La Ramoneta of the Month – Tilly Howard

TO KNOW | LA RAMONETA OF THE MONTH
Tilly Howard

© Tilly Howard

Every month, we introduce you to an interesting woman living in Languedoc. Curious as we are, we like to find out why they are living in this beautiful region, what they do for a living and some of their Languedoc favourites. This month we would like you to meet Tilly Howard from Domaine de Capiès as Ramoneta of the Month.

Introduction

I am British, with a background in magazine publishing and a passion for travel. I am married with two boys. Since moving to France in July 2005, my husband, Will and I have worked together.

First time in the region

We arrived at Domaine de Capiès (1), which at that time was owned by my parents, and were absolutely blown away by the view and the beauty here. There is a wide open valley of vines and hills, with the Pyrenees in the distance. It was very hot and we immediately jumped into the long pool. We had never been to this part of France before.

Settling in Languedoc

We only discovered the Languedoc after we came on a six-month sabbatical to stay with my parents. There was no intention to stay, we still had our house in London and could go back to our jobs. However, the nearer we came to the end of our six months, the more we realised we did not want to go back. The pace of life, the fresh taste of tomatoes and potatoes, the lack of pollution…

We decided we wanted to own and run a bed and breakfast. The exchange rate at the time was favourable and there were lots of options on the market. We just had to find the right one. Eventually, we found a beautiful Maison de Maître for sale in Sonnac-sur-l’Hers. A village in a valley, near Chalabre, surrounded by apples and cows. We decided to take the plunge, sell up in London and start a new life here. Six months later, I fell pregnant with the first of our two sons et voilà!!

Domaine de Capiès

© Tilly Howard

Tilly Howard

© Tilly Howard

Living in Languedoc

There are so many good parts to living in this region (2). The beauty. The wine. The markets. No commute. You are near the hills, the mountains and the sea.

Domaine de Capiès

We bought Domaine de Capiès in 2015 when my parents decided they wanted to sell it. We sold our last business and set up a completely new business here. Will has built four beautiful gîtes around the main farmhouse and created two barn spaces – effectively an outdoor bar and a restaurant/venue space. We hosted our first wedding in 2018, which was absolutely fabulous. I would not cook for 110 again though, I think a maximum of 60 is perfect!

The view is absolutely stunning here and all the cottages look out onto it. As a result, they are decorated very simply with whitewashed walls and various pieces of furniture we have collected or Will has made. The most important thing for us is that the rooms all have a very comfortable bed (with no footboard!).

Through the winter months, we open up our barn (3) to locals and serve a weekly set menu supper. We are surrounded by farms producing wonderful, often organic produce, so we are keen to champion these as well as using produce from our own potager. In the Summer months we mainly cook outside in our wood oven which Will built. Every Saturday guests and locals can book in for wood-fired pizza, plus seasonal specials.

Reality of living the French dream

It’s great, but you have to love what you are doing. Running your own business is extremely labour intensive and may not be as lucrative as your previous employment! The Summers are gorgeous, and so are Autumn and Spring. But it is cold January to March which surprised me at first! It is important to have a good grasp of the French language. There is quite a bit of bureaucracy in setting up your own business in France. But it is definitely all worth it, and it’s a double bonus to have children growing up bilingual. Something they will have for life.

Domaine de Capiès

© Tilly Howard

Wine

© Tilly Howard

Setting up a business in France

The language was a challenge at first. But, other than that, it was all fairly straightforward. There are a few obligatory ‘formations’ (training sessions) you have to attend to and A LOT of paperwork to go through.

Best Languedoc wine

Domaine Begude’s Bel Ange Organic Chardonnay and also their Étoile Chardonnay. Plus the Nebulo Rousanne by Colline de l’Hirondelle in the Corbières.

Favourite restaurant

La Nautique in Narbonne. Tied equally with Biquet Plage and Les Pilotis on Leucate Plage (Summer only).

Perfect day out in the Languedoc

Either driving to the Med, eating oysters at one of the oyster shacks (4), lying on the beach, gorgeous even in August (!) and then have a leisurely meal at on the restaurants I mentioned. Or driving down the D117 and turning off up the Gorges of Galamus and picnicking by one of the beautiful wild swimming spots.

Info

Annett Teich of Restaurant BK is going to be the next Ramoneta of the month.

Links:

Domaine de Capiès
11300 Pomy
+33 (0)6 88 41 59 29

website
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