Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The (patio) builders are coming

We agreed today the price and works for a new patio and re-gravelling the driveway on the West side of our Holiday Cottage.

There are two entrances and driveways to our L-shaped Gite, one West facing and one East facing. The East facing side's in good condition but we've been wanting for a while to do the other side as the gravel was a bit thin and by putting a patio there it'll catch the evening sun.

All going well, it'll be complete and ready for the summer.

The two pictures show my attempts at illustrating where we want the new patio and driveway - I hope the builder's work is better than my drawing attempts !

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More ferry special offers - this time via Northern France

Just like buses, special offers on the ferries seem to come in two's !

A couple of days after receiving an email about Brittany Ferry special offers, I received an email from telling me details of their special offers for a car and up to 9 passengers:
  • Eurotunnel, from Folkestone to Calais, from £56 each way
  • Norfolkline, from Dover to Dunkerque, from £23 each way
  • P&O Ferries, from Dover to Calais, from £39 each way
  • SeaFrance, from Dover to Calais, from £39 each way
Going via the northern France ports (Calais, Boulogne, Dunkerque and Eurotunnel) is a slightly longer drive to our Gite, at about 6 hours, but it's a pretty straight forward motorway route and the tolls are a reasonable €€20 each way.

We've been that route a couple of times and found overall journey times (ferry + drive) are in fact slightly quicker than taking the Western ferry routes via St Malo, Brest, Cherbourg or Caen. Swings and roundabout's really as to whether you prefer spending more time on the boat or in the car.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brittany Ferry prices starting to hot up

Despite P&O pulling out of the Portsmouth/Le Havre route last year there still seems to be quite a lot of competition over prices.

Today I received an email from Brittany Ferries announcing £55 return mid-week sailings on the Poole/Cherbourg route from now to April for stays of up to 5 days. The prices rise a little more for weekend journeys or longer durations but are still only £119 for a weekend to weekend return in May.

Cherbourg is about 4 hours drive from our Gite, on motorway for all but the last 30 miles, and unlike other parts of France there are no motorways tolls on this route.

Other than Easter and the half-term school holiday we've still got availability through to May so perhaps someone will take advantage of these fares and stay with us ?

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Two into one doesn't go!

It's great when we're receiving holiday bookings for our Gite (and not so good when there's weeks between enquiries), but today I felt overwhelmed with enquiries.

As a result of the Business Card Fridge magnets I posted to all last year's guests we received a few thank-you's and one family who asked to book again. Earlier this week we agreed their holiday dates and they emailed me to say they were going to book the ferry.

Checked my email this morning and found an email to say they'd booked the ferry, then a second email a few hours later with a confirmed booking through the VillaRenters advert we placed only 13 days ago! I was really pleased to see that the VillaRenters advert was bringing in results already ... but disaster, the dates overlapped with the other booking we'd just received.

Argh ! If only we had two Gites to rent ...

Nothing for it but to send a very apologetic email to the VillaRenters enquiry. Unfortunately the other dates we had available didn't work for them so we weren't able to help them this time.

Reminder to myself to mark the dates as unavailable on the VillaRenters calendar as soon as we agree dates with non-VillaRenters customers ...

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Advertising on

We've just started advertising our Brittany holiday Gite on the property listing website

It's an interesting concept, you enter everything about your property, how to find it, where it's near, facilities offered, photos, availability, prices, etc, etc so that when the property is listed on the seach site, the site acts as a fully automated booking service for customers to check availability & prices and make online (credit/debit card) bookings as easily as you would do with a hotel, flight, or car hire.

For us it gives another advertising opportunity to show off our property and hopefully take a few bookings. I quite like the way that the property details we entered are automatically turned into proper descriptive sentences such:

The farm house comprises 3 bedrooms in total; 2 double, 1 twin and 1 cots . This gives room for up to 6 people.


The farm house has 2 bathrooms for your party's use. Central heating keeps you snug and warm.


The farm house has television video, satellite/cable. The music system will play radio.

eating & living :

There is room for 6 in the living room and 6 in the dining room. The open fire can be used to create a comfortable atmosphere. To prepare food you will find a cooker, an oven, a microwave, a fridge, a freezer, a kettle, a toaster. You will also find a dish washer, a washing machine, a clothes drier, an iron and ironing board. The owner has also provided cutlery, crockery, glassware, cooking utensils.

