It’s time to catch up with Jane and Gary of Mas d’Augustine B&B, the classic French chambre d’hôte outside Uzes, France. With the winter chores done and a few holiday getaways behind them, I asked Jane: “what’s it like to be welcoming guests again.”
Here’s Jane’s response:
“This has to be the best May we’ve had since we moved to Uzes – the weather was just stunning, beautiful blue skies, lots of sunshine and cooler evenings – it is definitely one of my favourite months.
The garden looks beautiful this year, as finally it is maturing and our lawn really looks like a lawn rather than a cut field! Considering it was just a huge expanse of sand and weeds when we bought the Mas back in 2010, it has come a long way. The extended vegetable garden is now planted and we will soon be picking our own salad leaves, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers etc
May was a very busy month and we had lots of clients from all over Europe. It is always difficult to get started again after the winter months and this year whilst we had a few guests over the Easter period it is not until May that the hard work really begins.
Gary is so much better than me at getting up in the mornings, I really struggle to get out of bed before 9 am but once we start work that is out of the question. He is always up first and takes on the task of laying the breakfast tables and cooking the bread and croissants. I follow half an hour later and sweep the courtyard, water the plants and vegetable garden and then make up the fresh fruit salads. Once the guests start arriving for breakfast Gary is front of house and I am happily making tea and coffee in the kitchen. Then the egg orders start and Gary loves walking into the kitchen and saying “two scrambled eggs, two soft boiled and four poached!”
It took us a while to realise why we were so tired at the end of our first season…… there are no weekends! Once May has started we do not get a day off until the beginning of October, breakfast has to be made every morning whether we just have a few guests or we are completely full. We split the tasks very well between us, Gary has responsibility for all the laundry, washing and ironing whilst I clean and make up the rooms. Gary looks after the pool and grass cutting whilst I do the gardening and cooking. All the other jobs are shared and considering we are working together 24/7 there are very few arguments!
The only time we fall out is in the evening when we are offering the Bistro menu, I am very calm and organised in the kitchen and Gary gets a little stressed when we are really busy, mainly due to the fact that he is hungry and cannot sit down to eat until the dinner service is over.
We had a wonderful Table d’Hotes evening with some super guests from Belgium and Switzerland, and of course we sit down and enjoy the meal with them so it’s a lovely relaxing evening for everyone. It is always so interesting to meet people from other countries and most of our guests become friends and we look forward to them returning the following season. But the most exciting time for me was the week we were visited by my son Edward and his friends. They came to stay with wives and girlfriends to take part in the Aix-en-Provence Iron Man competition. This was the first time most of them, including my son, had competed in such an event. It involved swimming 1.9 kms in the beautiful Lake of Peyrolles in the city of Peyrolles-en-Provence. Then a 90 kms bike course passing through Pays d’Aix and eight surrounding towns climbing up the mountain Sainte-Victoire and finishing with a 21kms run through the city of Aix-en-Provence and La Torse Park.
We were able to watch the final running stage, as they had to complete 3 loops before passing the finishing line at the Rotonde in the city centre. They had an amazing day and they all completed all three stages to gain their Iron Man medals!
Then it was back to Mas d’Augustine for a huge celebratory BBQ and an opportunity to try out the new barbeque which Gary built during the winter months. The idea is to hold BBQ and boules evenings with our guests during the summer season.
As soon as the celebrations were over and the boys had left, it was back to cleaning and bed making to be ready in time for the new intake of guests. We were fully booked and everyone was dining, so there was lots to do. But, on the Thursday, I went from cleaning toilets to modelling (for charity). On the 25thof May there was an amazing charity fashion show, followed by a luncheon on the grounds of Chateau Arpaillargues, organised for Cancer Support France, www.cancersupportfrance.org. We all had a great time modeling a summer collection of clothes from a dress shop in Uzes. The event was attended by over 90 guests, raising over €2,900 for the charity.
After the fashion show it was a quick lunch for me, just a couple of glasses of wine and then back home in time to prepare table d’hote for our ten guests.”
The Table d’Hote menu
Smoked salmon terrines with pickled cucumber and wasabi cream on a roqette salad
Roast fillet of pork with Ardeches vegetables, roast tomatoes and a port wine sauce
Strawberry and white peach vacharins, with a raspberry butter sauce
“We had a lovely evening, the guests dining by the pool until the early hours. I am afraid I left the clearing up to Gary that night and I fell exhausted into bed.”
For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website of Mas d’Augustine.