Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Friday, July 28, 2006

P&O Fanvan results

Back in May I wrote about P&O's most unusual ferry competition to win a VW camper van, based on guessing how many young ladies they managed to cram in the VW van.

Well the results are now out on the P&O fanvan website .... (cue drum roll) ... and the winning result was 13 (female) football fan's in a van!

I can't remember what answer I put (I think it may have been 13) but I didn't win.

Hope they cleaned the windows inside the van before they handed it over to the winner as I bet there were a few marks from the way they were all squashed in there ...


Thursday, July 27, 2006 doesn't appear to always live up to its name

Found an interesting new website today,, which advertises itself as a "Price comparison for cheap flights & travel from the UK & Ireland"

As well as a cheap flight news blog and a 'telephone cheat sheet' to get through to a real person when phoning different airlines, the main sections of their site are a set of flight directories for different destination airports (the A-Z destination list along the top of the page) and a flight search engine.

It's these last two that I felt sadly let the site down as they simply don't have the full range of lowcost airlines that I know exist today. I've listed the main budget airline carriers that fly to Brittany on the 'how to reach our Brittany Gite' page on our Gite website, comparing my results against showed a number of omissions.

For example on the Dinard airport page (which is the closest airport to our Gite at about 60 miles away), there are a number of flight options shown such as Manchester, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Birmingham; but all these are full-price flights costing £200-£600. RyanAir for instance isn't shown with their flights from Stansted or Nottingham (usually around £20 each way).

Similarly Lorient airport (an hour's drive away) isn't shown as a destination at all on cheapflights although AerArran and Air France both fly there from a number of UK and Irish destinations.

More positively, the Brest airport page (2 hours drive) shows FlyBe routes from Southampton, Exeter and Birmingham as well as more expensive flights from Gatwick, Isle of Man, Belfast City and others; however it doesn't again show RyanAir's service from London Luton to Brest.

I suppose in summary cheapflights is a useful additional site to search for flight options to Brittany (as well as to other destinations of course!) but it's clearly not totally comprehensive in its listings.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Summer's underway and the guests are happy

Phew, the weather in the UK is certainly roasting right now and looking at the forecast for Brittany on or, it's even hotter over there.

We're fairly booked up all summer now (with only one week's availability in mid-September and from 29th September free). Here's just a few of the super comments from our guests so far this year:

From Stuart:
"Super Gite - excellent owners who have been very good in their communications - our second visit to the Gite and already looking forward to the third. Central location in Brittany within easy reach of many places to visit. Gite has all the facilities you could want."

From Richard:
"Ace! It's marvelous, thanks so very much"

From Patrick:
"A huge thank you for the loan of your wonderful house. I had un vacance fantastique. Saw loads of the canal and visited a few other bits."

You can read more of our guests reviews and feedback on VillaRenters, or in our 'Brittany Gite Diary' which our guests fill in with their own holiday experiences - although you'll have to holiday in the Gite yourself to do so!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Writing a .htaccess file to prevent website directory browsing

Finally got around to sorting out one of the 'must work out how to do ....' problems that's been niggling me for some time with our Holiday Home website.

I found out quite by accident that it was possible to browse the file listing for the sub-directories of our website by simply entering a URL ending with the directory name followed by a trailing slash.

It's pretty obvious from looking at the website HTML that all the photos on our website are stored in a subdirectory called 'images', and even though there's nothing secret or private hidden on our website, I didn't really want everyone in the world to be able to 'hack around' the insides of the website by typing

Before I did anything, this is the sort of results you got, a listing of all the images on the website:

Index of /images
      Name                    Last modified       Size  Description

[DIR] Parent Directory 20-Jul-2006 18:44 -
[IMG] AerArann.gif 20-May-2006 01:07 1k
[IMG] AerLingus.gif 20-May-2006 01:07 1k
[IMG] AirFrance.gif 20-May-2006 01:07 1k

The support desk of my hosting provider ( told me that I needed to write a .htaccess file but precisely what it should contain they couldn't help me with.

