Meet the owners – Villa de Mazamet
Imagine uprooting your life, heading around the globe to take on a business in a new country but also in the middle of a global pandemic. That’s what the intrepid and incredibly charming Geoffrey and Janice did when they moved to Mazamet to take over long term Further Afield partner Villa de Mazamet. In this blog we meet this inspiring pair and find out what led them to Mazamet.
Tell us about your personal journeys to Mazamet?
Well, Geoffrey is from Saint Germain les Corbeil, a small suburban city located 40 kms south of Paris (and a mouthful to pronounce!).
While pursuing a Master’s degree in Bordeaux, he studied and interned in Japan and Canada. That’s how he got the traveling bug! After another two years in Melbourne, he finally went back to Bordeaux where he thought he was going to stay put for a while… Until he met…
…Janice, from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. With her BCom in the bag, she went on to live and work in Singapore, New York and ultimately Hong Kong. She then went to study pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2015 as a personal challenge. She fell in love with the city, France, and one of its citizens!
We moved in together in Hong Kong, then moved to Sydney in 2017. We both had very fulfilling careers in education for Geoffrey and in the financial services for Janice. But many factors, the most prominent one being family, led us to seek a new chapter in life.
We’ve now moved to Mazamet, a beautiful quaint town in Southwest France, and managing La Villa is going to be a full-time job for us both. Not only do we prepare breakfast and manage five bedrooms, there’s also the table d’hôtes, the platters, the spa, the swimming pool and its snacks and drinks, the garden to tend to… As we’re new to the area, there’s also a whole network of suppliers and stakeholders to activate, along with the personal circle of friends that we’ll have to build. That’s going to keep us busy for a while, and we’re very excited to tackle this challenge head on!
What was your motivation behind taking on Villa de Mazamet?
La Villa being a seasonal business (we are open from Easter to Christmas) will allow us to spend more time with our ageing parents during the winter months. It did entail massive changes for us – we had never lived in a city with a population under 250.000! Our move to Mazamet and running La Villa will see the culmination of a common dream to own a chambre d’hôtes and a will to lead a more peaceful lifestyle, something that’s so important in today’s world.
Tell us a bit about the what’s on offer through you or partners in the immediate area:
Most guests will have heard of Carcassonne or Albi, which are absolutely stunning places to visit. However, the immediate surroundings of Mazamet have a few gems that we’re ready to share!
Lac de Montagnès – 7km from Mazamet sits the Lac de Montagnès (above), a peaceful setting with great facilities from a small sandy beach, mini-golf, snack bar, restaurant and, not for the faint hearted, l’Acro Park. In the summer months, a twice-daily free shuttle bus runs from just 200 metres from La Villa to the lake and guests are welcome to take towels and a cool bag to enjoy a picnic of items bought at the morning market.
Hautpoul – Hautpoul is a unique medieval village which clings to a steep-sided valley in the Montagne Noire, just 5 km from Mazamet. Over 800 years of history, some of it very bloody during the 13th century siege by Simon de Montfort, a visit during your stay is a must to marvel at how the houses, castle and ramparts would have been built. Today the medieval gardens have been restored and there is an annual re-enactment weekend and a twice-annual night time candlelit walk organised by the office of tourism. Put on your hiking shoes for a 90 min walk to Hautpoul from La Villa and enjoy lunch or a cold drink at the Taverne D’Hautpoul or the recently opened Aux Terrasses d’Hautpoul as a reward for the final steep climb… and since September 2018, you can now incorporate crossing the stunning passerelle (suspension bridge) into your hike to Hautpoul – as long as you have a head for heights of course! If medieval history is of interest, visit the Cathar Museum in Mazamet and commence your tour in Hautpoul of some of the amazing fortified villages and chateaux which make up the Cathar trail in the region.
Markets – every week of the year there are at least three markets taking place in the centre of Mazamet (Tuesday, Saturday & Sunday) – the large Saturday market fills the town center with fresh, seasonal produce, most of which is produced and grown within just a few kilometres. In July and August, a wonderful Marché des Producteurs sees 15 or more local vendors sell food ready to eat (both hot & cold) with local wines, beers and desserts for visitors and locals alike to enjoy on a table to accommodate more than 200 people – a typical display of South west France for you!
Visit La Villa de Mazamet’s website and you’ll find many more interesting activities in the surrounding areas.
If there was one thing you’d say was unmissable for your guests what would it be?
If I’m allowed to cheat a little, I’ll make mention of two!
- The adventure-lovers have to go for the Hautpoul walk via the passerelle. It offers an extraordinary view of the valley and a great insight into local history.
- For those who just want to enjoy a relaxing break, Janice makes a mean Basil Smash, and my Ti’ Punch ain’t too shabby either, so I’d say not to miss out on a cocktail or two during the sunset hour at our gazebo by the pool.
Finally, what’s been the best thing about running your business so far?
Being able to combine what we love with what we do. I’ve never seen Janice happier than in the last few weeks cooking up a storm, fine-tuning her recipes – check out some recent creations above – and setting up our email server transfer while a tart is baking in the oven. As for me, I’ve always worked with people and I find solace in the multitude of personal connections that can be created through work. And I can finally apply the gardening techniques my father desperately tried to teach me when I was younger. In a nutshell, the best thing about running La Villa is that everything we do now has a greater sense of purpose.