Sunday, 18 September 2011

Summer Of Love

When some guests leave, it feels like to holiday is over for me as well as for them. This best describes the odd sense of loss that's repeated over and over as we've said goodbye to some remarkable people over the summer. Tidying and cleaning empty rooms almost becomes a ritual to exorcise the emotions, and as I scrub and polish I think of pleasantly memorable times - a convivial meal sharing stories, or the sound of satisfied guests chatting and laughing together as we wash up. And the memories linger, triggered by little reminders: a note in a guest book, a silver bangle left behind, donated novels or particular brands of soap and cologne, gifts of paintings and plants and even a florescent pink inflatable Pegasus which has hung for most of the summer under the pergola.

Trailers to this post mentioned an annual report to mark the anniversary of our arrival here. I gathered together some statistics for it, but they only tell part of the story. Here goes.

From March 18th until now a total of 453 nights (64 weeks) have been booked. This represents 73 individual bookings (29 for apartments/44 for B&B) with 154 people staying. Most people came as couples, but a handful travelled as family groups. Seventeen nationalities have passed through these doors so far: American, Brazilian, Danish, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Quebecois, Scottish, Slovakian, Spanish, Swiss, Belgian, Welsh, Luxembourgish (this is really what people from Luxembourg call themselves in English!) Over all the average stay was 6.2 days, but this is skewed by the fact that apartment bookings are usually for longer periods than B&B bookings and I didn't feel like trawling through the diary again to work them out individually! A slight digression, but it is worth noting that the shortest stays were for one night and the longest for sixteen.

Assuming a (conservatively estimated) 22 week season, this gives us a 48% occupancy rate. Is that okay for the first year? I'm afraid I don't really have a clue. I vaguely remember Ruth Wilson of Hotel Inspector fame (I know it's Channel Five and not Business Weekly!) saying that confidence in sustainability comes at about 70% occupancy. It would be nice to be able to make some of the changes we want to make a bit faster, but at the moment we'll settle for paying the bills.
The problem with figures is that they say nothing about the really memorable moments that cause us to refer to this season as our Summer of Love. Just for the pleasure of remembering, here are a few.
  • The couple from Kent who got engaged here during a glorious week weather wise, at the beginning of April.
  • Melvyn & Jana who dropped in unexpectedly at breakfast one May morning while returning to England from Slovakia (are we really on the way?) and who re-scheduled ferry crossings in order to stay longer. Lots of laughs over vegan dinners and a special thanks to Mel who enthusiastically rodded blocked drains! Future guests please note, he wanted to do it, we didn't make him.
  • The Muslim couple from Wales who wasted no time in making aubergine & potato curry with dahl and roti cooked in the wood oven when we made doe eyes and said we missed Indian & Pakistani food. We couldn't get all the spices, so we had to improvise a bit, but the result was fantastic.
  • Polish couple Igor & Radek who supplied the limoncello for some lovely evenings putting the world rights under the pergola and who climbed through the windows after locking themselves out. I'm glad we weren't there to witness that!
  • Pete & Marie of Bristol who along with Anne & Graham of Ripon helped to bail out our flooded living quarters having just returned from an evening out in their best bib and tucker. The sight of Marie with her lovely evening dress knotted at the front to keep it clear of the water made me wish I'd had a camera. Marie left us a gift of three original paintings (See Marie's art here) and Anne & Graham left us the florescent pink inflatable Pegasus that adorns the pergola, even as I write.
  • Critter crazy Django, 9 years old who really appreciated the unappreciated things about Tuscany like scorpions, venomous snakes, wolves and wild boar. Django, if you're reading, I am still sceptical about your sightings of Big Foot.
  • Our Italian guests who patiently corrected our Italian and helped it along enormously. We are sorry we descended into Eurobabble at times when we reached the limits of expression. Chanteuse Elisa & Sporty Roberto from Padua you will forever be Betty and Bob to us. Poalo & Maria-Luisa from Verona, the ornamental pepper plants you gave us are still going strong. Nicole & Federico from Genova swapped recipes over vegan dinners. Take a look at Nicole's recipes at Ricette Vegan. Giusy from Milan - we feel like we got to know you very well in only a couple of days. Such a big heart.
  • Betty, Bob, Colin & Jen
    Honeymooners Sarah & Steve added some true Northern English grit to the proceedings and we wish you a wonderful life together. Hamid & Paula from Amsterdam were our quickest repeat guests. They left at 10am to go south but rang at 2pm to book another week and were back by 5. Thank you both and thank you Paula for the marvellous job you did of dead-heading the geraniums. Colin & Jen from Belfast: so cheeky! Some of Jen's stories were mildly disturbing to say the least! You began a trend of drawing in the guest book! Given the Belfast accent, perhaps it was the best way to communicate?
  • Robi and Corrine from Luxembourg your company for dinner every night was such a pleasure. You increased our knowledge of Luxembourg by thousands of percentage points and you allowed me to get away with playing Bob Dylan at dinner. Click to see Robi's art.
  • Thanks to Kati & Al our new friends in Seattle for all the entertaining internet links. And to everyone else along the way who has shared food, wine and conversation
  • Finally, Pete & Jo who chose this little corner of the universe to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Thanks to you and to everyone who made this summer so special.
Colin & Jen's Guestbook page


  1. the way you write your comments shows, once again, how warmhearted and openminded you are and how well you are able to establish a personal contact with your guests.
    thank you so much for promoting my artwork.
    all the best
    robi and corinne
    there is room for 6500 people in the rockhal.

  2. Hi Guys, What a great blog about how you feel when guest leave. I thought it was just me being silly. I really do miss our guests also when they leave. It is not a feeling I anticipated at all. Casa Verde had 71 people in 125 days what a whirlwind and what people. People we would never have met and would have been the less for it. Darren & Malcolm.