We are Dawn and Mark Camilli, originally from Aberdeen and having gradually progressed southward until arriving in South West France in 2004. The Mail on Sunday article (written by one of our guests, who fortunately turned out to be a journalist) pretty much sums up our reasons for moving, suffice to say we are enjoying family life in a friendly community, based in a relaxing environment with a lovely climate.
Having spent our first 3 years here developing our own house, the 4 gites and the pool/grounds, we finally opened for business in June 2008. Being a little late in marketing ourselves, we started the season with a handful of bookings but, with a sudden rush of last minute interest, we suddenly found ourselves fully booked throughout most of July and August.
We didn't really know what to expect and anticipated the odd awkward customer or mad flap on changeover day. I am very pleased to say that all of our customers were great and we found we really enjoyed meeting everyone. The kids too (Lana, Gair and Louie, then aged 14, 12 and 8) enjoyed meeting various different children and formed some good friendships.
With an abundance of courgettes in the garden, Mark took it upon himself to experiment with courgette curries. Despite my initial scepticism, his free samples to guests were actually a great hit and he spent many a happy hour in the kitchen supplying the continuing demand! As well as the ever-bountiful courgettes, we were also able to offer tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, peppers, herbs and yellow beans.
We were very fortunate to have a sub-editor of 'The Sunday Mail' and his family staying with us for 2 weeks in August, 2008. He was so enthusiastic about our set up that he offered to write an article about us on his return to the UK.
Our second season in 2009 was longer and busier, with visitors from the UK, Holland and Belgium. The weather, again, was fantastic and the pool and new indoor play area were well used by children and adults alike. We enjoyed lots of evening football matches (which got quite competitive at times!) and, with a newly installed polytunnel, were able to provide free fresh vegetables to all guests as required. We also attempted to serve the now infamous 'Camilli courgette curry' at least once to every visitor.
2010 proved to be yet busier, with the summer months selling out well in advance and bookings also extending to Easter and October. Feedback was once again great and we had several families returning for a second time. I added lots of new toys to the playroom which were well received by the kids (especially the dressing up clothes).
Our fourth season in 2011 saw some families returning for a third visit and several group bookings. We had a few occasions when, everyone willing, we all got together for a cummunal BBQ or a late night swim in the floodlit pool - a great treat for the kids.
2012 was busier than ever with lots of repeat bookings and new guests. Unfortunately, of the 5 hens we bought in the spring only one turned out to be a female, so the expected supply of fresh eggs was a non-starter. The courgette curry continued to win many fans and for the first time our fruit trees also began to bear fruit.
In 2013 our daughter wasn't here for the summer season, having started Uni in Scotland the previous autumn and staying overseas to earn some money. The boys did a sterling job at keeping the grass trimmed, the playroom tidy and the guests entertained.
2014 came round quicker than ever and proved another busy year with lots of new and familiar faces. We re-slabbed the pool terrace in the spring and added a few new hens to our brood. Our older son moved away to University, leaving our youngest, Louie, in charge of garden maintenance.
2015 has been our 8th season - unbelievable, where the time has gone. Our peach and apple trees were in full flourish this summer so we had lots of eager children willing to help harvest the fruit as well as the other vegetables. We look forward to yet another busy and enjoyable year in 2016!