Survive France tips for successful summer stays!

It's that time of year again.....

Someone switched on the weather (down here at least) and your friends and family may be considering visiting your lovely part of the world. This can go one of many way and let's face it - some of them are not so great!

In an effort to pave the way for a successful summer filled with the sound of laughter and sizzling BBQ's, let's compile a list of 'do's and don'ts' for your guests.

I'll get it made in to a nice printable poster for you - that way it won't look like you made it with your own guests in mind. You can stick it on the fridge and blame me!



People like that Gordon deserve a visit from you and your OH....go and stay with them and treat them the same way! we have only had one couple who visited and did that....they would come and tell me they were ready for me to serve breakfast.....and would then eat and walk away from the table...same for all the other meals....then the lady of the partnership...would get plastered at supper....and start wandering all over the house and swaying on the staircase!.....meanwhile her husband would tell me I shouldnt 'allow' her alcohol. They said they had meant to bring some wine with them but the opportunity to buy some didnt the end we booked a restaurant for their last night...and when the bill came up my husband handed it to the husband and said 'yours I believe'....they havent returned!

We sold our gite business last year so are enjoying the freedom to take our own breaks during the better weather instead of being tied to the business from May to September - but it`s still a problem trying to explain to some family members that we are now wanting some holidays of our own after 7 years for providing them for paying guests and free holidays for family members.

The attitude of family when you have a place in France tells you all you need to know about their personality - some do not expect to be waited on hand & foot & insist on paying their way - others see it as a privilege for us that we should be blessed with their company and seem to think we were there to provide them with a free holiday. One family member expected to be put up in a gite for free in the height of the season even though we had plenty of bedrooms in the house! - said person then got up late & left her breakfast things on the table for us to clear up - in the meantime we were outside looking after the pool & the grounds etc! - what can you say to people like that without causing a massive row & a bad atmosphere for the rest of their stay as they are obviously completely unaware of their shortcomings?

Our grown up daughter's come often, 2 or 3 times a year, and they're great, they help in the kitchen, happily fit in with whatever we're doing, love to clean the pool and even push the hoover around and put the washing on for me occasionally. Our friends who visit are great too. It's the parents who are a problem, they get ready in a morning and sit looking at us waiting to be 'entertained' "what are we doing, where are we going today" frequently slips from their lips. They don't help either, in fact my dad even made cups of tea for them and didn't even ask if we wanted one last time they were here. And talk about picky eaters, when the Belle Mere keeps iceland in business back in blighty she doesn't appreciate the fact that all my cooking is fresh.

They all expect to be picked up at the airport and driven around, put our foot down the first time though when the in laws got themselves really really cheap flights to an airport 3 hours away instead of the usual 1 hour 20, and expected us to drive there and pick them up. Told them to get a hire car, boy did they moan about the price of that all week.

It worried me sick the first few summers,but working on the chinese proverb that after3 days fisha nd visitors stink, I got myself a plan! Family come when they want as often as they want, for as long as they want, friends come for 3 days, often go on somewhere else, I may suggest it isi a place worth visiting, and come back for another three days. WIth all of them i explain we are not on holiday this is our real life!And I cook for the first meal when they arrive the next day we all go to the supermarket to make sure I have some of the things they like, if they offer to pay, whichis normal I accept, if not they take us out for a meal. It works for us!Have to say it was a shock to OH who is french so has no need to have famil to stay!

A group of girl friends hit upon this money method and I now use it for all friends. They contribute daily into A kitty. Kitty is for all for meals, drinks, grocery shopping, petrol, entertainment and towards any other expenses. The do not ask me as host to contribute as they are using all my utilities. If flying however I do provide toiletries due to the fluid restrictions

We share Suz's thing about times for sure. There are no 'sittings' and 'shifts'. If people get up late then they look after themselves, including putting stuff in the dishwasher and away. Ditto eating out. If people insist on taking us then children too, ours are more than old enough, and whoever is driving goes easy on the juice - they are welcome to lose their licence if they insist.

So we sound rule laden and boring, but most people understand and we do not need to do the rules bit. Some guests are a thorough pain in the... One who comes to mind wanted to be picked up at Bordeaux airport and taken back there. It is over two hours away. She was told there is a link bus to the station then fairly frequent trains to within a few minutes. Her reasoning was that because she cannot speak French she might get lost! Neither of us was able to make the time she had booked, I was unable to properly drive at the time as it was and OH had things to do. She was asked if she could change her appointments. Our guest got a firm 'No' and spent the whole four days here sulking when she eventually did arrive.

Our only guest who simply turned up was actually passing not far away, phoned and we joyously 'demanded' he came to us. He arrived in less than half an hour and commented on our grass needing cutting and happily set off with the power mower before he had had as much as a welcoming cup of something! He did more in well under 48 hours than most guests in a whole week.

