Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spot the scam booking

Received a direct email today about the Gite (which I've slightly obfuscated with X's in case the email addresses are real):
From: "Mr.Morgan XXXX"

Good Day Sir/Madam,

I need to make reservations for an organisation of three people who will be coming to your country for a programme.They are going to lodge in your place during their stay.Three rooms will be needed from 15th-25th June 2007 and I will like you to provide accomodation for them for the time period. 3 rooms will be needed. Please provide me with the total cost for their stay for 10 nights for 3 people so that reservation will be made immediately. I hope you accept Credit Card Payments.
Get back to me ASAP so that we can proceed with the booking.


This is so obviously a scam attempt that deserves straight to go into the Deleted bin.

Firstly I never leave my email address directly on the Gite website, instead I use a 'contact us' booking enquiry form to cut down on email harvesting by spam-bots. Unfortunately not all other sites I have advertised on are as diligent so some email addresses I use have been 'captured'. Looking at the message source code I could see it was actually sent to one of these addresses rather than the 'to:' address that appears above.

Secondly the English of the 'supposed enquiry is poor, and the text is quite generic. There's nothing in it to indicate what area the three people want to be staying in, nor of the programme details they're coming to see, nor even the country name. If you or I were sending a real booking enquiry it would be more specific about location, country, venue, etc. This email can quite easily be sent to hundreds of other property owners - as the email address used is undoubtedly on a spam list I'm sure it has been.

Finally the email isn't even targetted at the right sort of business. It's written as if I were a hotel renting out rooms, not a holiday Gite.

About the only thing that's missing from this scam (which I've seen on other scam emails I've received is an offer for the 'guests' to pay me more than the rental price and for me to wire back (e.g. using Western Union) the difference. Perhaps if I replied to the email that'd be next. Instead it's the delete key for this one ...

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Spent several days repairing the gates

Oh what fun I had taking apart, replacing cross-spars and uprights, repainting and repairing the gates to our Breton holiday home.

It started out as a good idea, taking down the old gates that were starting to go rotten in places, replacing the few bad bits, then quick lick of paint and put then back up again.

The reality is it took me most of the first week to do this "simple little" job!

Fast forwarding the story through there was
  • Taking the gates down and removing the screws from the rotten pieces
  • Cutting new pieces of wood to fit
  • Realising I had insufficient wood to finish the job
  • Next day going out and buying undercoat paint and more wood. With each piece of wood being 4m long they didn't fit in the car so it was a careful drive home with them sticking out of the rear window ...
  • Undercoating the wood on the first side
  • Next day turning over and undercoating the second side, then running out of undercoat paint
  • Next day going and buying more paint and finishing the job
  • Next day gloss painting the first side
  • Next day turning over and gloss painting the second side
  • Next day starting to reassemble the gates finding sections I hadn't painted so having to stop and gloss paint them
  • Next day continuing the assembly and finding more bits I had missed painting (twice) so painting them
  • Finish assembling and paint over where the screws went in to stop the rot getting in
  • Realise some of the screws used were too long and now stick out the other side of the gate so have to take them out, replace them, then touch up the holes
  • Start putting the gates up. First one goes OK, second one doesn't fit so have to partly disassemble it, move the uprights up a bit so that they don't scrape on the ground, then reassemble the gate again
  • Get the masonry drill out to re-drill the holes in the ground where the central bolt goes and find that one of the pins on the plug has come off at some stage. Find out I don't have any more spare French two-pin plugs so have to lash up a cable using a spare light fitting cable that had a plug on the end
  • Finish the job, put the last gate up and admire all my hard work. On the face of it, the rebuilt white gates look exactly the same as the original gates. I don't think anyone will even notice the difference

  • Next day when I'm in Lapere (a large builders merchant) I pointedly ignore the white plastic gates that they have on special offer ....

Maybe it would have been easier to just buy new gates and have done with it.

Wouldn't of course have been so satisfying(ish) ...

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sad day today, my cat died

My eldest cat Timothy died this morning at 6:55, a few minutes after I'd left for work.