And the best bit about it is the advertising cost, £0 ! We're only charged when someone makes a booking via the site (and so as a consequence you're not allowed to include any links to your own website), and then the booking fee is a fairly reasonable 10% of the rental rate. Considering that villarenters collect the rental payment by credit card (which would normally cost about 3.5% alone), I think the fees are fairly reasonable.

In addition, we can also use villarenters to manage the booking for customers that have come to us directly and the fee is lower, 3.25%.

Here's details of our Gite on villarenters, see what you think.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Business Card Magnets

Recently I've received a number of email adverts for a Dutch company Vistaprint that does short-run custom printing such as business cards, notelets, address labels, postcards, etc.

They have a number of pre-designed templates and their prices are quite reasonable, but what we especially like is that they do a number of free-trial offers where you only pay for the postage.
VistaPrint Fridge Magnet BusinessCard
Just before Christmas we ordered 50 'fridge magnet' type business cards with a custom 'wish you were here' advert for our Brittany Holiday Gite. The first 25 business card magnets were free, we only paid £5 for the second 25, and with P&P it was about £11 all-in.

The quality is excellent and we're really pleased with them.

Last week I spent one evening writing out "happy new year and thanks for staying in our Gite" notelets to all the guests we had in our Gite in 2005 and sending them as a little reminder of us, a business card magnet. This low-key advertising's already paid off, I've had a couple of email thank-you's and another family who stayed last year have phoned up and have just booked a return stay for this summer.

And as a postscript, once you order something from vistaprint you seem to then get a regular stream of other special offers from them. We've ordered some more fridge magnets and address labels, again advertising the Gite - both for only the cost of P&P.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

New RyanAir Dublin flights to Brittany

Looking at RyanAir's website earlier today I noticed that they're adding a new flight from Dublin to Nantes, Brittany which is about 2 hours drive away from our Gite.

I've added the new flight details to the travel options section of our Gite website and was thinking that perhaps I'll have to start advertising in Dublin now.

The choice of flights is amazing really, there are now 11 low-cost routes into Brittany:

RyanAir fly
  • London Stansted and Nottingham East Midlands to Dinard (1 ½ hours drive to the Gite)
  • Stansted, Nottingham, Shannon and now Dublin to Nantes (2 hours drive)
  • London Luton to Brest (2 hours drive)
FlyBe fly
  • Birmingham, Exeter and Southampton to Brest (2 hours drive)
  • Southampton to Rennes (1 hour flight)

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy Christmas Guests

Last week (Christmas week) we had guests staying in the Gite so to make things a bit more festive for them I bought and took over a Christmas tree, lights and decorations in December. I probably needn't have done so as the French seem to be even more keen on Christmas than we are - almost every house and village high street was covered in lights.

Just had an email from our returning guests:
"I'd like to say a Big thank you for our time spent at the Gite over Christmas, it really was marvellous and Gemma and I had such a relaxing time. The house was perfect - everything we had hoped for and more."

We've worked hard at making the Gite a good holiday home so it's always nice to hear from other people who enjoy staying there as much as we do.


Monday, January 02, 2006

The price of adverts on Google

Had a look at how our keyword adverts are performing on Google Adwords.

Like most of Google's concepts it's brilliantly simple - you write your advert, select the keywords you want to associate the advert to and how much you want to pay. The more you pay, the higher up on the page your adverts appear when someone searches with matching keywords on google .

Over the last 7 days our adverts for our Brittany holiday Gite have appeared 23,194 times with an average page position of 5.2, been clicked on 40 times and has cost £4.77.

I'm glad I checked on Adwords today as eight of our keywords have been suspended because our maximum bid is too low. I reactivated most of the suspended keywords by increasing the max bid amount but decided that gite de france is outside of my financial league - £2.75 per click is just too much for me!

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New 2006

Happy new year !

2006 will be the second year of renting out our holiday Gite and it's starting out well with five bookings already.

Yesterday we had an enquiry from one of the families in our village about the Gite.
We hold most of the details of the property, photos, places to see, availability, etc on our website so the simplest way of providing a printed "information pack" would be to print off a selection of pages from the website.

Firstly though I needed to write a 'CSS print stylesheet' so that the normal website navigation menus wouldn't be printed - a quick google search to find a good CSS tutorial at A List Apart and the job was done. I still need to do some more work on the stylesheet as the right hand side of the page is truncated with Internet Explorer, but works fine with my favourite browser, Firefox, so I can leave this job for another time.

Receiving the enquiry was a timely reminder that I need to renew our advert in the village magazine. £40 for 6 issues to 280 houses in the village is not bad value for money and hopefully we'll be getting a booking as a result.

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