Category: Mas d’augustine

Southern France Chambre d'Hôte

A Southern France Chambre d’Hôte: The Season Finale

Now that we’ve followed a year in the life of Brit expats, Jane and Gary, at their southern France chambre d’hôte, let’s see how the season ends at Mas d’Augustine.

The September and October sunshine is glorious, with lovely warm afternoons and slightly chilly mornings – two of our favourite months of the year in France. The summer is officially over and our last really busy weekend was in early September, although we still had guests coming and going until the end of that month – but life is now a little slower, having made the decision to close at the end of September, a month earlier than usual.

What an amazing season. We are both exhausted but delighted with the business, which has significantly increased this year and, happily, gave us the chance to meet again so many returning guests who have become firm friends (this year almost 40% of our income came from returning guests and referrals).

The weather was unbelievably good from the beginning of May, since when we’ve had non-stop sunshine right through until the end of August, with the temperature constantly hitting 40C (104F) in the latter months.  Fantastic for our guests, but not so good for maintaining a green and colourful garden and very testing when working in the kitchen! On one evening that I remember being particularly hot, by 11.30 p.m. I was so tired Gary sent me to bed and said he would take care of the guests and clear. I was just lying down with the air conditioning working full blast when the music started!  I got up and looked out of our window – apparently, our wonderful multi-national diners wanted a music evening and so Gary played many well-known English songs and, despite the fact that no one spoke English, after a few tunes they were all singing at the tops of their voices, using salt and pepper pots as improvised microphones.  So much for my early night, as this went on until 2.30 in the morning. There were some very sore heads in the morning…….

Gourmet Dining at Mas d’Augustine’s Southern France Chambre d’Hôte

I prepared an evening Table d’hȏtes or bistro menu every night for three weeks in July and it was 45C (113F) in the kitchen on many of those.  We had fans working, trying to cool the kitchen down, but they had to be turned off when the soufflés came out of the oven or when plating up.  Gary was exhausted running up and down the steps to the courtyard in this heat, but our guests were relaxed and happy dining by the pool.

 

I had some fun this season introducing some new recipes, the most successful of which was probably the flambéed chicken in a tarragon and cream sauce, served on a bed of crushed new potatoes and leeks with haricot beans and some sautéed chanterelles – it was very popular.  However, I am not sure it was the most sensible dish for me to create when the temperature in the kitchen was already over 40C..……. I’ve included the recipe so you can try it at home, but hopefully when it’s cooler!

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Behind the Scenes

Southern France Chambre d'HôteWe never seem to find the time to swim in the pool ourselves but, one very hot afternoon when Gary was walking back through the pool area with the clean laundry, to the amazement of all 10 guests (who were sitting/lying by the pool) he put down the laundry basket, took off his shoes and, fully clothed, walked into the pool and ducked under the water…… he then resurfaced, came out, put on his shoes, picked up the laundry and carried on as if nothing had happened. The fabled eccentric Englishman is now a definite reality to many nationalities!

This season we were lucky and met the first 3 couples who found our home via this Blog – two American couples travelling together and one Canadian couple, all of whom visited us in September. We hope they had a great time and enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them. We look forward to meeting the rest of you avid readers if you visit France!

Mas d’Augustine Flambéed Chicken

Southern France Chambre d'Hôte

 

Ingredients

 

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tbsp Seasoned plain flour

2 tbsp Olive oil

Knob of butter

4 Shallots, finely chopped

4 tbsp Brandy or cognac

300ml Chicken stock

16 Asparagus spears, halved (optional)

4 Rounded tbsp. crème fraiche

1 tbsp Chopped tarragon

 

Method

  1. Dust the chicken with the flour.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large, wide pan with a lid, add the chicken, then sauté on all sides until slightly browned.
  3. Add the shallots, then sauté for about 2 mins until they start to soften, but not colour.
  4. Pour in the brandy, carefully ignite, then stand well back until the flames have died down.
  5. Stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce heat, cover, then cook for 15 mins until the chicken is tender.
  7. Add the asparagus (optional) to the sauce. Cover, then cook for 5 mins more until tender.
  8. Stir in the crème fraîche and tarragon and simmer gently.
  9. Season to taste and serve with a green vegetable and potato puree.

