Friday, 9 December 2016

Highlights and Holidays

Josselin Festival

 December is here and already another year at Maison Driscoll is behind us. Once again we have been blessed with many guests from many countries with many stories to tell. That's the fun in doing what we do, you never know what to expect when the door bell rings and a new customer arrives. In the past twelve months we've had a Romanian pop singer, two Dutch, with a vintage Land Rover, Fishermen and of course the usual array of impressive motorcycles from all over Europe. I very much hope that mother fate has a similar adventure mapped out for us in 2017........Very much looking forward to it.

One of the main highlights of 2016 was the bi-annual festival held in the nearby town of Josselin. This is a huge event for the area, which attracts many visitors from all over the world. If you dress in costume entrance is free. We were lucky in that the weather was perfect, warm and sunny. All manner of entertainment is on hand, Jousting, sword fighting, fire-eating and dance to name but a few. If Ferrets are your thing then you are catered for. I personally was very impressed by the birds of prey, especially the Bald Eagle that refused to play and disappeared up to the top of the Church spire and wouldn't  come down for sometime, smart bird.
The grounds to the chateau are free to enter during the festival which is a treat in itself. And the bars and restaurants of course are open all day and there's nowhere better to sit and watch the weird and wonderful sights wander by.
The day is rounded off with a grand firework display over the Chateau and the adjacent River Oust. Unfortunately those of us that run a chamber d-hote and have to get up bright and early to make breakfast for our wonderful guests have to be in bed long before all that happens, so we just have to take other peoples word that it is quite a spectacle. Tough life, but someone has to do it. :)  

 November saw the staff of Maison Driscoll (Karen and myself) get it's first proper French break since we opened for business. We took a gite for three days up on the Normandy coast, very close to the D-Day landing sites. Although the weather was pretty windy and a tad chilly, we wrapped up well and took in the sites.
As it was a short stay we only got to see two of the beaches, Utah and Omaha. Utah, out of the two I found the most moving, apart from the presence of a very good visitors centre/museum and small bar come restaurant, very little seemed to have changed, I was very impressed.
Granted, my birthday lunch in that very restaurant was washed down with a D-Day beer, but I can forgive them that, it didn't come across as tourist trap just out to grab your Euro, I think they had the balance just about right.

Christmas is now approaching, a period that Maison Driscoll is very much looking forward to, as our (young adult) children will be spending it with us here in France for the first time. It's only for a couple of days but it will be great to all be together again on the special day.

So now it's all eyes on the new year, lets hope it's a good one, and if you fancy seeing what Bretagne is all about, you can always book in with us. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Third Season Cometh

La Trinite Porhoet

Our second year of business at "Maison Driscoll" is almost up and the new season beckons. What will it bring? Well, in some ways, the fact we don't know makes the coming year that much more intriguing.
Last year we had the big drawer of the Tour de France and the totally potty Paris/Brest/Paris race to give us an extra boost, this year sadly not, But we do have the biannual Josselin Festival, so perhaps that may bring in a few more guests to fill that void.
We've done all we can, the garden looking pretty good (if I say so myself) and the large garage has been readied for bikers bikes and the like, so all we can do now is wait.
What we do know for certain is that we will meet a whole lot more new people, from many different countries, and that's a good thing.
Guest Terrace

As for ourselves, we survived the winter pretty much un-scathed, to be honest it was very mild here, with no snow what-so-ever, and only a few minor frosts.
We were kept pretty busy with a good smattering of guests throughout the dark months, so that was gratifying.
Another plus is that we can now leave our English cat, Arthur, and our French foundling cat, Percy, in the same room together without feline Armageddon ensuing. Which is always a plus when you have paying guests in proximity. Didn't think it would ever happen at one point.
The social side of La Trinite life is now beginning to pick up as many of our friends return with the Swallows from sunnier climes, not that us "stop-at-homes" don't have good time, whilst they're tanning themselves, we just have to wear jumpers whilst we're doing it.