He was an old man, coming up to his 17th birthday in a month or so's time so it's not really been a surprise but it's still a sad day.

Last night he clearly wasn't very well, he was wobbly on his feet and had gone off his food. This morning when I went in he was lying down and his heart was racing. Later on I could see his breathing was laboured and his heart was hardly fluttering so I knew it was probably his last day today.

He's been with me a long time, in fact he was with me when I was a single man before I met and eventually married Liz. His loss leaves a hole in my life

Monday, April 23, 2007

Speedferries prices due to increase on Thursday

SpeedFerries have sent me a number of emails over the last couple of weeks advising me (as a valued customer) that they are due to increase their ferry prices on April 26th due to the recent diesel fuel price rises.

In the past they've not always stopped special offers or changed their prices on the day that they say they will, but if you are thinking of travelling to France this summer then it's worth booking as soon as possible.

If you can be certain about your travel dates then the Dover/Boulogne 'Basic ticket' can be unbeatable, costing as little as £18 for a crossing and these prices really are achievable, some of our August holiday guests paid just £25 which is still a bargain when compared to other ferry operators. Even if you don't know your precise dates the 'Flex tickets' are only £25 and as long as there's room on the boat you can change to any other sailing date.

A quick reminder that SpeedFerries have a number of different fare options, more details are on their website and in my March posting 'Speedferries announces new simpler fare structure and multi-crossing special offers':

One-way from £18
Fixed Price
Priority Check-In
Check-In time
45 min.
30 min.
30 min.
12 months
24 months

Final little titbit, when we were crossing over at Easter I asked one of the crew if there was any news on them getting a second boat (this was rumoured some time ago). He said that it had been delayed but was due to come into service in June or July, operating on the same Dover/Boulogne route.

Judging by how sold out they were at Easter (no space on any of the outbound sailings from 30th April to 9th May!) there's certainly the public demand at peak periods for SpeedFerries to offer more crossings and run a second boat.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Went to a French car boot sale (Brocante)

(I've given up trying to post these historical entries from our Easter holiday on the right day as it seems to mess up the RSS feed. Instead I'll just post them as I write them)

After our M20 holdups and dash for the ferry we arrived late at the Gite and weren't planning on getting up all that early.

Of course the kids had other ideas and so on the Sunday we decided to go to a French car boot sale.

There are lots of different types of street markets, car boot sales, Vide Grenier's and Brocante's in Brittany and this one was typical of many we've been to, it was held in a village sports hall on the other side of Pontivy.

I don't know if you've seen the BBC 1 daytime TV programme where two people (with their English expert) go to a French antique market, buy up various objects and curios, and then take them back to the UK to hopefully sell for a profit, but our experience of French antique markets is that they're extremely variable and on the whole the quality is seems to be lower than in the UK. Quite often some of the stuff being sold is broken, dirty, worn out and/or overpriced. We've seen furniture that requires serious renovation going for hundreds of euro's and tables piled up with stuff that would be better served in the public tip than in a charity shop.

Vide Grenier literally translates to 'empty loft' and so you get the idea of the sort of things you will find there!

Having said all that though some of the things are quite nice and we've bought a coffee table, a kids bike, games, toys and old fashioned farm equipment for good prices to put in the Gite. I think you have to be prepared for the quality, that's all, and not be surprised if you don't buy anything. At this one we went to the boys bought a couple of Playstation games (€2 each) and we bought a picture (€5) for the Gite.

Afterwards as it was lunchtime we had saucisse et frites from one of the stalls with lashings of tomato sauce for the boys and mustard for me. Absolutely delicious!

Sitting down and eating what was a very simple meal that had cost only €7.50 for all four of us (£5) it reminded me just why we love France so much. It's not necessary to have fine meals and expensive wine, even the humblest frankfurter and french fries can be heaven on earth.

Afterwards at home I took down all the gates to the Gite. Last year one of the driveway gates broke and in January I spent the weekend rebuilding it. Several other of the cross pieces and uprights were rotting through and I thought it'd be a simple job to replace the broken bits.