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

More Barefoot Blogger posts on Mas d’Augustine

The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

An Expat’s Life in A Chambre d’Hôtes in France: Jane’s Story

If Owning a Chambre d’Hote in France Is Your Dream, Spend a Day Picking Olives

A Slice of Life in the “Off” Season: A Chambre d’Hôtes in France

“Company’s Coming!” Owning and Running a Chambre d’Hôte in the South of France

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

 

Mas d’Augustine Chambre d’Hôte: Ready For Business

It’s time to catch up with Jane and Gary of Mas d’Augustine, the classic French B&B 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.

French B&B

Mas d’Augustine

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

French B&B

New lawn at Mas d’Augustine

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.

French B&B

Mas d’Augustine

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!”

French B&B

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!

French B&B

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

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.

French B&B

Gary taking care of the all-important wine service at Mas d’Augustine

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.

French B&B

Jane’s son running to the Iron Man finish line

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!

French B&B

Iron Man fans celebrating

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 French B&Bn 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

French B&B

“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.”

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

 

More posts on Barefoot Blogger

The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

An Expat’s Life in A Chambre d’Hôtes in France: Jane’s Story

If Owning a Chambre d’Hote in France Is Your Dream, Spend a Day Picking Olives

A Slice of Life in the “Off” Season: A Chambre d’Hôtes in France

“Company’s Coming!” Owning and Running a Chambre d’Hôte in the South of France

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

 

French B&B

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chambre d'hôte guests

“Company’s Coming!” Owning and Running a Chambre d’Hôte in the South of France

Jane and Gary are down to the wire readying Mas d’Augustine  near Uzes for the chambre d’hôte’s new season.  Let’s see how it’s going…


Counting Down The Days

Only a few more days to go until our first chambre d’hôte guests of the season arrive. It’s funny how you think there is plenty of time to get all the work done and then we always end up rushing around like lunatics to get things finished !

chambre d'hôte guests

The new gravel for the parking and the courtyard was delivered last week, on the first day it had rained for a week. Because the delivery lorry can’t get through our gates, they just left the two (huge) one ton sacks blocking the road outside the front of the house and there was no other option but a shovel and a wheel barrow. All day in the pouring rain, we shifted gravel and raked it out on the two areas – I never knew I had so many muscles to ache.

chambre d'hôte guestsThe pool was filled last week and the heating turned on yesterday and already it’s warm enough to swim (24/25C). We changed the colour of the pool this year and I am very pleased with the result. It was a nervous decision to change from blue to yellow but, thank goodness, it looks wonderful – a pale turquoise – calm and relaxing. The poolside furniture is in place and it’s all beginning to take shape.

The garden is nearly ready, I have planted up all the pots and troughs – we have a new colour scheme this year, having moved away from the bright pinks and pale purples and have chosen a very sophisticated deep red geranium mixed in with the lovely white solanum and a few trailing daisies in yellow and a burnt orange.

chambre d'hôte guests

The last two days of rain have been very useful. I managed to get all the vegetables planted in the newly extended vegetable garden just before the rain arrived and they have now bedded in nicely. We have planted a lovely selection of heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colours which are great for salads and garnishing dishes. A different variety of new potatoes this year – instead of Ratte we have planted Belle de Fontenay for our potato salads. The red and yellow pepper plants are in, plus the courgettes and haricot beans, so all I need to do now is sow the roquette and the winter parsnips.

chambre d'hôte guests

 

 

Gary is away in London this weekend, it’s his grandson Oliver’s first birthday and, despite having so much to do, there are some occasions that can’t be missed! I have pressed on with repainting windows and doors and the table on the terrace is now a wonderful Provençal blue, which is complimented very nicely by the lemon trees.

chambre d'hôte guests

I am spring cleaning the chambre d’hôte guests bedrooms and making up the beds, adding a few new additions to the rooms such as cushions and ornaments and bedside lights – we like to add new decorative items every year.