We really havent had any problems....despite last year having 7 sets of visitors...the longest staying was 8 days. I find it easier if guests are content to go out by themselves for some days...for which I will happily load them up with picnic food.....and as I have a freezer full of frozen water bottles...enough water to keep them out all day! Its more difficult when guests feel they need to glue themselves to you for the entire stay. All driving guests bring requested supplies...whether that is Atora veggie suet...or Sosmix veggie sausage mix, stuff I cant get here...flying guests usually will bring a bottle of something difficult to get here...good Sherry, Manzanilla or Port. Its much easier for us as when in France we are not can devote ourselves to guests (ish!) and my husband is great at getting guests to help him with garden duties...which makes sure they stay out as much as they can!

We have made a decision now that we are not going to eat out at all when people come over. It costs us a fortune now that there are 5 of us. For the price of us going out, I can cook an amazing bbq - if people want to eat out then they can do so on their long as they let me know in advance so I don't prepare food for them and have to throw it away. I think my biggest bug bear is around eating. We get up by 7am at the latest, breakfast is around 8am not 10am, lunch is at 12.30/1 not 3pm and no - I don't do two sittings or an all day service!

We have now got to the stage where we tell most people that our new bungalow has only one bedroom. The people concerned expect to be collected from the airport, arrive completely empty handed, want to be chauffered all over to see the local sights, expect waiter service in our house and if we have a meal out, say that we should pay because we speak the language.

However, when my wife goes to England, she has to hire a car because no-one will meet her at the airport, stays at a hotel because no-one offers to put her up for the duration, if she drives up, is expected to be a taxi despite her having a left hand drive car, is expected to pay for meals in restaurants, visit everybody at their convenience, deliver all the orders for wine and other French merchandise without any payment whatsoever. The only exception is our daughter but the others are welcome to stay away. The more we have English visitors, the more I love our 15 year old dog.

Tell them that they are most welcome, and would they mind if you took advantage of their stay by taking a break yourselves. However, farm-sitting 300 sheep, 50-odd cows may put them off!

Chris, these rules are shockingly straight forward. Thanks for the list!

Some of you must have pretty much of strange experiences ;-) Till now no "passer-by" was showing up out of the blue, - still the idea with the suitcase is genial! We keep the fridge of the guest apartment as storage room for these Hot-Mango- or Lemon Pickles, olives and other useless things and separate all "alimentation nutrition", after finding us washing in the morning the left-overs of the evening before. "Car rental" are totally a no-go-zone, - as well as taking the dog for a walk.

I was not referring to immediate family - who we love to see.

However we do say to friends that we run a business here and, if they arrive in season, the paying guests come first. I would suggest to anyone with gites or B&B that they make it plain that, if they are thinking of coming "in season", they come as clients and PAY.

Wow, this is all brilliant advice on something we've been struggling with - we run a chambre d'hote, so we're encountering the 'you've got a big house, we'll come and stay' thing already... We're not waiting for offers of help, but listing what jobs need doing and non-paying guests can take their pick, we all go to the supermarket at the start of their stay and share the cost of the shopping 50/50 - but we feel awkward about it all throughout. Loving Chris' rules - think that and James' poster might well find their way into the private area of the house that only our 'friends' would see... Thanks very much everyone!

Oh and Clare do not leave it any longer to say something because your difficult visitors probably think their behaviour is fine and that is just how you like it because you have not said anything. They can't read your mind.Do you want these people back to visit if they don't change their ways? If not then tell them the set up has changed and that you are busy. You love to see them but the arrangements will have to be different from now on. Spell it out kindly but clearly. Be brave.

We have lots of visitors during the summer months, most of which are welcome and behave impeccably. I have learned that with the others I have to explain our needs very clearly. I actually found the ability to tell one family that two weeks was much too long and one week would be fine as long as they would be very independent. Very brave! I need my space and time on my own and cannot do smiley, smiley 24/7. I also told another group of my daughter's in laws and family that we would all take it in turns to buy and cook the evening meal. This worked brilliantly as I only ended up cooking twice in the week. It takes guts and years of putting up with rubbish behaviour to realise that you just have to speak your mind in as nice a way as possible and make sure you are heard.

Chris, I like your rules! We have been lucky, so far. For family, I am fine with doing most of the cooking because the “kids” sort out the grandkids and are great at doing the washing up.

We have a small house, family doesn’t mind being a bit cramped and their visits are always planned. For the “just stopping by folks”, I very nicely recommend the chambres d’hotes
just down the road.

With our SFN poster stuck on your fridge Clare! :)

I love to see my friends and family but some feel that they can turn up, sit on their bottoms and contribute nothing during their stay. This drives me mad. I am not asking for the world but how do you say, ' we live here, we are not on holiday like you, can you please clear your own mess up after you, instead of leaving it all for me and it would be really helpful if you would offer to just prepare a simple salad to accompany the main meal that I have just slaved over in the kitchen for hours or set the table, instead of sitting on your a******* asking me what's for dinner. I sound like a miserable old bag don't I ????? We have been here for 5 years, and everyone still thinks we are a free holiday. Seriously, how do you truly tell them how you feel without upsetting them?

I subscribe to the saying: some visitors give us pleasure when they arrive and others when they leave.

My darling husband's mantra is: Visitors are like fish, they start to stink after 3 days (and sometimes I completely agree with him)

Possibly have on hand both plaques to be displayed at your (dis) pleasure.