6 Weeks of Summer 2018 - From a Now Non-Resident Holiday Home Owner's Point of View - It's N
So, I have wanted to touch base with you for an update for a while now, but this is truly the first chance I have had! We have been here for 4 weeks now and this is the longest summer let period we have had since we moved back to the UK, with only having the UK school hols to play with (the French have 8 weeks!).
Last Saturday, we did our final changeover of the season and checked our last guests in, who happen to be our first French guests funnily enough, being that all others over the last 4 years have been English and the place is in France!
We still have the final check out and clean to do the day we get the ferry home in a fortnight, but the pressure will be off with the fact that no new guests are coming in that afternoon (although we do have a 4 hour drive to follow and a ferry to catch!).
It is very strange to think this may be the last summer holiday let we ever have, in the case that the cottage (also referred to as the gite) is sold before next summer. Who knows? Only time can tell...
We have since being here put the house with a second agent for marketing and hope this will draw in more attention. We are also being as proactive as we can on a personal level with the marketing, so every effort is being made!
This year, we have not only had the gift of good weather, but it really feels like the little business we have built is running the best it ever has. It is always a worry with the children being here that we will be stretched to get the place turned around on changeover days in time for the new guests to arrive that afternoon, but with the help of the lovely Sarah, our cleaning lady for half of the day and the fact that Amélie has napped during the mornings, it has meant all has been done in good time. I have also outsourced my ironing for the first time this year, which to me has been a huge help and has taken the pressure off of me massively, meaning I can spend more time with the children, and am a much more pleasant person to know! ;o) 5 x double bed sets is a lot, especially when you absolutely despise ironing!! Whoever invented fitted bed sheets is rather largely responsible for this!!
NOTE: If you are thinking about, or are just about to embark upon setting up your own hospitality business where the ironing of bedsheets will be required, I cannot recommend enough that you pay that little bit extra and just get the normal, flat bed sheets! So much easier to iron, fold and store!
I often find myself feeling very guilty that the girls are once again pining for our attention and wanting to do more holiday-like activities with us whilst we are working. It's OK for Summer if Amélie is napping as she can pretty much do as she pleases, but otherwise she is often left 'in charge' with us checking regularly that all is OK - often having to do the 'safer' activities such as colouring in or watching films (they have watched quite a few over the past few weeks!) when I'd much rather them be outside in the fresh air playing, but I have to remind myself that they do get to do those things around this and are lucky that we are able to spend the whole 6 weeks out here as a family. That we are working for their future too.
Also very strange is the feeling of knowing that we have officially divided the land now and that our little gem may very soon not be ours any more, but it feels right and our big gem (Tiny Tim) needs our focus and attention whilst we are here each time so we can actually get on with making him a home, which is very exciting and something I won't blab on about as I already did so in my last update! Although there are many very fond memories of the cottage - the renovations, special moments with family and friends, it is just itching for a new family to come along and take it even further than we are able to and loving it even more, which would make us so very happy.
On another note, we realised that we do not have a special name for our cottage/gite (not an officially registered name, but one which we refer to it as in conversation and as we will know it ourselves) and felt that whether we own it or not, we needed it to know that it is and will always be as special to us as 'Tiny Tim' (the barn) and that we meant every ounce of love and energy we have put into it and will always cherish it in our hearts. On 31st July this year, we officially toasted to "Dame Blanche" - a tribute to a very special lady who I believe gave me a lot of the passion, inspiration, courage and determination to make a dream a reality.
Another thing I achieved this year was my first solo journey to France with my two girls, Summer - almost 8 yrs old and Amélie - just turned 2! Not just the journey, but the packing for the three of us for 6 weeks, the cleaning and preparing the house for our return, running all sorts of errands which were necessary prior to leaving and in preparation for the trip and holiday lets, etc, etc. I did it all by the skin of my teeth, even managing the tetris packing into the car, which is usually Scott's job but I think I did him proud! Being that our first booking began only 2 days after the UK school term finished, Scott had to go ahead and begin preparations with us joining him a few days later. I was actually quite proud to have managed it and the girls were amazing! 8 hours on an overnight ferry followed by a 4 hour drive is no mean feat and I've got to say I was dreading it, but they were brilliant! Tunes up loud, singing along - proper girls on tour! Actually really enjoyed it!
Here are the girls 'flossing' on the ferry :o)
Seems so long ago now, although the time out here seems to have whizzed by with so much to do, many people to see and trying to keep the holiday activities going around our work commitments. We are finally finding that balance and yesterday, after a fun few minutes of trampoline bouncing with Summer, I lay down, took a deep breath, felt the warm sun on me and finally allowed myself to really relax!! It felt good!! Hello holidays!!!
