The Hotel TerraVina Blog

Hotel TerraVina asks… Whatever next????

I admit that, in agreement (but don’t tell him so!), with my darling husband, who tells me often, I’m not the easiest of people to be around on occasion… well who is? I have an explosive temper, BUT, only when really pushed so far and I very rarely lose it, as over the years I have learned to contain it, but now and then when I do lose it, it’s fairly spectacular!

However, when at the hotel, I try to remain cool, calm and as professional as possible, but in recent months, I have noticed that a tiny percentage of the general public have tried very hard to test my patience, my sanity and my temper…. Is it them or me? I believe (of course) it’s not me! It’s not just when they visit us they are unhappy and bad tempered, they are probably like that by nature and treat all front of house/customer service people in the same rude manner, but frankly I’ve had enough and have come to the conclusion that maybe I have been doing this job too long, am getting too old; I am for the first time ever wearing reading glasses to type this and am horrified that actually I haven’t been able to see properly for ages as the words are all jumping out at me and are so large and clear- WOW! Perhaps I am just not patient, kind and thick skinned enough to mind the abuse that we have thrown at us, admittedly on very rare occasions, but that said it is less rare and more commonplace than it used to be, and I’m sure that’s due in part to the likes of Trip Advisor, (other review sites are available!), giving people a platform to easily grumble, at their frustration at what is happening in the world, the UK and with the economy and just generally that people are less well mannered and nice to each other than they used to be and more keen to complain, shout, swear and generally be unkind to each other….. love thy neighbour (and fellow man) is a long gone saying I fear.

We are blessed with great staff and lovely guests most of the time and so when we have a “rogue” member of the team or a guest who doesn’t like what we do, we notice it keenly, care about the fact deeply and try to put it right, but it’s not always possible…. Sometimes the staff member will simply never fit in, never get the feel for the job in hand, realise the high standards we expect and not have the passion to love the job enough to take the lows with the highs. Sometimes, (mostly very rarely), we get unreasonable guests, such as the man who complained about the fact we didn’t ask how he would like his chicken cooked, guests who don’t agree with our no dog policy, (let me point out we personally LOVE dogs, but not all the guests do and as a business we need to please the majority for the business to survive), the guest who ordered a cake and was very precise of its specifications and what table they wanted only to not turn up, call to cancel or have the courtesy to answer our subsequent phone and email messages to check all was well or  the guest who cancelled a dinner booking because they didn’t like a starter dish the last time they dined with us many months before, as apparently the cheese in  the dish completely overpowered it, (there’s no cheese in the dish), and the guest who swore at me because we serve Nespresso coffee.

BUT, as harassed hoteliers, we have no recall when a tiny proportion admittedly of our guests break the door handles on the bedroom doors, (and often don’t let us know) break the TVs, smash the lamps, scuff the walls, stain the carpets with red wine, nail varnish and worse, break the bed, damage the baths and sinks by chipping the enamel, make staff cry with their bad manners and rudeness and so on and on and on……. however, just when I think, that’s it, enough is enough, I’m going to retire and go to anger management classes, we have people who surprise us with the unexpected and that’s exactly what happened at the end of last week.

Wedding guests wrote glowing tributes to our team, we had various TA reviews that were very kind and complimentary and e mails and cards from  guests thanking us and the team for ensuring they were so well looked after during recent stays and then the icing on the cake, a gift of a beautiful Orchid to say thank you to us and the team for being lovely hosts, from one couple who visit us very regularly, are huge supporters and simply super  nice people and a bouquet of gorgeous roses from another set of friends and guests who we have known for many years and who know that the past few months have not been somewhat trying for all sorts of reasons and just wanted to let us know they were thinking of us…. My faith in humanity has been restored.  Thank you to them all- their kindness is much appreciated and arrived at just the right moment.

