WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
A recent weekend with very special friends got me thinking about how to host the perfectly imperfect weekend. But what is a hosted weekend, what should it be about, what does it entail, how should you behave - are there any rules or is it a free for all? After all it is an escape from ones' normally controlled existence into someone else's chaos. Primarily it is a time to relax, time to be yourself and let your guests be themselves, there should be a natural ebb and flow of hosted time and down time, time together and time apart, you should certainly feel relaxed enough to curl up in the corner with a book. By adopting a freestyle approach to the weekend, coupling this with a sense of belonging, thereby owning the here and now - allowing time for the unplanned and your weekend is bound to be a success.
Both guests and hosts showing empathy to one another is an essential component, whilst embracing a certain spirit of hospitality that anticipates and fulfils peoples needs. Give without expectation of rewards, but simply for the joy of giving - in short hospitality without expectation or want, without superficiality. It is quite literally an art form to predict the needs of others before they are even a consideration, both as a hostess and as a guest. Ultimately it is equally important to be a perfect houseguest as it is to be a gracious host / hostess. It's all in the little touches, give your guests and your hosts what they love, thus making them feel more at home in your company. This is hosting with all your heart, remembering that just a little thought makes a huge difference in brightening someone's day.
Something happens when we stay with others, it changes us, exposure brings about change, coming home with new ideas and new approaches to family life. Gathering, spending time and collecting shared experiences. Eating together expresses trust and togetherness, staying with each other cements this feeling even further. The personal details during this particular weekend began with wild sloe gin and grilled padrón peppers, local walnut beer infused hot dogs in homemade buns with lashings of sauce, the air filled with gently scented handmade candles whilst eats and treats were being shared - with peels of laughter from the girls who all played so beautifully together in a mix of languages, but with a nevertheless intuitive combined understanding of one another.
With the kind words of our host ringing in our ears that the "best guests are the ones who make themselves at home" we settled into our own wing of the house - a beautiful farmhouse dating from 1855 - with its stone floors, beams and muted tones. Waking up the next morning to the most beautiful sunrise, wrapping ourselves in the pure unrivalled luxury of the hand weaved towels was heaven sent, especially as they were made by the maternal Grandmother of our hostess - an inspirational lady whose warmth and kindness has had far reaching influence over her nearest and dearest, she truly was as her name Vita suggests, a source of Life. There is even a naming ceremony planned in the not too distant future for the farmhouse, in honour of this wonderful lady.
After a long and comforting breakfast, we braved the ever changing weather - rain and hail, sunshine and heavy winds to explore our surroundings. Whist we took in the beauty of the sights and sounds their lovely neighbour - in all her kindness - was slow cooking locally reared lamb in apple cider, port and garden herbs for us to feast on later. Having had our cultural fill, we picked up the complementary accompaniments to the lamb and slowly headed back. With everyone chipping in and helping out the table was soon laden with an absolute feast, using gorgeous cutlery and harmonious crockery to compliment the delicious food, drinking Spanish wine out of mismatched glasses everyone felt perfectly at home.
On our last day and with a hint of melancholy in the air, we gathered seaweed and stones from their beach - as reminders to ourselves of time spent, lessons learned, dreams realised, plans forged, old stories told and new ones created. We shared one last meal of leftovers with freshly laid scrambled eggs, so delicious that words cannot do it proper justice, then we left our delightful home away from home, already making plans to return sooner rather than later. A hosted weekend that was in every aspect a recipe for the soul.