Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Monday, September 29, 2008

Feedback from our guests (and their dogs!)

Received a lovely email late last week from the couple (and their two dogs) who had just returned from a two week holiday stay in our Gite.

Even though we've taken our own dog, Dexter, over to the Gite on two separate occasions this was the first time we've had any of our holiday guests do the same.

Taking your own dog on holiday is pretty straight forward now that the Pet passport scheme has been operating for a few years although you do have to get tick and tapeworm treatment from a French vet before you travel back, and so I was able to pass on details of the local Loudeac vet that we've used (and speaks pretty good English).

Over to our guests:
Dear Geoffrey,

Many thanks for 'lending' us your superb gite, for the very accurate travel directions and for the helpful Vet information.

We had a wonderful holiday and couldn't believe our luck with the weather. After a few showers on the first day and some very heavy ones that same evening, we had warmth and sunshine for the whole time.

The gite was just as described and certainly very well equipped although we are just a bit too old to sample the pool, the bikes and the toys!!!!!! We're sure that they give hours of amusement to those a lot younger than us, though.

The large and secure garden was perfect for our peace of mind with the two dogs although we were out almost all day every day. The beaches on the north coast were much appreciated by them and, by luck, we managed to get on them just three days after the end of the summertime ban. Nothing to do with your great place, but we were disappointed with the way the French people just seemed to leave dog faeces anywhere and everywhere - lets hope the clean-up campaign reaches France soon.

Again, we offer our thanks and will certainly ask to stay again if we do return to Brittany.

Shirley and Bernard Roberts,
Cracker and Pepper - the dogs

PS: The photo above is of our youngest son, Jack, (aged 6 at the time) and Dexter the dog charging up and down the beach at Les Rosaires on the North Brittany coast, about 40 miles from our Gite. Jack ended up the wettest and had to travel back to the Gite with no trousers or pants on!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Christmas/New Year holiday ? Sail with Brittany Ferries

Right now we've still got Christmas 2008 and New Year 2009 holiday availability for our French holiday home so it's timely to mention that Brittany Ferries have just launched their Winter booking sailing schedule.

BF definitely run the best equipped cross-channel ferries with a restaurants, kids entertainment, cabins to chill out in, cinema's and even a swimming pool on one of their boats. The Portsmouth/St Malo crossing is particularly good as it arrive just an hour from our holiday home, and we've used it a number of times ourselves until the summer prices got a bit ridiculous and we switched to SpeedFerries.

Prices for Brittany Ferries Winter Sailings are quoted to be "from as little as £69 each way for a car and 2 adults" so perhaps worth taking a look?

We promise a very relaxing holiday in our Brittany Gite, we've a fully equipped kitchen with double oven to ensure the catering doesn't go awry, lots of cheap wine in the local supermarkets, Sky TV so you don't miss The Queen's speech and the New Year fireworks, and we'll even include a Christmas tree and decorations to ensure it's suitably festive!

Both Christmas and New Year have been booked up by October for the last 3 years so don't miss out and some of the comments from previous guests are available to read on our website.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Impending holiday booking, rent not paid and I couldn't contact our forthcoming guests

A couple of weeks ago I realised that we had taken a guests holiday booking for August and although we'd had the 25% booking deposit some long time ago we still hadn't received the balance of their rent and their holiday dates were fast approaching.

Although we specify in the holiday rental booking conditions that the balance of the rent must be paid 8 weeks before the holiday start date, and we remind customers of the due date in the written booking confirmation, people do forget and I quite often have to send a little reminder email.

Unfortunately in this case I couldn't find an email address. I searched my mailbox on my laptop PC and it wasn't there, I searched my mailbox on my home PC and it wasn't there, and in fact I couldn't find any record of the booking request at all - no booking enquiries, no emails or anything.

Scratched my head for a few days and then remembered to look through my copies of the booking confirmations I'd written and sent out.

Struck Gold. On my home PC I found the customer name and address and confirmation of the holiday dates. Unfortunately no email address so I had to resort to 'manual methods' and write a letter reminding them that their holiday was in a few weeks and we'd still not received all the rental payment.

Sent the letter off, two weeks passed, and no reply !

I was beginning to get worried that if I couldn't contact the customer I'd have to consider leaving the week empty (not desirable as it was a peak season booking) or re-advertising it. I really needed to contact them to confirm whether they really still wanted to proceed with the booking or not.

BT Online Directory Enquiries came up trumps and I was able to find a phone number that matched the name and address I had. With some trepidation I phoned and of course everything was all right, they'd overlooked the payment being due, had been away on another holiday so had only just received my letter, of course they were going to send the cheque, etc, etc.

