Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New RyanAir Bournemouth/Nantes route to Brittany starts

I noticed from RyanAir's new routes list that they started up a new service from Bournemouth to Nantes from 14th June, which is just a couple of hours autoroute drive away from our French holiday home.

RyanAir also announced last month the opening of a 20th European base in Bristol with services to 13 different destinations including a thrice-weekly service to Dinard in North Brittany (about 1 hours drive away).

Although all the airlines make a big thing of the opening of new routes, it pays to keep an eye on their route list as they don't make the same announcements about route closure or about summer-only routes that are no longer running.

For instance, when I compared the Brittany flight details I currently had on our Gite website to the routes now showing on the airlines websites I could see that RyanAir had quietly dropped the Frankfurt/Nantes route and AerArran had dropped the London Luton/Lorient, Cardiff/Lorient and Manchester/Nantes routes whilst there was only one compensating announcement from AerArran about their new Cardiff/Nantes route.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

OnOneMap - a great Google mashup if you're looking to buy a house

Here's a great site that I came across recently if you're looking for a new home, it's a mashup of Google maps with estate agency data to show you all* the houses for sale in a selected area.

It's really been well implemented with lots of Ajax popups, you can zoom in and out and pan the map, restrict the houses shown according to number of bedrooms, price, etc; show overlays of mobile phone masts, supermarkets, secondary schools and (as at about a week ago) flood plain information.

One of the really neat features I like is that at any page you can subscribe to an RSS feed (see earlier explanation I wrote on 'what is RSS and how can I use it') of all properties on your current map page and price range. So here for example is a view of properties for sale in our home village of Wrestlingworth and here's the corresponding RSS feed.

I only have a couple of minor gripes that the mobile phone database seems a bit patchy (there's a mast on the edge of our village that's not shown) and that there seems to be a problem with secondary schools not being displayed in Bedfordshire (which is probably due to Bedfordshire having a 3-tier infant/middle/senior school system not the normal 2-tier arrangement).

* Although I say "all properties" in your area for sale, in reality there's some time lag as to when properties appear on the site.
Running the same address search for properties for sale in my village on the better known I found two more properties that haven't appeared on ononemap, and conversely one on onemap that wasn't on rightmove - so pays your money, take your choice I guess.

Unfortunately ononemap doesn't yet show overseas houses so you can't use it to look for your 'dream home in the sun' !

Categories: , , ,

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Decision on the future of Gaz de France is 'coming soon'

According to a recent article on, the French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said during a recent interview that a decision on the future of Gaz de France including a possible merger with Suez is due very soon.

Currently both Electricity and Gas are state run monopolies in France (operated by Electricity de France, EDF, and Gaz de France, GDF, respectively).

There's no choice as to supplier, it's EDF/GDF or that's it.

Looking on the BBC news site you can see that the future of Gaz de France has been rumbling on for several years with talks about merging with Suez being referred to the EU in June 2006, French MP's approving the selloff in September 2006, EU approval and then wrangling with the French Unions in November; and more recently Suez takeover talks being announced and then soon afterwards refuted.

Nothing is ever simple in France where state control and subsidies of many industries remains part of the French culture, but it's likely that change will come about over the next few years as the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy has committed to modernising France and reducing bureaucracy.

Watch this space!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

A holiday cancellation mean's we've some availability in August

Unfortunately we received an email from a customer who booked our French Gite back in September 2006 to tell us that due to a change of plans they're going to have to cancel their holiday with us in August.

It does now mean therefore that we have some peak season dates now available - from Monday 20th August to Saturday 1st September; 12 nights in total.

And only two days after I changed our holiday home booking calender to show the August dates as now available we received a potential booking enquiry so fingers crossed that it's not going to remain vacant for all that much longer.

Other than the August period we only have an 8 day period the following month from 21st September to 29th September, and then we're into October (from the 7th onwards) before we're next free. Last year we were full for pretty much all of October so it'd be great if the same happens again this year.

Categories: , ,

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fete de la Musique comes to town again

As I wrote about last year, today (21st June) is the celebration day for Fete de la Musique, an international celebration of music with free events, concerts and entertainment going on in many French towns and cities as well as overseas Fete de la musique celebrations in places as far away as New York, Edinburgh and Hong Kong.

Back nearer to home in Brittany the Loudeac Office Minicipal Cultural has once again organised a whole day of entertainment (on Friday 22nd June) with street entertainment, bands, African dancers, pipers, punk rock, and much more. Full details on Loudeac's Fete de la Musique site page:

Categories: ,

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where does all the electricity come from?

Just received my most recent electricity bill from EDF and was interested to see at the bottom there was a breakdown of origine de l'électricité (electricity origin) - i.e. where the electricity was sourced from.

I didn't recall seeing this on my UK electricity bill so did a bit of digging around and have managed to find out the 'typical UK electricity supplier's' sources:

SourceEDF ElectricityUK Average

So apart from EDF highlighting Oil as being a source of electricity which the UK suppliers don't (but may well be lumped under the 'Other' number), the figures are easily compared.

