The Dream of Running a Gite Business in France Becomes Reality

Written by on July 18, 2012 in Gîtes in France

Villa Roquette

Dreaming of running a gite business in France? You’ll love this real life experience feature… following on from Part 1 of Tony Tidswell’s story, the dream of the good life in France, having given up his job and wandered about France by train and ancient VW camper Tony and his family have bought a house for £30,000 in Pezenas in the heart of the Languedoc region and make plans for running a gite business in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France…

Evidently the sun and wine had completely destroyed all vestiges of sanity I may have once had – this new home, which we immediately moved into, was a 10th century ruin.  With over 50 rooms – it had not been touched since the previous owner had moved into it after her marriage in 1926 – our son jack was born a few weeks later.

As I was now an expert in renovating piles of rubble, I started on the mammoth task of turning this rambling medieval pile of rubble into a home. The walls at the rear were part of the old fortifications for the village, in places they were over twelve feet thick. Just installing one window meant taking out 14 tons of stone.  There were no drains, so I learned how to tunnel under fortifications, discovering old Roman stuff, wells and medieval pottery – all good fun.

The house was full of furniture, rooms and rooms of it from previous centuries. I made regular trips to car boot fairs in Ascot just outside London (I knew living in Bracknell would come in useful one day) made some good profits and that helped pay for renovations.

Slowly our home became habitable – and my cherished dream to open a photography school was looked as if it might become reality.

Eight years after leaving England, we had survived in France, we had two happy daughters doing well at school and about to enter the local college. Our son was growing up in a farming village of only 500 people where everyone knew him; I had learned a bucket-full of building skills and was fitter than I have ever been and we had a home. Okay, it wan’t finished – but with over 30 rooms we could use, plenty of accommodation for guests and a superb darkroom I thought it was time to advertise the photography classes I was longing to hold.

This was the beginning of the Internet – so I taught myself how to build websites and in 1997 started advertising. I wrote what must be one of the first “blogs” telling people we were in Languedoc and they could come to our home and learn Zone system darkroom techniques.

Within a week it seemed that half of Seattle was booking places – we got emails from Australia and Norway asking if we had apartments to rent and Microsoft seemed to be moving in.

This was the Internet in 1997 – still pioneering days – no Google (remember Alta Vista) no Facebook (anyone remember geocities?). We got so many clients I only ever ran a couple of photography courses – we were full all year round with travellers from all over the world. Not from France though – the French stuck to stuck to Minitel and considered the Internet as a mild aberration.

I had loads of ideas what could be done with the Internet, this new marketing tool – I registered hundreds of sites and names, built some interesting things.  Unfortunately I found that  in France, it is not always easy to be an entrepreneur and as I did not have a recognised classification for what I was doing, after a few years I was not allowed to do it (whatever it was). I was told in no uncertain manner to stop advertising other people’s properties or I would go to jail. As we all loved living in France, I stopped and simply ran our own apartment rentals.

One of our renters was using our computer one day (this is before iPads) and was looking for property (a lot of our guests bought houses in Languedoc), I asked what sort of place he was looking for and he said “something just like your house” – so I said (as a joke) “OK, make me an offer I can’t refuse” – so he did – it was a lot of money.

The garden of Villa Roquette

We could now move anywhere in the world, but in 2005 we moved ten minutes South, towards the Mediterranean, still very close to Pezenas.  Our new home is a beautiful 19th century “Maison de Maitre”, we worked hard on it for a few years and opened our new B&B and Gites in 2010. We would not wish to be anywhere else.

Our girls are grown up now making their own lives. They come back at weekends and often help with the ironing. Jack, our son passed his baccalaureate last week and will be at Montpellier University from September.

So now where shall I build that darkroom?

Follow Tony on Twitter:  @montblanc and Facebook

Contact Tony at Villa Roquette




Related Articles

Top tips to increase your gîte bookings

When it comes to filling your gîte weeks there’s lots you can do to help yourself… Tips on photographing your gîte How your gîte looks on the internet to potential clients is one of the top things you must get right. Photography is vitally important for a successful holiday let. It’s the owner’s best chance […]

Continue Reading

The Good Life for expats in Carcassonne

Londoner Linda Devine moved to France with her husband Bernard, an engineer, in 2014. After a lifetime of work in hospitality including management roles at the Ritz, Hilton and Accor Hotels, she knew just what makes guests happy and bought all the experience to her latest venture, a gorgeous gite near Carcassonne in the south […]

Continue Reading

Property Management service in the Dordogne

When you have a property in the Dordogne, the most popular department for British expats in France, and you want to let it out or have help maintaining it, you’ll need a trustworthy, efficient and caring property management company. Voila Villas are a professional team based in Dordogne. After 20 years in the UK property […]

Continue Reading

10 tips for running a gite business in France

The last few years have seen unprecedented numbers of buyers seeking homes in France and particularly homes that can be run as a gite business. It seems that TV shows like Place in the Sun and Escape to the Chateau have fuelled the desires of many Brits to give up the rat race and escape […]

Continue Reading

Top Tips for running a successful B&B in France

Peter Friend, joint owner of the award winning B&B La Villa Mazamet in the Tarn shares his top tips. The villa has been named France’s top luxurious B&B for several years and, says Peter, there are lots of things you can do to make your own B&B have a better chance of success… Location Location […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.