My early memories of holidays as a child are predominantly camping holidays with my parents and little brother and usually a party of eight or so teenagers from the comprehensive school where my father taught. This had two advantages for my father – he could use the school minibus and thus have a cheaper holiday, and secondly my brother and I would never get bored with the other kids around. After one particularly disastrous camping holiday in Austria where it rained solidly for 2 weeks and we spent most of the time climbing moutains and taking shelter in catholic churches which were a) always open and b) free to enter my father decided to try gîte holidays in France – at least there would be a solid roof over our heads. Gîtes in the late 1970’s were very different from gîtes nowadays. They were basic, no bed linen or towels, inventory checked on arrival, no information on the local area, no swimming pools and often very rural with half an hour drive to the local supermarket. I remember the first gite we stayed in there was a man next door who played his saxaphone all night. In another gîte my brother and I were kept awake by the mice running around the inside of the bedroom all night. But we loved it – the pain au chocolat for breakfast, the simple baguette, cheese and paté picnic lunch on the banks of the swimming lake and the Esquimaux choc ices and Orangina if we were lucky. The colours, smells, tastes and atmosphere of the weekly French market. The friendliness of the local people and the meal out in the restaurant where we ate sheeps’ brains for the first and last time (none of us spoke French well at that stage).
It was during these summer holidays that I fell in love with France and decided that one day I would like to live there. I worked hard on learning French at school, had a memorable internship on a campsite in France for 6 months which taught me a lot about the hospitality business and then started a career in IT logistics. A gîte holiday in 2001 re awakened my passion and I took the plunge in 2002 and moved to La Haute Manceliere in Eastern Brittny with my then 18 month old daughter. A lot of time, effort, passion then went into creating a successful little gîte business which has welcomed people from all over the world and best of all, a lot of visitors who return. Why Brittany? Well, perhaps not for the hot sunny weather – a mediterreanean climate it doesn’t have. However, Brittany is one of the most beautiful regions in France, surrounded by coastline, pretty and well maintainted countryside and villages and not too far from the channel ports. A bit like Cornwall but cheaper, with better roads and of course, a very different culture. Crêpes and cider instead of cream teas. Fruits de mer instead of fish and chips. Not too long a drive for families with young children and a warm climate and not too hot in the summer to spend the day on the beach or around the pool, unlike the South of France.
My aim has been to create a home from home with the accommodation offered. Every gîte retains its original character and comfort is a priority – from good mattresses to a well equipped kitchen and a properly heated swimming pool. The garden is one of the most important features of my gites – it can be accessed directly from the back door of every gite and it is a safe haven for children to explore, play and make new friends. In my experience if the children are happy, the parents are happy!
Whilst not looking after the gîtes I keep myself busy by teaching English in various companies in Rennes. In doing so I’ve learned a lot about the region and have a good knowledge of local events, excellent restaurants and the most interesting places to visit – many off the beaten tourist track. I’m bilingual (whilst retaining my Jane Birkin British accent which the French think is charming) and am always available to help out if required – booking restaurants, horse riding, interpreting if needs be, or of course, just for a chat.
In my spare time, I enjoy running and belong to local athletic club. I know the local countryside and roads really well, and can advise any runners, walkers or cyclist on local footpaths. Anyone wishing to join me for a run is more than welcome!