FOUR GÎTES TO THE WIND
Having lived in France for 12 years, Ian Moore has finally dusted off his business plan to start a B&B-gîte business. But will his Basil Fawlty-like hosting skills draw in the punters? He hopes so…
Columnist Ian Moore explains why he’ll soon be channelling his inner Basil Fawlty
Throw open the doors, and count the millions as they come rolling in
We did have a plan initially, I think. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I’m pretty sure there was one. It was probably scribbled on the back of a lunchtime napkin and read something like, ‘move to France, buy big house, er… just relax a bit.’ It probably came with a time frame too; five years, that’s the standard for plans I believe. Well, 12 years into that vague notion of a germ of an idea, we’re finally cracking on with whatever it may have been that we were thinking about.
If you live in the UK and happen to look through the property pages of this magazine, you’ll probably need to have a sit down, or even a stiff drink. The disparity in house prices between the two countries is simply jaw-dropping, to the extent that should you be lucky enough to be able to move here, then the size of property available to you makes you feel like you’ve won the lottery. Whereas if you’re trying to get onto the property ladder in the UK, you probably need to actually win the lottery. As my grandad used to say, “fill your boots.”
Well we did. Those boots were overflowing, they still are. But at some point, once you’ve stopped smugly telling your UK friends what you own and what it cost you, the nuts and bolts of property cost and maintenance rears its ugly head. In other words, reality sets in. I do remember our fuzzy-headed logic at the time and it went something like; ‘We’ll make the property work for us. More rosé?’ The second part of that detailed business plan has been carried out with gusto and energetic diligence, but now, finally, the first part is being dusted off too.
In short, we’re setting up a chambres d’hôtes/ gîte business. Now the first thing people say when one announces that kind of news in France is, “Really? Me too.” Everyone it seems is setting up a chambres d’hôtes-gîte business. In fact I reckon at the current rate of start-ups, people who don’t run a chambres d’hôtes- gîte business in France will likely be in the minority sometime around December. But why not? It seems the logical thing to do for us.
We have a lot of empty outbuildings, a fair bit of land, we live in a UNESCO World Heritage area, you can’t move for châteaux around these parts, vineyards from here to the horizon and it’s the goat’s cheese capital of the world. What’s not to like about that?! Throw open the doors of those outbuildings, I say, throw them open; do them up, whack a bed in, leave a few croissants lying about in the morning and count the millions as they come rolling in. This time next year Rodney…
It has been pointed out I might add, and cruelly in my opinion, that maybe my background in grouchy stand-up comedy and grumpy authoring isn’t exactly ‘genial host’ material, to which I’ll quote Bertie Wooster and reply “Tcha!” That’s our USP! That’s our angle. Those people who advertise themselves as ‘The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience’ are making a mint at this game and with nary a Cleese in sight. Punters will be queuing round the block to watch me berate the goats, wrestle with the orchard hammock and make daily trips to the bottle bank.
I said exactly that to my wife, and her look of ‘I suffer this daily, people won’t buy it’ wasn’t quite strong enough to put me off. I’ve set my mind to this, so building quotes and the necessary formality of informing the mayoress have all been arranged. I haven’t thought of a name for the place yet but this is definitely happening. I have a proper business plan and everything. I may even have written it down somewhere...
Ian Moore is a comedian, writer, chutney-maker and mod who lives with his family in the Loire Valley. His latest book is C’est Modnifique!, (£8.99, Summersdale Publishers). ianmoore.info