On taking down the gates and cutting new cross braces I found out that I'd insufficient wood and didn't have any undercoat paint either. Trip required to the shops next day.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Problems with the RSS feed ?

I've noticed that a couple of recent Blog posts I've made have not always appeared appeared consistently on the RSS feed, especially the new Blog postings that FeedBlitz sends out by email.

I have no idea why this is happening nor how to sort it out, but I'll keep an eye on things going forward to see if it keeps on happening.

Meanwhile, here are the most recent posts in case you missed any:


French Bank Charges

Grumble, grumble

Just received a bank statement from La Banque Postale (aka, La Poste, whom we bank with) and see that we've been charged our annual debit card fees of €24.50 for the first card and €12.25 for the second card.

The story of how we ended up with banking with La Poste (the French Post Office) is a long one (summary is that I felt at the time that they had the cheapest banking fees) and the story of actually managing to open an account was an even longer one (which I will get around to regaling on the Blog at some stage), but since we've been with them all in all it's been a fairly trouble free banking existence. I've even managed to get one of the bank cards replaced after it stopped working and successfully sorted out issues like forgetting my online pin number and having to get it reset.

All in all things have gone fairly trouble free and we're fairly happy with them.

Of course we don't use the account all that much, really for spending money when we holiday in France and for paying the regular insurance, electricity, water, council tax, etc bills through. When we opened the account we decided to have a cash/debit card each and so of course we get charged two sets of card fees (with the second one at 50% reduction).

For English readers who don't have a French bank account it may come as a surprise to talk about paying charges for having a bank account, but in France it's just a way of life (taxes are of course the third love of the French after Wine and Bureaucracy). All bank accounts levy charges for the service they offer which vary on whether you want a debit or credit card, whether you want remote access to the account by telephone, minitel or internet, and by what kinds of service they offer you (you pay more for accounts with higher cash withdrawal limits for instance).

As I said we went for the cheapest bank and also the cheapest type of account (limits of only €500 cash withdrawal or debit card spending per week). As well as the annual card fees (which have slowly crept up from €33 for the two cards in 2004) we also pay what I think is an annual account fee which was €4 for 2006.

Of course in the UK we can still benefit from free banking but with all the talk of banks being forced to reduce their overdraft fees I'm sure we'll see annual fees like this being imposed soon on our side of La Manche ...


Friday, April 20, 2007

Notre Famille en France (our family in France)

I seem to have lots of photos of Liz (my wife) and the kids (Toby, 8 and Jack, 6), but very few of me (Geoffrey) - usually because I'm hiding behind the camera.

Just for once though, here's one of all of us with Dexter the dog whilst on Holiday in Josselin at Easter.

The Coan Family in France
So now you know what we all look like. Please don't be too shocked ...

I liked it so much I've even uploaded it as our official Blog photo on my Blogger profile.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What glasses wearers have been waiting for ?

Get Lenses (a mail order contact lens company) sent me details off their recent invention.

It's just the thing that all glasses wearers need, "Mini Wipers" for your glasses.

Have a look at the short video over on

I don't normally send on advertising emails I receive but this one amused me, hope you like it too!


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back from Brittany after a fantastic 2 week break

Just got back this evening from a fantastic 2 week in our Brittany Gite - hence the lack of recent posts.

The weather was absolutely perfect, it was warm and sunny for the first 12 days, so much so that we ate outside on the patio most lunchtimes and evenings. Who'd have thought it for April ?

Last couple of days have been a bit wet but after such a great break we didn't care all that much.

Anyway I'm back now and wading through the 690-odd emails I've received in my absence. One of them tells me that I've won the Irish lottery (and the £785,963 that I've won will come in handy ...). Wonder why the Irish lottery prize was priced in British Pounds Sterling and not Euro's ? Perhaps the scammers of the world should pay more attention to international currencies ?

I've tried to write a holiday diary so will post up our experiences of the two weeks break over the next few days ...

PS: Still got some availability from 21st April to 12th May if anyone's interested in a spring break.

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