The Hotel TerraVina Blog

Gardening Leave- Hotel TerraVina is basking in the sunshine and enjoying the warmer weather

I am on “gardening leave”. For all sorts of reasons, both professional and private, for the past few weeks, I have been taking some time out and have been enjoying a little “gardening leave”.  I have still been at the hotel, just not as many hours per day as sometimes is the case and it has been a welcome break and a change of scene has helped to see all that is TerraVina with a fresh pair of eyes and new perspective.

Guests have been writing rave reviews, noting lovely comments in the guest comment book and e mailing me with so many kind and appreciative thank you notes following their stay, all of which are a credit to Suzi, Chris, Lydia, Laura, George and the rest of the “A” team in my partial absence. They are all brilliant and it is so fantastic when the guests all agree with Gerard and I that we are so fortunate to have them all on our side.

But I digress… back to the gardening leave. I love gardening. However, I must confess that Matthew, my fantastic gardener at home and my mum actually do the lions share of the hard graft- ok all of the hard work and I merely plan, supervise the heavy bits and then get to do all the nicer bits such as grouping the plants, pots and ornaments and furniture together. It’s the same at the hotel, Paul, the hotel gardener and sometimes Matthew too do all the bits I don’t like- I hate grass, (we have astro turf at home), so I won’t cut the lawns, but I’m a great supervisor and teller of plans and jobs I have in mind for them! As for Gerard, I don’t think he’s noticed we even have a garden, so no hope of him helping with the plants.

My favourite plants are lavenders, hence the reason the toiletries at TerraVina are lavender based, the oils we use to fragrance the hotel are lavender (and mint- another favourite) and there is lavender in every part of the hotel’s gardens. It is a personal mission to try to have as many types of lavender in my garden at home as possible and so I source lavenders from all sorts of climes and places and then wallow in the beauty of their scents. This week, I have been gardening at home… over the next few weeks I will be tackling the hotels verandahs, terraces and grounds, planting, you’ve guessed it lavenders, all of which have just started to arrive in their seemingly 100’s but despite it looking like I am opening a garden centre to home only lavenders (now there’s a thought), in reality they won’t actually go very far at all, as what looks like plants a plenty when all grouped together, once they start to be planted actually seem to get “swallowed up” and go nowhere at all!

I am currently juggling gardening gloves and soil for glamour and working dinner shifts at the hotel- I have been begrudgingly laying down my garden fork and hose and like Superman (in the telephone box, when he loosens his tie and does a quick change), I emerge 2 minutes later looking rather more presentable in heels and suitable attire to meet, greet and look after hotel guests.

New beds of Rhododendrons are planned too (they love the ericaceous soil of the New Forest)- excuse my spelling (!) and all the pots are being spruced up and livened up ready for the sunshine and the summer which leads me onto an important newsflash… the pool is open, and whilst outdoor, it is heated to a lovely warm and balmy 34 degrees… susshhhhh, don’t tell Gerard- at least it was heated until the boiler stopped over the Bank Holiday weekend so we are urging the plumber to hurry to see us very soon and get us up and running again.  I’m not thinking of the bill for heating it, (or the cost of a new boiler if it cannot be repaired and hopefully GB won’t either!) We have new, smart sun beds to lounge on this year so do come and visit soon and give them a try out and let me now if they are comfy… we have our usual great value mid week break offers running through May and into June so an ideal time to dip a toe in the water, come smell the roses and the lavender and have a chilled out day or two a TerraVina.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina celebrates the sunshine’s arrival (at last!)

I am conscious that sometimes my weekly blogs are “fluffy”, on occasion I have a bit of a rant and sometimes they discuss a serious topic……this week I am going to start off fluffy and then move onto a more worrying query. So here goes….

At last the sun has started to shine, everywhere is waking up to late Spring and early Summer with flowers blooming.  If you live close enough, visit Exbury Gardens to see the glorious blaze of colour and if you don’t live close enough, take advantage of our fantastic mid week offers and come and stay with us and visit Exbury to marvel at the riot of blooms on display.

I love the sunshine and I so enjoy what it does to people’s moods- it lifts us all, makes us smile more, we are all more cheery, the hotel phone rings more often  with people planning nights away and booking lunches al fresco on our sunny terrace- when the sunshines we all become a little bit more envigorated and just friendlier towards one another… which leads me onto my musings for this week.