Although we have a contracted gardener for the time that we are not here, it is only for a few hours a month to keep the grass down (which grows like wild fire out here!) so it is manageable for us on arrival as is all we can afford.
Which brings me to another point that most may not realise or oversee...believe it or not, but the holiday lets do not tend to make us a profit, even with the best season we have had being this year! What we earn in the UK pays for our UK rent and living and what we earn from our holiday lets here pays for the mortgage, bills and maintenance costs here. It literally wipes its own face. As we all know too well - properties require maintenance and come with a lot of other running / service / tax expenses. There is also the travel expenses for the visits here and loss of UK earnings during the time we are here that we have to account for. It all mounts up. We have had to spend out this year on Scott making a visit to re-build a wall on one of our outbuildings which had eroded and crumbled in the bad weather. With the help of some family and a contracted builder, it was done within a week and was a job worth doing, but obviously hurt our pockets.
I tend to become a bit meek about discussing the house in France when we are in England, as people seem to jump to the conclusion that we are ridiculously rich and spend our weeks here chilling by the pool, sangria in hand. Which is really not the case! Yes, the pool is beautiful and we are proud to have built it, but we ourselves tend to swim in lakes or head to the beach as the holiday guests have exclusive use of the pool - although some have been very kind this year and there has been the odd occasion where they have suggested the girls take advantage of the pool whilst they have been out for the day as well as Summer being able to jump in whilst Amélie naps and Mummy and Daddy get on with work on the changeover days, which is lovely for her. But for us, no sangria as yet - but a good few well earned nice cold beers after a hard days work! Clink clink!!
I wish I could say we are able to splurge out on added luxuries, but we really can't - every penny we earn is currently accounted for. But it is all part and parcel and there is a method to our madness! A long term plan which we can only hope will pay off in the end and allow us to live happily and comfortably off our own backs is one day having our own family holiday pad / retirement home in France without the extra pressure, commitment and time consumption of holiday lets which should no longer be necessary once the gite is sold and having our own family home in England - not renting someone else's as we currently are. Of course, this would not be a brand new shiny home, but one which we would want to renovate and make our own - as this is what we do, what satisfies us and what makes us happy!
To be honest, we are 'no frills' type of people. Our family aspiration is just to be happy and comfortable, not to be cruising around on a huge showy yacht, which to some people is an absolute dream (my step-father being one of them!) and I understand completely, but not for us!
So far, to get to where we are and as I am sure is the case for most holiday home owners to begin with at least, all new shiny things we tend to buy are for the purpose of the gite and our holiday guests. We are used to making the most of the bargain buys, second hand bits and bobs and the things we have owned for years and years which 9 times out of 10 don't work quite as they should anymore and have a certain 'knack' to how they should be used (such as the old hoover which I will later refer to and even my car, which has been adapted over the years from a 4 wheel to a 2 wheel drive by my father, the mechanic, who ensures all measures are taken in order to scrape it through it's next MOT so I can literally "run it into the ground". This is actually a very sad thought for me as "Margot Escargot" (who was the slower sudden replacement for my audi which my husband wrote off just before we moved to France and who's number plate almost spells out SNAIL, hence the rather appropriate name) has been my trusty steed for all these years since. She has shifted us and all our heavy paraphernalia to and from France and kept us safe for all this time. The fact that we camp in a barn whilst the holiday makers stay in the gite... it's what we are used to and probably what we would prefer... I mean, what on earth would I do with a yacht!!?? Probably give it to charity, which my step father would be extremely upset about, but hey ho!
Yup! I've been brought up with the mentality that if something ain't broke, don't fix it! If it is - do and avoid at all costs spending out on a replacement! All the money and shiny things in the world cannot buy you real happiness, but taking the time and effort to bring something back to life and make it shine can be a really satisfying and fulfilling task, which is why I have made it a big part of what I do for a living.
Anyway, back to my arrival!...
Knowing that Scott only had very little time to arrive, get the barn clean and cozy ready for our arrival, give 'Dame Blanche' a little sparkle and also UK work related paperwork, I was expecting that there would be a lot of work still left to do on our arrival, as there always is! What we hadn't planned for was the 5 hornets nests which had settled in on the barn roof Veluxes, which Scott very bravely got up on a ladder and got rid of, but which also cost us a lot of time - and time waits for nobody - so it was literally get out of the car, unpack, get the kids fed and in bed and crack on with the jungle that was our garden - first shift involving me weeding all perameters and rockeries, removing the mass of nettles and weeds and sweeping the huge concrete area by the pool in the the sweltering 40 degree heat. Then followed tackling the crazily overgrown rose bush which grows around the gite playroom door and strimming the hedge whilst Scott tidied away the building debris and unwanted old beams from the outbuilding maintenance job that was done earlier in the year and strimmed all borders in pitch black darkness with a torch strapped to him! :D We eventually clocked off at 1am with the tenants checking in the next day at 4.30pm and still so much more to do to get it up to standard!
