Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Web-logs and website typo's - I must learn to read my log files more carefully

I noticed today from my web log that someone had viewed the Blog following a search on Google for 'Ferry Portsmouth LeHarve'. "Oh no" I thought, "I've spelt the ferry port of Le Havre wrong on our Gite website".

I then proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes searching on google for 'leharve' and 'leharve', and 'lehavre' and 'lehavre' to try to find exactly where I had mis-spelt it.

Of course with all these different spellings I was by the end completely confused as to which was the right spelling, which was the wrong spelling and exactly what was wrong on which website (the Gite Website or the Gite Blog website).

Had to stop and start back again. Only checking for the second time did I realise that the typo was on an email I'd received and posted on the Blog saying about the new LdLines ferry service from Portsmouth to Le Havre. Not on the main website at all, and I'd actually spelt it correctly everywhere I'd written it.

What a waste of time that was!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Booking enquiries are like busses, nothing then two at once

Availability for our Brittany Holiday Gite is pretty limited for the summer now, with the exception of the last two weeks of June and the odd day in August, we're fully booked up August 29th.

Great to be so busy (especially as we received a booking for August this year in October 2005), but it would still be nice to fill the remaining two weeks in June and start getting some more bookings in September.

After a week or so since any enquiries, today we received two booking enquiries - the first time we've had two enquiries on the same day I think. Telephoned one of the enquirers (as I think it's more personal if you can speak by phone) but had to email the second one as they didn't leave a phone number.

Here's hoping at least one of the enquiries turns into a booking ...


Friday, June 16, 2006

Fete de la Musique comes to Loudeac

The Fête de la Musique is a free international music event held in more than 100 countries on the 21st of June each year (the summer solstice). Originally launched by the French Ministry for culture in 1982, the fete is now 25 years old and brings together all different types of music from a wide variety of participant (both amateur and professional musician) to popularise music for everyone.

The musicians are all asked to perform for free, and all the concerts are free for the public. Consequently many of the fete events are held in open air areas such as streets and parks or public buildings such as museums, train stations, castles and cafe's. Additionally the Fête de la Musique encourages major music institutions such as orchestras, choirs and operas to perform outside of their usual location in order to make music more publically accessible.

The Loudeac Office Minicipal Cultural has been holding a Fête de la Musique for the past 16 years and for some reason has organised Loudeac's Fête de la Musique for today, 16th June, rather than the 21st like the rest of the world - perhaps summer comes early in this part of Brittany? (Loudeac's a traditional small french market town about 15 minutes drive from our Brittany Holiday Gite).

At Loudeac's fete there are events aimed at children, the inevitable official opening of the event by the Mayor, a celtic harp group, jazz groups, a bell ringing circle, a choir, accordian player, a number of rock groups and a number of adhoc musical events throughout the bars of Loudeac.

Worth mentioning that there are other Fete's nearby in Brittany at Ploermel, Lorient, Rennes and Vannes on the 21st June and we've still got availability in our Gite for that week if you fancy a relaxing holiday. with a bit of local French musical entertainment thrown in for free.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Huston reporting ... The Patio Has Landed!! (With apologies to NASA)

After writing about the off and on experiences of getting a new patio built for our French Holiday Gite, with the building work scheduled for March, then April, and finally getting started in May, I'm delighted that when we holidayed at the Gite ourselves at half term, everything was finished and looking great.

The plan was that the driveway on the West side (i.e. evening sun-side) of our Holiday Home was to be levelled out so that we could put the swimming pool up there, the driveway was to have a layer of weed proof membrane laid (as we hate having to pull weeds up when we visit), it was all to be re-gravelled (with white gravel to match the other, East, side driveway) and a new patio was to be built from the Gite French windows up to the end of the house. This would give an area large enough to dine on and put the sun-loungers on overlooking the garden, swimming pool and barn.

As I've written about previously we had quite a few changes to the actual start date for the building work, originally we wanted all the work to be done when we were over at Easter, but the builder let us down. So the work was re-scheduled for the first week in May when we had a gap in bookings, and I was promised that it would be complete by May 8th when our next set of holiday guests was due to arrive. They were due to arrive on Monday 8th, and as I had some more things to take over as well as wanting to make sure everything was perfect for their arrival, I popped over for the weekend of 6th and 7th May so that I could do any last minute tidying up before their holiday.

I have to say that I was very disappointed with the result I found on my arrival. Although the new gravel driveway had been laid and the patio started, the work was far from complete and in fact there were just the footings and half the patio edging in place. I also found that the gravel rather than being a matching shade of white was a buff brown colour, and of course when it rained the unfinished patio area turned to mud. When I managed to get in contact with the builder the next day I was told that the problems were caused by the French Builders Merchant that had let him down and not delivered all the materials on time. The worst part about the whole incident was that no-one had actually contacted me to let me know of the situation, and of course if I hadn't turned up unannounced the guests would also have found the same unfinished building work I did. I spent a lot of the weekend whilst I was over there trying to tidy the site up, building a temporary gravel path over the patio footings, and then leaving a very grovelling note for our guests.

I won't go through all the trials and tribulations after that (although it would be rather cathartic to do so!), but the short of it is that the builder returned to complete the patio after the guests had left and when we arrived for our holiday everything on the drive and patio was completely finished and we've very pleased with the end result.

Fortunately our guests of the 8th May didn't mind the half-done building work and in fact they're hoping to return again to the Gite later in the year.

Although we tried to organise everything correctly it didn't really work out and it's been a traumatic journey. I'm now even more nervous of having any work done to the house when we're not actually onsite. Maybe this'll be a good excuse for me to take some more holidays there myself?

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Returning from a week's Brittany holiday we spotted some unhappy Ford Fiesta customers

Last week (school half term) we spent a very relaxing week in the warm Brittany sun at our holiday Gite.

We nearly didn't make it as there were horrendous traffic jams on the M25 (caused by an accident and bank holiday traffic) and consequently we arrived at the Dover port with 7 minutes to spare before the ferry left. And then of course we were diverted into the "did you pack this car yourself" shed to be quizzed by Customs & Excise - just what you don't need when you're running late. We were therefore even more late when we got to the check-in booth with 3 minutes to go before the ferry was late. Fortunately the weather in the channel was foggy and a bit rough so the ferry was over an hour late - phew!

On the way back we returned through St Malo and saw rows and rows of Ford Fiesta's sitting on the dockside waiting to be delivered to the UK.

We were at the port on the 3rd June, look closely at the delivery details sticker and you'll see that the cars are all sold and were due to be delivered on 27th May - oops, going to be a lot of unhappy Ford customers in the UK ...