Recently we had a guest arrive who was not especially friendly or unfriendly- what we call a little it prickly, and one to be worked on to try to ensure they relax and eventually enjoy their stay- as hoteliers, we really do want people to have a great stay with us- we don’t enjoy upsetting guests or knowing that they are unhappy, uneasy or uncomfortable whilst with us.

However, sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do, how hard we try, we just can’t win everyone over; unfortunately, sometimes, it is these guests that then have a “hiccup” during their stay.  Hotels are run by people not robots. We are reliant on all sorts of details going well and being right in order for us to deliver a great product- sometimes the meat lets us down, sometimes the fish or the vegetables, sometimes one of the team isn’t on best form; sometimes (rarely of course!) I simply don’t like people, no one in particular just people in general- it’s rare but it happens, just as it does in every other profession and industry. However, it seems as though hoteliers and restaurateurs are not allowed any margin of error by some… a recent guest was disappointed with his main course. I offered to change it, I offered him a choice of another dish, I apologised, I listened whilst he ranted at me, threatened me with all sorts of actions and then I had to bear him sulking whilst I tried my utmost to make it right- eventually I asked him what did he want me to do to rectify the situation for him as nothing I had offered would seemingly suffice- his response was nothing- his meal, his whole stay were ruined (REALLY!!!)… his reaction shook me- we never enjoy people complaining, not because we can’t take criticism, but because we are not in this business to make people unhappy, in fact we and the team work hard to ensure the contrary… I was appalled at his reaction- I simply couldn’t make it right for him because he wouldn’t let me and worse he seemed to be relishing in spoiling his own evening and that of his companion- how sad that the stress of day to day life has made us so inward looking, so selfish not to consider others, not to have good manners when there is a problem, not to discuss it sensibly, but instead make a drama and a crisis out of what should have been something so easily put right- we are all guilty of such tirades and temper tantrums at times I’m sure- a road rage moment when we won’t let someone out in front of us at a turning… an impatient moment when someone in front of us in a shop is taking too long, a loud tut when someone gets in our way with their trolley at the supermarket… maybe the sunshine will make us all a little bit less stressed and a little bit more aware of our surroundings and the people around us.

It’s not because people work in a service industry that they have to be servile and we certainly shouldn’t have to put up with people being so rude, unpleasant and down right petulant – maybe our unhappy guest had had a bad week but that’s no excuse frankly- we all have bad days, weeks and months- long may the sun shine bright so as to brighten everyones’ moods a little.

Till next week

Nx

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Friends are very precious commodities- Hotel TerraVina counts their blessings

It is always very upsetting when you think you know someone only to be disappointed by their behaviour, empty promises or their selfish actions- thankfully most of us are good judges of character, most of the time, but now and then a rogue “friend” may slip through the net and cause us to re-think who our true and precious friends really are.

True friends are hard to come by and when you find them such relationships should be worked hard at, not taken for granted; instead they need to be nurtured and cherished.

Hotel guests are similar. Those guests that love a hotel, who come back regularly and are loyal, enthusiastic and supportive should be made to feel special and appreciated. I have written often of how fortunate we are at TerraVina to have so many lovely guests who are so enthusiastic and loyal to us- we try to ensure we appreciate them as much in return and it is always so nice to welcome them back to us… they tell us they feel relaxed and already chilled out as soon as they walk back through the door and for us we already know them well enough to make the job of looking after them and ensure they have a great stay so much easier.

Which brings me back to friends- a good friend is the one that you can spend time with without having to try, who will drop everything to help you at a moments notice, who simply “gets” you. Happily most of us have lots of friends, many of us have best friends who are our most cherished friends, who even if we don’t see them as often as we might like, know we are thinking of them.

Thus in the absence of any such date as a “Friends Day”, (why isn’t there such a day- we have every other type of celebration day?), I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of our loyal Hotel TerraVina guests for their friendship, enthusiasm and custom and remind my own special friends that I am thinking of them all and sending them love, good wishes and cherished memories.

Till next week

Nx

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Long legs, deep voices and healthy appetites- Hotel TerraVina enjoys the Easter school holidays…

It is often with some trepidation that I look forward to the school holidays. Not because I don’t love having Romané (our son) at home more than usual, or that the hotel is filled with more children than is the norm, but rather that I have to multi task more than when school is functioning- I have to juggle my time between the needs of a teenage son at home , a team of staff at the hotel, which is generally busier in school holiday times and all the other tasks that I fill my week with. Plus I have to shop so much more often because teenagers (well boys anyway) eat so much… it must be their long legs and developing muscles, but certainly the fridge never seems full when Romy is at home.