A few days later the errant cheque arrived in the post and I was able to finalise the booking. I only ever send out the full Gite travel directions when I've received the final rental payment so I had to wrap that up as well, but everything went OK in the end and they had a nice holiday.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Moving house - a UK nightmare (not on elm street) !

Nightmare on Elm Street
Sharp eyed viewers may well spot in the next week or so that the contact us to make a holiday Booking Enquiry form for our Gite is changing.

After nearly 12 years of living in Wrestlingworth, Bedfordshire we have decided to up-sticks, pack everything into innumerable boxes (including doubtless loads of rubbish that we should have thrown out but haven't), and move to the far flung outer reaches of Wrestlingworth, Bedfordshire.

Yes we're moving house all the way from where we are now to the other end of our village. According to Google Maps it's 0.3 miles and will take about 8 minutes to walk, or about a minute to drive.

I'm sure when we moved into our current house we swore that we would never move again, and here we are, saying the same thing again as we prepare for tomorrow's move.

The things we do for a slightly bigger garden ....

Monday, September 08, 2008

Have you tried Google Chrome?

As written about by Bob Toovey over on Computing in France, and announced Google's own Blog and on countless Websites last week, Google have decided to go head-to-head with Microsoft and Firefox and launch their own browser, Google Chrome.

Google have written a lovely cartoon to explain what Chrome's all about, but cutting to the chase, what's it like?

Well firstly it's absolutely blindingly fast. I just can't believe how fast it is, most pages render before they've seemingly had time to download, and it brings a real pleasure to browsing the web again.

Obvious parallels will be drawn with Firefox and from all accounts it's going down a storm across the Internet despite the beta and Windows-only situation. Over on ZDNet for instance they're already reporting that Chrome has overtaken Opera in browser popularity.

When I first heard the news I couldn't understand why Google had decided to build their own browser when they already make a massive funding contribution to Firefox, my initial thought was "surely they would have been better just improving Firefox?". But now I've tried it out I can see why they decided to plough their own furrow a bit.

You could be cynical and take the view that Google want to control everything on the Internet, starting with the browser and working backwards, but I don't think this is the case with Chrome on the desktop at least (on mobile devices it could be a different matter once Chrome finds its way into Android, Google's long awaited mobile operating system).

As Chrome is Open Source there's sure to be bits that find their way into Firefox and vice-versa. Many users are already complaining that their Firefox favourite plugins are missing in Chrome and I do agree with them, the lack of Mouse Gestures and Adblock are the two things I miss the most, closely followed by GreaseMonkey and a few of my favourite scripts (especially the Greasemonkey scripts I use to improve Blogger). I'm sure these gaps will be quickly filled and doubtless some form of Firefox/Chrome cross-browser plugin support mechanism will emerge.

I'm pleased to say my own website appears to work perfectly in Chrome and so far I've not found anything else that doesn't display properly.

So give Google Chrome a whirl, I think it's not going to be disappearing quickly.

Update 9th Sept: I spoke too soon about Chrome's great website compatibility. Discovered tonight that it doesn't work with the Flickr Photo Uploader


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back online after a busy August

Sorry for the lack of blog posts through August but everything's been a bit hectic and somehow I never found the time to write anything.

Our two boys and my wife, Liz, were off for the first two weeks in August with the grand-parents and her brother's family in Cornwall where they had a *lovely* (not) two weeks of rain. I opted out of the Cornish rain and instead went to work. I'm still working at Stockley Park near Heathrow which is too far to travel daily so I tend to stay overnight and commute back a couple of times a week.

Then it was time for our family holiday, to guess where .... France!

Unfortunately our own holiday home had already been booked up for all of August so we went to Paris for 3 days and then down South to near Agen (Lot et Garonne) for a week.

The kids enjoyed Paris and staying in the Holiday Inn opposite to Gare de l'Est (free accommodation courtesy of the hundreds of points accumulated from working away from home this year), we did the open-topped bus tour, went up the Eiffel Tower and visited the Hotel des Invalides (Army Museum and Napoleon's tomb).

Horrendous rain on the journey down to Southern France (uh-oh I thought) but after that we had good weather with temperatures up into the uncomfortable heights of 35-degrees C.

Terrible traffic jam at the autoroute toll just South of Paris on our return journey meant that we got delayed for over an hour and as a result missed our ferry. Only the second time ever we've missed the ferry and it was a frustrating 2 hour wait in the rain for the next boat.

Monday morning back at work, but not for me, as my car wouldn't start and I had to tow it to the garage for them to take a look. Consequently I'm on public transport today which takes forever to get to Stockley Park.

I'm also even later to work as we took our eldest son, T0by, for his first day at his new (middle) school. He's been really looking forward to going and didn't seem fazed by the change at all - unlike Mum who shed a tear as we waved him goodbye.