Saturday, 25 April 2015

Free accommodation for the right couple.

Most people will know that we started renting out our two gîtes in 2007, but most people won’t know that also since 2007 we have had another little house available for the right couple at no charge at all. This one has been rather more difficult to market, how do you really get to your target market? How do you find the right couple who will love this little house, settle down and start a family, because that is what this one is - a family home.

This looks like a nice place to live
We have had several couples visit to look at the property, but none of them have wanted to stay there, why? I have no idea. Cees’ daughter had put in a lot of effort to make this the ideal house for a little family and it is in a lovely location, peace and quite on the edge of the woods, lots to do and see in the area. 

It seems a crime that it has been empty for so long.

Moving in the furniture
Just last week, it seemed that the right couple had come along. I was so excited and thrilled when I spotted them moving in their furniture.  In and out they went, all day long, busy little creatures, excited to have their first home, dashing back and forth, hectically preparing their little house in time for the arrival of their offspring.  We watched them for hours, keeping safely out of their flight path so as not to disturb them.

Not guilty...
Our angelic cat, Fifi, has been ill and locked up for the last 4 weeks and maybe that has helped, it has kept us distracted and her out of the way giving the new residents a sense of security. However, Fifi is finally back on the prowl and since then we haven’t seen our new lodgers, have they moved out? Was that bundle of feathers Cees found a couple of days ago the remains of one or both of them?

We haven’t seen any movement in and out of the property for the last few days - let’s hope our worst fears are not founded.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Cuds and a tour of a medieval town

Medieval house in St-Gengoux-le-National
It all started a couple of years ago. I was in a meeting at the tourist office and there was an argument about whether we should have "fleshcuds" or "kooaircuds" or not. The only cuds I know are the ones that cows chew and being vegetarians, I could not begin to think what a fleshcud could be. Not having the faintest idea why we would want such things, I kept my mouth shut. All I could figure was that they seemd to be expensive, but essential and modern and that was what the argument centred around.

When I finally admitted I didn't know what they were talking about, everyone laughed because they were using an English word and I was the only one who hadn't understood it. Still baffled, they kindly explained what they were. They turned out to be QR or flashcodes, those funny square shaped designs that vaguely resemble multi-dimentional bar codes. These magnificent things would cost us 2k Euros a pop and we were debating whether to get about 20 of them. As the office doesn't have that kind of money, the discussion seemed a little futile to me, so I let them coninue and I switched off, resting my brain for the next subject.

A short time later, I was contacted by the office to translate some stuff together with another Sue - it helps that all the English women here have the same name, only one foreign name to remember. We duly did the translation and before we knew it, we were told that our wonderful translations would be appearing on signposts in Saint-Gengoux-le-National, complete with "cuds".

Now three years down the road, the signs have finally been made and installed and last Friday was the inauguration. Off we went to see what had become of all this work and money. The evening would start with small groups touring the old town and a look at the plaques, then back for the glass of wine and nibbles, that we would only get after listening to what would be seemingly interminable speeches.

Church with peculiar towers
We know a lot about the town and have followed the brochure tour, not to mention the numerous things I have translated with Cees' help on the architectural and medieval terms, so we thought we knew it all, but the tour we followed had a few surprises for us. There was really cute little alley that led to a view on a tower we didn't know existed, we found a hanging sign that proudly proclaimed the ancient name of the town "Saint-Gengoux-le-Royal" back from when there was still a king who it paid to be loyal to and it was fascinating to hear the numerous stories our very knowledgeable guide had to tell.

We got back from our tour but there was no wine, nothing to eat and no one to give a speech. One intrepid member of our group searched around and found glasses, wine bottles and gougères (delicious choux pastry cheese balls) hidden in a back room, but said we had to wait for the speech givers before tucking in and so we waited and waited. No one from the other two tour groups joined us and after half an hour's wait we aborted mission and went home and had our own wine and cheese balls in the comfort of our living room, with no speeches. I am convinced that the other two groups ended up at a different destination, had listened to the interminable speeches and were tucking into their cheese balls and wine whilst wondering where we had got to and that the cheese balls and wine we had found were for an altogether different party to be held later in the evening!

Just one of the many new plaques
Despite missing the wine, it was a great tour and the plaques have turned out to be very professional and are an attractive addition to the old town.

Just in case you are wondering, the signs did have flashcodes, so when you take your own tour of the town you can use your smartphone and check out more information than is displayed on the sign itself. I asked about the cost and in the end the "cuds" were as free as a cow's cud, so all that debating had been in vain.

For information on holiday accommodation near a lovely medieval town with flashcodes click here.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Day out with the Office de Tourisme

Beautiful day
Every year about this time, the gîte and B&B owners, who are members of the Tourist office in St Gengoux, have a day out. We visit gîtes and B&Bs and various artisans in the area, normally have an excellent lunch and generally have a good chin wag.

It helps us feel more of a group rather than isolated service providers. We may be competitors to an extent, but we are also co-workers and this day helps to boost that side of things, we pass on clients from time to time, when we are full or if we feel a potential client would prefer a different type of accommodation and these visits help us to assess if we would want to pass on customers and to be able to stand behind any comments on the quality of accommodation provided.

Spinning disaster
When visiting the artisans in the area, we are treated to demos, something you would be hard to have if you visited alone and it lets us see what is on offer in the area, so we can pass on that information to visitors.

And last but not least we generally have a good meal and can put another restaurant on our list of places to recommend. I never recommend an artisan or a restaurant that I haven’t visited myself, I like to speak from my own experience, that way I can be confident about the information I am giving.

We were blessed with a sunny but cold day this year. Our day started in a large gîte (for 16 people) in St Gengoux, where we had coffee and brioche and then we moved on to the Weber’s new venture, cloth making. Apart from being able to buy the lovely hand made cloth, you can also have lessons in weaving and spinning. My attempts at spinning were hopeless, hence the almost hysterical look on my face. Magrit was very patient, but in the end she had to undo all my efforts to disentangle the whole mechanism - better luck next time..

Cappilati's designs
Sadly lunch was a disaster and I won’t give the restaurant any more publicity, but the rest of the day was very interesting with a lovely visit to Kathy Cappilati’s brand new studio where she does leaded glass designs, bronze sculptures and spectacular calligraphic ink designs.

Wine to end the day
It wouldn’t be a Burgundian day out if we didn’t finished up with a glass of wine or two. This year we were treated to pink crément or red or white wine and gougères at the cave in St Gengox-le-National.

I can’t wait for next year’s offerings.
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