Thursday, 17 July 2014

Pas de Pub - Merci

There's a story doing the rounds via the social networks today and various media sites across the world sparking a certain amount of anger.   It's a cautionary tale in many respects and could well have the owner of an Italian eatery in the Gironde dept, South West France ruing the day he decided to sue the blogger Caroline Doudet. Apparently she ate there and was so affronted by the whole experience she wrote a blogspot about it. She had at the time roughly 3,000 fans to her blog so it was relatively small fry. She had a crappy meal and said so naming the restaurant. When you googled the restaurants name by all accounts her less than flattering description was number one, page one. Whoooooah , people pay huge amounts for that sort of power.

Never mind the owner possibly not understanding the double edged sword of the Internet took umbrage and went ahead and sued her. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest, nothing the French like more than a good old fashioned long drawn out expensive legal fight and sod the cost. And the offending words 'The place to be avoided'. Well people are sure going to avoid it now aren't they ? Three minutes of fame and a business down the pan, possibly.

Unless of course he is wily enough to know how to fight back, take criticism on the chin and turn it beautifully around to his own advantage. Imagine if I were to take offence and waste time worrying about all the miserable moaners and people I have to converse with. Were I to name and divulge all the nitty gritty on some of the complete plonkers and swines that attach themselves onto me I would be a full time writer not running a bed and breakfast.  No Sir. I just wrap that beautiful big blanket snugly round me that makes you immune to criticism and people with generally very large chips on their shoulders and quietly elevate myself.

The unintended additional publicity of the restaurateur’s attempt to have the blog removed is known as the “Streisand effect”, in dubious honour of the singer, whose attempts in 2003 to suppress a photograph of the Malibu coast which included her residence, inadvertently generated further internet interest.

The photograph was viewed 420,000 times in the month that followed her failed $50million lawsuit against photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy, after they included the image among 12,000 others detailing coastal erosion in the area.

Prior to the case, it had been downloaded six times - two of them by Streisand’s lawyers. - See more at: http://www.connexionfrance.com/france-bordeaux-cap-ferret-gironde-il-giordino-restaurant-review-blog-blogger-fined-court-social-med-15998-view-article.html#sthash.jRJ3UQ08.dpuf
He should perhaps ponder also how the case got its name,  known as the 'Streisand effect' in dubious honour of the singer whose unsuccessful attempts in 2003 to suppress a photograph on the Internet of the Malibu coastline which included an ariel shot of her property. Her unsuccessful 50million dollar lawsuit inadvertently generated huge Internet interest and took the 'views' of the offending picture from six (two of the views being from Streisand's lawyers) to an estimated 420,000 hits. The picture was one of 12,000 detailing coastal erosion of the area. She considered it to be an invasion of her privacy.

She paid the cost, just as I imagine the hapless owner of the restaurant will.

Pas de Pub - Merci !!


The unintended additional publicity of the restaurateur’s attempt to have the blog removed is known as the “Streisand effect”, in dubious honour of the singer, whose attempts in 2003 to suppress a photograph of the Malibu coast which included her residence, inadvertently generated further internet interest.

The photograph was viewed 420,000 times in the month that followed her failed $50million lawsuit against photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy, after they included the image among 12,000 others detailing coastal erosion in the area.

Prior to the case, it had been downloaded six times - two of them by Streisand’s lawyers. - See more at: http://www.connexionfrance.com/france-bordeaux-cap-ferret-gironde-il-giordino-restaurant-review-blog-blogger-fined-court-social-med-15998-view-article.html#sthash.sGSkL70t.dpuf

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

July 14th 2014 Embrasement de Carcassonne

Le quartorze Juillet, the famous July 14th, Bastille Day where over 700,000 people will converge to watch the spectacular firework display 'Embrasement de Carcassonne.  The excitement is palpable as hordes of people start to stream by clutching picnic hampers, all hoping for a coveted spot in which to witness a spectacular display of computer controlled brilliance. Everybody who works in the hospitality business has gone up a notch into 'superdrive'. We are all sleep deprived and anxious that the craziest day of the year will go smoothly.  The evening is perfect,  a clear blue sky with little wind. My guests are late and when they arrive there are more in numbers than the booking. 'We don't mind sleeping four in a bed' they say. I smile so hard that my cheeks hurt and the phone is going constantly with my friends telling me I won't get over the bridge that spans the river Aude as the crowds are thickening. I escape clutching a bottle of beautifully chilled local bubbly, Creménte de Limoux Première Bulle, a surefire way to kick any party into action.

