This week we meet Nicole Hammond who is responsible for all administrative assistance for the Renestance team and our “go to” person for questions about navigating French bureaucracy.
Nicole, what brings you to Renestance?
I first met Dennelle a few years ago when we realized that we had both set up local ladies-only networking groups on Facebook; Dennelle’s (Long Duck Ladies) based around Montpellier and my own (Ladies in Languedoc) initially based around my local area, but now encompassing the whole of the Languedoc. We met up for lunch and discovered we were kindred spirits – dynamic, ambitious and very much ‘people people’! When Dennelle first conceived the idea for Renestance, she approached me to discuss the opportunity of working with her. I jumped at the chance, seeing a real gap in the market and excited about the prospect of working with this wonderfully driven woman. I knew it would be a success and wanted to be a part of that!
What do you bring to Renestance?
I’ve lived in France since 2002, arriving like a travelling snail with all my possessions on my back (well, in my car!), single and coming to help a French cousin set up his luxury golf holiday business. I have since been married, had kids and worked my way through just about every aspect of French administration. I’ve imported my car, bought, sold, and registered other cars, bought and sold my own properties, set myself up as a commercial agent and then an auto-entrepreneur, and of course had babies, as well as other various medical interventions. Added to my personal evolution and progress through life in France, I worked as a real estate agent for the first seven years I was here, before setting up a small business renting baby and toddler equipment to holidaymakers while the children were still at home. Now I am using my worldly experience to help others through the challenges of setting up and steering through life in my beautiful adopted country.
Do you have family in the area?
I helped my mother move here for a five year life break a few years ago. It was always her dream to live in France, and I stole it from her and moved here first! So I helped her move here temporarily for a few years while the children were little. I also have a huge network of friends, helped along by the fact that I still run Ladies in Languedoc, which now has over 1400 members! We are like a big family and hold frequent social events in the region.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the area?
In the summer I love the fact that I can just jump in the car and be at the beach in 20 minutes! Or, in just half an hour, I can be at the beautiful Lac Salagou, the middle reaches of the River Orb with their natural stony beaches, or the fabulous gorges of the upper reaches of the River Orb with their waterfalls and rock pools. And in the winter I can zip off and go skiing at the stunning Pyrenean resorts only a couple of hours away. Often on a Sunday I will wile away a morning at local flea markets such as the huge one at Marseillan Plage, or local village ‘vide greniers’ (boot sales – literally ‘empty lofts’). To wind down, I like nothing more than to take my two pooches out for a long walk through the French vines; as the seasons revolve, you experience each one’s unique palette of colour and selection of wildflowers. This region really does have everything at your fingertips!
Where’s my favourite place in the region?
Gosh, this is a hard one! Being a market-lover, I love the traditional French street market in Pézenas on a Saturday with its stalls of delicious artisanal breads, sold by weight, and the long colourful tables of tubs and bags of olives, tapenades, pastes and spices. I also love my local bar-restaurant at the weekend where I get to sit and practice my flaneurism (people-watching) Baudelaire-like, being enveloped by the conversations in the local accent, the smells of delicious food and the general ambiance that signifies the beginning of ‘le week-end’!
What advice would you give to anyone moving here?
First of all, don’t be afraid of the unknown! The unknown takes very little time to become the familiar. On a practical level, I would always recommend getting to know the area or areas that interest you before settling somewhere on a permanent basis. So, consider renting first and even renting in more than one place, before making a decision as to where you’d like to be full-time. Embrace the local culture and the people around you. A cheery ‘bonjour’ to your local boulanger and his customers when you wander out for your morning baguette will soon find you practicing and improving your French language skills and making friends as you go!