Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Rampaging french property prices near our Gite !

Part of the route when you're driving to our Brittany Holiday Gite takes you past a 'land for sale sign' in the nearby village.

I've always found the thought of building land for sale for €1 per square meter (60p or $1 or thereabouts) is quite amusing (compared to UK building land prices) so have included the sign in the driving directions.

Last time I was over in France though I noticed that the land has shot up in price to €6 per square meter this year.

Means I've had to spend several hours updating the travel directions with the new photo - several hours because we've got specific detailed directions from Calais, Boulogne, Dover, Rennes, St Malo, Lorient, etc - i.e. every single nearby French ferry-port and airport.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not all special prices are what they seem - beware of 'Domain Name Expiration Notices'

Got back tonight from my seeing my Dad over the weekeend (as it was the first aniversary of my mum's death in 2005). Actually the weekend wasn't too bad, although going to the graveyard was a bit emotional for us all. One of my regrets now is that my Mum never got to see our Brittany holiday home - taking them over there was one of those things we never quite got around to. Nothing we can do to change the past but still a missed opportunity nevertheless.

In the post that arrived on the weekend was a letter from the 'Domain Registry of America' entitled Domain Name Expiration Notice, telling me that my domain was due to expire on 18th November 2006 and I needed to reply to them by 23rd June.
It then went on to tell me that "failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in the loss of your online identity" and that "Domain holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current registrar" but could instead transfer the registration to Domain Registry of America.

In fairness to DROA their letter did point that I wasn't obligated to renew with them either, that I was under no obligation to pay the amounts stated, and that the letter wasn't a bill. So at least they did try to make sure that their letter didn't look like some of the 'renew your domain with us' scam's that you hear about.

So just to see what a bargain I was getting, I compared their domain service prices to my current domain provider and hosting company,, who I have been pretty happy with both in terms of prices, website speed and customer service:

Registrar1 Year service2 Years service5 Years service£18£30£55£10.56£21.12£52.80

(all prices include VAT)

DROA suggest in their letter that I "review our prices and decide for yourself" - I have done, and sorry DROA, I'm staying put with !


Friday, May 19, 2006

P&O Ferry's unusual "win a van" football competition

Question: Is this the most unusual bit of ferry marketing possible ?

Answer: Yes I think so ... unless you know better ...

I received an email today from P&O ferries advertising their cross-channel Dover/Calais route with tickets from £30 each way - handy if you want to pop over to watch a football match. As part of the promotion they've a competition to guess how many girls they squeezed into a VW camper van. It's rather a laugh so worth a go.

I should of course point out that Dover/Calais is a pretty good route if you want to avoid the football and take a break in our Brittany Holiday Home - we're about 6 hours drive from Calais and it's motorway almost all the way. Tolls are only about €20 so it's a viable option that we've used a number of times ourselves.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tour de France coming to Brittany

The Tour de France cycling race will be coming through Brittany in July this year over two days:

  • Saturday 8th July is a time trial from Saint Grégoire to Rennes
  • Sunday 9th July is a road race from Saint-Méen-le-Grand to Lorient
Rennes is about 60 miles away from our Brittany Holiday Gite, Saint Meen 40 miles and Lorient 60 miles.

Although the offical tour website does not detail the precise stage routes, my guess is that they'll take the N164 dual carriageway from St Meen past Loudeac, Pontivy and then onto Lorient - thus passing about 15 minutes drive away from our Brittany Gite.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Last week I was cautioned by the Gendarmerie

Sorry for the delay in Blogging but I've just started on a new project at Shell (I'm a Managing Consultant for IBM's Global Business Services division) and as usual when starting a new project everything is very hectic.

Anyway, back to tales of our Brittany Holiday Home ...

As I blogged last week, the builder had started work on a new patio and driveway for our French Gite and we had guests arriving the following week so I was a bit nervous (to say the least) that everything would be finished and ready for their arrival.

I'd also managed to accumulate yet another car load of stuff to take to the Gite (just where does it all come from???) and a couple of open ticket's that I'd bought on speedferries that were due to expire soon so I decided to pop over for the weekend, take all the stuff and make sure everything was OK.

Leaving work early and driving down to Dover I failed to plan ahead properly for the roadwork's and general Friday evening traffic so I found myself with very little time and lots of miles to go. I won't actually say how fast I was driving (in case anyone official's reading), but suffice to say the I was going (very) quickly and I made it to the port with only 20 minutes to spare before the boat sailed.