He is now towering above me and has as deep a voice as his papa. Today we have had a friend of Romy’s over for the day and as I was driving them from one place to another I couldn’t help but tune into their conversation… no longer is it innocent fun discussing Thomas the Tank engine, the Tweenies and batman or Spiderman; instead it’s now all about the latest Xbox game- a new favourite is called Defiance. They now chat about vampires, warriors and chapters in the latest Game of Thrones book- it only seems a moment since Romané was the age of the excited, teeny tots that visit the hotel to go to spend the day at Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, but now instead, in the blink of an eye he is almost shaving!

Soon Gerard and I will be empty nesters as it is not many more years away that Romy will leave home to go off to uni and gap years and the like; oh my, the thought of it fills me with dread and excitement for him all at once.  Then of course there will soon also be girlfriends to welcome home, get to now and like them and then share in the sense of loss when it all goes wrong and we never meet them again…. I never imagined having a teenager at home would encourage such a torrent of emotions; thankfully he is not a stroppy teenager as I’m not sure that either I o GB would cope with that too.

As an aside from teenagers, but connected just the same, I have a dear friend who I have known since our late teenage years; we were at hotel management school together a very long time ago, I am god mum to one of her beautiful daughters and she is a treasured friend- despite bravely fighting off illness from a brain tumour almost 2 years ago she is preparing next week to have to be operated on again, as the tumour has grown back voraciously- mine and Gerard’s thoughts are with her and her lovely family… she is being so strong and brave and we are all cheering her on for another positive outcome- it makes you wonder why life is seemingly so cruel an especially to those that deserve nothing but good health and happiness.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina has a taste of Japan at Cherry Blossom time…

I have skipped a week of blogging, not because I forgot it was a Wednesday, but rather because I was half way across the other side of the world in Japan and time ran away. Gerard and I (and Romané) travelled to Tokyo for Gerard to assist in the organizing and hosting of the 2013 World Sommelier Championship, where he also passed on his current championship crown to another worthy winner, his good friend, Paolo Basso, who was representing Switzerland. Well done Paolo, we are thrilled that you won and many, many congratulations.

The competition was exciting, fast paced and fun and Gerard did a brilliant job ensuring all of the candidates felt at ease, in his role on the day of the final as host and Master of Ceremonies- the preceeding days he had been busily helping to plan the tasks, the examinations and the finalizing of hundreds of details to ensure all went smoothly.

Whilst Gerard was so busy working, Romané and I took full advantage to explore the city. We travelled all over town on the Japanese railway and metro lines- we now know the Yamnote line like real Tokyoites and managed to visit all sorts of interesting museums, including the Edo Musuem and the National Musuem of Tokyo, authentic restaurants, historic parks and general places of interest. Sadly we ran out of time to take the bullet train to Kyoto, so we will have to return to do that on another occasion.

There were lots of highlights to the trip besides from the competition itself- we were privileged to see the magnificent cherry blossom in full, spectacular bloom. We were taken to amazing restaurants by our Japanese hosts where the sushi and sashimi were like no other we have eaten- so fresh and tasty; we stayed in a hotel, The Imperial, that was more like a palace than a hotel and we enjoyed fabulous hospitality by every person we met.

One of the most fun moments was meeting up with the NHK TV crew who we had spent so much time with when Gerard won the competition three years ago in Chile and who had subsequently travelled to England to film us- they filmed Gerard again during the final in Tokyo and as time was short we had to be hurried out of the venue via a side entrance to avoid all the melee of photographers and fans, (Gerard is very well respected in Japan and had many people who wanted to have their photo taken with him and his autograph, which Romané and I have teased him about mercilessly since) and were bundled into a TV crew van and whisked back to the hotel where the filming then took place- all very exciting and we felt like celebrities for a moment or two… Romané loved it!

All in all, a great time was had by all and our hosts were superb, the food terrific, the hospitality fantastic and Japan was a great place to spend a week away; the culture, people and buzz of the place made the jet lag all worthwhile.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina has breakfast with Reggie and Ruby the Rhinos at Rose Road Business Breakfast….

On Tuesday, Gerard and I had the most fun morning. We are both ambassadors of the Rose Road Association, an amazing, Hampshire based charity that the hotel adopted as their own in 2007.  We are very pleased and proud to be associated with them and love working closely with them on their various projects.

