First published 15 October 2014
As lots of you know, each year we do our best to support a number of dog rescue charities and associations: this year (2014) we're supporting Twilight Chiens, a doggie 'retirement home' in Dordogne; Carcassonne SPA, who do fantastic work rehoming abandoned and stray dogs, and Lévriers Sans Frontières.
First published 1 September 2014
Over the last couple of weeks there's been a huge amount of press coverage about holiday scams involving owner-managed accommodation: horrendous stories of people finding out at the last minute - or worse, on arrival - that they've booked with and paid their money to a fraudster, not to the holiday home owner. These particular scams work by the fraudster 'phishing' the holiday home owner, usually via their account with one of the listing sites such as Holiday Lettings, Homeaway or Owners Direct, sometimes via their email account; or occasionally via the cloning of an entire listing with different contact details; neither the holiday home owner nor the guest have any idea that the booking has been intercepted.
First published 7 October 2014
There are, I know, those amongst you who believe that when we have a couple of days between guest departures and the next arrivals we get to sit around wafting a glass of chilled rosé and smiling benignly - yes, you know who you are :). This little post is for you ...
First published on 5 October 2014
Our local Ariège tourism department has just published a rather gloomy report on the state of this summer's play, including a long section on 'visitor profiling'. In a nutshell, it seems that the department remains very much loved by its visitors, but while the overall number of visitors is holding up pretty well, as each year goes by they're spending less and less while they're here. Instead, they're stashing their car boots full of food from home, buying provisions only from the 'hard discount' shops like Aldi and Lidl, brewing up coffee by the side of the road rather than stopping in a café, rarely if ever eating out, and generally ignoring the Ariège's small and rather precarious local economy.
First published 21 August 2014
I want to tell you a story, about our village, Rimont. Are you sitting comfortably? I hope so, because you might not be afterwards.
First published 21 December 2013
Living here in the Ariège you’re never far from the sense of walking on an earth that’s been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years and holds its share of mysteries and secrets. Walking locally, near any of the dolmens or caves or just out on the rocky limestone crags, it’s hard not to be affected by the ‘ancientness’ of it all and to feel something of the spirit that moved those first residents. On this day of winter solstice, I’m going to share with you just one of the Ariège’s largely unknown earth mysteries.
First published 5 June 2010
As many of you know, I seem to have interspersed a life of doing Socially Useful Things - civil servant, welfare rights activist, CAB manager, citizen advocate, and counsellor/psychotherapist - with various forays into the hospitality world: prototype vegetarian guest house in the 1980s, meditation and workshop centre, dance and other camps, restaurant with rooms, and of course Maison Grillou!). It's a pretty big thing to me, the H word.
First published 19 October 2013
I had to spend a couple of days in London this week, and with the best part of a Friday morning going begging before my flight home I decided to revisit an old haunt, Borough Market. We were quite fond of this place in our resto days - the retail 'farmers' market' bit, with all sorts of interesting producers, hadn't been going for very long and it seemed very 'real' and non gastro-porn-y. And it was always good to nip over the road and have a coffee at our coffee bean suppliers, Monmouth Coffee.
First published 30 May 2013
Lots of people have a rather rose-tinted view of what it's like to run holiday accommodation. "Are you going anywhere nice today?" guests ask us, as they set off for a day's walking. Others, I'm sure, have fantasies that we spend the afternoons lounging around on sun beds, glass of rosé in one hand and book in the other.
The reality is somewhat different. Don't get me wrong, we love doing it (otherwise we wouldn't), but - um - we don't do a lot of lounging around. Our day starts well before 7am with bread making and/or a trip to the boulangerie along with preparing all the other breakfast goodies, continues through spending time with our guests at breakfast, organising people's walks, making picnic lunches, sometimes a trip to the market, cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, gardening, repairs ... then often on into cooking and hosting dinner, which often goes on close to midnight, clearing up afterwards and laying the table for the next day's breakfast.
First published 28 March 2013
... and seven wet, backbreaking hours later you have the beginnings of what's called in French un hérisson - a level and solid base over which to lay wood, stone or gravel.
Un hérisson also means a hedgehog.
No, I don't know why either.
We've been writing here and there and about this and that since we arrived at Maison Grillou in 2007, just as we did back in our Norfolk days. From 2008 all the way up to the end of 2012 I blogged regularly about our first years in the Ariège and our - um - adventures renovating this house and welcoming its first guests. If you really have nothing better to do (or just want to see what we used to look like or know what we got up to in those days), you can still read those early posts here: