On the joy of cushions !

As with many couples, my partner and I hold different views on diverse topics.

We are pretty much singing from the same sheet on wildlife, environmental issues, political opinions etc. Malcolm actually taught me my first English protest song.

One issue we seem to disagree on though is cushions.

He says “they are for girls”. His male friends tend to agree actually….

I think they add a level of comfort and prettiness to any sofas, beds ….

Just imagine the following rooms without those cushions :

Romantic "colonial style" with four poster bed.

Romantic “colonial style” with four poster bed.

2 beds small

new lounge

Not so great without them, right ?

You guys can vote too. So, are you pro, against or cushions neutral ?

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On being an eco-friendly rental business.

Another issue very close to our heart is eco-sustainability. A lot of what & how we have rebuilt Villa Nuraghe has environmental awareness at its core.

Malcolm was a landscape gardener and tree surgeon living on Dartmoor, growing organic vegetables and campaigning for disarmament in the 70′s.

Through living in the UK for so long and living with somebody like Malc, I have grown keener & more aware of the environmental challenges of our times. Despite my mum’ s obsession for water saving and my dad coming from a farming background, I can’t cite my roots as anything to do with it. I grew greener as time went on. I have to thank England ands its great wildlife TV programs for it too. Now, when I go back to my parents in Northern France; I berate my Dad for his pesticides’ use and he mocks me for being unrealistic and some kind of hippie. We both agree though that his palet – built workshop is great … even if mum has baptised it “shanty town”.

So, in accordance with our beliefs and our concerns for best practice, we went for a minimum of A + rating for all the appliances (fridge, washing machine and dishwasher), put in a water solar panel (backed with a gas boiler if necessary) and just finished a solar powered fountain. We have also some solar powered fairy lights on the pergola.

But how does that fit in with the rental business? We don’t believe this is a major concern for potential clients. After all, we don’t necessarily check the eco-credentials of the places we stay at even though we really appreciate them when present. Whilst I don’t think people will choose us rather than another villa because of our 3 recycling bins or water saving devices , we do what we feel is right whilst trying not to be eco-evangelical about it.

In fact, the best eco features are the ones that reap the rewards without you having to do anything about it (once all the systems are in place) . For ex : put the dishwashing on eco wash, have that free hot shower thanks to the solar panel, enjoy the cooling splashing sounds of the solar powered fountain etc.

The other kind of eco rewards comes from you putting in some efforts before you reap the rewards. I guess I would say that as I was brought up in a house where the bath water was reused to wash the floor & mum always switches the lights off if you forget & tell you off. The trick in a rental setting I believe is to encourage people by making it easy for them. So we provided recycling bins at the back of the villa but we will empty them ourselves. There is a bucket near the shower so clients can fill it up before the hot water arrives and use that to either flush the loo or water the plants. My little brother had never done that before but religiously watered the plants every morning, pointing out it took no time & he seemed to appreciate the impact everyday gesture could have long term. Coming from him, that certainly is a result

So the lesson here might be ”Make it easy for your guests to be green by having the infrastructures in place and encourage environmentally friendly practices”. We shall see at the end of the season if the people who readily recycled the shower water (for ex.) already considered themselves green or whether they got round the idea quickly (or not). Will this turn out to be preaching to the choir or converting new adepts ?

The soft glow under the pergola certainly works in a subtle way.

And that solar water is so hot I made a Health and Safety warning about it in the welcome information pack !

Still, that solar fountain certainly rocks in more ways in 1 !!

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Lessons learnt after 2 years of working on Villa Nuraghe…

I was musing the other day with Malcolm about how we naturally seem to go with the flow with what we usually call “the project”. It wasn’t always so.

Malc is very much the highly motivated / get up at 6 am driven force behind this “villa renting” project; with the building / technical skills to boost.

I am more the translating, networking woman with the ability to follow instructions (or not so much so if you speak to Malc) and mislay tools. I have also learnt to lay floor tiles & can do a mean plaster wall !

Malc is more ” We should have had the permit for the swimming pool last year”, whilst I’m more “We should be lucky to have it by October 2013″.

So lesson number 1 : “Whether you like it or not, planning permission / building work / bike registration/ you name it etc. will happen in their own time in Sardinia.”

