Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sadly Speedferries don't (speed) any more

Speedferries SpeedOne
Following on from my Blog posting announcing SpeedFerries in Administration the sad news appeared on their website yesterday that the official joint administrators announce the closure of Speedferries Limited (in administration).

The administrators have been trying since 12th November to sell the business as a going concern, and despite getting SpeedOne released from the French authorities they've been unable to find a buyer for the business.

Ferry operations have now been cancelled and customers are advised to "seek alternative travel arrangements".

I've still got quite a lot of pre-paid tickets with SpeedFerries, now quite useless of course, so will try to see if I can get a refund from my credit card company (thanks to the anonymous reader who made this suggestion in response to my earlier posting). I'll let you know how I get on.

Not quite sure which Ferry company we will start using from now on, have to go back to surveying the prices before each crossing I guess.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

"Credit crunch" affecting bookings ?

With all the news of doom and gloom on the high street and talk of recession I've been thinking about whether we're seeing any signs of that in the holiday bookings for our Gite this year.

Today I took a booking for a week's holiday in June 2009, and a few hours later whilst sitting on a plane descending into Frankfurt airport (a one-day work trip for a training course), I thought I'd do a quick bit of analysis to see how we're doing compared to the last couple of years.

Right now (23rd November 2008) we have bookings for one week in June, half of July and almost all of August 2009 already booked - a total of 7 weeks reserved.

At the same point in 2007 we had exactly the same pattern of 7 weeks booked, one week of June, half of July and almost all of August 2008; and looking further back to 2006 it was slightly higher with 8 weeks reserved, a week at Easter, a week in June, half of July and almost all of August.

There are slight variations year on year as to when we receive the holiday bookings; last year was slightly earlier with bookings coming through in August and September whereas in previous years (and this year) they've not really started until October, but given that we've just taken two bookings in the last week I'm hopeful that the Gite will remain as popular as it's always been.

And as a family we have (for once) got ourselves organised and booked our own Easter and Summer holidays in the Gite for next year - usually we leave it too late and find there's no free dates.

I'm absolutely looking forward to 3 weeks of doing nothing next August ... although knowing me I won't be able to keep still and will be drawn by the lure of plasterboard and wiring in the second house!

PS: It's snowing in Frankfurt and I forgot to bring a coat (Brrr). I was amused to see that the airport code for Frankfurt printed on my luggage label is "FRA", a brief reminder of France perhaps?

PPS: The photo is of the lounge, dining room table and lovely beech open stairway in our Brittany Gite

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Speedferries in administration

I had held off blogging about Speedferries recent troubles for a few days, hoping that it was going to resolve itself, but it's looking like SpeedFerries are no longer going to exist any more - at least in their current format.

A couple of weeks ago, as reported on This French Life, SpeedFerries boat was seized in Boulogne by the French port authorities for non-payment of port fees.

At the time the SpeedFerries website reported that this was "totally unexpected, as the authorities had given written confirmation that no legal steps would be taken prior to a meeting planned for November 7th", but it appears that there was more to this than was being immediately reported, as by 12th November a SpeedFerries press release announced that the company was being placed into official administration.

A few days later on there's still no further news other than another press release on 14th November saying that more crossings were cancelled. The main SpeedFerries website announces that all crossings up to (as at today) the 19th November are cancelled with customers being advised to "wait for further information on future crossings and to keep any pre-booked tickets".

See SpeedFerries Press Releases for further news as and when it arrives.

I guess as I own a number of pre-booked SpeedFerries tickets I'll be classified as a creditor of the company; whether I get anything from those tickets as a result remains of course to be seen.

The joint administrators talk about their "key objective is to explore the option of selling the business as a going concern", so hopefully there'll be some Phoenix like resurrection as a result of the administration process - I hope so as SpeedFerries have certainly shaken up the cross-channel market and it would be a shame to see a return to near-monopoly prices from the other carriers.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Moneybookers increases its foreign currency transfer fees


I noticed the other day that I'd gone overdrawn in my French bank account to the tune of €160 and as I've only got a €200 overdraft limit and the French banks get really unhappy if you go overdrawn a quick international funds transfer was needed.

As usual I'm using Moneybookers for transferring money to my French bank account, as I wrote about last year.

In the intervening year it seems that Moneybookers have increased their fees though, back in July 2007 they were charging £1.30 to withdraw funds into a French account, it's increased slightly now to £1.60 per withdrawal. They've also changed the foreign currency exchange rate they use from European central bank daily interbank rate plus 0.95% to an unspecified "wholesale exchange rate" plus 1.75%.

Overall these two changes mean Moneybookers isn't such fantastic value as it used to be for overseas transfers, but I still believe it's good value when compared to the £10 or £20 that the high street banks would charge for an international SWIFT transfer.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ebay bargains near you - a google Maps mashup

As I've mentioned before on other ebay bloggings I quite like ebay for picking up the odd bargain or two (I'm more of a buyer than a seller, and am currently sitting on an ebay rating of 310).

Spotted another useful website the other day, Auctions Near You which is a great mashup of Google Maps and ebay searching.

Enter your postcode, how far you are prepared to travel, the text of what you are looking for, optionally choose a main product category, and it's as simple as that, you get a map with all the local items, you can click on any of them to see a quick popup details, and then zoom into ebay to read the full auction details.

Perfect for searching for a new (second-hand) lawnmower (I'm getting nagged by Liz because it's taking her ages to mow the lawn at the new house with our old "lightweight" mower) or for other things that you want to pick-up locally.

My only complaint is that you can only restrict the search by main product category (not sub categories) and occasionally you get odd map results - one Northampton based lawnmower is appearing on the map as being in Rotherham (in Yorkshire) !

Otherwise, a great and useful site.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

LDLines Frequent Traveller Programme and Dover/Dieppe route

LD Lines is the only cross-channel ferry operator that offers a chairman's Blog, written Pierre Gehanne, direct to LD Lines' customers. The Blog has established itself as a good two-way communications mechanism with Pierre openly responding to customer comments and concerns.

Recently following on from LD Lines' announcement of a new Frequent Traveller programme (full details and Terms and Conditions are on the main website) there's been quite a bit of customer feedback on the Blog about the loyalty scheme with many people requesting information and some customers saying that they feel it's not rewarding enough.

Also on Pierre's Blog under the LD Lines routes, questions, comments and suggestions page there's news that they're due to start running a Dover/Dieppe service from January 2009 with Cote d’Albatre, Leaving Dieppe at 1300 on Monday to Friday and returning from Dover at 17:45 each weekday.

I've added this to the Travelling to the Gite page on our website.

LD Lines are of course also due to start a Dover/Boulogne route carrying both freight and of course cars (in competition against SpeedFerries) from July 2009.

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