Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Huston reporting ... The Patio Has Landed!! (With apologies to NASA)

After writing about the off and on experiences of getting a new patio built for our French Holiday Gite, with the building work scheduled for March, then April, and finally getting started in May, I'm delighted that when we holidayed at the Gite ourselves at half term, everything was finished and looking great.

The plan was that the driveway on the West side (i.e. evening sun-side) of our Holiday Home was to be levelled out so that we could put the swimming pool up there, the driveway was to have a layer of weed proof membrane laid (as we hate having to pull weeds up when we visit), it was all to be re-gravelled (with white gravel to match the other, East, side driveway) and a new patio was to be built from the Gite French windows up to the end of the house. This would give an area large enough to dine on and put the sun-loungers on overlooking the garden, swimming pool and barn.

As I've written about previously we had quite a few changes to the actual start date for the building work, originally we wanted all the work to be done when we were over at Easter, but the builder let us down. So the work was re-scheduled for the first week in May when we had a gap in bookings, and I was promised that it would be complete by May 8th when our next set of holiday guests was due to arrive. They were due to arrive on Monday 8th, and as I had some more things to take over as well as wanting to make sure everything was perfect for their arrival, I popped over for the weekend of 6th and 7th May so that I could do any last minute tidying up before their holiday.

I have to say that I was very disappointed with the result I found on my arrival. Although the new gravel driveway had been laid and the patio started, the work was far from complete and in fact there were just the footings and half the patio edging in place. I also found that the gravel rather than being a matching shade of white was a buff brown colour, and of course when it rained the unfinished patio area turned to mud. When I managed to get in contact with the builder the next day I was told that the problems were caused by the French Builders Merchant that had let him down and not delivered all the materials on time. The worst part about the whole incident was that no-one had actually contacted me to let me know of the situation, and of course if I hadn't turned up unannounced the guests would also have found the same unfinished building work I did. I spent a lot of the weekend whilst I was over there trying to tidy the site up, building a temporary gravel path over the patio footings, and then leaving a very grovelling note for our guests.

I won't go through all the trials and tribulations after that (although it would be rather cathartic to do so!), but the short of it is that the builder returned to complete the patio after the guests had left and when we arrived for our holiday everything on the drive and patio was completely finished and we've very pleased with the end result.

Fortunately our guests of the 8th May didn't mind the half-done building work and in fact they're hoping to return again to the Gite later in the year.

Although we tried to organise everything correctly it didn't really work out and it's been a traumatic journey. I'm now even more nervous of having any work done to the house when we're not actually onsite. Maybe this'll be a good excuse for me to take some more holidays there myself?

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