I tried wikipedia for help on what a .htaccess file was and although I found out a lot I was no closer to actually being able to write a file that did what I wanted. Their examples didn't cover my problem and nor did any of the linked pages.

And there sat the problem for a couple of months until I finally got around to Googling for '.htaccess to prevent directory index' and of course I fairly quickly found the instructions I needed in the first two matching entries on DevWebPro and Free webmaster help.

I now have a shiny .htaccess file containing:
order allow,deny
deny from all
IndexIgnore */*

And now if you try that pesky directory listing, all you'll get is:

Index of /images
      Name                    Last modified       Size  Description

Much better - good old Google!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

All part of the service

Last weekend had a concerned phone call from the daughter of our guests that are currently staying in our Brittany holiday Gite.

She was a bit worried as our guests (her parents) had been at the Gite for a week but she'd not heard from them since they got onto the ferry a week earlier despite trying repeatedly to call them on their mobiles - could I get in touch with them just to check that everything was OK?

Unfortunately there's no telephone in the Gite as we didn't think the monthly rental was justified and not being in contact is part of the attraction of "being away from it all". Up to now it's not been a problem and none of our guests has commented on there not being a phone.

Instead I telephoned some English friends of ours that live fairly close to the Gite and asked them to pop over and check that everything was OK, which they did for us. Apparently our guests had forgotten to activate their mobile phone for Europe so bought a French SIM card only to find that, of course, if was all in French and they couldn't understand the instructions !

All's well that ends well as our friends sent a text to their daughter from their phone and reassured her that they were having great time but were incommunicado.


Monday, July 10, 2006

It's been a busy last week for enquiries and bookings

I think the summer sun's definitely causing more people to think about going on holiday as we continue to get a steady stream of booking enquiries for summer 2006.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we've very limited summer holiday availability for our Brittany holiday Gite, with all of July and August being booked out some months ago.

Thursday last week was especially busy as we had two bookings confirmed on the same day for September holiday's (one for 7 days and the second for 11 days), meaning we're now full all the way through to the 22nd September .

As I've written before, 2006 is our second year of renting the Gite out and to date we've had 13 different groups booking their holiday with us (plus our own family holiday's there as well of course). Groups have ranged from one person to six and durations from 6 to 14 nights. Last year (our first year of renting) we had 14 different groups staying (plus ourselves) so we're on track to hopefully meet or slightly beat that target. Only wish I didn't have to work and could spend more time enjoying the Gite myself ...

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Speed Ferries prices have increased, but savings might still be possible

Following on from my Blog earlier in the week about SpeedFerries prices increasing, I see from SpeedFerries website that prices are now "from £25" as opposed to "from £19" as it was last week (but as always actual fares vary according to demand, and like the low cost airline model prices rise as seats are sold out).

However it appears to be possible to save slightly on those prices by booking through the ferry discounter Their headline price for SpeedFerries crossings is "from £24". Having said that though with the few sample crossings I just priced up directly on SpeedFerries website and then FerryCheap's website, I found in every case that the FerryCheap crossings were £5 more expensive than booking direct with SpeedFerries.

Stiill £25 is still a good value ferry crossing and depending on your travel flexibility there are even some August crossings for that price (although most are £39 or £45).

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Speed Ferries announce price increases from 4th July

Speedferries announced on their website last week that they're increasing their ferry prices on the Dover/Boulogne route due to increased diesel prices.

We've used them quite a few times this year and although it's a longish drive to our Brittany Holiday Gite, the motorways have far less congestion than in the UK and we've found it actually works out cheaper and quicker than taking a 'western channel' crossing into St Malo, Caen or Cherbourg.

A year or so ago the rumour was that SpeedFerries were going to buy a second boat for the Western Route and drive down prices as they have on the Dover route with the 'low cost airline' pricing model. Even so, their Dover/Boulogne prices currently start at £19, and after adding €20 for tolls and £40-50 for fuel, it's still worthwhile.

As they say, book now to avoid disappointment !

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