Thus, on Tuesday, Gerard and I attended a Rose Road business breakfast hosted by Geoff Holt, MBE, another Ambassador of the charity. I was invited to be one of the three guests speakers and so Geoff, I and a very well known local business man, Paul Murray all spoke about what it is to be involved with Rose Road, how we became involved and why we remain involved. Paul and Geoff have been associated with Rose Road for many, many years and in Pauls case that’s over 22 years and counting. There was an impressive turnout, especially as the bacon sandwiches were served from 7.15am- over 50 odd bright eyed business people all lending their support to such a worthy charity- Brilliant and many thanks to all those who attended. In the audience were two very special guests, Reggie and Ruby the Rhinos…. No I wasn’t still asleep and dreaming, there really were Rhinos in the room!

Let me explain.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Marwell Wildlife is bringing Go! Rhinos, a world class mass public art event, to the streets and parks of Southampton.

For 10 weeks throughout the summer of 2013, rhino sculptures will inhabit the streets of Southampton, showcasing the wealth of artistic talent in the area, while highlighting the significant conservation threat facing wild rhinos and how the Southampton business community can make a difference. For more info on this brilliant initiative see http://www.gorhinos.co.uk/ and so it was that Reggie and Ruby “crashed” the breakfast meeting and stole the show! Do keep an eye out as it won’t be just when you venture to the zoo that you might meet a Rhino, albeit a brightly coloured, painted version.

As the weather has been so unpredictable we thought we would be a little “mad” too and so for the rest of March and all of April (excluding weekends, Easter and any other Bank Holidays) we have created a mid week offer which is simply too good to miss, http://www.hotelterravina.co.uk/MidMarchMadnessSpringOffer.asp

So don’t delay, book to visit us soon and watch out for the Rhinos!

Till next week

Nx

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Topsy Turvy Weather – TerraVina is looking forward to the Spring

Last Saturday the early Spring sunshine made an appearance- people smiled more, coats were abandoned in favour of gilets and cardigans and generally we all had a spring in our step as we believed warmer weather was at last on its way- then on Sunday the wind started to bite and on Monday we awoke to snow! Just another week of typical topsy turvy British weather. The daffodils, tulips and snowdrops must be completely confused and sadly the cold snap will probably hinder much budding of plants that were just about to emerge into what was supposed to be Spring sunshine but instead turns out to be artic conditions.

From a hoteliers point of view it’s topsy turvy in terms of business too.. in part we can blame it on the weather, but actually it is probably more likely due to continued lack of confidence in the gloomy economic backdrop that we are all living in and sadly there seem few green shoots of recovery yet. Thus currently mid week is very quiet and then the weekends are buoyant and manic. There is no steady rise in business levels to match the ever approaching Spring, supposed better weather and Easter holidays which will soon be upon us; instead it is a rollercoaster of one day hectic, one day quiet and we are never quite sure what the next day will bring… challenging, exciting, disconcerting times, indeed they are but that’s what running a hotel offers on a daily basis- uncertainty, discovering the unknown and endless challenges which make it all so exciting (most of the time)

Thus let’s hope the snow doesn’t last too long- it looks pretty but it is too inconvenient to linger. Let’s wish for some warmth and sunshine, Spring flowers and plenty of guests to come and stay over Easter……. In the meantime don’t miss out on our fantastic midweek dinner, bed and breakfast offers and come back to visit us soon.

Till next week

Nx

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Hotel TerraVina cheers the Decanter Man of the Year, 2013

Gerard Basset has won my own Man of the Year award for the past 24 years, which is the (long) time I have known and loved him for… however, he has now officially been recognized with one of the world’s most prestigious wine accolades as Decanter magazine names him its 2013 Man of the Year and we all here at TerraVina could not be prouder.

This latest honour caps an extraordinary career for Gerard, much of which has been documented in recent years in this very blog. Of course I am his biggest and loudest cheerleader, and whilst he won’t thank me for writing this, (but I will anyway!), he is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest authorities on wine and Gerard is credited with changing perceptions of wine service worldwide, whilst training and mentoring a generation of young sommeliers who he is immensely proud of….. to us all here at TerraVina he is of course all that and so much more- he is simply Gerard, very special, very modest and very much loved and respected by all those people he works with and who know him well.

In the thirtieth year of the award, Gerard joins a flawless list of recipients who include Laura and Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Chateau Margaux; Robert Mondavi; Georg Riedel; Jancis Robinson MW OBE; Miguel A. Torres; Jean-Michel Cazes; Anthony Barton of Chateau Léoville-Barton; Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti; and Paul Symington of Symington Family Estates, Portugal.