At the time of writing this, one of my very dearest friends is being re-admitted to hospital for a further brain operation to remove a 3rd tumour. I have known her for 25 odd years, am Godmother to one of her beautiful daughters and love her and her family dearly and her being so brave in the face of adversity puts life’s little niggles into perspective. I just want to take this opportunity to let her know we are all thinking of her, cheering her on and sending much love for a speedy recovery

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina has a great team and often they go far and beyond the call of duty…

We are immensely proud of our team who work with us here at TerraVina. Many of them have been with us since the very beginning and others for a number of the past 7 years. Our guests often remark on  the calibre of our team, how super friendly they all are, how professional, polished and utterly charming and we absolutely agree with them- they are indeed a lovely group of people who are a pleasure to work with and who make TerraVina the special place it is.

There are many team members who deserve a personal mention and all of them have individual talents worthy of praise, however, this week we received one of the nicest, kindest e mails that we have ever been sent in praise of the team and noting how special they all are. Singled out for warm compliments were Chris, our GM, Tanguy, our head sommelier, George and the kitchen team and earning an extra special mention was Lydia, our deputy manager.

Lydia is our “superwoman” she is Chris’s right hand, wing woman and takes on every challenge, opportunity and curved ball that we throw at her. She is loved by all and both us and the team can’t imagine TerraVina without her, she is a true hospitality star and we are so fortunate to have her.

Last weekend the hotel hosted a wedding and indeed it was the happy bride and groom that wrote us such a kind and complimentary e mail of thanks…. In it they mentioned Lydia as having been brilliant in helping them to organise their very special day and her tireless work throughout the preparation and the actual event to ensure that everything went smoothly and everyone had a super time… they then mentioned the fact that she had even given up her shoes for one of the wedding guests who had an emergency shoe situation only moments before the ceremony was due to start. When I checked with Lydia, she laughed and told me that indeed she had lent her shoes to one of the guests……. Now that’s what I call service and offering the very best detail. Well done Lydia for being such a star and a trooper.

May we take this opportunity to thank all of our team for all that they do- we are very proud of you all and from Gerard and I and all the team, we wish everyone a very Happy Easter; we hope to welcome you all again soon to sunny TerraVina (the sun is shining in all its glory and the pool is open too!)

Till next week

Nx

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Even after 30 years in Hospitality guests can still surprise us. Hotel TerraVina shares a few stories…

This past week has been a busy and eventful one. Members of the team continue to surprise us in so many ways, but more especially, even after so long working in this diverse and vibrant industry, when I just think I’ve seen it all, heard it all and had to deal with all that the wonderful general public can throw at us, a guest comes along and surprises us all, with what can only be described as one of the best outbursts I’ve ever heard.

Now I enjoy people watching- it’s one of my hobbies and I am fascinated by people’s behaviour, their psyche and their personalities. As an hotelier I am well placed to watch people to my hearts’ content and I am provided with a wealth of behaviour traits- fascinating! The best this week was a guest who knew their chicken wasn’t cooked to their liking, despite not having eaten it or even sampled it, because no one had asked how they wanted their chicken cooked…. ie: when we took the order we didn’t enquire as to whether the chicken was required to be cooked rare, medium, medium well or well done. Welcome to my world!

I suppose in my calm moments of reflection, it is challenges such as these that make being a hotelier so enriching, most of the time rewarding and sometimes a challenge and every now and then bewildering……. In all my years in hospitality (more than 30 years), I have never asked a guest how they would like their chicken cooked and nor would we even consider asking if they would prefer their chicken cooked rare or medium…however on this occasion we inadvertently offended a guest for exactly that, not asking how they wanted their chicken cooked- I’ve heard it all now!

The rest of the weekend was less eventful, although still filled with some dramas; emergency, past midnight calls, paramedics at the hotel, guests out of their comfort zone and any number of tiny incidents besides.