During the winter we purchased this rather splendid owl for use on the front terrace, In my mind it's a bit of a good luck charm for the coming months and I hope the guests get some pleasure from it too.
As yet it is unnamed, suggestions on a post card to............

Monday, 30 November 2015

Living in La Trinite Porhoet

Our favourite view
We have now lived in La Trinite-Porhoet for exactly two years and are pretty much settled into the ways of the village. We have come to look forward to the various festivals and events that crop up at certain times of the year. Where as before, coming across Papa Noel  arriving on a tractor hurling sweets at (or should that be to) excited children was a surprise, as we were on our way to the supermarket, it's now a must see event. The fact that we know there will be mulled wine helps as well.
The putting up of the Christmas lights also actually heralds the beginning of the Christmas period, not the end of October as in the UK.

As we push into Winter the dark mornings are beginning to have an effect. Getting up in the dark is always difficult, for me anyway, and as it doesn't even become lightish until at least 8 o'clock I don't stand a chance. When we have guests the effort has to be made, but when we haven't.......... zzzzzzzzzz.

The one down side to this time of year, apart from the lack of paying guests, is the fact that a number of our good friends from hereabouts disappear off to sunnier climes, or back to England, for the Winter. Not that I begrudge them their time in the warmer parts of the globe, but the place isn't quite the same without them. But with the hardy soles that remain we do our best to take up the slack and make sure the wine consumption stays above agreeable levels.

In the meantime it's time to put another log on the fire and hunker down with the cats and make plans for next season, but please remember that Maison Driscoll is open to guests all year so please come and see us whatever the season.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

As time goes by

Time marches on here in Bretagne, It only seems five minutes ago we arrived with our "plan," or no "plan," depending how you look at it, not knowing a soul, and, in my case, no French. Well, my French hasn't improved much, a little but not a lot, but on the plus side we have many friends, and the "plan" seems to be trundling along quite nicely thank you very much.
This summer, as people who watch us on Facebook will know, we've upgraded the seating arrangements at the front of the house. This, I think, has made us look far more professional and made the house look much more attractive.
Our guests this summer, so far, seem to be more varied than last year. We've already had people from America, Spain, Ireland and Belgium as well as the usual French and British. It's really only when you meet these people at close quarters that you come to realise how they differ from each other and what traits they have in common. It's fascinating stuff, maybe I should write a book on "Europe at the breakfast table", a sure fire winner.
Spring saw us get a fair amount of British house hunters visiting us, obviously spurred on by the favourable exchange rate.

Our way of life does make it slightly awkward to get out and see the country we now live in. When we are busy we don't have the time, and when we're slack we don't feel we should be spending the money. I'm sure as time passes and we have more confidence in our position that will change. However we have got out a little. Early in the year some friends took us to the Saturday market in Rennes, apparently the second largest open market in France. It was well worth it. No tourist tat here, all  fruit, veg, fish, meat, cheese and flowers. Oh and not forgetting the bars, coffee shops and street entertainment. A pretty decent day out.
We also have ventured to both the north and south coasts, about an hours drive either way. On the north coast is the beautiful town of Paimpol. It boasts a very pretty harbour surrounded by  restaurants, and  full of both yachts and fishing boats. Small windy streets with bars and such are worth a look or two as well. It also has the most beautiful sandy beach.     

The main new addition this year is the potager in our private side garden, we grew vegetables back in the U.K. so we had a little knowledge, but are total novices compared to all our French neighbours. They grow stuff on an industrial scale, and not a weed in sight.
Considering this time last year it was all lawn I think it's done pretty well, we now have broad, runner and French beans in the freezer with lots more to come. Leeks, spuds and the rest also growing well, all we need now is the 1000 ways to cook a courgette book and we'll be fine.   