I'm momentarily stunned by the heaving crowds as I exit. Everywhere tables and groups of people staking a spot for arguably one of the best firework displays in Europe.  Bars and restaurants pack the pavements and roads with tables, if there is a window that opens out onto the street someone will be selling something.  Small children slumber in pushchairs, the backs laden with bulging plastic bags whilst their parents laugh, the air filled with amicable chatter.

La Cité awaits us as the evening darkens, the excitement fizzling as people clamber over shadowy rooftops, the castle resplendent, patiently awaiting the moment the skies will be filled with an array of explosives, showering down and cascading over its ancient walls and taking your breath away with the booms that thuds that seem to penetrate right to the core of your heart.  It was spectacular, we all tensed as the final climax worked it's magic. And then it was over for another year, the air still once more, broken only by the cheers, whistles and clapping from the thousands and thousands of people crammed into Carcassonne for those few hours.

But there is just one small observation. People seem obsessed in holding up their phones, their ipads for the whole duration and it's becoming rather a bore as every event you go to you are surrounded by little brightly lit screens hovering high in the air.  And I guess its to record the memory, to watch at a later date. But as someone who seems to have a camera permanently slung over her shoulder I wonder, is it any different ? Well yes, I don't constantly invade and distract other people on what they are focused on and trying to absorb. Why don't people enjoy life as it happens and put their phones down once in a while and let the professionals do the filming ?

Which is why I don't have one single solitary photograph of the firework display.

I was far too busy living.

*Push the 'play button' put to full screen and turn up the volume !!*


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Writing from Carcassonne

You get to notice an awful lot about people when you run a chambre d'hotes. It's as though they become transparent when they enter through your front door. In a nutshell you can tell if they are happy or not. The ones who are satisfied with their lot in life exude an air of contentment. They are pleased to be on holiday, they are content to be experiencing a different culture, a change in the pace of life and to breathe, feel, touch and appreciate all around them.  Ask anyone who is in the hospitality business which clients are the happiest and for most of the time the answer will be 'those with less'. For those with less actually have more.

There is no easy simple solution to the apparently difficult, and to some people, elusive goal of happiness.  I think it is a gift you are blessed with and no amount of money can buy this gift, it's something that comes from within. We all have it at birth and those who know how can  hang onto it whatever life throws at them but those whose goal in life is to constantly seek more through materialistic gains become more and more discontented and once unhappiness takes root it is very difficult to dislodge. 

Where did all this philosophy suddenly spring from and why am I even writing about it ?  It's because I write and suddenly a little project I started on three years ago is finished. It's all there in front of me and now that I am suddenly presented with thousands and thousands of words strung together it is both startling and frightening.  I carry it close and guard it and wonder if I will ever be brave enough to let it go. All I have to do is press the 'send button'.

The doubts start to appear,  the clouds hover over me threatening to settle like a cloak of doom and strangle me with uncertainty. But I'm going to kick all this right where it belongs, out there into orbit, go seek some other mouse to torment because without realising it I have morphed into a lion. And lions roar when prodded. And I've been toyed with for long enough. Sometimes you meet people in life and they perhaps without realising it rattle your teeth and shake your bones so hard it hurts. They split you open so wide you think you will never heal.  But of course you do, all that they have done is open a part of you to let the fresh air in and the creative juices trapped inside flow. You'll never thank them and they will never know who they are but you crossed paths with them for a reason that only you and you alone will appreciate.

But back onto the subject of contentment and happiness that eludes so many. Will pressing the 'send button' make me anymore content and happy with my lot in life ?