To top off the weekend nicely, on Sunday lunch time, having had numerous e mails and calls from a guest who was very specific in their booking requirements, table request and wanting a cake baked as a birthday surprise, but not any sort of cake, this one was very precise, with a website link to ensure we knew exactly how it must look, taste and what ingredients we would need. Thus we baked the cake, it looked beautiful- Moyra and George did a magnificent job. The specific table that had been requested was reserved, we had done as the guest requested and only corresponded by e mail so as not to spoil the surprise… and then at the allotted time of the table booking, no guests… an hour later still no guests, in fact they never arrived, the cake was not eaten and despite us having e mailed and called since to check the details and the date, no response from the guest… how rude and bad mannered can people be! Now, if something had gone wrong the other way round and we had forgotten to bake the cake, not reserved the right table or spoilt the surprise, no doubt the guest would have written about their annoyance on sites such as Trip Advisor (other review sites are available) and would have slammed the hotel for letting them down… but when the boots on the other foot and it’s the guest who is so bad mannered and just doesn’t turn up that’s ok… well no its not actually and I feel very aggrieved at such bad manners. Thankfully it’s only a handful of guests who book tables, order cakes and then don’t bother to call to cancel and just don’t show up, most of our guests are lovely, kind and considerate and with impeccable manners, so thank you to all of those who do appreciate what we do.

I’m looking forward with great anticipation to this weekend and what it may bring- lovely guests, happy people, sunshine, good manners and contentment all round I hope.

Till next week

Nx

 

 

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Celebrations and congratulations abound at Hotel TerraVina this week….

We are thrilled to be able to divulge the news that our super talented, Head Sommelier, Tanguy Martin, the once assistant of Laura Rhys, another of our lovely, talented and award winning sommeliers, (and who is now at La Trompette in London), has won the title of Chaine des Rotisseurs, UK, Young Sommelier of the Year. Last year Tanguy was in 4th position and this year, through sheer hard work, determination and much training, he was able to move rapidly into pole position, take the lead and ultimately win the title. Well done Tanguy – we are very proud of you and thrilled that all of your hard work and efforts have paid off. Tanguy will now be studying hard to do well in the International part of the competition which will be held in Denmark in September and we and all the team wish him very well. Thank you Ana, Maud and all the team for helping Tanguy to achieve this win- your support, training and endless tasting sessions for him have all helped him to win this round!

Very well done to the other finalists of the UK competition, who included sommeliers from The Vineyard, Medlar Restaurant and The Fat Duck- Bravo tous!

In addition to congratulating Tanguy, I would also like to mention my lovely husband Gerard who has proved once again that he has a great talent for mentoring, training, encouraging and inspiring still more proteges to continue to do well and to shine as they pursue their sommelier careers – he has helped to create a generation of aspiring, talented and ambitious sommeliers. He never ceases to amaze and impress me with the very fact that he is so generous in sharing his expertise, his experiences and his passion – many congratulations Gerard on being such a respected and well loved “Sommeliers Sommelier!” I’m very proud of you.

Congratulations also to Laura Rhys on her new position as Head Sommelier at La Trompette. Laura was with us for 6 years here at TerraVina and we, the team and the guests all loved her and were sad to see her spread her wings and leave, but she went with our blessing and we are very proud of her and her achievements and wish her much success in her new position- we have no doubt she will be a great success.

Well done too to our lovely deputy manager, Lydia. She recently sat her 1st set of Diploma wine exams and whilst we all anxiously await the results, we are sure she has done very well and she is to be admired for managing to study hard outside of her day to day responsibilities, but for a subject she is passionate about- she does a brilliant job for us as Chris’s deputy and has bought much to TerraVina in her 18 months with us.

All in all, weeks such as this past one, where so many of the team have proved how talented, hard working and enthusiastic they are, make us realise yet again how very fortunate we are to have such a fantastic team of people working with us- they make TerraVina the place it is- we think it’s special and that’s because we have extra special people working here- thank you all and well done to all of you, who all shine at different moments and collectively make us very proud!

Happy Mothers’ Day and till next week

Nx

 

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Yippee! Sunshine spotted at Hotel TerraVina and in the New Forest

At last the sunshine peeped through the clouds this past week- we were treated to glorious weather on both Saturday and Sunday and what a difference the sunshine made- we all felt uplifted- well I didn’t as I was poorly and feeling sorry for myself in  bed, but it was still lovely to see the sunshine through the windows. Then Monday was lovely too and we were all expectant and excited at the prospect that Spring had arrived; however  Tuesday has dawned as a dull, grey day, but we remain undeterred, Spring is, if not already here, at least on its way and that is something to be positive and happy about.