Gary just needs to finish building the new barbecue which we have added to the courtyard outside the cuisine ete. We had so much fun last season playing boules and drinking rose with our guests before dinner, that we decided to hold weekly barbecue and boules evenings. Needless to say, building the barbecue wasn’t quite as easy as we first thought, but it’s taking shape and now all we need are some wonderful warm south of France evenings.

chambre d'hôte guests

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

A Slice of Life in the “Off” Season: A Chambre d’Hôtes in France

Time to check back in at Mas d’Augustine and find out how the owners and managers, Jane and Gary Langton, are spending their time at the chambre d’hôte off season … with no guests, but plenty of chores. As we visit the Langtons, it appears that Jane has quite a few projects in mind. Let’s see how they manage it all…

“It’s a busy time of year in the Chambre d’Hôtes business………even though we’re closed,” says Jane.  

I suspect, most people think during the chambre d’hôte off season we have our feet up in front of the fire doing little or nothing before we welcome guests in April. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as there is just too much that needs to be done both inside and out.

I had planned for us to be working in the garden this week but we had to stop as, despite the beautiful blue skies and sunshine, it is just too cold. I have decided to increase the size of the vegetable garden this year so that we can offer a wider selection of organic home-grown fruit and vegetables. As a consequence, Gary has (reluctantly) agreed to remove the existing hedge (circa 5 metres high) which will enable me to plant a long row of tomatoes. Previously we had room for 6 tomato plants, but I want to include a wide selection of Heirloom tomatoes in all colours, as they are such an important ingredient in Provençal cooking and straight from the garden the flavours are really intense.

All the hedges bordering the property need to be cut, olive and fruit trees pruned and there are two Italian Cypress trees that need to be cut down as they did not survive last year’s hot summer. I also have a plan to improve 3 of the existing flower beds, which involves the building of a dry-stone wall, changing of soil and the re-shaping of the beds. I am hoping to create a new lavender bed, a white rose bed and extend the giant poppy bed. I think Gary is rather grateful for the cold snap, as he is not an enthusiastic gardener!

chambre d'hôte off season

One of last year’s flower beds

Before the cold snap started, Gary moved our lemon trees to their winter home up on the terrace and I have wrapped up the diplodenia – fingers crossed it will survive the freezing night temperatures.

Gary has just returned from a quick trip to London to welcome his new granddaughter into the family. Mathilda was born last Friday and we are looking forward to her first visit in the summer.

While he was away I pressed on with the redecorating. I have nearly finished painting the main kitchen, but decided to leave the ceiling to Gary. Next week we will start the office, closely followed by re-varnishing the front doors and re-painting all the windows at the front of the mas.

 

chambre d'hôte off season

 

chambre d'hôte off seasonPainting and decorating done, we will be tackling the garden to make certain everything is ready for the first shoots of Spring in mid-February. Then, in March, it will be time to clean the terraces and fill the pool, layout all the garden furniture, clean the summer kitchen and get the rooms ready for our first guests in April.

I like to add something new to the guest rooms every year, so we will spend a few Sundays visiting the local brocante and antique markets searching for interesting items.

There is one job that Gary looks forward to every year………. tasting the dishes for the newly designed menus. Over the next few weeks I will prepare all the new recipes for us to sample and critique.

We are enjoying hearty French classic dishes to help keep out the cold. One of our favourites is a traditional French stew. In the Languedoc region this stew is known as a Cassoulet. Made with meat, sausages and beans, it takes a while to cook and prepare but, on a cold winter night after a hard day in the garden, it’s definitely worth it.

chambre d'hôte off season

Cassolet

Cassoulet

A wonderful change from traditional casseroles, it takes a while to cook but the flavours are wonderful and very warming

Ingredients – serves 6

140 grms of pork belly

140 grms of smoked bacon

300 grms of garlic sausage

600 grms of haricot beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water

1 celery stick

1 small white onion

2 carrots

2 large plum tomatos

6 cloves of garlic

2 tsp of lemon juice

2 cloves, crushed

6 confit duck legs or 6 pre-cooked chicken legs

25 grms of goose fat or 2tbls of olive oil

1 tsp of dried mixed herbs

Method

1. Chop the bacon, pork belly and garlic sausage into bite sized chunks.

2. Drain the beans that you soaked overnight and tip into a large saucepan with the bacon, sausage and pork belly. Cover with water and bring to the boil, blanch for about 15 mins. Drain and set aside. Heat the oven to 120 c.

