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Fizzing January

Tom's & Douglas's Barns are very fortunate to have a great team of loyal and hardworking helpers

Some of the cheerful and hardworking team

Coming up briefly for air… so far January has proved to be almost uncomfortably busy, but we’re nearing the end of the first bout of busyness with the tax return practically sorted and our EQM (Peak District Environmental Quality Mark) re-evaluation to take place on Wednesday (still have lots to do for that, unfortunately!). Our poor new website has had to very much take fifth place in the queue which is very frustrating.

Lots of good things to report about the busyness, though. One is lots of bookings, which is always very encouraging. New guests and faithful returners and we’re delighted to see them all… Another one has just popped up on the screen as I write.

The other, more immediate plus, is that today, at 1 minute to 3, Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns came back into circulation after a complete, top to toe redecoration. Jason and Stuart, our great and very faithful decorators have worked solidly for ten days, weekends included, to make sure that the barns were out of commission for as short a time as possible, and back ready by today.

Both barns are looking wonderful. They didn’t look shabby, at all, before, but it is surprising what a fresh coat of well-applied paint will do. We have been very unimaginative with Douglas’s Barn, whose colour scheme (Farrow & Ball Buff woodwork and Matchstick walls) seems to work so well, creating the lovely peaceful, serene atmosphere everyone appreciates so much. There is a new and rather terrifying magnifying mirror now attached to the bathroom wall by the basin, and a new glass kitchen/dining table is on its way from John Lewis as we speak (it will be here by Friday) so there are some signs that attention has been paid but you will just have to believe us when we say that every inch of paint is brand new too.

Tom’s Barn has slightly changed in looks, although it might be hard to identify just how. Over the years we have kept experimenting with the kitchen colours, and our latest effort is Mouse’s Back on the woodwork. We have also had some more lighting put in, to ensure that the darker colour didn’t make things seem too sombre… The latest idea is to paint the old desk in the kitchen, but we’ll have to ponder over that one for a while.

It’s easy to get carried away – spending so much money, might as well spend a bit more… We’ve ordered new noticeboards for both barns too, yet to arrive but they shouldn’t be long. Tom’s Barn now has a magnifying mirror, but a free standing one as there was no space on the bathroom wall to attach one to. It too is terrifying: it is seriously wise to stick to the non-magnification side, for some of us anyway.

There are lots of photos of the decorating progress on our Facebook page, none yet of the final result as John did not get a minute’s chance but hopefully will on Friday. The only photo I will put up on the post is one of some of ‘the team’, wonderful, cheerful, reliable hardworking and loyal souls without whom we would be lost. So, cheers to them! And cheers too to all our guests, who make it all so worthwhile.

How Blue was Today’s Blue Monday for You?

Choosing the perfect colour for our romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

Any colour, but not blue today

Blue Monday was pretty sunny and warm here in the Peak District, thank you, after a foggy and very frosty (-4′ start). There was real warmth in the sunshine, and the snowdrops looked so comfortable, possibly knowing what still might lie ahead.

I went to a very inspiring – if also somewhat daunting – workshop today, about digital marketing and all the changes and challenges that lie ahead. And to cheer us up even further, Malcolm Gallagher, who presented the workshop, started off by warning us that January 20th is renowned (apparently, it was news to me) as being the day of the year when everyone feels at their most miserable and blue.

To buck the trend for this year at least, we felt far from miserable: I sent off our annual tax return at 1.30am this morning after ten days or so of agonising hours trying to get it done before the 31 Jan deadline, distracting me from all else including our blog (sorry!). Whatever the opposite is to being blue, I feel it, even though also feeling somewhat short of sleep!

And to add to the relief felt all round, the Farrow & Ball paint ordered for our major Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns’ re-decoration project actually arrived today! Expected last Friday, apparently there had been a flood somewhere along the line, we weren’t quite clear whether it was the factory or a warehouse, or why it actually prevented the paint being delivered but the fact was our wonderful decorator, Jason and his mate, Stuart, were ready and waiting to get going on Saturday, but were utterly paintless. Anyway, the paint arrived today, and the decorators have already done the Douglas’s Barn walls and ceiling and set up the ‘scaffolding’ in Tom’s Barn and started experimenting with colours for the kitchen cupboards…

And they are not going to be blue, either, whatever colour they are going to end up – Pigeon, Mizzle, Mouse’s Back…???

Arnold, our electrician, has put some new lights in Tom’s Barn kitchen which did tend to be slightly over-emphasising the ‘mood lighting’ aspect which is fine for eating a romantic meal for two, but not so great if you want – as so many do – to cook seriously.

I am off to London tomorrow and amongst many pleasant chores and pleasures whilst there, I shall be rooting around in John Lewis for anything that might suddenly qualify for can’t-live-without status for Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns. That is always fun.

Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns: We are Authentic!

Gazing into a (non-authentic) Crystal Ball at Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns…

What are the trends and what lies ahead?

There is always a big push on holidays and travel in January, as soon as the Christmas and New Year excitements haves died down, when all the travel writers and others get out their pens and tell us what ‘everyone’ is doing, where to go and what to think.

