Villa de Mazamet; celebrating 10 years of seamless, top notch service
Traditionally, the 10th year of a marriage is marked with tin or aluminum – materials chosen to represent the durability and flexibility needed to sustain a loving union. Could the same be said of running a B&B for 10 years? It requires commitment and hard work, but it’s nothing without a hefty dose of love too! This blog sees us mark a fantastic milestone for one of our member properties, Villa de Mazamet, as owners Mark and Peter celebrate the start of their 10th season of superb hospitality and we find out more about their journey.
Tell us a bit about life before Villa de Mazamet
We have always loved travel and hospitality. Mark had worked for 15+ years in the UK’s hotel sector, working with brands including Thistle, Moat House & Paramount; Peter’s background was in business development and marketing – both useful skill sets when opening your own B&B business!
Prior to moving to France in May 2009, we had lived in various parts of the UK, dictated by where Mark’s hotels were located. In the last 12 months on UK soil this included splitting time between Richmond and Windsor, a lovely part of the country.
We have, and continue to have, a passion for travel and hospitality. We feel fortunate to have travelled to many great parts of the world and have met some wonderful people along the way, together with a host of memorable hotels, restaurants and experiences. Many of these experiences influence both the services we provide and the hospitality we offer at La Villa de Mazamet.
What led you to Villa de Mazamet?
We set our goals of changing our lifestyle and being our own “boss” by the time we were 40, which we both reached in 2009/10. The decision itself was a simple one in the broad context of what we wanted to open – a luxury B&B with dinners. The difficult part was where!
We spent the best part of two years looking at a variety of locations, including the South West of the UK – in particular Cornwall where Peter is from – to Spain and finally settling on France. We looked at four different regions of France before discovering a beautiful 1930’s property in SW France, which ticked all of the boxes and was ripe for development into our dream B&B.
We took the keys on December 18th 2005, after which it was a major project as the building was just a shell with the plumbing and electricity both in need of renewing. We called on favours from friends and family, who helped physically, and from hotel-related contacts we had both collected during our working lives.
Pulling out all the stops we were done and ready to open in May 2009.
How has your business changed since you opened?
No two seasons are the same and we work very hard to both encourage repeat business as well as to attract new guests.
We provided evening meals from the outset and serve dinner five nights a week – we’re fortunate that our location also allows guests to walk to a number local eateries too. In 2016 we started to serve “poolside platters” during the afternoon, which have become popular. For our 2018 season we’re expanding these to include French, Italian & Spanish platters.
Each year we add something new – these may be small details, but our return guests do notice! For 2018 the change is more major as all our rooms have the added benefit of air conditioning, which was one of our winter projects.
Whilst we do not offer tours, we’ve written a series of 8 self-drive day tours in French and English. These are printed and contain a map, driving directions and include what, for us, are the “must see” locations and attractions when staying at La Villa.
Are you fully part of the community in which you live?
As part of our ethos we buy and source as much as we can locally. In the running of La Villa, 85 cents of every 1€ is spent within the town of Mazamet, be that the morning bread and pastries to laundry services.
We also encourage all our guests to spend money in the town and have forged links with local restaurants, bars and shops who offer our guests a unique discount. During our 10th season in 2018 we will welcome our 6,500th guests to Mazamet and estimate that, in addition to their spend with us, our guests have contributed over 500,000€ to the local economy.
Additionally, each December we provide a free festive lunch for some of Mazamet’s older residents who are on their own. The local church and Salvation Army nominate those who come along and it’s a very special event that we take great pride in (see the dining room set and ready below).
Your favourite memories of the last 10 years?
Guests often say to us “if you are ever in X you must come and stay” – in 2015 we had a wonderful holiday in Australia and of the five weeks there, only stayed in hotels for seven nights; the rest were in the homes or B&Bs of guests – it was very touching to be offered such warm hospitality.
Plans for the future?
When we opened La Villa in 2009 we saw it as a 10-year project to take us to our 50th birthdays. As we commence our 10th season we’re fast approaching that milestone! We still love what we do and where we live and look forward to welcoming guests to this unspoilt corner of France well into the future.