3. Chop the celery, carrot and onion and peel the garlic leaving the cloves whole.

4. Heat the goose fat or olive oil in a large oven proof casserole or frying pan and over a low heat sweat the garlic, onion, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes until softening. Add the tomatoes and herbs and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

5. Add the sausage, bacon and pork belly to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, add the beans and then 1 litre of water.

6. Bring the mixture to the boil and add the lemon juice, cloves and season with salt and pepper.

7. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook uncovered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally, the beans will soften and thicken the juice.

8. Remove the cassoulet from the oven. Now add either the confit duck legs or your pre-cooked chicken legs, place them under the beans and cook the cassoulet for another 2 hours for duck and 1 hour for chicken

Serve the cassoulet in bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and plenty of crusty French bread.

chambre d'hôte off season

Proud Granddad Gary and Mathilda

At the chambre d’hôte off season there’s always time for a horse ride

chambre d'hôte off season

Stay tuned …

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

“Legally” it’s Christmas until Twelfth Night here in France. To stay in the holiday spirit just a bit  longer, let’s visit the Langton’s at Mas d’Augustine for a chambre d’hôte holiday. We’ll take a glimpse of holiday decorations and parties and best of all, Jane will share her secrets on how to create the perfect traditional Christmas cake. 


Christmas Time at the Mas 

chambre d'hôte holiday

Holiday party at Mas d’Augustine

Jane and Gary are ready for guests

The chambre d’hôte is decked out for the holiday party

The aperos are prepared and ready to be served 

Time for the party to arrive!

chambre d'hôte holiday

Traditional Christmas Cake

chambre d'hôte holiday

 “Whilst I absolutely love living in France, when it comes to Christmas there are a few things that I really miss and one of them is a traditional Christmas cake.  Gary does not like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies and so in previous years I have made a yule tide chocolate log or, as they are called in France, a Bouche de Noel. This year, however, I decided to make myself a proper English Christmas cake and I have a very quick and easy recipe.  I have used this recipe for many years, whether making a Christmas cake or Wedding cake, and it always turns out rich and moist (although it might be something to do with the extra brandy I pour over the base!).”

 

Ingredients

400g Currants

250g Sultanas

300g Glace cherries, rinsed, quartered and dried

75g Candied peel

4 tbls Brandy

300g Plain flour

1 tsp Mixed spice

½ tsp Grated nutmeg

300g Soft unsalted butter

5 Eggs

300g Soft dark sugar

1 tbls Black treacle

Extra brandy

Method

 

Place all the fruit and candied peel into a bowl and pour over the brandy, leave overnight in the fridge to soak.

 

The next day line the sides and bottom of a 20 – 23 cm tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 140C or, for a fan assisted oven, 120C.

Place all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, starting slowly with an electric whisk, beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Stir in the brandy soaked fruit, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the cake mixture.

Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and cover the top with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for 4.5 – 5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Remove the cake from the tin and turn it upside down, using the skewer make random holes in the cake and pour over your additional brandy (about 2 tbls).

At this stage, if you are efficient and have made your cake in plenty of time (ideally 3 months before you want to eat it), you can keep adding brandy (about 1 – 2 tbls) each month to enrich the cake.  Make sure it is well wrapped up and stored in an air tight container.

Decorating

 

The next stage is the marzipan and you can make your own or buy it and, I must confess, I buy mine.  The French love marzipan and so I can buy excellent quality marzipan in our local stores.  For some reason, rather than being golden or white as it is in England, it always comes with a pink, white and green stripe.  But it tastes delicious and these colours will not show under the icing.