When he was recently asked to comment on the news of this latest award, Gerard said, “I am humbled and overwhelmed to have been selected by my peers for this incredible honour.  This is a great compliment and to have my achievements recognised in this way gives me enormous pride.  Never would I expect my name to be in such exalted company with some of the truly great figures within this global industry.  From winning the World Championship to receiving the OBE and now this – the last two years have been such an incredible experience and I thank the many individuals who have supported me throughout.”

Personally, I would just like to add that he is and always will be extra special and this award is truly the most amazing climax to what has been a fantastic tenure as the current World Sommelier Champion. At the end of the month we travel to Japan for Gerard to be involved in judging this years ASI World Sommelier Championship and it is then that he will pass on the crown to the next, newly crowned and then 3 years tenure World Champion, but he will always remain a true Champion in the eyes of so many people- Very, very well done Gerard.

Till next week

Nx

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Food Glorious Food at Hotel TerraVina …

In the most recent weeks we have updated our lunch menu offering in the main restaurant. It has been brilliantly received and people love the new style of menu, the choice, the dishes and the great value it offers. It has injected a new lease of life in to the lunch time trade and so coupled with the excitement of only recently launching the new, finer dining restaurant too, we are very pleased with the developments that are taking place… they may not be huge, or in the shape of fancy named, celebrity chefs,  we prefer our own, lovely,  George Blogg any day, ambitious refurbishment plans or gimmicky special offers, but we are steady and consistent at TerraVina and are pleased that 2013 has started with us being able to present opportunities to offer new ideas and plans to our lovely and loyal as ever guests.

Never standing still, albeit we are somewhat reined in by the current economic climate, we are as proud as ever of what the team have achieved and only last week we had cause to celebrate the brilliance of our super duper Head Sommelier, Laura Rhys, when she was awarded the Chairman’s Award at the annual Imbibe Magazine awards… huge congrats also to our fabulous protégée, Xavier Rousset, who was crowned Restaurant Personality of the Year. We are immensely proud of you both- well done

In the meantime, my boys are home, at least Gerard was home a day or two, but has now flown away again. Romané left for his trip as a boy and returned from NY as a very mature young man, full of independence, and stories of how wonderful his trip had been – the house is back to being noisy, chaotic and in a constant state of flux and I have to admit that it is much better that way!

Till next week

Nx

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Home Alone – but Team TerraVina rally to the challenge

I am home alone. Gerard flew to South Africa on Saturday for a week of very intense wine study, as he has enrolled on a course, (over 3 years!), that will take him travelling all over the world to learn still more about each countries wine production- sounds like lots of hard work, but fascinating all the same and my darling son flew off to New York on a Performing Arts trip with some of his school mates on Sunday- thus it is just Malmsey and I left “home alone”. Malmsey is living through a phantom pregnancy -see her blog for the fun details http://caninetailsofmarmitemalmsey.co.uk/, so the week has so far been eventful without them both.

On Sunday morning, having dropped Romy off into the excellent care of x5 very brave teachers (who would want the responsibility of x40 odd teenagers in New York!), I drove back towards TerraVina feeling somewhat bereft. I know it may seem overly dramatic, (no guessing whom Romy gets his dramatic tendencies from!), to overstate the feeling, but it is the first time that both of my “boys” have been away at the same time, for such a length of time and it hit home that Romy is no longer “my baby” but a very mature, handsome and wickedly funny young man, striding out on his own to explore his fledgling independence.

Of course, as is so typical of teenagers, there have been so few text messages that when a one worder, or if I’m really lucky one liner, arrives from him, I am pathetically grateful for the news, such as it is… at midnight last night I was luckier, two texts from him… one with two or three words letting me know NY is awesome and the 2nd asking me to top up his pre-paid credit card as he’s been shopping in Macy’s- bless him!

Two days in and I am getting used to the peace, the calm and the tidiness of the house. Malmsey and I are snuggling up together to have tranquil nights in (when I’m not at TerraVina) and we are marveling at the stillness that pervades an almost empty house.

As always, the fantastic Team TerraVina have been brilliant at reading my mood, ensuring I’m not feeling lonely without my “boys” and feeding me chocolate and hot drinks, (ok, sometimes alcoholic ones too) to keep me chipper- we are having fun and despite the weekend being very hectic and short of Will, Lydia, Laura and Gerard, (Laura is in Argentina on a fantastic two week trip), all has gone well so far and whilst we will be pleased to see everyone back, it is very much business as usual and well done team for holding the fort so well.

Till next week

Nx

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