And this year is no exception. I can’t say I pore over these articles myself, but one can’t help reading bits out of the Sunday papers, and I must admit to following Luxury Travel Blog on Facebook (for people who like the finer things in life!!), and 101 Holidays.

And we talk to lots of our guests and who better to trust than the actual punters (as John and I are ourselves, too…).

One or two bits have caught my eye. Reassuringly for us, apparently, so they say, or so we’re told, in 2014 even more people will choose self-catering holidays/holidays in rental accommodation in preference to staying in a hotel and on Christmas Day, no less, someone called Alan Hazel wrote a very interesting piece in the Luxury Travel Blog (‘for those that like the finer things in life!!) about travel trends in 2014. Apparently throughout 2013 the demand for private rentals has been rising and the rise will continue. Why?

And a reason given is one our guests have been telling us for years, that they value the privacy, seclusion and independence that staying in your ‘own place’ can give you.

One reason given is one that our guests have been telling us for years, that they value the privacy, seclusion and independence that staying in your ‘own place’ can give you. It is your holiday, to spend it as you wish, as yourselves and not as merely one of a passing, anonymous crowd. Some of you may have used Airbnb, where one can stay with ordinary people in foreign and other cities, getting a unique taste of their life as a resident rather than a tourist – enjoying a unique, ‘authentic’ local experience. This apparently has helped lead the trend.

Unique is another overworked word (there are so many!) but it does explain what most of us want these days. We don’t want to be swallowed up in an anonymous crowd, doing what everyone else is doing. We need to feel special, to be ourselves, to enjoy the type of holiday that really suits us, not a convenient format that ‘everybody’ is expected to want. So this explains another reason for the move towards small, individual holiday cottages and villas where one is greeted by name, and valued and enjoyed for oneself.

And leading on from ‘unique’ I go straight the other very overworked word, ‘authentic’. Apparently holidaymakers are looking for an ‘authentic’ experience’…
Obviously it is vital to be authentic, but it is one of those words whose meaning you think you know until you try to explain it. I tried looking it up on Google and quickly found myself being told all about ‘the raw, naked, unhindered expression of beingness of the soul’.

Being rather more down to earth I felt more at ease with Ask Jeeves, which tells us ‘The word authentic originated from the Latin word authenticus which means original or at first hand’. I think that brings us closer to understanding: not hearsay, rumours or falsehoods, but something genuine and trustworthy.

And apparently, that is what luxury travellers want. They want to get to know a place at first hand from those that live there. That way you don’t feel like a tourist, being shepherded about as a ‘foreigner’ but someone who knows themselves where to go, what to do, where to eat; it saves time ad also avoids possibly extensive and unhappy choices of venue or activity. Far more important even than that, one feels part of the new destination, within it and not outside looking on.

So we and all our Premier Cottage colleagues are already providing the authentic experience – maybe we’re even helping to lead the trend. We all know the Peak District like the back of our hand, we all can advise on places to eat, good walks to go on, places to avoid even… We’re all there, on the spot, to help our guests make the best use of their precious time away.

And so yes, Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn and all our Premier Cottages colleagues can honestly claim to be authentic, and to provide a genuinely ‘unique and authentic experience’!!

Lunch at Fischer’s for Lucky Douglas’s Barn Guests

Nick's birthday Lunch at Fischer's IMG_0828

Nick’s birthday Lunch at Fischer’s on January 2nd.

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Fischer’s is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Derbyshire, and by any standards it is pretty special. John and I tend to leap at the slightest chance to treat ourselves to a meal there, most recently for our son Nick’s birthday earlier this week (see image above!). It was a truly lovely occasion, with delicious food and exemplary service.

Where we are particularly lucky is that Fischer’s is still doing their 20.14 Lunch. We have some gaps in Douglas’s Barn this month; we’re not keen on discounts because that smacks somehow of desperation or a lowering of standards (even though obviously it need not) and much prefer the idea of something extra, over and above…

While we were at Fischer’s we suddenly thought what a wonderful idea it would be to offer a 20.14 lunch for two to all Douglas’s Barn guests who book a holiday during the spell Monday 6th to Monday 20th January this year. If you book a week, we’ll give you a three-course lunch, and for a short breaks, two courses. Any extra courses or wine is up to you…and it goes without saying that the offer is not transferable – to be taken by you, while you’re staying with us!

The last (and only other) time we did this, was for Mothering Sunday last year. Tina and Neil were the lucky couple that managed to book first. They were thrilled with the whole experience, and wrote us a lovely card immediately afterwards.

“We just wanted to thank you very much for the voucher to have lunch at Fischer’s Baslow Hall. It’s somewhere we have always wanted to try and it really lived up to our expectations. We had a fabulous meal, the flavours were exceptional, making it a meal to remember. The attentive staff made sure we were very well looked after from the moment we arrived.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our extended stay in Tom’s Barn and very much look forward to returning next year.”

So, possibly it is your chance now… the offer is on the table!


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