Roll out your marzipan to the right size.  Heat a little apricot jam in a saucepan and brush this on the top and sides of the cake – this will keep the marzipan in place.  Make sure you cover your cake completely and allow the marzipan to dry out for at least 2 days before you attempt the final icing and decoration.

I decorated mine with a plain white fondant icing and golden sugar granules. I made the holly leaves, red ribbon and twisted rope from coloured sugar paste and carefully frosted everything with edible glitter.

“I confess, I did not think about making my cake 3 months in advance, but probably put it together over about 10 days – but It still tastes great.”

chambre d'hôte holiday

Happy Holiday to All from Mas d’ Augustine

See you in the New Year!

chambre d'hôte holiday

 

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

Visit Uzes

2016’s Top Post: The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Close to 1,000 viewers enjoyed Jane and Gary’s story the day it appeared on the Barefoot Blogger! Thanks to your interest and response, Jane and Gary have agreed to frequently update their stories of  Mas d’Augustine. Like me, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to peek into their world. Stay tuned …


 

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

 

Mas d'Augustine Uzees

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

 

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

IMG_3451

Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

 

 

 

Restored cave at Mas d'Augustine

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

 

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d'Augustine

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

View of La Bruguière from Mas d'Augustine

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

Manicured lawn at Mas d'Augustine

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

Courtyard and garden at Mas d'Augustine

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

 

Pool area at Mas d'Augustine

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

 

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

Little things mean a lot at Mas d'Augustine

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

Original stonework at Mas d'Augustine

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

View of Mas d'Augustine courtyard

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

 

 

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

 

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

Table d'Hote at Mas d'Augustine

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

 

#2  I want his life! 

Pet chien at Mas d'Augustine

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

 

shelly-wu

 

chambre d'hôte life

If Owning a Chambre d’Hote in France Is Your Dream, Spend a Day Picking Olives

How many of us have dreamed of owning a chambre d’hôte in France? Jane and Gary have taken the lunge and they’re willing to tell us all about their chambre d’hôte life. Today they’re picking olives at their B&B – Mas d’ Augustine in the south of France. There’s a favorite recipe from Jane’s kitchen too, so enjoy! 

chambre d'hôte lifeChambre d’hôte life … from Jane …

It’s Olive Time.

I’ve just been for my morning stroll around the gardens, checking what needs to be done today, as even in the winter there is always so much to do to make sure we have a beautiful garden ready for our guests next year. I’ve decided that the olives are ready for picking, the weather is sunny and bright, albeit very cold for the next couple of days, so it’s perfect olive picking weather! We only have 8 trees, but they produce about 50 kilos of olives which in turn provide us with about 7 litres of our own olive oil to enjoy the following year.

chambre d'hôte life

Armed with step ladders, bowls and our olive crates, we decided to make a start. It’s not exactly difficult to pick olives, just rather tedious and very cold.

 

chambre d'hôte life

I think the dogs and cats enjoy the task far more than we do, racing around and around the trees and then lying, panting in the winter sunshine.  Merlot, our Beauceron, is very troubled by olives……. he tries to eat them and then spits them out in disgust. You can tell he is completely bemused as to why we would want to tenderly collect these disgusting, bitter little fruits.

In our first winter at the Mas we didn’t know when to harvest our olives until someone advised us to pick them for oil. Picking that first year, in December and in the sleet and rain, was miserable – it was so cold and it is impossible to pick olives wearing gloves. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like; some were green and some were black and so, to be on the safe side, I put green ones in one crate and black ones in the other crate. This obviously made the task even more tedious, as every tree had both colours and we were careful not to mix them.

chambre d'hôte lifeAfter 2 days and 10 long hours of picking in awful weather we had 2 crates of olives, one black and one green. The next morning we proudly took the olives to the local moulin. Not understanding the process and, at that time, with very limited French, we stood in the queue to have our olives weighed. To my absolute horror they took my crate of green olives and tipped them into the crate containing the black olives – all that work to keep them separated was a complete waste of time!

