I ended the last blog post wondering what July had in store for us. Well quite a lot as it turned out! Despite starting the month with far too many gaps in the diary for our liking...the summer holiday season is woefully short here & so we need to have lots of business in July & August in order to feel happy...the month has turned out to be not too bad businesswise in the end. As we had thought a lot of holidays & breaks are being taken at the last minute this year. People are checking the weather & hoping for some price reductions – although the latter is not possible here as I don`t make enough money for that as it is! We have had 2 last minute bookings for the gite – one for a short stay (we don`t normally do those in summer but needs must!)& one from our current gite guests, a lovely Polish family, who had been let down by their pre booked holiday accommodation, & who were very lucky to find our gite vacant for this week. They are a couple with 5 (yes, you read that right!)children ranging in age from 9yrs to 7 months! They are such a nice family & I am so in awe of the mother who looks like she has just stepped out of a fashion magazine each day with not a hair out of place. How does she do that with 5 children in tow??? Anyway, they are enjoying themselves here, which is the main thing. We were also pleased to welcome back a British family who were back for the third time & who as per usual had a completely relaxing week where apart from going for the odd bike ride & out to eat a few times did nothing but sit in the sunshine, snooze under the trees & read! Exactly what they like! They left us, reluctantly, to head northwards to Normandy...& the rain!
The B&B has been quite busy too. We had an annoying start to the month, when we were contacted about 9.30pm one evening by the auberge at Vernet la Varenne to see if we had a room for a couple who were eating there & wanted to stay overnight, but they were full. We rushed round sorting the room out & then were still waiting at midnight! When we rang the auberge, the couple were still eating & were wondering whether to go on to a local dance! So we told them to forget it & went to bed a bit narked! Fortunately, all the other B&B guests have been fine. We have had some “sporty” types...4 cyclists who arrived early in the afternoon as it was too hot to complete their circuit & a father & daughter who were on a 15 day hike through the Auvergne. They & the Belgian family who stayed the same weekend, all asked for very early breakfasts so they could get going before it became too hot, so I was pretty tired that weekend! We have also had some very welcome returners (back for the 4th time) & a very frazzled Belgian family who came here following a recommendation from their friends. I think they resumed their journey south the following day a little less stressed, than they were when they arrived! We have another very busy weekend coming up with lots of bed changes & our first real gite changeover for some time, so that will be fun. At least it is a little cooler now thank goodness :)
The heat wave continued for the first couple of weeks of July. It was really draining having temperatures in the high 30s & even 40s some days. It was too hot to do anything really, except sit inside, read & watch the TV. Fortunately we had the Tour de France to keep us sane & found ourselves watching this for most of the afternoon whilst attempting to do jobs indoors with all the shutters closed. We were delighted by Chris Froome`s success & thoroughly disgusted (but not surprised) by the French commentators & supporters hostility towards him & Team Sky. The French are terrible losers...& that is putting it mildly! Geoff is thinking of buying a Team Sky T shirt just to annoy his students!
We haven`t really done much out & about this month...too busy & too hot for that! We drove over to Mike & Linda`s for a great BBQ & swim in their pool one Sunday, which was nice. And we did manage to get to the last day of the big biannual water colour festival at Brioude last Friday. We went in the morning...before it got too hot...& so missed a lot of the exhibitions which were only open in the afternoons, but at least we saw some of it. I love this event, but Brioude is one of those places where it always feels hot & humid in summer & with the temperatures we have been having lately we didn`t feel like lingering. We also went up to the annual Resistance Memorial Ceremony in St Etienne-sur-Usson last Sunday. The turnout this year was amazing, with lots of politicians, maires & military representatives there as well as lots of local people & as usual it was a very moving ceremony. Everyone went back to the newly opened bar/restaurant in the village for a vin d`honneur afterwards which was nice too.
Ah yes... our new multiservice in the village is open at last! The building has been finished for over a year now but it was proving very difficult to find someone to run it. However, a lovely lady called Vivianne has taken it on & now we have somewhere locally to send our guests to eat, drink & buy bread at last! We have been trying to support it as much as we can. Our guests bought bread there all of last week & we ate there one evening...& very nice it was too. Being a “one woman” enterprise, the menu is limited but the food is good & we feel we can recommend it wholeheartedly :)
We have been making the most of the good weather by swimming at the lake most evenings when we can get away. The water has been the warmest we have ever known it this month...even reaching the dizzy heights of 26c some days -although I still don`t believe the life guard`s info board most days! I am not a good swimmer, being self taught, but I am really pleased by the way my swimming has improved this summer. I no longer panic when I get out of my depth & can now swim over 40 meters without stopping...which for me is amazing! It has been wonderful to go there in the evenings to cool off. The lake is a very popular place in summer for locals & visitors alike but we have been a bit surprised by how quiet it has been this July. For us, as bathers, it is great. Some evenings we have been almost the only people swimming - & before my children say that has something to do with the water temperature, that is not true this year! But it just indicates how few tourists there are about at the moment which is not such good news. Some of our guests visited Vulcania, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions round here & reported that it, too, was very quiet with hardly any queues for the popular attractions at all. This is proving to be a truly strange year as far as tourism is concerned here in this part of the Auvergne. We personally have noticed a big drop in French visitors all this year which is not good news for us, as most of our normal clientele are French. Fortunately we have had a lot more guests from different countries this year...including more British visitors at last. I am now just hoping that all the problems with the channel crossings & the farmers protests on the autoroutes don`t scupper this now. That would be very worrying.
So on into August starting with a very busy weekend & first week. After that the diary is looking a bit bare – especially for the B&B...but in this “last minute” world we seem to be part of now, I`m sure that will soon be rectified...I hope!