Well yes it will because I have learnt a very simple lesson (albeit late I confess). Do not let the discontentment and failure of others cloud your judgement, do not let their unhappiness settle on you, if they criticise without reason it is because they are unhappy within themselves and it has nothing whatsoever to do with you.  Feel sorry for them because they have lost the art of happiness. They have lost 'the child' within them. Give them your warmest smile, show them pity and smother them with all the love you can muster. ♥  No-one has the right to undermine, judge you or hold you back from your dreams and goals.

For those of you however that feel you need a fresh 'kickstart' or some serious motivation this is my secret.

Toby. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Hello Monday

Hello Monday, and so another week arrives after a whirlwind weekend.  We've had a spell of utterly scorching weather but this morning the heavens opened and we were deluged with rain.  Emergency roofing works are currently underway here but thankfully disruption is at a minimum.  The men scrambled off the roof like startled rabbits and congregated in the large entrance hall.  The group of female guests stared with undisguised interest and soon a jolly banter ensued. 

The house which is of historical importance has a large garden to the rear, usually the door is locked by the owner who sadly does not possess a sense of humour but on this occassion it was open giving a rare glimpse to a space which should be loved and enjoyed by all but is not.  I lifted up my camera to take a shot of the grinning men and heard a stern voice telling me photographs of the garden were not allowed. We all stared at her in disbelief, none of us were the slightest bit interested in her half dead wilting rose bushes and soon a low rumbling of giggling started as she remained impassive and uncomprehending at the absurdity of her statement. The men were delighted with the attention and the guests left happy.

Happiness and laughter is what makes the world go round. Love, compassion and joy should be injected into everyone's daily lives if at all possible. This past weekend France held its annual Fête de la Musique to celebrate the summer solstice, the streets of Carcassonne were alive with music and dancing with all the bars running at full tilt.  I listened to a band playing outside a superb new Cave à vin - Cave à manger with an impressive newly opened restaurant next door, both right on the doorstep of No.11. There seem to be a variety of new restaurants opening here, all run by lively enthusiastic staff which can only be good for the residents and tourists alike.

So enjoy your day, embrace the new week ahead and live your days to the full. Dance, sing and rejoice and see the positive side of life and show kindness to others.

Life is about sharing and caring, Madam.

Friday, 13 June 2014

In memory of June

It's been one of those weeks.  One of those up and down weeks where days seem irrelevant.  Life goes on, the bustle of people scurrying to work filters up from the street down below.  The irate sound of car horns as people imagine it will get them to their destination faster. Guests arrive, guests depart, smiles, small talk, the swallows screech and swoop outside the windows.  Every morning the roofers arrive just as I depart for the boulangerie on my bike.  We laugh and smile, a sort of shared resignation that we all have long hot days ahead of us. When I come back there's a game whether I can cycle fast through the large front door before they try and grab the baguette.  We make an awful lot of noise, we're laughing you see, shows we are all alive.  At midday I take them a bucket of ice and tell them they should be applying sun tan lotion.  It's the small exchanges on an everyday basis that make such a difference in life.  Why be cruel when you can be kind ? why frown when you can smile ? why complain when a compliment is so much more positive ? Three simple actions that cost nothing.

I lost my dear friend this week. People die, it's part of life.  But it's at the oddest moments when I miss her most.  It's when I sit down after doing the guests breakfast's and switch on skype, there's no flippant comment appears on the screen and yet I can see our whole history of everyday conversations.  And then suddenly nothing. And my everyday worries seem banal, the people I worried about seem undeserving of my time. It suddenly hit me, be selective of your friends and treasure those who care for you in case one day you regret wasting your time on those who deserve nothing from you.

June and I laughed, we cried, we saw each other through the good times and the not so good times.  We held each other tightly and hugged when we were happy or sad.  We drank champagne on a deserted beach overlooking the Isle of Sky and we danced to loud music and watched the stars appear and twinkle in the inky blue sky. June wore outrageously short skirts and flirted for England, you couldn't fail to love her.

June lost her courageous battle to cancer.  My daughter Tallulah is running this weekend to raise funds for this hideous disease.  Please support her if you can by donating through this link https://www.justgiving.com/tallulahbarnett

Loyal, supportive, non judgemental friends are rare in life.

I miss June.






Thursday, 5 June 2014

Carcassonne -Book Direct for 10% OFF.

