The Christopher Columbus Effect: Chambéry

What makes the difference between a good and an exceptional stay at a guest house?

You’ve picked the perfect location and the owners are more than helpful. But what takes things up to the next level? I’ve stayed at certain boutique hotels or guest houses where the owners have painstakingly considered everything their guests could want. On an aesthetic level, things are perfect. So why is that sometimes, you think you have it all but there seems to be something that leaves you feeling a little empty?

Like with anything in life, if there’s heart and soul and a genuine motivation, then what you experience is more felt, than thought. If the host looks after the individual, not just because they know they should, but because they want to, then that really shines through.

There’s something else too – if you stay somewhere tucked away and you feel as though you’re experiencing the region as a local, rather than a tourist, then that makes all the difference. It’s the Christopher Columbus Effect, as I call it. Of course you’re not the first, and you wont be the last, but that doesn’t matter; your stay feels unique and you might even expereince that feeling of connectedness with the world, as though you’re on the cusp of something great. Sounds a bit of a cliche, but then I really do think that us humans respond to things that make us feel as though we’re onto something original.

This was exactly what we experienced in Chambery a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps there was some sort of magic in the moon that night, but I think there was a special energy about this place, created by our host.

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Good Bye Camper Van, Hello Bed

You may have read several posts from our camper vanning adventure in May and June. After two or so weeks in a camper van, we found ourselves in the Haute-Savoie district – time to meet my boyfriend’s parents to hand over the keys, so that their holiday in France could begin and we could fly home. But before we left for the UK, we spent a few days hanging out with them and whilst they took the reins of the camper, we booked ourselves into a couple of different guesthouses in the area, along the route back to Lyon.

When England meets Holland in France

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We stayed at Meublés Les Charmettes – nestled in the mountains overlooking the town of Chambery – an independent guesthouse, with two self-contained apartments part of the owner’s home. Our host, Liliane, a Dutch lady now settled in France, was very easily one of the loveliest hostess I have ever encountered.

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It had taken us a while to drive from Lyon and we were late arriving. To top things off, we were lost. We phoned for directions and didn’t expect our host to leave her dinner party of guests to come and meet us a couple of miles down the windy hill. Her generosity was evident from the moment we met her.

The camper van couldn’t make it up the steep and narrow hill so she offered to lend us her (brand-spanking new Lancia) car so that we transport our luggage to the top, while she attended to her dinner party. After unloading our luggage and saying good night to my boyfriend’s parents for the evening, we entered this stylish yet cosy little haven in the mountains exhausted from the drive.

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We stayed in the second one-bed room unit, which slept two and included a double bedroom, kitchen, lounge, electric wood burner, television, lots of art & cookery books and a shower room with toilet. There was a pot of good-quality coffee waiting for us, a stove top espresso and even some hand-picked fruit from the garden.

The Award for the Best Le Petit Dejeuner goes to…

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After a good night’s sleep and took a stroll around the fragrant garden of cherry trees, raspberry & rose bushes and pots of fresh herbs. Liliane was so kind that she invited my boyfriend’s parents, who had spent the night in the camper van a mile or so down the road, to join us for breakfast.

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She laid on a real spread: fresh local baguette, croissants, homemade raspberry jam, French cheeses coated in ash, hard-boiled eggs, cappuccinos and possibly the icing on the cake homemade raspberry cake straight out of the oven (Pssst: Liliane gave me the recipe! I’ll blog about it later on this month).

I’ve been lucky with food in my lifetime. Mainly through work, I’ve eaten breakfast at ridiculously delicious places such as Claridges, The Wolseley and on a five-star private island in the Exumas where we were served by our own personal butler, but without a shadow of a doubt, the breakfast at Meublés Les Charmettes was by far the best petit dejuner I have ever eaten: An effortlessly artisan, homemade spread at its finest, served by a warm heart.

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If you need just two reasons to stay here: it’s Liliane’s generosity as a host and a person; and her divine breakfasts served in her picturesque garden with views of Chambery town below. We left with a big bag of cherries from Lilian’s garden, which her husband had collected for us before we left.

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For a one-night stay in June, sleeping two, it costs €80, which includes the best Le Petit Dejeuner you’ll ever eat. Handpicked cherries included, when in season. For more information email: lilianevilleminey at gmail dot com

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