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Lavinia, one year later… the crowning glory of our work…

19 January, 2020

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Part 1, Wednesday 11 a.m.

We moved to Spain 1 year ago to welcome our new baby, Lavinia. It has become an incredible rat race in which we have been far from sitting still. When I look back on that past year, it’s actually quite exceptional what mountains we’ve moved.  Five months and a half of heavy renovations to every villa, the garden, the swimming pools, everything. We have been able – thanks to an exceptionally good team of workmen and their coordinator and with the help of the many Spaniards we recruited ourselves – to transform the ruin that was the former ‘La Datcha’ into a true oasis of peace and beauty. Lavinia’ as we baptized our fairy tale.

Nobody thought this was possible, but we always believed in it, and have been working on it day and night, day after day. From the moment our plans started to become concrete, to the move, and finally to the official opening, and of course still to this day, albeit in a different form. Wim is a master in marketing, and that’s what made the guests find their way to us. And especially the right guests for our concept. And this simply means: guests who feel at home with us, and who feel that they can let go and enjoy everything, being purely themselves. And that is our greatest endeavour. Giving people the chance to come back to themselves and be who they are.

Friday afternoon I suddenly got a phone call from Liza of NFN (Dutch Federation Naturism). On hosiery feet she started talking about the Blootkompas Award in which 180 accommodations automatically participate.

My heart started beating faster, because I thought it was a notification about the award, so I set up the speaker so Wim could listen too. I didn’t know what to think, because it sounded cautious and reluctant, so I thought we would end up being nominated, but third or so. But at one point she uttered the word ’embargo’ – a word of which I didn’t know the meaning – and I saw tears in Wim’s eyes, who apparently did know what that meant. It wasn’t until Liza wished us congratulations and sent the message that we had won the Award that it dawned on me. We were both stunned, didn’t know what to do with it, because we had only dared to hope for it in our wildest dreams. She asked us if we could be present on Wednesday at 5 pm to receive the prize. This also caught us by surprise, but Wim nodded fiercely ‘yes’. We would go anyway. We’d see how we organized it practically. As soon as the phone rang down, we fell into each other’s arms and cried with happiness and gratitude. Five minutes later we started browsing through our diary, cancelling and moving appointments, booking flights, finding a place to stay and so on. I can say that since Lavinia, my life has become very adventurous and surprising. It seems like you never know in advance what your day will look like. In the past that would have caused me a lot of stress, now I just find it fascinating and very much fun. An embargo of course means: absolute silence. And let that just be incredibly difficult. So Wim has already triggered people through FB and other digital channels, without showing anything that points in the direction of our Award. And apparently this is working well. People are curious, but nobody guesses the true facts. They think we’re going to do a promo. That’s it. 😊

So it is that we are now in a very cozy and nice apartment in the center of Utrecht as a base for the holiday fair. Soon at 5 pm we are expected there to receive the award, and there is a photo opportunity with it. Very exciting though. It is strange to start from scratch, without any experience in the tourism industry, and then to get this. For us it is clear: we are a top team, a tandem, where we have incredible respect for each other and for each other’s talents and shortcomings. Otherwise, this would never have become what it is today. It only strengthens us that this was a good decision, and only gives us more sense to continue and expand.

Yes, we can ! Yes, we did it!

Part 2 : Thursday, 16 January 2020

It was pretty exciting when we went to the holiday fair in Utrecht yesterday. From our cozy rental apartment in the middle of the city we walked, with one of our suitcases rolling behind us, over the vowels of the city. A lovely walk, through primeval cosy streets, with unique looking shops and typical Dutch houses that radiate so much charm that I was completely impressed.

So different from Flanders or Spain, but what an atmosphere ! Despite the drizzling dark weather, my luck was not up to experiencing something like this again. And I’m glad we flew over here, despite my serious reservations about our budget. Unfortunately it started raining, and we decided to take the bus for the last kilometer anyway, because it was said there would be a photo opportunity, so I couldn’t make it to be photographed with a ‘pineapple coupe’. Not even with wet clothes. Because the payment device in the bus didn’t work, the friendly driver decided that we could just drive along without paying. And even if it was only a small amount of money, it felt like a nice present we got. We had decided to bring a suitcase in case we would get a memento. So we had neatly provided a place to take something, also on the flight back to Spain. We were very curious what it would be.

Around 3 pm or so we arrived at the fair, and the jitters started to come anyway. We went to the ‘Blootstraatje’ (naked street) where we went straight to the stand of NFN to introduce ourselves and make practical arrangements. Liza, who arranged everything in connection with the award ceremony, was at that time arranging a number of appointments elsewhere in the halls and would only be back shortly before the ceremony. So, making a virtue out of need, we began to network. That way we could meet Martine and Pierre who run Grottamiranda in Italy. A very similar resort. It was a very pleasant meeting with very nice people. We exchanged experiences, and it turned out that they knew us from our photos on Instagram, and that they followed us on social media as well. Good to hear. We talked to a lot of other people, including tour operators Euronature and Internatuur which we work with, and each time we had to keep silent about the real reason why we were suddenly there, when we had said beforehand that we couldn’t be there. Quite annoying, because we like to stay honest with everyone. But, embargo is embargo, and we stick to that. At 5 p.m. it was finally time for the speech of the ladies of Blootkompas. A distinction was made between campsites, saunas and accommodations -where we belong. Each time, Liza also read a number of reviews that were typical of the trend of the messages they had received on their website. It was nice to hear that, and actually Wim was very touched again, and you could see that the bystanders were impressed as well. With a lot of pride we received the many gifts gratefully. A beautiful perfume of flowers in a cardboard bag with water, which I have struggled with all the time, but above all the very nice glass award and the tile plate with the text : ” accommodation of the year 2020 – Lavinia Naturist Resort”.

      

We were very proud! We turned out to be the best – by our guests – rated naturist holiday home of the 180 stays listed in Blootkompas. And that doesn’t include campsites. Still an achievement, according to the people of NFN, given the fact that we have actually only run 1 season. Because also only the reviews from May to 31 December 2019 were included in the assessment.

Pictures were taken of the winners of each category, and congratulations were expressed and gratefully accepted. It was a very pleasant get-together, in this – for us – unique situation. We got an instant friend to friend feeling. We got to know the people of Blootkompas better, and they all turned out to be very nice people, who were sincerely happy with our happiness. We also got to know the camping winners, Jolanda and Johan, a Belgian couple who run Le Clos Barat in France. Also with them we had a very pleasant contact and a nice feeling. At the after-party in one of the halls there was loud music, and the atmosphere was full. Snacks and drinks were served, in Dutch of course with bitterballs and hamburgers. The contrast with our quiet lifestyle couldn’t be greater, but the very contagious enthusiasm of everyone who joined us made it an exuberant, cheerful party.

We enjoyed the hour of being let out, but because we still wanted to have a bite to eat somewhere, we pulled the plug quite early. Because here in the Netherlands you can hardly find anything to eat out after 21 o’clock. Let that be the hour when in Spain you often don’t even find a restaurant that is already open! Strange how we got used to Spanish life so quickly anyway, because we were a bit surprised when we couldn’t eat at some restaurants because the kitchen was almost closed.

A press release is being sent out today, and NFN has informed us of what that will do in terms of reactions. We’ll have to get ready apparently, because they’ve had 300,000 unique visitors to their website in 2019!

So we can enjoy this wonderful feeling and the cozy bustle of Utrecht for a while, and then prepare ourselves to give our future guests that same holiday feeling. We are looking forward to it!

Hasta luego,

Annemie or Ana

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