Thus I have filled the house with daffodils and tulips, I have thrown open all the windows and doors and we are Spring cleaning with a vengeance- no cupboard or space in the office remains untouched! Paint brushes at the ready- well they are in constant use actually as the hotel is continually painted and refreshed on an almost monthly basis…. An excuse to go shopping for new soft furnishings to freshen everywhere up and at last after too many long and dismal months the front door is open to the world in all its orange coloured Technicolor glory.

We have new TerraVina soft dogs and puppies in stock and that always makes us excited when we received the parcels and start to unpack and the grass is growing fast so Spring must be here. We have called the pool man and are getting excited at the idea of a twinkling pool reflecting the sunshine very soon

Yes we are excited that the sun peeped through and we hope it does so again very soon and maybe lingers awhile….. come and visit soon for a trip to Exbury Gardens, as soon they will be in their most magnificent glory with the blooming of the “Rhoddies” and Azaleas and the forest will be ablaze with bluebells and snowdrops too…. Thus find an excuse to escape and come to stay. We look forward to see you soon

Till next week

Nx

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The sun has peeped through and teased us here at TerraVina this week…

When I asked GB for a little bit of inspiration for this week’s blog… helpfully (not!) he said why don’t you write a “fluffy” one- it will make a change from you always ranting! Me always rant… I don’t think so! However it has been a while since I wrote a more lighthearted blog, but now the pressures on to think of a topic that is lighthearted and in GB’s words… “fluffy”

The problem is I don’t feel very fluffy at the moment- there is much going on and all of it is fairly weighty and serious rather than lightweight and frivolous. That said, we remain in awe of our talented team who make TerraVina what it is and who keep us from screaming when the life of a hotelier all gets too much.

Gerard continues to be a constant source of entertainment- he announced this week that he needs a PA. When I indignantly pointed out he already has one- ME! He laughed and stated he was thinking of a younger, more enticing version to keep him amused whilst in the office. Needless to say he won’t be getting a new PA anytime soon.

Romané our adorable son, who is growing too fast and looks more like a handsome man, instead of my baby, has been poorly, but is being brave and not succumbing to the man flu syndrome… however, Gerard fears he has caught the bug and is being a difficult patient, whilst demanding constant attention, hot drinks, medicine and TLC…. I too have caught Romy’s germs, it’s so kind of him to share them, but haven’t got time to be poorly, as we also have a poorly pup at home who is going stir crazy, as it is now 7 long days that we have not been able to take her for her usual 2 hours walkies. She is a princess at the best of times but being immobile has made her even more diva-ish and demanding of our attention, so with a sprinkling of fallen trees, smelly drains and a tricky guest or two thrown in for good measure the past week has been an eventful one and this week looks like it’s going the same way, without the tricky guests so far!

It must be the weather that is making us all feel out of sorts…. None of us like the rain and constant grey days and so when the sun peeped through for a short while yesterday we all rejoiced, called the swimming pool man and prayed for some long, leisurely lunches on the terrace soon, only to wake up to another grey and gloomy following day- however Spring is on its way and we have the daffodils and crocuses to prove it- roll on sunshine.

Do come and see us soon- even in the rain the forest is magnificent in all its’ muddy glory, but actually when the sun has come out to play it has been delightfully warm and pleasant and I cannot think of a nicer place to be… well alright then, Antigua comes a close second!

Till next week

Nx

 

 

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Hotel TerraVina grumbles about the lack of Customer Care from SSE….

As regular readers of this blog will know we had a problem of having no power over Xmas. Now, in the scheme of things with the weather conditions which have been so terrible since Xmas and the floods and disruption that so many businesses and families have endured, 38 hours of no power, pales into insignificance somewhat, BUT it was on Xmas eve and Xmas day and it did effect 181 people, so whilst it wasn’t life changing, life threatening or too traumatic in the big scheme of things, it was a terrible shame for all those guests who had their Xmas meals, stays and events cancelled because of it.