I now know that the green olives produce a very green, peppery oil and the black ones a much smoother golden oil, the idea being to blend the colours to give a rich smooth oil with a good peppery finish.

We were given a ticket with the weight of our olive crop, 49 kilos and told to come back in 4 days to collect our oil.

chambre d'hôte life

 

The next Friday we returned to the moulin, a little unsure what to expect and handed in our ticket. What a lovely surprise when we were given 2 plastic containers containing approximately 7 litres of olive oil – not a bad result!

chambre d'hôte lifeThe following year, having taken advice and consulted the internet, I realised that our trees needed to be cut back as they were far too tall and very dense. Apparently, a good olive tree should be shaped like a martini glass with enough room between the branches for a swallow to fly through without touching its wings. We had some serious pruning to do! Unfortunately, due to our hard pruning, the next year our crop was very small and the year after that all the olive trees in our area were badly eaten by insects, with the remaining olives beaten from the trees by terrible storms – so for two years we had nothing to take to the moulin.

This year is much better and we have taken about 40 kilos of mixed green and black olives down to the moulin for pressing and are currently awaiting our plastic bottles!

BFB Note: 

Funny how Jane talks about “we” yet the photos tell a different tale. Lots of photos of Gary’s chambre d’hôte life and only this one of Jane… hmmm….

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From Jane’s Kitchen at Mas d’Augustine 

CHICKEN TAGINE WITH OLIVES AND PRESERVED LEMONS

SERVES 2

Ingredients
2 chicken breast and 2 thighs
olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1.5 tsp. turmeric
1.5 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. coriander seeds, cracked
350ml white chicken stock or vegetable stock 130g large green olives, pitted
1 preserved lemon cut into wedges
10g of fresh coriander, chopped

Method

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the sliced onions over a high heat until soft and caramelised. Put them into a tagine dish or an ovenproof pot.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade

Season the chicken pieces, add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry the chicken until golden.

Turn down the heat and add the chopped garlic, turmeric, paprika and cracked coriander seeds.

Cook for a few minutes to bring out the flavours then add the stock, bring to the boil and pour into the tagine dish.

Sprinkle over the olives and preserved lemons. Cover and put in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the lid, check the seasoning and drizzle in a little olive oil.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve with bulgur wheat or couscous.

chambre d'hôte life

A proper Tangine dish

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

 

 

Visit Uzes

An Expat’s Life in A Chambre d’Hôtes in France: Jane’s Story

After visiting new friends Jane and Gary Langton at Mas d’Augustine, the chambre d’hôte they own and run in the south of France, I asked if they would talk about chambre d’hôte living with me and Barefoot Blogger followers.  Happily, they agreed!

The original post about the Langstons, The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France, told us the history of Mas d’Augustine, the eighteenth century silk mill converted to a luxury B&B that’s located outside of Uzes. The personal bits of the first story were told by Gary. Now it’s Jane’s turn to talk about chambre d’hôte living.

chambre d'hôte living

Jane preparing lunch for our visit

Whose idea was it to own and run a B&B? Yours or Gary’s or both?

Jane: “A small boutique hotel has been my dream since my thirties.  I wanted to work at something I love doing. My vision was to combine my love of beautiful things and my passion for cooking into a business. To create a holiday place where guests could enjoy a stylish décor, superb food and exceptional service.  Unfortunately, chambre d’hôte living was far from Gary’s dream. It was probably his worst nightmare.”

Did it take much persuasion to convince Gary?

Jane: “It took a lot!  Fortunately he couldn’t come up with an alternative way for us to work together in the sunshine,  so he gave in !”

How did you decide on a business in France?

Jane: We thought long and hard about our where we would locate and we considered various different countries.  South Africa was probably my favourite destination but we thought it was too far away from our combined family of seven children. We considered Spain because I had lived and worked there and I loved the sunshine, the food and the wine. However, I was not keen on the ex-pat lifestyle on the Costa del Sol. France seemed the obvious choice — as long as we headed south. 

chambre d'hôte living

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

What was the condition of the property and house when you bought it?

