GENESIS OF THE ADVENTURE
I remember that we decided to leave Paris in September 2013, to create a place of peace and hospitality in the countryside. Original, aesthetic, welcoming, restful and friendly, everyone would feel more like a guest rather than a client. This place would resemble us, it would be eclectic, cool, playful, festive or zen depending on the mood, in a beautiful and sunny setting, with a lovely view and an indoor swimming pool to relax in winter and splash around in the summer, sheltered from the wind and sunburn. We would take our two little guys who were 6 months and 7 years old at this time to live there (now they are 3 :-) , away from pollution and wet winters. In short, it was not an easy task to find this gem. We explored several regions for a year, gradually getting closer to Uzès... where we landed in October 2014 for a 3-week spotting trip.
THE GREAT LEAP
Autumn was splendid, and the sun was bright. It happened during this escapade that we discovered what we were looking for above all else after 25 years in Paris for Jean-Marie, originally from Brittany, and a whole life as a Parisian for me: a mild and dry climate, splendid landscapes, the proximity of 2 TGV stations (Avignon and Nîmes) and 4 international airports (Montpellier, Nîmes, Avignon and Marseille), combined with a region that is culturally rich and vibrant all year round, and a fantastic gastronomy and a terroir. In short, fate offered us the opportunity to visit this house... It was modern and not yet very graceful, and did not look like the traditional stone "mas" that tourists like so much. But the base was there: the view, the swimming pool, the volumes... we both immediately felt its vibrations and its potential for renovation. The beauty and location of the village of Castillon-du-Gard, between the Cévennes, Ardèche, Alpilles, Camargue and the coast did the rest. What an incredible challenge for anyone who wanted to be crazy enough to roll up their sleeves and transform this building into a luxurious Mediterranean villa! Crazy we were, so we jumped into the cold water without hesitating.
FROM DREAM TO REALITY
Our Parisian loft sold (a commercial surface that we had previously renovated in the Goutte d'Or district in Paris), we decide to buy the house and temporarily settle in a small habitable part, the future Posto Nove gîte. First fight: financing the renovation work. Having spent the winter to complete the business plan (a 120-page illustrated paving stone of paper!) we thought that presenting this significant amount of work to a bank would be a formal step ... in fact it has taken more than 9 months before we crossed the road of a Crédit adviser who literally cracked on our UFO project, and who fought successfully so that we can start our work in extremis ... in January 2016. Thanks again to her!
LET'S WORK IT OUT !
January 2016. After all this wasted time, it was really time to start the work if we don't want to miss the season. Fortunately, a guardian angel had just landed on the Petits Gardons: Chokri, a long time friend of Jean-Marie's and experienced construction driver, was the first to join the team. We worked 10 hours a day to get everything moving as quickly as possible: plans, layout, exterior masonry, insulation, walls, electricity, plumbing, painting... but despite the good craftsmen involved, the bad surprises kept piling up, everything had to be redone. It was a race against time, but yet everyone was still confident at this step.
LAST TOUCHES ON THE PAINTING
With Spring comes the necessity to work on the landscape: earthworks, creation of dry stone walls, installation of the irrigation system ... 5 trucks of , a 5m palm tree and two trucks of plants later, our little oasis takes shape : Pomegranates, pomegranate, guava, mulberry, bottle rinses, lavender, rosemary, olive trees, gauras, agaves, cycads ... It was time, the heat is back and it's time to take care of our swimming pool which serves more furniture storage! But no question of putting in water before having to have isolated and repainted. The soil is also in poor condition, you must strip everything! The tasks are linked at a crazy speed ... The errors too, and sometimes it is necessary to undo and redo what we have struggled to undertake the day before, without being discouraged. It's the job that comes back! In early June the pergolas are mounted, the new wooden pool terrace is built ... but there are still external tiles to change, kitchens to design and build, tables to manufacture, upholstered benches, appliances to buy, decoration, equipment, bedding ... the season smells of fir ... but nobody gives up, we have no choice save the season and open in July at any cost!
THE FINAL SPRINT
July 2016. We rushed to death, but in early July, we are still far from any opening perspective... as they say in the trades industry, the finishing is always the longest part ! 7 days of work a week, 15 hours a day, we work tirelessly. It's time for decoration, finally! So we chine, we cut, we saw, we glue, we plan ... still not figuring out if we'll be able to open by end of the month. The project takes shape, and we begin to touch our dream with our fingertips... Enough produce a first serie of photos to feed our website and operator pages ... No photos, no customers!
THE OPENING, AT LAST !!
August 2016. That's it we are there! We redouble our intensity for the final preparations and the arrival of our first customers. Adrien our talented photographer did wonders and managed to shoot the first spaces completed in time for the launch of our site. The first bookings fall ... it is both a relief and a big extra pressure, because this time, impossible to postpone the deadline, it MUST open! On 4 August 2016, we finally receive our first travelers, last-minute German customers arriving 3 days before the official opening date! it does not matter, the Blue Casbah lodge will be the first ready to welcome them, and their experience will be precious to us to adjust the last preparations for the official opening, August 8, 2016. Three days of frantic race later, an american family lands in Posto Nove, leaving us another week to finish, on the sly, the last gîte Es Vedrà, to welcome the last members of the "first customers club" the kind and benevolent Ruthy, Benjamin and children.
LES PETITS GARDONS SEASON 1, LET THE SHOW BEGIN !
Our season starts, finally! First customers, first meetings. Our bet to make live perfect strangers in a holiday home works perfectly! The alchemies are created, the aperitifs are eternal dinners at one and the others, the children have fun, in short it is happiness! As the month progresses, customers follow one another and their comments warm our hearts! Some even become friends, and most promise to come back. Mission accomplished ! We turn the page of the great adventure of the works, to open a new one, white and glowing like the sun of the Gard ... Thanks to Marithé, Christine, Otto, Aldo, Emilie, François, Chokri, Odile, Alex, Norman, Jérémie, Adrien, Abder, Gui2, Bene, Toffee, Herve, David & France, Yohann, Jean-Charles, Yannick, Maud, Laurent, Herve, Claudia, Stephanie and all the others ... to have financed, helped, inspired motivated, advised or simply encouraged us. We look forward to seeing you on Facebook for the rest of our adventures, and on the 25th of November 2016 on France 5 in the famous interior decoration show "la Maison France 5"! Youpi !!