I quite like Speedferries as their high speed catamaran is simple and not over full with shops and expensive food (in fact the snack bar is very reasonably priced), and best of all the crossing only takes about just under an hour to Boulogne so it's a chance to catch breath before the drive down to Brittany. The drive down is motorway for all bar the last 30 miles and takes about 6 hours (plus stops). Although this sounds like quite a long journey, for us it's actually about an hour door to door quicker than going via any of the other routes.

So as I'd caught the 17:40 sailing (UK time) and arrived in at 19:30 (French time) this meant I expected to arrive at the Gite sometime after 1am in the morning. By the time I'd filled the car up and driven through Pas de Calais, Normandy and Brittany and had a couple of breaks it meant it was about 2am when I turned off the autoroute for the last 30 or so miles. I've done the route enough times now to know exactly where I'm going and was pretty much driving on autopilot. About 15 miles away from the Gite you have to turn left at a roundabout on the outskirts of a small town. The roundabout is much larger than it really needs to be and as it was past 2am and the roads completely deserted I decided to take the short-cut and drive the English way round the roundabout - i.e. to the left rather than to the right. Nipped round to the left and carried on into the town.

A couple of minutes later whilst driving through the town, saw a blue flashing light behind me. Pulled in and a Gendarmerie car pulled in behind me.

The two of them got out of their car so I thought I'd better get out to see what the problem was. The first one said something to me in French that I didn't fully understand so I decided to try the confused Englishman - Pardonez moi, je ne comprennent pas beaucoup le français.

"You drove the wrong way round the roundabout" he said in pretty good English (oh dear, not going to get away with not being able to communicate)

"Il est tard, je suis très fatigué" (it's late, I'm very tired) I replied, Je suis désolé (I'm sorry)

He then asked for my driving licence and I explained (in French) that "I didn't have it, it was in England, but I did have my passport". I don't think he was sure what to do about that as presumably carrying your driving licence is obligatory if you're French.

He asked me where I was going so I told him I had a house nearby and the name of the nearest village to it - but he didn't know where it was (despite it being about 15 miles away). I tried to explain how to get to it from where we were, but kept on getting the names of all the villages wrong so probably confused him even more. Then when I said that it was near to La Cheze his colleague (which up to now had remained silent) said that he knew where La Cheze was which seemed to reassure the first one that I wasn't just completely making my story up!

I was then asked for my driving licence again ... I knew he didn't believe me the first time. I explained (again) that it was at home in England.

He then asked for my passport and studied it carefully before telling me to be more careful next time and that I could go.


Drove the rest of the way to the Gite without exceeding any speed limits or causing any more driving offences.

So when in France, just be careful of the Gendarmerie - even at 2am in the morning they're still out there!

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The new patio and driveway have started !

Following on from Monday's blog entry about the building work starting soon, I was delighted to receive an email today that the new patio and driveway for our Brittany Holiday Gite has started at last.

One of the jobs we wanted doing was to level the ground so that we could site the swimming pool near to the patio instead of in the courtyard on the opposite side of the Gite (where it was last year). I don't think either I or the builder appreciated just how much of a slope there was on the ground when he agreed to do it - apparently it's required a lot of digging and took longer than predicted.

Good job he was using a mini digger and not doing it by hand.

Hopefully I'll get some photos of the work soon to share.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Builders and Guests both arriving at the same time ?

As I've blogged a couple of times already, in January we arranged for a builder to build us a new patio and re-gravel one of the two driveways at our Brittany Holiday Gite. All was on track for the work to be done when we were over at the Gite at Easter, but unfortunately the builder had to reschedule, and then we had guests in the Gite after us, so the work was delayed again.

The work was due to start last week but the builder's previous job over-ran so we re-scheduled (again) for next week. The materials have all been ordered and are due to be delivered next week - so all systems are go to start on the 2nd May.

Then on Saturday I received a booking enquiry for our holiday home from a couple who were interesting in staying from the 8th May; and after I told them a little more about the Gite, they confirmed their holiday booking.

The builder has promised to get the patio built and the new driveway laid next week before the guests arrive so with a bit of luck (and of course good weather in Brittany) we won't have them both at the Gite at the same time ....

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