We’d been open for about a month when I received an email request for a booking. Now I’m one of those people who usually doesn’t know the exact date; a vague idea, yes and the day of the week, no problem but the exact date, no. I rely on my good old-fashioned wall calendar and my phone. So when this request came in for the 7th of May I thought it was soon but I didn’t immediately clock just how soon.
We’d had seven guests in our first month who’d all been word-of-mouth and friends of friends which was a great, and gentle, start. We’d also taken a couple of bookings for the summer through a booking site but this was to be the first time receiving complete strangers booked through the internet. The date was the 6th of May. Quick realisation…the booking was for the next day!
Giselle and Norman were travelling around Europe from Argentina. They’d been on the road for several weeks and were exhausted. They wanted to chill out and relax for a while. I was very excited and very nervous. How exotic that our first unknown guests were from so far away. It turned out they weren’t just from Argentina, but from the far south of Patagonia. This was exactly why I wanted to run a gîte!
So I accepted the booking, prepared the apartment in record time and waited for their arrival. Giselle spoke excellent English but she retired to bed and we didn’t see her for the first three days. Norman was a bit stuck. He wasn’t so tired, clearly wanted to do things but couldn’t speak any French or English. On top of this the weather was unspeakably foul and unseasonal, pouring with rain and cold. We’d turned off the (underfloor) heating a few weeks before and couldn’t restart it as it takes days to warm up, so I had to provide space heaters. Normally in May we should be handing out pool towels and providing charcoal for the barbeque!
Norman couldn’t watch TV owing to language problems so we searched through all our DVDs to find films in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles. It’s amazing how few films bought in France or UK have Spanish subtitles. Hungarian, Icelandic, Arabic, Finnish and Dutch were the top scorers but amongst our hundreds of films we could only find about 5 of any use to him. He helped us plant a hedge of oleander in the pouring rain and we communicated with lots of smiles and offers of cerveza. It was a little surreal but lots of fun.
Finally Giselle resurfaced and we had a great evening sharing travellers tales and getting to know each other a little. It turned out she was a jazz singer and Norman an estate agent used to selling properties about the size of the Alpes-Maritimes! I have such fond memories of our first “web” guests.
Here’s what they said in the Visitors Book: “Hemos pasado una estadia maravillosa. Muchisimas gracias por su generosa hospitalidad. Un abrazo grande!” Spanish subtitles: “We had a wonderful stay. Thank you very much for your generous hospitality. Big hug!” (Thank goodness for Google Translate!)