I had written, e mailed and messaged SSE about the Xmas power problems, admittedly along with thousands of other effected people and businesses. On their website they promise to endeavour to deliver 10/10 service at every opportunity. I had no response to my 30th December e mail and so wrote again on 10th January, when I eventually received, days later, a phone message noting that they would respond eventually but they were busy dealing with all the complaints!

I eventually received a letter dated 14th February, almost 8 weeks later and the letter apologised to my family and I for the effect of lack of power over Xmas. There were lots of words of reasons why no further payment was being made unless power was out for 48 hours or more, but a final paragraph explaining that as a goodwill gesture they were sending all those effected with no power on Xmas day a cheque for £75.00.

Actually, I was expecting no monetary recompense as it’s SSE and they are much better at taking customers money rather than ever paying any back to us… but what I did expect was some genuine interest in us as one of their customers. I had expected that they would actually have read my e mail and realise that we were a business and that a letter apologising to me and my family was not acceptable to a business that had to cancel 181 people’s Xmas celebrations- a generic letter that was sent to thousands of households is not the same style of letter that an effected business should have received. It is insulting to me as the business owner and even more so to all my effected guests. As for the paltry sum of £75.00, I am very pleased to donate it to the hotel’s adopted charity, The Rose Road Association, as when, as a business we have lost over £30,000 (albeit the insurance company have made a contribution to our losses) the goodwill gesture SSE have sent does not really feel like one, but even more importantly the fact that they have taken so long to respond, have done so in such a disinterested manner and the lack of communication and interest in their customers when the power failure actually happened suggests that their Customer care is certainly lacking- as a business if we treated guests in such a shoddy manner we would be out of business- shame on you SSE for believing that you are too big, too important and your management hierarchy too arrogant to care about your customers.

I would like to finish on a more positive note and not rant to the very end of this week’s blog… whilst I am disappointed, frustrated and insulted by SSE as a company, I do think their engineers and the people on the ground who were climbing the poles in all weathers, repairing lines and generally getting the network up and running again do a great job- it’s just such a shame that their bosses let them down so spectacularly when dealing with their customers.

Till next week

Nx

 

 

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Hotel TerraVina visits a “old haunt” and keeps afloat in the floods

There have been a couple of weeks lapse between blogs due to my being away on a working trip in Birmingham, amongst other adventures and commitments. It is a number of years since I visited Birmingham…. which was once one of my regular haunts as we opened a Hotel du Vin in the old Birmingham Eye Hospital many years ago. I loved the city when I used to visit and have to say that it was a delight to go back. The people are friendly, the event I was at was brilliantly well organized and all in all it was a great trip, made even better by the Gourmet Café, located in Birmingham International Train Station, delivering exceptionally friendly service and delicious bacon baguettes for the whole three days of my stay! (I opted for breakfast there instead of at my hotel as the bacon sandwiches were too good to miss!)

I travelled on the train and the day I travelled home was the day of one of the terrible storms- luckily my travel plans were not too disrupted, albeit the train was filled to capacity due to a previous train having been cancelled and there was a very slow speed limit due to the weather conditions, but the camaraderie between passengers was great and the trip whilst long was actually quite enjoyable.

However, since my return, I have been watching the news with a sense of doom and disappointment for those poor people who have all been so badly effected by the floods. Gerard and I and all the team send our sincere sympathy and thoughts to all those homes, businesses and people effected by the weather- having experienced weather related problems over Xmas, we know only too well how devastating it is for a business, but we cannot imagine a home being flooded to the extent that so many people are suffering- what a miserable, miserable time.

Whilst there seems little to be positive about in these bleak weather conditions, my heart was lifted this morning when I saw daffodils by the roadside and tulips in abundance for sale at the flower stall- such cheery flowers to lighten the mood and to give us all a hint that Spring is only around the corner.

