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When it was time to head home to the UK, we were about an hour into the journey when we pulled off the autoroute to make the call to the estate agent to make an offer… by the time we had reached Calais that evening, we had agreed on a price. Sorting out the basics We borrowed funds from a French bank and endured what seemed like an endless stream of paperwork by fax and email. We used a specialist bilingual solicitor to assist with the purchase (money well spent for the peace of mind) . We signed the “compromis du vent” in September which also acted as a secondviewing. We also met a local builder to talk through our plans for renovating and an electrician to obtain a ‘devis’ (quote) for the re-wire. Just before Christmas 2005, we returned to Mazamet to sign the ‘act definitive’ (the final part of the sale which ended with the handing over the keys to 4 rue Pasteur. As we returned to our new home and entered the vast and empty property, the reality soon sunk in and so began three years of renovations; many sleepless nights, a flood and a fire. Meanwhile we continued to work in the UK where we enrolled in evening school to learn French. By Easter 2009, the year we both celebrated reaching 40, and after countless trips to check on progress, we were made the move to France permanent. By then we’d made many friends with our neighbours, French and English, and found Mazamet a friendly, welcoming place. Open for Business We set up a website to promote our B&B named La Villa de Mazamet and less than a week later our first guests arrived. We invited the Mayor and the local press to an opening day. We printed flyers for local businesses offering a favourable rate and we encouraged every guest to leave us a Trip Advisor review.
Peter’s top 5 tips for a successful B&B in France 1. Location and accessibility to good transport links cannot be under estimated. 2. Get involved with your community, local trades people, tourist office, etc. from a very early stage so that they engage with you and support your business. Part of our ethos has always been to make sure we support the community in which we are based - for every 1€ we spend on running the business, 85 cents are spent in the town of Mazamet (and don’t be afraid to shout about that too, especially to your local Mayor!). Reservations started to trickle in and we built up a good reputation as THE place to stay in the area. Being so close to top ranked destinations like Carcassonne, Toulouse and Albi helps. Running a B&B as a business (and as your sole income) is hard work, with days starting early and finishing late. Serving dinner as we do for several nights a week significantly adds to your workload. La Villa de Mazamet has been a dream come true for us. We love welcoming guests from around the world and have met some truly wonderful people, from all walks of life, who have become friends. Guests will often say “if you are come to xxxx city, you have a place to stay”, they mean it and we have had some wonderful holidays as a result from Melbourne to Manchester. 2018 is our 10th anniversary season and we are immensely proud that, today, La Villa de Mazamet has been rated one of the top B&Bs in France for eight consecutive years on Trip Advisor, is included in Le Guide Michelin, the Good Hotel Guide and the Sawdays’ guide. www.villademazamet.com 3. Listen to your guests and ask for feedback on their stay, your amenities and facilities. Plough some of your profits back in each year to make sure you not only keep on top with the décor and maintenance of your property but also add to the guest experience – return guests will always notice the smallest of detail and love it when you have taken their feedback on board. 4. Get your website and marketing plan in place at least a year prior to opening your doors Engage with guests via social media and E-newsletters to help develop return visits. See your website as THE main marketing tool and invest in professional photography – this is a potential guest’s first engagement with you and you need to get in right 5. Work with other B&Bs locally and regionally – don’t just see them as competition as you can work with them during busy periods or when you might need them to take a loyal guest you can’t accommodate.
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