What, no carols?
Well, December disappeared in a blur and here we are at the end of January already. We managed to stay fairly busy throughout December hosting a few works do’s and a birthday dinner leading up to the festivities which started for us on the 23rd with a traditional English carol concert.
The French don’t have a great tradition for carols and when we mentioned putting on a carol concert there was a lot of interest. We had a desperate search on the internet for words and found a few with the same tune with versions in both French and English. Mike Todd brought his guitar and recorders and we were about forty in all. It was a bit cold to be outside around our Christmas tree but the evening went very well with ‘vin chaud’ (a mulled wine made with white wine), fromage fort and mince pies which Nick and Sophie spent all afternoon making.
Christmas was spent ‘en famille’ and then we set about preparing for New Years Eve. Our first guests, Jill and Bert arrived on 26th from Amsterdam followed by Richard and Maria Waple plus Katie and Max, with their friends Mark and Julie on the 28th. James and Karen Sweeting and their dog Cachou, drove up from St Antonin-Noble-Val where they live, on the 30th. Nick produced a ten course meal washed down with lots of wine and party games (orange under the chin, balloon between the knees) ensured a good time was had by all.
“I promise to do something with the hare in the freezer…”
The whole Christmas period was turkey free as we had roe-deer for Christmas Day, stuffed quail New Years Eve and a haunch of wild boar New Years Day. A big thank you to all our local hunters and I promise to do something with the hare that’s still in the freezer.
With January and February traditionally the quiet months we settled into hibernation mode anticipating some early nights but it isn’t getting quiet. As all the chambres d’hôtes in the area are shut we are getting enquiries every week.
Not your average customers….
One call reserving a room for three nights came from a chap in the next village, Plottes, for a couple who were working on his house treating all the woodwork against worm, rot etc. They duly arrived in a large white van and proceeded to empty the back of it and carry the contents to their room in large plastic crates. They went straight to bed (9.30 pm) having requested breakfast for 7.15 am the following morning.
At 7 am Becca (I don’t do mornings) was at the newsagents to get the bread and croissants (being a Wednesday the baker is shut but still bakes and delivers his produce to the newsagent to sell) and had to do battle with a five year old for the last two croissants. ‘Don’t you prefer pain au chocolat’ she said. The last two croissants duly ended up on our guests’ table who finally came down for breakfast at 8.00 am. A fleeting apology for their tardiness was swiftly followed by ‘Don’t you have any unsalted butter?’ The husband, by this time had taken his cup, put in a drop of milk, half filled it with tea and then topped it up with muesli. After breakfast they left for work with the words ‘The bed is made, you won’t need to go into our room’. I’ve never known Becca climb the stairs so quickly!!
We should have realised at this point that they were not your average customers and the evening confirmed it!! They arrived back from their work and went upstairs to shower before coming down for dinner. They were shown the menu. ‘What is the soup of the day?’ they asked. ‘Soupe de poisson’, Becca said, (Fish soup). ‘Is it salty?’ they asked. ‘Well, the fish did live in the sea before they were thrown into a large stockpot’ sprung to mind before I bit my tongue. ‘We don’t eat meat. Can you do us a ‘filet du porc au sauce moutarde à l’ancienne avec légumes du marché’ without the pork?’ Well why the h**l didn’t you say something this morning…………….A quick ratatouille (with curry powder to compensate for NO salt) on a bed of tagliatelle did the trick. They didn’t drink alcohol and washed down their meal with fruit juice. However, once we got to know them (they were a bit shy and not used to Becca’s sort of hospitality) we got on really well to the extent that after they had finished the job on the house they decided to stay on and finally left on Sunday afternoon.
Jill and Bert came down for the weekend to do some more house-hunting and brought their son and daughter to show them the area and to pay a second visit to a house about 10 kms away. After their first visit they were very keen on it but weren’t quite so happy after the second and decided to say ‘no’. However they have reserved again for the first weekend of February so we are expecting them Friday night plus Jean-Marc’s band has a rehearsal so all the rooms are booked.
Burn’s Night – French Style
January 25th was Burn’s Night. We had an e-mail from an English couple who live in the area asking if we were doing anything. I had a four small haggis (courtesy of Dick and Elli) that I reckoned I could feed ten or twelve with so I said ‘yes’, a menu of cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps and tatties, followed by tipsy laird (a sort of trifle).
They booked a table for four. We mentioned it to Marie-Eve and Frank in the village and they put a table of eight together. Then the phone started ringing!! By the Saturday before the event we were forty one reserved and Marie-Eve had organised a Celtic trio, a father plus his two daughters, who played bagpipes, harp, flute and guitar and who would love to come and play. We had a major haggis deficiency. Some research on the internet located www.scottishfoodoverseas.com who despatched four kilos of haggis on the Monday morning which arrived with us on the Wednesday afternoon.
The evening was an absolute scream. (See photo album). The French were a little bemused at first, especially when Nick put on his best Scottish accent to ‘toast the haggis’ but after a few drams it went very well, and we got to bed at 2.30. And most of them have already reserved for St Patrick’s Day in March.
What with the six nations starting we are going to need our week in Egypt. We already have bookings for Scotland-France (but there’s no haggis left) on Sunday 3rd February and also bookings for rooms for various events in the area up until the end of August. It looks like 2008 is going to be busy. Let’s just hope the weather is better than last year.