).
Best Languedoc wine
My top secret wine recommendation would be La Vista 2016 from the Domaine Ribiera. It is an organic and natural wine made by a young Parisian couple who passionately work the small domain near Aspiran. Although it is grown in this region, it is mostly sold in Paris so it’s difficult to find in local shops. The flavour of their wines varies each year vastly as they did not use chemical yeasts to control the taste. If you do manage to get your hands on a bottle or two, I would recommend opening it with your favourite people around you, and fully enjoy the moment.
© Eric Brendle
My favourite restaurant in the region would be Joy Healthy Food. They have a huge range of creative dishes almost all organic and locally sourced. They have only a small selection of wines but very well chosen.
Perfect day out in Languedoc
There is so much to be done in this region that most of my holidays are now shamelessly STAYcations! A fellow hiking friend, who has recently come back from a hiking holiday in Patagonia, mentioned that the Pyrenees have an atmosphere incomparable with anywhere else in the world. With that being said, it’s challenging to summarise an ideal day!
Here we go, it would begin with brunch in Montpellier at any of the popular new brunch spots! Followed by a short drive out to Saint Guilhem le Desert, a quick hike around its most famous circuit (4). After that, off to the top of the river where you can jump into a kayak and start a gentle route down through the valley. This is something I do every year as it gives the impression of being in the depths of nature, far from civilisation. After a couple of hours, you will arrive at the end where a cute river bar awaits. It is not glamorous, but there is nothing you will want more than to tie up your kayak and plot yourself onto one of the half-submerged river tables. The tiny fish will gently nibble your feet, while you sip on a refreshing beverage watching the sunset over the valley.
After that, you will need a good night’s rest, so I suggest heading to one of the hundreds of gîtes across the region. I have stayed in many and have always been delighted by how wonderful and unique they each are. Some offer a meal with food picked straight from the land. If you arrive at the end of summer, you’ll notice figs falling from the trees all around you. Be sure to grab a couple, as the figs in the region as second to none!