Why we still have some weeds
If you haven't been on Mars for the last month, you couldn't have not noticed that The Tour de France has been happening. I knew nothing about this sport at the outset, but by the end I was hooked, the sheer enthusiasm of the crowds, the flags, the whole thing was wonderful. I would try to use my new favourite word, peloton, as much as possible, even if it didn't fit into the sentence.
The "tour" was also good for us, as it passed quite close,  so we were full for four days, some guests picking their spot to watch the race then dashing back to ours to watch the end of the stage on the TV, then watching the highlights.
The various parts of the country the race passed through obviously took the chance to sell their area to the viewing public, and quite rightly so. Brittany, which is after all the home of French cycling, came over very well..........But I would say that wouldn't  I. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Long time, no post.

 It's been a while, hasn't it......Life in France seems to plod along and before you know it Bonfire night (my birthday), and Christmas have been and gone and we're headlong into a new year.
Our one year anniversary  in La Trinite Porhoet was passed at the end of November, so we can no longer use "being newbies" as an excuse for getting things wrong, and my poor French. But looking back I am amazed at how quickly we've become accustomed to the French way of doing things. Nothing being open on Sundays, fine, in fact I like it. Shops closing for lunch, not a problem, having the cheese course before the sweet, comes naturally now. Actually I'm a little concerned that if I went back to the U.K. and went into a pub I would wander about trying to shake hands with everyone before I bought a drink. And parting with money for each individual round....I think not.
The only thing I still find slightly alarming is French drivers. Their habit of drifting on to my side of the road when negotiating even the slightest bend, and needing to over-take me no matter how fast I'm going, I don't think I'll ever get used to. And as for those strange little 50km per hour "cars", don't get me started. 

One of the major additions to Maison Driscoll this year will be the introduction of our vegetable patch. We prepared the ground at the end of October last year and then covered it over for the winter. The plan is to rotovate the plot once more at the beginning of March in readiness for planting. We did have an allotment in the U.K, which we kept for three years, so hopefully that should stand us in good stead for this coming summer. But even if our crop fails the plus side is I have less grass to mow.

The end of last year also saw the arrival of a rather lovely piano. It used to belong to my Grand mother who died back in the late 60's. I, unfortunately never heard her play, but word has it she was very good, and my Mother and Aunt would sing along with her. I'm not sure what they would have made of it being transported all the way out here but hopefully they approve.

 Bookings for this year seem to be going fairly well, helped by the presence in Brittany of the Tour de France. Also this year the Paris-Brest-Paris is being staged. Held every four years competitors have to complete the 1200k distance in 90 hours or under. Sleeping and eating wherever they can. Happily several of them have chosen to do that with us and we are fully booked for two nights. One chap is coming all the way from the U.S.A. Bizarrely there is even a sweet pastry named after the event, anything to make a euro.

One note of sadness blotted an otherwise perfect year. One of our two cats, Riley, was knocked down and killed outside our house. I'm not sure how he managed it, considering how much traffic we see, but manage it he did. I find it even more sad as we brought them here to enjoy the French country life with us and he didn't get much time to do that. His brother Arthur took a while to adjust to not having his playmate about, but he's settled down now.
We miss Riley much.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Busy Summer