From this derives lesson 1: “Getting annoyed / telling people to hurry up will rarely work…”

And consequently math theory 1 : “If you think something will happen in (say) 6 months, then double up that time and then add some …”

Truly frustrating for Malcolm who’s used to British efficiency (he used to take that for granted in the UK) , not so much for a French national like me who’s used to encourage and cajole her way to nudge things along.

We just had our 1st feedback from our Easter clients. All great. Interestingly, their only improvement suggestion concerned a room they didn’t sleep in. They thought the light streaming in the morning through the shutters would wake up the guests or their children early. And who wants to wake up at 7 am on holidays ?? So down to Sassari for a blackout curtain it was !!

We indeed believe a key ingredient in any business success is feedback. Whilst we tried to create maximum comfort at an affordable rental price for our clients, we are bound to have omitted something. This is a rather fine balance as not everything will be to all of our clients’ taste. For example: mattress firmness. Where do you stand (or lay down) on this issue ? The king size bed is too firm for my liking but perfect for Malc. The single ones are medium whilst the sofa bed one is deliciously soft to me but would probably give Malc backache in the long run. (Update July 2013: As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry about the king mattress. A client wrote in his review that it was one of the most confortable bed he ever slept in ( the sofa got a special too) and others have mentionned sleeping very well indeed.)

And the last lesson for us : “Go with the flow if you haven’t the strength to swim against the current or when you have no choice”. We thought we would have a wooden / above ground pool in the back garden by now… We are beyond getting upset about it now. In fact, 2 friends have offered to buy the pool from us & we will consider the huge plastic type instead. Less pretty but you don’t need a permission for it and it does the job !I

So it’s all come and go, re-prioritising in this life (Note to self : add an eco friendly section to the web site !) . Luckily, we at least now know when to let some things go and when to pursue… in this beautiful and sometimes strange land that is Sardinia !

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About Casu Marzu. Some say “disgusting”, some say “amazing”.

Just to clarify it, I refer to the Sardinian cheese known as Casu Marzu or ” maggoty cheese” as we call it . casu marzu Here is how Casu Marzu is made : the sheep’s milk cheese has been made by Sardinian locals for thousands of years in the style of a pecorino. After it’s made, it’s placed outdoors with a hole cut in the top, through which “cheese flies” enter to lay eggs. The eggs become larvae that devour the cheese, decomposing the fats through digestion and excreting the remains. Not only would you be eating live maggots, but also their excretions.

We tried it years ago at a friends’ party. This was very much presented as a rare delicacy as few people bother making it and it is difficult to get such a cheese these days. Everybody’s eyes were on us as they wanted to see how the “foreigners” would fare. The maggots were actuall tiny but we could see them jumping  which I found rather amazingly delightful for such minuscule creatures. . I certainly had some of that wiggly cheese  & I remember its creamy texture (gooey bugs, miam miam !!) but also how strong it was. So I fared well & impressed our friends by having some twice. Malcolm liked it too because of its strong flavour even though he didn’t like the idea of eating maggots first.

So conclusion for me : “Had it been milder, I would have eaten some more !!”

Conclusion for Malcolm : “Had it been less maggoty, I would have eaten some more !!”

Still… fear not, you are very unlikely to see some, let alone eat some 😉

If you would like more info : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_marzu

On the ” OMG, never try this” camp : read this : http://mentalfloss.com/article/20523/casu-marzu-maggot-cheese-mediterranean and http://www.cracked.com/article_14979_the-6-most-terrifying-foods-in-world.html

And in the middle of the road section, there is this article: http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/01/casu-marzu-cheese-maggot-maggots-italian-what-it-tastes-like-illegal.html

For the aficionado’ s view, speak to any locals when you stay at ours 😉

Things could be worse though, you could be eating sheep’ eyes or gnaw on lamb’ feet cooked in sweet and sour sauce. Believe me, I’ ve seen it with my own eyes !!

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Welcome to our 1st guests ever !

We welcomed Phillip and Angela yesterday from rainy Peterborough. They arrived in pleasant warmth in Perfugas, the countryside now filled with spring flowers.

Much to their pleasure, the temperatures are in the low to mid 20’s currently and the forecast is for sunshine for the next 10 days . When I asked if I could type a few words on my website from them, they said they plan to “soak up that sun, relax and read books”

Spring is definitely on !!

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