Jane: “Once we decided upon France, we searched the whole southern coastline and came across Uzes by accident.  A friend recommended that we stop by Uzes and visit the Place Aux Herbes at lunchtime if we happened to be nearby. We did and we loved it !  Focusing our search in and around Uzes, we looked at about fifty properties until we found Mas d’Augustine. It was love at first sight for both of us.  The old mas was badly in need of some TLC but it offered us the opportunity to create our five ensuite guest rooms  — and still have our own private family house with two ensuite rooms.”

What prepared you for taking on the project of a B&B?

Jane: “Nothing prepared us! It has proven to be much harder work than I anticipated!  I have cooked and cleaned for a large family for twenty years, at the same time carving out a successful career, so I thought this challenge would be easy —  it wasn’t. It is incredibly hard work.”

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How do you divide up responsibilities?

Jane: “We have a very clear division of responsibilities. There are certain jobs involved with chambre d’hôte living that Gary simple will not do. For example, he will not clean the bathrooms. Gary scrubbing toilets is just never going to happen.  So I clean the rooms and make up the beds. I’m very fussy, so in the long run, its easiest for me to just do them myself. Gary does all the washing and ironing and he does it well. There are no creases in our bed linen. He takes charge of the front of house and I take on all the cooking. Gary loves to talk and I love to cook, so it works. Gary looks after the pool beautifully, it’s always glistening. I’m in charge of the garden and have had lots of successes and lots of failures trying to work out what grows down here and what doesn’t.  I spent ages planting daffodil bulbs only to find they bloomed in January when we were closed. By Easter, when we opened for guests, I just had lots of straggly leaves! Gary, under strict supervision, does all the chopping and hedge trimming. Left on his own, my flowers seem to disappear.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

What has been the most fun about renovating the property?

Jane:”The original renovation was great fun, we spent 18 months creating the finished property. From the shell we bought, it now looks exactly as I imagined, inside and out. So it is my dream home.”

 

chambre d'hôte living

What has been the least enjoyable part about your new life venture?

Jane: “The worse part has been sorting through all the French bureaucracy to get ourselves, and the property, registered and operating legally.  Gary had to take two courses in French, in order to understand how to get the correct licences for a Chambre d’Hotes in France.”

What’s the hardest part?

Jane: “Getting up every morning to prepare breakfast. There are no days off once the season starts. Its every morning.”

What did your family think?

Jane: “First of all, they said we had made them homeless by moving abroad, but once they saw the project, they understood why we wanted to do it.  Now they love coming over whenever possible and all think they have the best back garden possible!”

chambre d'hôte living

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

Do you ever regret your decision?

Jane: “Not at all, we are both very happy with our new lifestyle. We work together extremely well.  Going from seeing each other just at the weekends to working together 24/7, it was a risk. But it’s great fun and we both love it!”

Describe the very best day you’ve spent so far. 

Jane: “The best days by far have been our daughters’ special celebrations here: Frankie’s 21st birthday party with all her friends and Kathryn’s wedding for 40 guests and family.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

And the very worse day?

Jane: “The worst day was right back at the beginning.  We completed the sale on the house in August 2010 and scheduled to move down in December.  In August, we planned and ordered our new kitchen. The idea was for it to be installed prior to our arrival in December, in time for Christmas.  When we got to October and had heard nothing from the kitchen company, we became suspicious.  Then we got the news. The company had gone into receivership. So not only would our kitchen not be fitted but we had lost our very sizeable deposit.  We moved down in December, the house was freezing, the fire just billowed smoke and we had no kitchen! But we sorted the fire, got the heating going, bought a little hot plate and, using this and our George Forman grill, we had a great Christmas lunch!”

Since you love to cook, will you share a favorite autumn recipe with us … or two?

Jane: Of course. Here are two recipes we enjoy serving ourselves and friends in November — after the guests have left for the season. They’re easy to prepare and remind us it’s Autumn.  Spicy parsnip soup and a lovely apple cake. 