Very interesting to see the almost total reliance on Nuclear energy for French electricity whereas the UK it's much more on fossil fuels and that France is slightly ahead on the renewables agenda.

Given that much of our power stations are powered by coal imported from China nowadays I guess it means that France is more energy self-sufficient, but at what cost in the long run when nuclear decommissioning is required?

Some food for thought.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

New €81m cruise-ferry for Brittany Ferries' Plymouth-Roscoff route

News from Brittany Ferries of a new cruise-ferry "Armorique" which is currently under construction at the Aker shipyard in Helsinki.

The name "Armorique" comes from a national park of outstanding beauty in western Brittany and is not the first BF ferry to bear this name, the previous Armorique operated from 1975 to 1992.

Armorique will be 167 metres long and 26.8 metres wide. With a cruising speed of 23 knots, she will have 250 cabins and be able to accommodate 1500 passengers, 470 cars and 65 lorries on the 1.1km long freight deck! She will feature a large shopping area, a variety of bars, lounges, seating areas, teenager play area and an onboard cinema.

A bigger picture of Armorique and PDF factsheet on Armorique are available on Aker yard's website.

Armorique will be used solely on the Plymouth-Roscoff route, replacing Pont l'Abbé which is currently on short-term charter, in the autumn of 2008.

A snip at a mere €81,000,000 !

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sir Alan wants to knock down my office !!

As I've mentioned occasionally in the past, I work for IBM in their UK consultancy division, based in at IBM's office on the London South Bank.

I was amused to read today that in the final challenge set for the The Apprentice candidates, is the theoretical redesign of my office (IBM South Bank).

IBM sold and leased back the building in 1999, and Sir Alan Sugar's property company's recent acquisition of the location has given Sir Alan the opportunity to set the taxing challenge to imagine what might be put in its place.

Fortunately this is a fictitious scenario for the purposes of TV entertainment so I'm not going to be working out of a building site just yet awhile.

To see some of the promotional videos for the series see the BBC Apprentice microsite and click on 'Watch: Episode 12 previews', and then select the main featured video, you can get a flavour of what they are planning.

There's also some good unseen video footage on there previous episodes of The Apprentice.

Even more reasons to tune in on Wednesday next week and find out who wins.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Lucky lucky me - I've won the lottery (or is that the not-likely-ery ?)

Junk mail
In amongst the mountain of 465 odd emails that I received whilst being away (from which my fave Thunderbird email client helpfully managed to categorise 363 as being spam straight away, leaving me 'only' 100 to wade through) I discovered that I had won the "Yahoo/Msn Lottery Incorperation" (sic - their typo, not mine).

Apparently "Yahoo/MSN and Microsoft Windows collect all the email addresses of the people that are active online" (gosh, sounds a bit big brother to me) and select 5 winners each month, and I'm one of them!!

All I have to do to claim my £900,000 prize is give my name, age, address, sex, next of kin, zip code, occupation, state, nationality and shoe size.

OK I admit it, I lied, they didn't want my shoe size, just all the other stuff and my telephone number and employer.

But wait .... another email .... I've also won the Yahoo! Mail lottery as well, but this time I only picked up £800,000 (I guess Microsoft must subsidise the Yahoo/MSN Lottery a bit more than just Yahoo on their own).

However for this one I don't need to supply anywhere near as much personal information so it must be genuine.

And there's more, I've just found a third email telling me I've £891,934 on the Camelot UK National Lottery. Camelot convincingly have their address at the top of the email and have helpfully enclosed a little form for me to fill in and return.

They do say though to "Be advice to keep your winning information confidential until your claims has been processed and our money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program" so I'm not going to tell you my winning numbers or else you might claim them for yourselves.

They say that good things happen in threes, what are the odds of winning three lotteries in one week ?

Now what shall I spend all my winnings on .....

(Cynic mode off: You'd think that these spammers would learn to be smarter in their spam rubbish and not send the same, or nearly the same, emails out in short succession. Kinda gives the game away, even to the most unobservant recipient).


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Neat little Berlitz Language Translator at Lidl's next week

If you live near to a Lidl store (there's a Store Finder if you're not sure), then you might be interested in the Berlitz pocket language translator that they've in store from Thursday next week (14th June).

According to Lidl's website the Berlitz Pocket Translator can translate between German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Dutch and Polish!
There are 900 example sentences per language and some 800,000 word entries which sounds like more than enough to enable you to get by in a foreign language.

They're £24.99 each and with Lidl's they only have limited stocks in each store and "when it's gone, it's gone".

Lidl's are also stocking a smaller 5-language translator that 'only' contains 227,000 words and phrases in English, German, Spanish, French and Italian for £12.99. This one also comes with built in Hangman and Quiz games as well so perhaps you can practice your French by playing un jeu de Bourreau!


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Perdu: I've lost ....

Word of the week: Perdu - "I've lost" - as in "J'ai perdu mon passport" ...

