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Running gites/chambres d'hôtes in France

(18 Posts)
Booboostwo Tue 04-Aug-15 19:18:31

I am looking for general advice and experience from anyone running gites/chambres d'hôtes in France.

The background is that we bought an 18th century Chateau with 13 hectare park 5 years ago. The Chateau has needed an enormous amount of work which is still on going, we live in a cottage on site. We would be happy to sell it when it's done but given the world economic collapse it might be better to hang onto it for a while. We were wondering if running a gite/chambres d'hôtes business might help with the up keep.

The gite would be the cottage we live in now. It has three bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, toilet and a private, enclosed garden. The chambres d'hôtes would be two suites and one double room, all with bathrooms in one wing of the Chateau. The rooms are very generous, with beautiful original fittings, with views over the park and its 400 year old trees, the suites could easily accommodate families.

We are thinking of putting in a pool for shared use of all the guests and there is also a gym room, trampoline, children's play area, Wendy house, hammocks etc as well as lovely spots for picnics. We have a vegetable garden and can include our own produce for breakfast and we have stables and an arena if anyone wants to turn up with a horse. We have wifi and satellite TV.

We are located in a rural area, 10 minutes from the nearest town, an hour from Toulouse, Carcassonne and Albi.

Any thoughts?

urbinosparrot Tue 04-Aug-15 19:30:54

Sounds lovely. I haven't any experience of that kind of business, but I have often watched "Bienvenue Chez Nous" on TF1! It will give you an idea of the sort of thing other people are doing, and the prices they charge. There is some very tough competition out there, but you sound ideally situated.

Booboostwo Tue 04-Aug-15 19:41:40

Thank you I will look that programme up. I think you are right the market is saturated with this kind of thing. I was hoping the chateau and park (supposedly designed by Le Notre according to the last owner but I am not sure I believe her) might be enough of a draw.

In the UK I was an academic philosopher so I was also thinking whether it might be an idea to host philosophy weekends out of season. I can't find anything like it on the Internet, it would not cost us anything extra and it didn't work out there's no harm done. The idea would be to have two hour guided group discussion on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, themed around a particular issue, maybe something from medical ethics, or a current issue in the news (our obligations to the poor?), or the meaning of life. The discussions would be run with case studies, exercises and various techniques for clarifying concepts, teasing out arguments, developing objections, etc all of which would help participants reflect on these issues.

urbinosparrot Tue 04-Aug-15 22:35:11

Philosophy weekends are a very interesting idea. Would you conduct them in English or French?

Booboostwo Wed 05-Aug-15 07:00:23

It would have to be in English as my French is not good enough.

urbinosparrot Wed 05-Aug-15 10:32:58

I think it's a good idea for low season when people are struggling for clients - you would certainly be offering something unusual. And doing it in English would even work in your favour as you could attract an international clientele. Good luck!

Booboostwo Wed 05-Aug-15 18:56:29

Anyone else? Any thoughts from other owners on what to avoid/ whether all this sounds at all feasible?

justwondering72 Sun 16-Aug-15 14:47:35

I have no advice but have you tried the forums for the Living France magazine? Not the friendliest of forums IME but they do have a sub forum specifically for gite / chambre d'hotes owners with a fair number of Brits actually in the business.

Good luck, sounds like a fab project!

Booboostwo Sun 16-Aug-15 19:30:09

Thanks will do. I am on French Entree forum but it is terribly quiet! Everyone must be somewhere else!

ImperialBlether Sun 16-Aug-15 19:36:37

There's a big call for creative writing time away from home. You could do retreats (where basically people just get on with it and mix with other writers at night) or have proper courses, similar to Arvon.

The Philosophy weekends sound great and I'm sure they'd be popular, but is a weekend long enough for people to justify the fare?

This writers' retreat in Spain is somewhere I'd love to go to.

You could send mailshots to all MA courses in Creative Writing across Europe - I'm sure you'd find you could fill up places.

Booboostwo Sun 16-Aug-15 20:05:37

Thanks that's a good model to look into. I couldn't do creative writing mentoring as I know nothing about that, but could adapt the format for philosophy.

Longer courses would also be an option if it turns out people are keen!

Out of season tickets with Ryanair are 25 pounds! Even in season it's cheaper to fly here than take a train across the UK (madness).

BriocheBriocheBrioche Sun 16-Aug-15 20:15:34

Have you thought of setting the chateau up as a wedding venue? It might be worth contacting some local wedding planners to see if it's feasible?

Freakingin Mon 17-Aug-15 11:40:48

I also immediately thought wedding / events venue, if you have all that space you could offer glamping options for a big wedding party (a la Guy Ritchie wedding).

The philosophy weekend sounds great.

Another option, is to rent it out for painting/ writing workshops, my FIL travels to France and Italy with the same artist/teacher who rents beautiful properties on an exclusive basis to run his workshops from. You would not need to be running the workshops, just providing the accommodation.

Good luck, your place sounds fabulous.

Booboostwo Mon 17-Aug-15 13:13:27

Weddings are another option we are looking into. There are a couple of companies that organise weddings abroad that we need to talk with.

A friend of ours runs painting workshops so we are talking with him about that option as well.

I suspect that a mixture of ideas will be the most feasible financially.

iwantgin Tue 18-Aug-15 18:51:07

Survive France Network has a prettyactive discussion forum.

Booboostwo Tue 18-Aug-15 21:10:23

Thanks, I'll look it up.

homeaway Fri 21-Aug-15 13:55:29

You might find that there is a market to rent out the whole chateau during the summer months if that is something you would consider. We have stayed in that area before and it is beautiful. If you have the budget then you could go and book yourself into some good b and b in the Uk for a night so that you can get some tips. People expect good bed linen, good quality towels, toiletries and a good breakfast. It is the small touches that create the whole ambiance and these have people coming back. Things like tea making facilities in the bedroom and for me proper milk smile. I don't know if you have seen the hotel inspector , I can't remember her name but she gives a lot of tips.

For example this b and b gets a rating of 9.7 on , it might be useful to read the comments .

This b and b has also won an award

Just some ideas for you )

Booboostwo Fri 21-Aug-15 14:03:09

Thank you, yes renting out the whole thing is also an option.

I love the Hotel Inspector...although I suspect it's far easier to spot other people's mistakes than to get it right yourself.

Great links, thanks. We do need to provide a comparable environment. I think it will be a very steep learning curve!

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