We always long for the forbidden things, and desire what is denied us. – Francois Rabelais
A hotel with a soul. That’s what he said. “That’s what is missing these days, hotels with a soul, une âme, warm, welcoming places where one feels at home. That’s what you have here. The hotel, your neighborhood, your region, it’s wonderful! And I’ll be back with a group of friends.” A client, a guest at the hotel.
It is still very surreal, owning, running this hotel. We’ve been here for two weeks, opened for just one single week, seeing guests in, seeing guests out, and in between making sure that they are comfortable, serving them breakfast, cleaning their rooms, offering them restaurant suggestions, recommending out-of-the-way sites, giving them directions. It has been a satisfying week, hearing the compliments, hearing one gentleman, a businessman who often comes to the area for work, say that he has stayed in two other hotels in Chinon and will return to neither, they were cold and unwelcoming; our hotel, on the other hand, he will definitely be returning and quite soon. And a couple on weekend who, having discovered the Diderot, will return as well as will be recommending it to friends. This is what makes us glad that we ended up here. We chose a hotel, the hotel has chosen us.
I walk through the hallways, in and out of the kitchen and breakfast rooms, across the courtyard into the laundry room and have to keep reminding myself that this is mine. I can go where I want, do as I please. It is an odd feeling I am the boss. I oversee a team now and have to give orders, make sure things run smoothly, everything is in order and is as must be. Goat cheese ordered and picked up at the market, the baker called, fruit made into fruit salad. Jam jars ready.
I run my hand over the ancient wooden doors, stare up at the iron terrace and the old limestone walls, and wait for the transformation that will take place in spring. I scuttle out in the icy cold darkness and peer up at the windows to see if any are lit, if guests are up and about, moving. My ears strain for the sound of voices, the sound of footsteps on the stairs, muffled by the carpeting. And I am ready with a Good morning! How did you sleep? And explain the breakfast, that everything is locally produced or homemade. And I chit chat with those who want. Not all do.
The hallways are silent come afternoon, at least this time of year in the dead of winter. It is odd, as if I have come to a hotel with no owner, no manager, to wander aimlessly through these halls, the sound of my footsteps muffled on the carpet upstairs or my heels clicking loudly on the old tiles downstairs. My friends are enthralled, they bandy words like fantasy fairytale dream about and I realize that it must be, owning this beautiful old hotel, living in a 15th century building in a medieval town in France where Kings of France, Joan of Arc and Rabelais once walked.
I cannot think too hard about it or I go all wobbly, really. I read about folks who swoop into France, purchase an old chateau and begin renovations and I think how lucky they are to be living that fantasy fairytale dream but it wasn’t that easy for us. We started with nothing, worked and worked, pinched and saved, raised our sons, moved about from job to job, career to career, city to city and have ended up here as another step, the next step, the logical continuation, really, of whatever we have done before, of what we created from nothing and built up into something. It wasn’t easy the buying of this hotel even if the decision was.
But we knew that we belonged here the first time we visited the Hôtel Diderot. And evidently, the hotel chose us in return. And now I am boss. Unreal.