So I can't believe it's actually been a year since I wrote a blog here! Well, to be exact, a year and 2 months. So what can I say about why I haven't blogged this past year? I guess my excuse is that we had a baby. After she was born, I felt more protective of what I put online, even more so than when we had our son. I suppose this is because we knew that at some point our episode of House Hunters International would air, and instead of making me blog more it made me reluctant to write anything! Not sure that makes sense, but that's part of why, the other part is just daily life, kids, self-employment, other things coming first.
Our first official season of B&B had its ups and downs. We opened at the end of March and shut at the end of October. Considering the amount of competition we have in our area, and the fact we are starting from nothing, we did pretty well. I *thought* I had done my research on accommodations before we chose this house, but once you live here you realize there are so many more websites and places that people advertise! It's also amazing the discrepancy of rates in our area. We've tried to set our rate that is fair for what we offer, but there are many who are doing it "for fun" and drive the rate very low.
We were so fortunate to have friends and friends of friends book, then filled in with booking.com throughout the summer. We welcomed English, French, Dutch, Romanian, and American guests. Our French guests were patient with us and we managed to do well by speaking French to them most of the time. Highlights include seeing Charles again, and playing a garden party for our friends, (he visits us every summer on his tour of friends in France, he has very good friends a few hours from us), Keith's good friend Paul, my friends from CCM days, Bobbie, Robert, and Abby back in May, Keith's mum a few times, and my mom's cousins, the Stark sisters, who came from Texas as part of their European travels to Italy and France. Last Christmas we celebrated our first one in our home with my parents and Keith's mum and new baby, it was a special time for all of us to be together. My mom's friend Midori stayed for the month of April and took intensive French classes, too. We also loved connecting with several Pacific NW guests who found us through Alliance Francaise de Portland.
Our episode of House Hunters International aired on August 4, 2017. For those of you who may have missed it, I've posted the link above. We've had several lovely emails from Americans who've watched it. In October, we welcomed 2 couples (separately) who had watched the show and wanted to stay with us. We connected with a couple who plan to come in the future and send us an amazing sample pack of their flours and oils that are made from the after products of wine production in Washington State. Their company is called "Après Vin."
We hope to see more of you in 2018 and please let us know when you'd like to visit. We are a short (and cheap!) flight from the UK! For American & Bermuda friends I'm happy to give you a few tips on how to get here, there are many options depending on your length of travel and where else you'd like to go. Don't forget that we're just a few hours South of Paris on the way to Bordeaux, very easily accessible by car or train.
Since last November, Keith has been offering a variety of baking classes to local residents (mostly retired English-speakers) and also to some of our guests. He's done everything from Cake Decorating for Beginners to Pork Pies and the most popular, Baguette and Croissant courses. He also had 3 sessions of 4-day baking classes, which he'd like to continue and expand upon for 2018. He's had very good feedback from everyone who's taken a class. Several have come multiple times for courses and even organized groups of friends to take one. Most of our business has come from advertising on our Facebook page and word of mouth.
As far as my music, it's slowly improving with more weddings booked in 2017 than my first year, and 2018 is looking up with more paid concerts and events as well. I've partnered with a local professional cellist, Gaereth, and it seems many brides like hiring a duo instead of a solo. We've developed a large list of repertoire, including French chansons, of course the most popular classical pieces, and a variety of pop and rock too. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook for those interested. I'm continuing to connect with local wedding suppliers and planners. I played my first French orchestral audition in March. It was a good experience and I hope at some point to apply for another orchestra. I currently have two students, one English and one French. I haven't properly marketed the teaching side yet, it's more daunting. I recruited Gaereth to play with the Poitiers orchestra that I found, so we carpool to the rehearsals and concerts which is nice.
Another reason for my lack of blogging is that I connected with someone in France looking for a ghostwriter in August. I realized it could be a way to earn extra income in the winter months. I've always enjoyed writing, and the couple I write for have been very complimentary of my work. Sadly they haven't offered a raise, though! It's given me the confidence to try for other work on Upwork and other platforms and I am hoping to start to increase my pay with other jobs.
Now for news about the kids--Patrick just turned 5 and started "grande section" at school. His class is divided between his level and the level above which is the first year of primary school. He has a new teacher and moved into the "big school." (The 3-5 year olds have a separate building to the older children.) For his birthday this year he invited 10 children from his class, and it was a lovely few hours of kids playing games and speaking French in our home. It was 9 boys and 1 girl, which you'd think would be very chaotic, but they all played together very well. He loves drawing and coloring. Last year we started a thing where he could tape something up on his wall each night. Now his bedroom is full of drawings from him and Keith. If you didn't know, Keith loves to paint and draw, before we had kids he did quite a bit that we had up in our apartment in Bermuda. Good thing because I cannot draw AT ALL and remember several students laughing when I tried to draw them even the simplest animal.
Patrick started football (soccer) this fall and enjoys being the goalie, or in French "le guardien." He does not like running around the field (yet!) and sometimes he says he doesn't want to go. We've told him to try this year and then we'll reevaluate. He's continued his general music class this year, with a different teacher. The way the extracurricular classes work here, you drop off your child and unless they tell you, you really don't know what they are doing in the class! A very opposite style to what I'm used to! The class is with the "ecole de musique" which is a government-subsidized music school with a national curriculum. I signed him up partly for him, and partly to know how it works, but I'm not sure how long he will continue.
Beatrice is almost a year old! How did that happen? It goes so quickly with the second one, or at least it seems that way to me. She has about 6 teeth already and started walking at about 10 months. She walked so early I wasn't prepared with any shoes for her! Just like her brother, she is a definite character and loves to smile at everyone. She loves play-fighting with her brother and somehow Keith got her addicted to the song "Let it Go" which is NOT my choice!
In this month of Thanksgiving, we feel thankful to be here and strive to continue to improve our businesses for the coming year. It is definitely still challenging and we appreciate your support, prayers, and sharing of our business posts to help us get the word out.