So much to write about this week!
Most importantly, the campsite is open! Everywhere is looking good, and we have a number of campers on site, including some familiar faces, which is always a bonus for us. It’s a pleasure to greet returning campers who can see the changes we’re making, and whose presence reassures us that we’re still on track with the way we run our business.
We’ve been watching 'the Fixer' with Alex Polizzi. If you haven’t seen the programme, a successful businesswoman with an incredibly irritating and nasal voice visits failing businesses in an attempt to find their weak points and turn their fortunes around. At the end of each season, we perform a similar evaluation on ourselves, as we plan the improvement schedule for the coming winter. In a difficult economic climate, and certainly in France where the cost of employing staff continues to rise alarmingly as do taxes and social charges, we are nonetheless keen to keep improving the campsite and the service we offer, whilst at the same time, maintaining a family life before our children grow up and leave home!
|Clariere de l'Armistice, Compiegne|
We recently went on a short break to Belgium and Germany and used the experience to remind ourselves of holidaymakers’ expectations. We stayed in a B&B in France near Compiegne, which was massively expensive when we included an evening meal and breakfast. It was nice … if a little unnecessary. So many flavours of jams, with little spoons … when we would have been happy with a baguette and strawberry jam. At the second B&B in Belgium, we arrived an hour earlier than planned. We were turned away, as our room wasn’t ready yet (we wondered why not. It was already 4pm and they didn’t seem to be busy doing much else. A little forethought would have been good!). We went off and visited the Drielandenpunkt and had a fine time, but that initial (un)welcome definitely coloured our view of our stay there and reiterated the importance of making a good first impression. It’s not always easy when you’re interrupted in the middle of doing something else, or by someone who has failed to read the notices we put in place … There’s a fine line to be found somewhere between giving a good service and being taken for granted…
|The highest point in Holland 325m!|
We were surprised at the price of food in Belgium. To avoid paying for another expensive meal, we picnicked illicitly in our room and we were reminded again of the advantages of camping. You can come and go more or less as you please, you can eat home cooking whenever it suits you, and cost effectively…. You can go to bed when you want, get up and have breakfast when you want … When you’re in a B&B, especially on the continent, even a cup of tea comes a with a price!
Our third accommodation was a house in Arnsberg, Germany, where we met up with Bill and Jan, Sarah’s’ parents. The house was a good size, but downstairs had definitely recently welcomed a smoker and the residual smell was pretty off-putting. Luckily, we had lots of visits planned and we were out and about most of the day, including the Mohne Dam of 'Bouncing Bomb' fame. We were pleasantly surprised by the cost of living in Germany: .80c for a 1 scoop ice cream (1€50 is the RRP over here!). Very cheap bread and milk. German holidaymakers must find eating out in France quite pricey: another reminder to us to keep the prices in our bar/restaurant as competitive as possible.
We’ve given a lot of thought to the menus and prices in the bar this year (well, we always do, but we’ve done it again). We’ll be introducing a new menu from 23rd May with some ‘nouveautés’ but many of the old favourites too. We aim to cater for a variety of requirements: food that children will definitely eat; healthy options for those watching their weight; traditional campsite snacks, and a few typically French dishes to tempt the more adventurous, although we can never compete with the local restaurants. Our big plus point is, of course, that you don’t need to drive to our restaurant, and we have a good choice of entertainment scheduled (see previous posts).
We’ll also be moving the shop into the bar area this summer, in a bid to improve the service for campers (longer opening hours, more choice, increased product lines) and to make better use of our staff who got particularly bored in the afternoons!
John drove back from Germany alone and joined Mick, Cath and Jonathan in getting everything ready. Our seasonal team in in place and we’ll be launching our new uniforms shortly – watch this space!
Sarah and the girls went back to the UK for a few days to see family and we’re happy to report that Jen is now at home, wearing a back brace, but able to walk unaided and recuperating well. She’s been well-supported by a network of friends, family and colleagues and although it will be a while before things are back to normal for the family, she’s definitely on the mend!
The girls flew back to Tours from Stansted with Ryanair. An quick and easy way to visit us?
So a new Royal princess, General Election, VE day bank holiday, the campsite opening… it’s all going on here! Two more bank holidays for the French in May (14th and 25th)… and before we know it, it will be June and another update!