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Spicy Parsnip Soup  

A tasty warming soup for the winter months, made with simple ingredients.   You can omit the chili if you prefer less heat and the flavor will still be wonderful. This soup makes a filling lunch, or serve smaller portions as an impressive starter to your evening meal.

chambre d'hôte living

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Ingredients – serves 4

2 Large parsnips

½ Onion, finely chopped

20g Butter

500 mls Chicken stock

150 mls Cream

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Ras el Hanout

1 Large clove of garlic peeled and crushed

1 Piece of ginger (about 3 cms long), peeled and grated

1 Small red chilli, deseeded and chopped – optional

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Peel, core and slice the parsnips, place them in a saucepan with the butter and sweat until they soften.
  1. Add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and chilli (if used) and cook for a further 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.
  1. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the parsnips are very soft (about 15 mins).
  1. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and then liquidise until really smooth.
  1. Place back on a gentle heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste with black pepper and sea salt.
  1. The soup can be thinned down by adding water if required.

To serve, reheat the soup gently and serve garnished with some finely chopped parsley or coriander, crispy croutons and some crusty bread.

our breakfast buffet for our guests and then also as a dessert, warm with cinnamon ice cream.


Apple Cake

Apples are in season now!  This cake was a great success with our guests, lovely and moist and not too sweet!  It would also be really good served slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream.

chambre d'hôte living

Apple Cake from Jane’s kitchen at Mas d’Augustine

Ingredients – serves 8

3 Eggs

25g Ground almonds

225g Soft butter

200g Castor sugar

25g Vanilla sugar

(I use vanilla sugar in this recipe but, if you can’t find any, use a tsp of vanilla essence and 225g of castor sugar)

500g Apples (Granny Smith or similar)

225g Self-raising Flour

2 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp of Powdered cinnamon

Butter for greasing the tin

Lemon juice

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan assisted). Line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose bottom cake tin with baking parchment.

 

  1. Peel and core the apples, then chop into cubes and toss in the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Set aside.

 

  1. Whisk the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until thick, pale and creamy.

 

  1. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

 

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold gently into the mixture.

 

  1. Gently stir in the ground almonds and chopped apple. Mix thoroughly.

 

  1. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.

 

  1. Check the cake after 30 minutes and, if it is becoming too brown, place a piece of tin foil or baking parchment loosely over the top.

 

  1. After one hour, check to see if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into its centre – it should come out clean.

 

  1. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Serve cold on its own for tea or breakfast, or warm as a delicious dessert with crème fraiche, mascarpone, cinnamon or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!!

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

286118-and-so-the-adventure-begins

The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

A  few months ago I had the privilege of  visiting chambre d’hôte owners Jane and Gary Langton at their home and place of business, Mas d’Augustine. That day I was given a glimpse into my dream of owning and running a chambres d’hôte in the south of France.

Since our visit, the Langton’s and I have become good friends. With the friendship, they are indulging me in learning more about “life behind the walls” of Mas d’Augustine. In other words, along with you, I’m going to find out the “nitty-gritty” about B&B ownership. It’s ups and downs.  We’ll find out about the food and drink tourists expect when they’re on a luxury holiday in France.  We’ll learn how Jane uses her professional interior design talent to adorn the Mas and the gardens. We’ll pry into which of the business and property chores Gary dreads the most.

Jane will share her recipes and Gary will enlighten us on his best before-dinner aperos. In other words, you and I are going to get an inside view of their lifestyle — as if it was our own.

As we begin this adventure together, I invite you to send comments and questions for Jane and Gary. Pretend we’re all together at their home, the Mas, and you can ask them anything you want to know about owning such a property. Think of it as a “private consultation” with the experts. 

The first post on Mas d’Augustine is attached below — to remind you where we started.

Stay tuned … 

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The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

chambre d'hôte owners

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

Ichambre d'hôte owners

Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

chambre d'hôte owners

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

chambre d'hôte owners

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

chambre d'hôte owners

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

chambre d'hôte owners

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

chambre d'hôte owners

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

#2  I want his life! 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

shelly-wu

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