All Go August

What a really strange summer this has many ways. We have been quite busy during most of August with gite guests & B&B guests but instead of all our usual French visitors we have had a steady stream of “foreign” guests this year. The lovely English family really enjoyed their stay & I really enjoyed having them around. It was nice to see the 2 children playing in the garden & our hens got steadily plumper as Matthew in particular took great delight in feeding them! This was my first booking via social media contact & it was a big success all round as the family loved the gite & the area & the holiday was exactly what they wanted. I even babysat one evening so the parents could go out on their own for a couple of hours. My pleasure :) The next family in the gite was very different. They were a Franco/German couple with 2 children, one of whom was autistic I think. They were very pleasant but not very chatty really & it was hard work trying to communicate with them at times. They too though, seemed to enjoy their stay & they certainly went out & about every day & so saw a lot of the region. All throughout August we have had B&B guests – some of whom stayed for just one night & others who stayed for several days. Again it was a real mix of nationalities too with people from Holland, Germany, England & Spain this year…of & some French & Belgians too of course. Now that the end of August has come all the emphasis is on the “entree” in France & so as per usual the phone has stopped ringing & the e mails requesting accommodation have dried up. So far my diary is totally empty for September which again is very odd as we usually have B&B guests (usually escapee grandparents pleased to be relieved from their summer child minding duties) in the autumn. I sincerely hope that that will pick up again soon with some last minute reservations – especially as the weather has decided to buck up at last too!

Oh…the weather! What a dismal summer it has been really weather-wise. Although we have had the occasional sunny day, the temperatures have been way down on what they normally are all summer. Our lawn is still very green (it usually is burnt & yellow by now) which is a big indication of just how much rain we have had too. I have served breakfast to guests outside only 3 times this year as the mornings have been really chilly & not really warm enough to sit outside. It has been the same as far as eating outside in the evening too…although we did manage to stay outside for one meal which we served to an English family. They were from Durham...”oop north” you see, so “hard” like us!! And as for swimming this year…we have had only 5 dips in the lake so far…& let me tell you the water was flipping cold! The lifeguard always puts the water analysis & temperature on his little info board & he was telling lies every time! No way was the water I was swimming in, 19c!

I have felt really sorry for all the organisers of the summer fetes & vide greniers this summer too as each weekend’s events were spoiled by the bad weather. Issoire has had a music & night market event on Friday evenings during the summer for the tourists & every Friday bar one has been wet & cold. Such a shame. We did manage a good weekend for our village fete here in St Etienne sur Usson - not that we saw much of it as we were very busy that weekend. We did go up for lunch on the Sunday & had a successful visit to the VG where we bought some baby equipment ready for the visit of our grandson next month. And of course we went to see the fireworks in the evening….couldn’t miss that could we?? We also went to watch the fireworks at the lake at Vernet la Varenne too. They were fantastic - as always – but it was really cold sitting waiting for them to start! We were well wrapped up in semi winter gear this year L Normally too we spend quite a few evenings lying on our sun loungers on the lawn watching the stars & more importantly the shooting stars in August…but not this year. It has been way too cold & the skies were just too cloudy most nights. I haven’t seen any shooting stars this year at all :(

The art exhibition continued throughout August, finishing last weekend. It was quite sad going up to the chateau to take all the paintings down - well not quite all as I managed to sell 2 paintings which was very nice. I got some lovely comments in my livre d`or too which really pleased me. Since the expo ended I have sold another 2 paintings too – one to a lady from Paris who had seen it at the expo & another to a Twitter friend who had seen the photographs I’d taken. So all n all I was more than satisfied with my first solo effort :)

Because all the bookings have dried up & due to the unexpected cancellation of a week of English teaching at the local lycee for Geoff, we have found ourselves at a bit of a loose end this last week. So last Wednesday we decided to go on a “date day” over to the Massif de Sancy to visit some of the Horizons trail of outdoor art works which happens every summer in various locations in the mountains. We started off in Mont Dore which is always a delight to visit as it is such a pretty place. We had a coffee with some friends who live there & who own apartments which they let to visitors & which I’d only ever seen on the internet. They have a great set up doing lots of outdoor activities such as mountain bike trips & trail running events. We had a super lunch in one of the most popular restaurants in town (Chez Mimi) & then set off to explore these art installations. We do enjoy this annual trail but I always get really fed up with the organiser’s brochure which always lies re the accessibility & distance to get to see them! If you are as fit as a mountain goat & like hiking uphill (neither of which describes me I hasten to add) it may well take “30 mins there & back”…if you do para type yomping! But for normal, unfit & slow walking folks like me it turns into a long uphill struggle which I don’t really enjoy at all! Consequently we only visited 3 of the exhibits…& the last one was only because it was right by the car park! We may go back again before the event finishes & “do” another couple…if I can summon up the energy that is!

I been thinking about next year whilst we have been quiet this week & have finally got off my backside & done a bit of marketing for the business. I hate doing this so usually put it off big style but needs must, as some of the advertising sites we have been using are just not bringing us enough visitors & some of them are getting ridiculously expensive too. Changes have been made, some sites axed & new sites are being tried for next year. I also need to take a whole pile of new photographs & will then get our website updated a bit too. Another exciting new venture for us next year will be the start of our partnership with my good friend Tottie Limejuice (she of the book “Sell the Pig” fame) doing “Tottie`s Tours”. Our part of this will be to provide the accommodation & by the looks of the interest in this project so far, it could prove to be a winner. Lets hope so:)

So, here we are enjoying some hot summer sunshine at last & everyone has gone home to get ready for the rentree. I am hoping it continues to be fine until our family come to visit in September. It is nice to have our house & garden back & to enjoy the peace & quiet of the empty village once again but I would like to share this glorious weather with some guests too, so if any of you are available for a break this autumn, you know where we are!

It is good sometimes just to get out & about in your own area isn`t it Jane? I love the Auvergne & we have done a lot of visiting whenever we can, but there are still places & attractions which we have not tried & to which we send visitors happily. Sometimes mind you they are not to our personal taste such as the Animal parc near here but I suppose we should one day try it out.

We have been busy with our gite in the high season and have decided to take a staycation instead of going down to the Drome.

We have a heated pool here, so have decided to do a bit of exploration on behalf of any future guests and are trying out the best restaurants in the area.