How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...
All our employees are local Basque and Spanish people who live within a 10km radius of the Pyrenean Experience base. Their families and friends are encouraged to join our activities (wine tastings, music concerts, lectures etc.) free of charge and to become an extended part of the family. Our neighbours in our mountain hamlet also have an open offer to join in all cultural events that take place at our house during the summer.
As we walk from the house and hardly ever use transport we only operate within a radius of about 10 km from our house. We visit local farms and buy their produce.
All our staff, all our activities, all the places we visit are within 10 kms. All the restaurants I use or activities we participate in are run by local people and families. This is a tiny village in the mountains ... it is all very local.
So much in the area is local. Our wine experts bring in only regional wines and organic produce made in the valley.
We have recuperated many of the old shepherding paths around our home which means that 90% of our walks start at the farmhouse door and return to the farmhouse door. This means that our guests’ walking programme requires either zero or virtually zero use of a car throughout the week. However, if there is a special fiesta nearby we may then use the car but distances remain at a minimum. We recycle our waste and, whenever possible, we use produce (eggs, courgettes, lettuces, onions, tomatoes, chestnuts, walnuts, figs) from our own vegetable garden and orchards - or from those on our neighbouring farms.
We are currently adapting the woods on our land to encourage local birds so that we can commence photography courses later on in the year.
We have a log fire and burn paper and cardboard in the fire - converting it into heat. We dry bed clothes etc. in the sunshine. We burn wood from fallen trees in our woods. We use the sun to warm the house through the glass conservatory during the day and cool it using currents of air coming off the north face of the mountain.
The house is run on spring water and guests are given instructions on the first night how to minimalise use of the water - also to fill bottles in the fountains in the village squares rather than use our supplies.
We pick up rubbish as we walk. We work with very small groups of guests at one time.
Meat scraps are given to the animals. Paper in the fire. Organic matter either on the vegetable garden or to recyling bins in the village. Plastics and glass in their respective containers. Glass jars used for storage. Stale bread to the farms for the pigs.
Energy saving light bulbs. Solar energy through the glass conservatory windows keeping the house warm in spring and winter. We open up windows and vents to cool it down in the summer with the natural mountain breezes. (i.e. no aircon ).
We attend many local cultural festivals and farming projects in the area – paying our entry fees or donating small amounts to local village committees. We buy our sheep’s and cow’s cheeses, jams and liqueurs from local farmers or specialist butchers in the area. On most weeks we offer our guests a private organic wine seminar married with local organic tapas (cheeses, pates and chocolates etc.) sourced from small artisans within the immediate vicinity. We have written a cultural booklet for each guest and give seminars on local traditions so that our guests can understand and hence respect the values within the Basque community – a minority group of people. Finally, we feel it extremely important that our guests learn a few words or sentences of the local languages (Spanish and Basque) as a token of respect and a communication tool to build bridges within themselves and the local people. This facilitates our integration within the local community and reduces the social impact of our presence. Our groups are never more than 8 – 10 people at one time.