Firstly you really really should be here, I can't imagine why you are not, if I could wave a magic wand I would whisk you here instantly.  Imagine, wouldn't that be blissful ?
Any number of restaurants would have taken my fancy today all bustling and ready for a weekend of 'Al fresco' eating, with the temperatures set to soar into the high 20's its all terribly tempting isn't it ?

I lingered awhile as I do, I must confess to loving a 'linger' and a little pang of envy briefly fluttered through my mind as I imagined being on holiday.

Rising in a leisurely fashion contemplating the day ahead someone else would prepare and bring me breakfast.  I wouldn't have to face a whole host of other guests and make polite 'small talk'.  Here at No.11 it's all terribly civilised, breakfast taken privately in your own room.  Quality coffee or tea, croissants and pain au chocolat that melt in your mouth,  yoghurt's and a generous helping of sliced fresh fruit to mix with granola if you wish.  I do get very flattering reviews for my breakfasts.... (thought i would slip that in)


I was seeking an excuse to 'slip out' and away from a rather distasteful pile of ironing.  I couldn't think of another reason to go out so I went out anyway.  Five minutes walk from here is the River Aude, (brilliant cycling and walking paths) and I found a sunny quiet spot and closed my eye's for a split second.  The water was burbling pleasingly over the rocks, a slight breeze took the edge off the heat of the sun, the sky a searing blue overhead.  Right in front of me the heron gracefully glided in and proceeded to position himself in the shallow waters on his spindly legs.  I was overjoyed, what a wonderful photo opportunity I thought happily to myself.  Sadly it was not to be, such was my rush to 'seize the moment' that the camera had been left at home. The words 'Epic picture failure' bounced around in my head. 

Never mind hopefully I have the whole summer stretching tantalisingly before me in which to indulge my passion of lingering and meandering along with my camera.

Just one last word though before I go and join friends for an early evening apéro round their pool. 

Did you know that by booking direct with the owner you can often get a much better deal than  booking through an agency on line ? Sadly most people are blissfully unaware that agencies charge a substantial fee to the hotel/b&b owner. 'If only we had known' people say.

Book direct with No.11 for two nights or more and you will receive 10% off the stated nightly room rate.

You too could be leisurely sitting at any one of these restaurants, or grabbing that elusive picture of the Heron !!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The countryside of the Languedoc

I am the first to grab the opportunity for a little 'jaunt'. Whilst I extol the benefits of staying in the heart of the Bastide of Carcassonne it must be said that the surrounding countryside is stunning.  We are fortunate enough to have the Mediterrean, the Pyrenees and the Black Mountains all within easy reach for such jollies. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to a book launch hosted in the terribly smart little village of Pieusse. Maison Laurent played hosts and Wendy Gedney was there signing copies of her superb book 'Wines of the Languedoc' with mouth watering illustrations by Jenny Baker.  A brilliant addition to include on the shelves here at No.11.

It was one of those glorious May days.  The sun shone with a gentle breeze and the route that we took from Saint Hilaire took us along quiet country lanes with stunning views of rolling vineyards with occassional glimpes of the Pyrenees still sprinkled with snow.  Picture perfect in fact.  Wild flowers dotted the verges and birdsong pierced the invigorating clear air. A field of young Olive tree's swayed with poppies waving underneath.   I wanted to linger longer, I wanted to meander, I wanted to be lost in the magic of the moment but as always I was ruled by time and commitments. I spotted a field blazing, awash with bright red poppies but alas the road ahead swallowed me up before I had time to stop and the opportunity was lost. But I have promised myself that I will return very shortly, I will make time to capture the breathtaking views and savour the beauty without indecent haste.

My guests left feeling rather remorseful this morning wishing they had allocated more time to the Languedoc and Carcassonne itself. 'We wished we had more time' they said.

'So do I' I replied. 'Time is the most precious thing we possess' and I thought once again how wisely one must use it.

If you would like to come and visit me please do not hestitate to contact me direct. Two nights or more and you will receive a complimentary bottle of local wine, perfect to sit back and enjoy reading 'Wines of the Languedoc' !!


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