Mohon Vide Grenire.
Summer is still clinging on valiantly in our part of Brittany and we are still getting a small number of guests coming to enjoy the beauty and peace of the area now the schools have returned. 
July and August have been really good for bookings, considering this is our first year, and we're on a big learning curve I think we've coped quite well. Of coarse "you can't please all the people all the time" but in the main customers have gone away pretty happy. Reading reviews placed on web sites such as Booking/Trip advisor etc. can be a torrid experience, and over time your skin becomes a little thicker. And when the good ones out weigh the more negative ones it doesn't seem to matter so much. 
On the whole I think my assumption that B&B'ers are pretty likeable people has been proved correct. Since we opened we've met some real characters, from pilgrim walkers to Belgian bikers to enthusiastic wedding parties, and all, in one way or another, have made their mark on our French life, and hopefully have made us better at what we've chosen to do.
Vide Grenier's, we have discovered, are a big part of the French summer, and are a great  social occasion. They knock the British boot fair into a cocked hat, in my opinion. You just never know what you're going to find at the next stall. The food is great and there's usually a bar, which the French men make good use of due to the fact that, unlike England, the regular bars are mostly shut on a Sunday.
  The garden has been full of surprises this year, due mainly to the fact that we hadn't a clue what the boarders contained or, more importantly, what kind of trees we had. One of which, as shown above, turned out, in the end, to be a plum. We had pounds and pounds of the things, people weren't allowed to leave our house without taking a bag full with them. We also have many apple trees and one pear and a peach which this year we don't seem to be making best use of, hopefully next year we will be better organised and perhaps make some cider.
Mind you the whole community seems to grow vegetables on a vast scale and we have been kept well supplied with Courgettes Lettuce and the such by our lovely French neighbours. Next year, with the help of our friend Pete, and his rotavator, we hope to have our own vegetable garden to tend.

Karen has put some of Maison Driscoll's home grown produce to good use by making raspberry and plum jam which seems to be going down well with the guests at breakfast.

Life here, I have to say is pretty idyllic, and we are very lucky  to have picked a location that has given the chance to  hopefully make a go of this hare brained scheme, and make good friends along the way,. However this year has been made so much easier by the occasional visit of friends and family from the U.K. Thanks to everyone.
So now we have to knuckle down and see what trade the Autumn and Winter months can bring us, to make this work we can't rely on just the summer rush. November in Brittany is the next big thing....Tell your friends!!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Village life

Home sweet home.
Summer is now here, well it was yesterday anyway, and we find ourselves settling in to village life. Bookings have been steady, if not over whelming, but I think it gives us hope for the future.
We have now been inspected and accepted by the local tourist board, so we can now place our fliers round and about in other towns with a view to pick up more trade. Add that to "", "Bike Stay" and the rest, we've done about all we can on the advertising front.  
I've made two signs proclaiming our existence, one for the front and one for the side of the house, hopefully they look the part, at least people will know when they get here.  

Beach life.
Up to this point we have been so busy with builders and then guests that we have rather been neglecting our surrounding area. So we have taken on the task of exploring a little more. Due to the fact that when we have guests it tends to be at the weekend, our time off tends to be at the middle of the week.  Karen had mentioned on a couple of occasions (hundreds) that we hadn't seen the sea since we left England. And she was right. A couple of Sundays ago the weather was gorgeous, 27 degrees and sunny, this was to be the day. I insisted that it was going to be busy and that we should leave early to ensure a parking space. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the northern coast of Brittany from Trinite, and we arrived at ten thirtyish to an almost empty car park, and a huge, drop dead beautiful beach that we had almost to ourselves. Clearly I have yet to grasp the kind of country I was living in. So much space for so few lucky people.
Also we stopped by the very eye catching town of Rohan this week, with the canal and lake and pretty building, a nice place to visit.

Village Life.
Seven months have now past since we took the plunge and moved over to Brittany and I am amazed at how quickly time has gone. I am also amazed by how well we seem to have fitted in. We already have a sizeable group of friends that we see regularly, "Brits night " at the local tabac, on a Tuesday evening, is always fun. The local French also enjoy the spectacle of us trying out our appalling language "skills", they are so patient.
There is also a very fine bar in a nearby village that has live (very good) music weekly, so that's catered as well. The owner is trying to persuade me to bring along my guitar one night.....But it's taken him a while to build up a good reputation.....I don't want to ruin it for him.
One of the most important days of the La Trinite calendar is the "pardon of St Trinite" a day that consists of much eating and drinking, fairground rides and general merriment, followed by a church service. Then there's a procession through the streets down to the bottom of the village, where the vast bonfire is lit and a lot of chanting takes place. Then more drinking. I was told it was all to do with cleansing of sins, and wishing for a good harvest, either way almost the whole village turned and everyone had a grand time and it made me feel even more a part of things and of the community.