Just got back from a week's holiday in our French gite and I've had lots of opportunity to learn and practice a new brand new French word, Perdu. I was able to practice this word at the bank, at the British consulate, at the local gendarmerie, at the bank (again), at a different local gendarmerie, at the cafeteria, to our friends in Brittany, etc, etc!

We were over for half-term week last week and took a P&O ferries crossing via Dover/Calais (mainly because I had some Thomas Cook travel points to use up and so we only paid £8 for the return trip to/from France!)

Anyway, on the drive down we stopped off en-route at a hypermarket just outside Rouen for lunch and I paid for the meal with a cheque from our French bank account. As usual I had my UK passport with me in case I needed id to accompany the cheque (there's no concept of cheque guarantee cards in France but increasingly shops are asking to see your pièce d'identité to verify that I've not stolen the cheque book. I've found that a UK passport seems to work just as well and so I tend to carry it with me when using the cheque book).

As it was warm in the restaurant I took my jumper off (containing my cheque book and passport), and then of course left it behind afterwards on the floor.

We only realised the loss a couple of hours later on (and 150 miles further down the autoroute) and so decided that it was too far to go back for it. With luck it'd still be at the cafeteria and we could call back in on the way home a week later.

The next day being Sunday I couldn't do much about it, and the following day was a French holiday so it wasn't until the following Tuesday that I was able to go into La Poste (who we bank with) to tell them that I'd lost the cheque book. By then of course I'd realised that maybe loosing both the cheque book and my passport together might not be such a great thing and of course I was potentially liable to any cheques that had been fraudulently written in the meantime.

So armed with my English/French dictionary and having looked up the word for 'loss' (Perdu) I went in to the branch in nearby La Cheze and explained to the very helpful (but completely non-English speaking) lady that I'd lost my cheque book (carnet d'chèque) and my passport in Rouen. Lots of confusion because she kept on thinking I'd lost my debit card as well (which fortunately I hadn't) and that I had lost all my cheque books for the account (in fact I'd only lost one and still had one with me), but we got there in the end and I was given the appropriate déclaration de mise en opposition des formules de chèque, de virement et de cartes liées au CCP to complete.

This was where things started to go downhill even further as she asked me for details of what cheques and ordre de virement ('authority to debit your bank account' slips) I had with me, which I had written out from the previous cheque book, and which I had lost. I was OK on the first question as I had the one remaining cheque book with me, but I'd no idea what cheques I had written out and what cheques I had lost in the book. Had to resort to J'ne sais pas ("I don't know") quite a lot.

Finally she wanted to see my identity card or passport that I was proof that I was who I said I was in making the declaration.

More explanation that I'd perdue'd that in Rouen as well.

Oh dear, she was not happy with that and I was instructed to go and inform the gendarmerie of my loss, and then later on that afternoon she phoned me up to again tell me to visit the Gendarmerie.

So next day I went along to the police station, showed them the declaration from La Poste, explained what had happened and that I needed to make a declaration of loss to them.

The gendarmerie considered the problem, consulted with his boss, and then decided that I didn't need to make a declaration of loss of the cheque book and that as it wasn't a French passport then I didn't need to declare the loss to them; they were only interested in lost French identity cards.

Back home at the Gite I thought I'd better phone the British consulate to tell them of the passport loss and so eventually managed to call them after getting the number from my travel insurance company.

So I listened to the 'on hold' music at the Paris consulate for 20 minutes or so whilst they considered my problem, firstly advising I should come to the consulate in Paris (to which I said no I couldn't), then suggesting I went to Nantes, Rennes or St Malo to get a temporary replacement (which I said I could do), before they finally decided that I didn't need any proof of identity to get back into the UK and that "as long as the ferry company were happy" they were happy for me to travel without a passport.
I think this was just passing the buck but I was somewhat surprised at their lack of concern over the loss of my passport, never once did they take any details of who I was or the lost passport, so if it'd fallen into the wrong hands anything could have happened to it.

Decided that phoning P&O wasn't really worth the additional hassle and if the passport hadn't been handed in in Rouen then I would worry about the problem when I reached the ferry port.

Next day another phone call from the nice lady at La Poste asking about my declaration d'Perdu at the Gendarmerie. I explained that they refused to take it and after lots of backwards and forwards discussion we eventually concluded that I had to go back to the Gendarmerie which I duly did (but went to a different Gendarmerie this time). They again didn't want to know and so I got the gendarme to phone the La Poste branch so they could sort out what I had to do between themselves as I wasn't getting anywhere with my broken French explanations.

And reluctantly the gendarme took my declaration d'perdu, we filled in a form together (most of which I didn't know, like my passport number, date and place of issue, etc), but at least it all got filled in and I took the form back to La Poste, the lady was happy with it and I'd finally got to the end of the process of reporting the loss.

Of course a couple of days later we called back in the cafeteria in Rouen, explained the whole problem again, and they went into the back office and came out with my jumper, passport and cheque book - hurrah !

Decided not to mention the passport loss to the customs officer at Calais as it would doubtless confuse the situation even further.

All I have to do now is to tell La Poste that I have actually regained my passport and cheque book and hopefully everything will be OK.

Labels: ,