Thus to all those effected by the weather, stay safe, our thoughts are with you all and we do hope that the camaraderie of neighbours and communities will shine through.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina enjoys some “away time” and an inspiring evening of magic, fun and laughter

This week has been a bit of a “mixed bag”. Gerard and I have been up and down to London, some of which was for pleasurable events, such as GB being invested as the Honorary President of the Wine and Spirit Trust, a post he will proudly hold for the next 3 years and where he follows in the footsteps of such wine industry luminaries as Michael Broadbent MW, Hugh Johnson OBE and Jancis Robinson, OBE MW. The event was a huge directorial success with over 500 people present and almost 200 award winners and Diploma graduates (Including one of our sommeliers Ana Martínez Terol). The out going president Jancis, showed GB how it was done and with her usual charm, diplomacy and charisma, ensured that all those who took to the stage entered and exited without a hitch and in a fast paced fashion. Master of Ceremonies and CEO of the WSET Ian Harris was a truly excellent host and the magnificent setting of London’s Guildhall made for a fantastic venue.

A superb dinner with sublime wines, (thank you so much Lewis!), was enjoyed at Hawksmoor, thank you to Will Beckett and the team for such a delightful evening and all in all the evening was a most enjoyable one…. Then there were less exciting trips dealing with all sorts of legal and administrative details- not quite so much fun admittedly but very necessary. Another most enjoyable London jaunt was for GB to celebrate with fellow Decanter Men and Women of the Year at a sumptuous event where a most enjoyable time was had by all and then for me, back in Hampshire, in my role as an Ambassador for Rose Road, the hotel’s adopted charity, I attended a birthday party, to celebrate the centre’s 10 years in situ in their new premises.

As always I was so inspired by the children and young adults who attend Rose Road. They are all special for a variety of reasons and to share their joy and excitement at the birthday party was inspiring. There was a magic show where they were invited to help the magician with his tricks and to see the pleasure that such simple tasks bought them ensured that we were all touched profoundly by these spontaneous and especially memorable moments. Whenever I visit Rose Road I leave feeling inspired- for some of the people who attend Rose Road their lives will be tragically short and for all of them they have to endure pain, inconvenience and stress that we in our everyday lives cannot even begin to imagine but yet it is such a happy place and the children and young adults are so content, well cared for and cherished that it cannot help but make you reflect, keep a perspective at you own life’s troubles and niggles and simply be inspired by their courage.

Thus Happy Birthday to The Bradbury Centre at Rose Road and three cheers for all those who work within it- you all do an amazing job! https://www.facebook.com/RoseRoadAssociation

Until next week

Nx

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New Year congratulations here at TerraVina…

Happy New Year to you all. Personally I’m not a fan of NY’s eve and all the promises of leaving behind the old and starting anew as when you wake up on 1st January, (possibly sore headed!), all the same irritations, worries and niggles remain- they haven’t magically disappeared over night… and then days later you have to deal with the guilt of already having broken NY resolutions. Thus I don’t make NY resolutions as like that I can’t be cross when I fail miserably at keeping any of the vows and promises; but listening to the radio a couple of days ago I heard some very wise words about NY and resolutions……..

The words of wisdom were that merely because it is a new year doesn’t mean that it is a new beginning, but rather it has the opportunity of being a new chapter and it is a great opportunity to have a reason to make positive changes that you may have been wanting to make for a while, but instead of making resolutions that we have little hope of fulfilling for a whole 12 months and usually these are resolutions of things we won’t continue to do, ie: bad habits we want to change, such as no more smoking, drink less, eat less, shout less etc, rather we should pledge to do more of the things we enjoy and generally be positive about the promises we hope to keep, so see friends more, learn a new skill, eat as much but choose healthier options, drink better quality wine, as in that way the goals are more achievable and we are more likely to keep on track with fulfilling them.

It is often the case that we look at the negatives and get weighed down by them, so my goal for this new year is to enjoy each challenge that is thrown my way and embrace change more readily and with open arms and just see where it takes me. I am a self confessed controller and so I am going to take a deep breath and let go just a little bit and have some slack and see how that feels.

In celebration of new beginnings, many congratulations to Chris Harvey, our GM and his wife Robyn, on the safe arrival of a 2nd daughter, Lilly… we are all looking forward to meeting her very soon and many congratulations to Lucy Cockett, our demi chef de partie, who was named Student of the Year from her Exeter catering college this week – brilliant news and we are thrilled for them both and very proud of Lucy’s achievements.

Until next week,

Nx

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