Following photos taken at 1am! :D
(Not bad considering I couldn't really see eh!? ;) )
(What's that coming over the hill, is it a.....strange garden alien with a giant light bulb for a head?? :D )
BUT!...as always...we got there in the end!!! Even though I was so tired I actually cried whilst I hoovered because it is the same damn rubbish hoover we have had for years and I hate it!!
Anyway, emotional breakdown over and done with - I'd like to show you my holiday hands!! aren't they beautiful!! Gaffa tape on top of plaster to hold it on to your fingers whilst they rub over and over again on the same area of glove whilst weeding, topped off with scraped off nail varnish I think is a really good look and could even take off!!?? Why pay for a manicure for your holidays when you can have this!? :o)
Finally, our first tenants of the season checked in and it was so worth all the pain and effort to see their faces light up and hear their compliments on how beautiful the house is and what a good job we have done, appreciating all the little quirky bits, becoming even happier when they saw the little welcome pack bits we leave our guests - (wine chilling in the fridge being a total winner every time!) and thanking us before very happily unpacking to get on with their holidays.
They stayed a week and were such lovely people. They really enjoyed their stay and left the place lovely so our job with cleaning it and changing it around for the next guests was all that much easier!
This has pretty much been the case for all our guests this year. They have all been so lovely and appreciative (I think the exceptionally good weather we have had this year has helped lighten their mood too!) and just to hear the compliments and even just a thank you makes it all so satisfying and worthwhile.
Yes, I think that is something for us to all bear in mind when on our holidays and to take note of if you are just about to arrive for yours (you lucky thing, you!)... Whether you are camping, in a hotel, a B & B, someone has made the effort and worked very hard to make your holiday as perfect and special as you would hope. Of course, if you are unhappy with any little bits, let them know - politely if you can - there is nothing worse than someone telling you on the day they leave that there was something small that was bothering them and could have been rectified in an instant had they have raised the issue, but just to say "thank you" and let them know you appreciate their efforts or even to go as far as to compliment the facilities/room/house you have been provided is just absolute music to that person's ears! Unless you are in the business yourself, you really will not know just how much that will go towards really making their day!
On another note...please, try not to use yellow suncream!! I wish I knew which brand it is, but there is a certain type that stains white towels and is absolutely impossible to remove! Just saying! I know nivea is good as that is what we use. ;o)
It has been lovely to catch up with friends whilst we have been here. Especially when we are treated to a home made meal! ;o) They are all so lovely and accommodating and it never feels like we have been apart after 5 minutes of being together (and after a couple of beers, which when out of practice tends to bring the French language almost back to the fluency it once was - something they are very aware of and has become a bit of a running joke! ;o) ). We feel very blessed to have such genuine and lovely people in our lives our lives. We went to the annual "Festival d'Astralys" yesterday which is an event that takes place over the whole weekend and is put on by a friend in the village who is a professor of astronomy. The village is known for it's immensly starry skies, which we are very lucky to have full view of with no light pollution and at the moment it is a meteor shower, which is amazing to sit out in the garden and watch!
At the festival, we watched the "spectacle" (theatre show) of Pocahontas, which starred some of the local children, some of which are good friends of ours and who Summer went to school with. It was so lovely to watch Summer reunite and play with her friends after the show. Although her French is not quite as it was when we lived here (which was prettybloody amazing!), it is still there, along with the cute little accent and she has made a huge effort to get back into it by watching French films and talking to us in French at home. Watching her confidently run off with her friends, talking and playing like old times completely blew me away, filled me with proudness and brought a lump to my throat. She is truly amazing!!
She is off for a play date with her friend this Friday. I could not be happier for her or more proud of her if I tried! :o)
Hope you have all had/are having/are about to have amazing summer holidays!!! Although I have been lucky enough to have some lovely days out here and there, I have not been to the beach half as many times as I would like to have and as a family we have so many things on the wish list left to do!! Best get cracking!! :D I will be back in touch soon with updates on little bits we have busied ourselves with around the barn to make it that little bit more homely for us when we stay. Pics coming soon!!
A Bientôt et bisous à tous!