Behinds the scenes of a English owned French guest house
A day in the Life of Peter Friend of La VILLA DE MAZAMET, SW France.
The alarm on my iPod touch wakes us both; it’s 7am on a beautiful morning in May.
Our daily ritual starts by checking if any enquiries or reservations have come in overnight and whether there are any new reviews on Trip Advisor – both, today, in the affirmative; two enquires for July from Australia and a new review from a couple of guys from Canada who stayed just last week – bodes well for a positive day!
From our new attic apartment, we roll back the blinds – the one from our bathroom reveals a distance view of the Monts de Lacaune, the one from our lounge a stunning panoramic vista over our much-loved Montagne Noire, the fresh green colours of the deciduous forest gleaming in the morning sun.
Within 30 mins I am on route to our local bakers to pick up the fresh pastries & breads, the most wonderful aroma fills the car on the return journey. We have ten guests for breakfast this morning, the first at 8.30am and by the time we prepare the breakfast buffet it’s time for our bowl of cereal and coffee, a quick catch up on who is departing & arriving today, how many guests are dining this evening and where our guests may be heading on this beautiful day.
Two sips into our coffee we hear the door to one of the bedrooms unlock (amazingly, Mark can tell which of our five bedrooms it is from the unique sound of each door!) – and within 30 seconds a couple from California appear at the foot of the stairs, having woken up early and wanting a quick breakfast before they take to the road for the day. “Do you have your guided tour for Albi” they ask and we switch from breakfast hosts to tourist information before they can order their espresso.
By 9.45am, all five couples have had their breakfast and decided on where they are heading for the day – some are really organised and know where they want to go and what they want to see, others take time to adjust to this laid-back corner of France and think today’s the day to wander to the market to buy some fresh provisions for an impromptu picnic by our nearby lake (Lac de Montagne).
Mark and I draw breath, we have time second cup of coffee before I head to market myself and Mark commences the clearing of the rooms – today we have no new arrivals and no check-outs which means each room will be serviced, refreshed, towels changed, etc.
This morning’s market is full of life and bursting with colour, asparagus is in full season and the first of the cherries from nearby Languedoc are available – will have a kilo of those for our breakfast buffet. I also have to order cheese for a cheese & wine evening we are holding for 10 on Friday, enough chicken for the eight guests eating with us this evening and veg to make ratatouille for tomorrow – shopping done, back to base.
It’s now just after midday and as I walk through the door, Mark is descending the stairs with a basket full of towels to launder… “a good morning?” I ask, yes, all the rooms were great Mark tells me and we have taken a late booking for tonight so it’s now dinner for ten (thankfully, I bought some extra chicken breasts!).
Whilst I do all of the cooking, Mark does make a very enviable omelette and with a variety of left-over pieces of cheese this is our lunchtime staple twice a week during the season, we sit down at 1pm and talk about what’s to do this afternoon before dinner service this evening “do you think we can dine outside tonight?” I ask Mark – we flick onto Meteo (the French online weather forecast) and see that it will be light winds and 25 degrees this evening – so dining outside it is.
I change into my chefs clothes and start to prepare this evenings dinner – cream of asparagus soup; pan fried chicken breast on a bed of braised Puy lentils; chocolate & chestnut torte. Mark slips from housekeeping mode into accountant & reservations and catches up on admin for the afternoon.
By 4pm, our first guests arrive back, eager to tell us where they have been on their day trip; could they have a bottle of wine by the pool, what temperature is the pool today and then, the most common question “when do you two ever get time to rest?” (followed by “what’s for dinner this evening?”).
Just after 6.30pm and all the flock are safely back at La Villa, an enjoyable day had by all; the couple who had their picnic by the lake tell us of a family of wild boar they saw wander through the forest; a couple from Canada ask us to explain the best way to navigate roundabouts in Albi and another need to get fuel before they return their hire car to the airport tomorrow.
A quick shower & change and we are in evening mode; the tables are set by the pool, the candles all lit and the first guests appear for aperitifs at 7.15pm.
Dinner is a great success; the guests have interacted well and enjoying dining by the pool. As we clear down it is 10.30pm, we are both starting to fade a little by now. I still have a pile of dishes to work my way through, Mark has to catch up with all of the guest bills for the day before we both set up the dining room for breakfast.
“Glass of rosé?” Mark suggests – “great idea” I say, as we sit around the kitchen table and talk about the day and what’s in store for tomorrow – it’s now almost 11.40pm and time to head back up to our apartment.
I walk through out lounge to pull up the blind on the window – in the distance we can see glimmers of light from cottages nestled on the mountain side. The air is still and a million stars are shining tonight.
As I pull my weary legs into bed I set the alarm for 6am, remembering that two guests have an early flight tomorrow and want a coffee & croissant at 7am.
In just six hours a new day will commence at LA VILLA DE MAZAMET – what will it hold, we just never know – the one thing we do is that neither of us would change it for the world!