Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Monday, August 31, 2009

LDLines moves Irish ferry service from Le Havre to Cherbourg

LD Lines
LD Lines have just announced that they're replacing the LDLines service from Rosslare to Le Havre with a new crossing service from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

By doing this they'll be able to cut sailing time from 20 hours to 17 hours, offer an increased service frequency and pickup more freight service that goes through Cherbourg.

Cherbourg is a new port for LDLines so it'll be interesting to see if they look to expand their services further with crossings from the UK into this part of Northern France.

Of course this service now directly competes with IrishFerries route from Rosslare to Cherbourg, but LDLines are offering a slightly quicker service crossing time with 17 hours vs. 18 ½ hours so I expect there'll be a new price war looming. LD Lines have already kicked this off with an opening offer of €79 each way single crossing price.

Required yet more changes to be made to our website of different travel choices for getting to our holiday cottage as a result of this new service.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back home, unpacking, dealing with the post, emails and a long-term rental enquiry

Oh the joys of getting back home from holiday.

There is something to be said for going on holiday by plane, and especially by RyanAir, as it stops you taking too much stuff with you. Taking your own car on holiday seems to encourage all amount of stuff to be brought (and bought) that you'd otherwise manage to have done without!

Spent most of today unpacking the car, putting the large sack of (unused) tile adhesive back in the garage as I never quite managed to find time to do some bathroom tiling, putting away my tools in the work shed, commencing the washing mountain (despite having used the washing machine in France quite a lot we still seem to have even more to wash), and of course putting away all the holiday souvenirs we bought.

And then of course there is the mountain of post to open and emails to deal with. I took my laptop with me and used McDonald's free Wifi to enable me to read some of my emails and booking enquiries whilst away, but there's still a massive pile to do.

Had a major calamity when I turned on my home PC to find that it wouldn't boot at all. Didn't recognise the hard disk as being present and there was a worrying rattle coming from inside the cabinet. Took the side off, fiddled with the cables to check they were all seated properly, swapped the hard disk power cable over for another power cable inside the cabinet and the hard disk is now working .... but it's got me worried now so I'm currently running a full hard disk backup onto my external lacie drive so that if it's really on the way out then at least I've got a completely up to date backup.

And in amongst the emails was a booking enquiry from our advert on The inquiry was from a French gentleman looking to rent our house for 2 months in October and November whilst work is being done on his house in Josselin.

Some of these long-term rental enquiries can be scam attempts but this sounded genuine so with the help of Google translate I carefully crafted my reply email in French detailing the property particulars.

But what to charge for a monthly rental figure?

The normal weekly holiday rent for the Gite would have worked out at circa €1200 per month but I felt this'd be too high for a long term out of season rent - the Gite would be occupied for an extended period of time which is worth having and we wouldn't have the changeover costs normally incurred with multiple holiday lettings.

A bit of google searching brought me to ViteLoge a French equivalent of RightMove to find houses to rent or purchase.

3 bedroom houses and apartments seem to be rented for anywhere between €430 and €800 with most being around the €500 mark.

€500 seems just to low to me. This is only going to be a 2 month rental agreement not for 12 months, our rental prices normally include electricity, heating oil, water etc and it makes sense to do the same for a 2 month agreement so I can't make it too low as it could cost me more in heating oil alone, and I have to consider that I may incur additional cleaning costs afterwards.

So I've plumped for €750 a month and we'll see what happens.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Travelling back from our long French summer holiday

We've just driven back from our french holiday home in central Brittany where we've had a great 3 week holiday. No work (well lots of work on the house but no real work), very warm and sunny, and a great relaxing time was had by all.

It's a long drive back from Brittany to Dunkerque but worth it as the ferry fares on the shorter crossings are much much cheaper than the routes into St Malo and Western France. We set off at 9:30am this morning and with lunch and shopping trip stops enroute (Liz went to buy more things for the home, I went to BricoDepot to look at DIY items!) we arrived in good time for the 8pm ferry.

When we stopped off at a giant Carrefour shopping complex on the outskirts of Caen I was amused by the different areas of the car park that were marked out with different countries of the world - Afrique, Australie, Norvège, etc.
Makes a whole different spin on the concept of having 'no idea where you left the car' .... I imagined a cross French wife berating her husband "what do you mean you left the car somewhere in Africa???"

I'm again using Norfolk Line's free wifi which I found on the way out but it's been a bit unreliable this time. All was working when we first got onboard but after half an hour or so I couldn't access any websites. A while later it was working again so I can finish off my blog posting, then just as I hit 'submit' it went off air - argh!


Monday, August 10, 2009

Running repairs to the swimming pool

Got over to our French holiday Gite OK on Saturday night, a long drive down from Dunkerque but Liz doesn't like the dog being left "all alone" in the car for too long so it was the long drive for us this time.

When we got there I found that the swimming pool cover we'd fitted at Easter was torn and the water was looking rather green and mucky again.

Took the pool cover off, chucked in a generous amount of Chlorine Shock and Granular Flocculant and then changed the pump filter. There was a spare filter in the barn next to the pool chemicals but unfortunately none of the guests had changed it in a while so the old filter was rather slimy and blocked up.

Left the pump on overnight and by next morning a miracle had occurred, clean pool water ! It's amazing how well chlorine shock works at killing microbes in the water and turning a the pool clean again.

By that afternoon the kids were already in the pool enjoying themselves.

Later on we were sitting down outside when Liz noticed that one of the pool pump hoses was acting as a fountain and water was leaking out on the gravel. Looks like the plastic pipes get brittle with age in the sun and rather than being pliable and bendy they now gave ominous creaks when I moved them. Fortunately with all the different pumps we've been through with the pool over the years I have quite a collection of replacement pipes so was able to swap the broken one over.

PS: And in case you wondered why I'm writing on my blog rather than spending time with the family on holiday ... I'm currently sitting in McDonalds carpark in Loudeac accessing their free wifi (see previous blog posting about free McDonalds wifi and hat-tip to Bob Toovey for originally spotting this McDonalds service). The main reason for connecting up was to arrange a booking for the Gite for the first two weeks of September, but whilst I'm here I'll catch up on my emails as well.


Bookings bookings bookings - 2010 already??

Flipping 'eck

Just checking my emails in McDonalds again to confirm a holiday booking for two weeks in September and found 104 emails since I last checked on Monday!

And the good news was several booking enquiries:
- Confirmation of the September booking
- An enquiry from an American couple about April 2010
- An enquiry for a family for a week in May 2010
- And another enquiry from another family for 2 weeks in August 2010.

Family getting bored now, better go ...


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sailing to France - and found free wifi on board!

I'm currently sitting in the lounge on board a Norfolk Line ferry sailing across to France to start our 3 week holiday. The kids are off watching a magic show, Liz is fretting about the dog being all alone in the car, and I've been left to guard the luggage.

The Dover coastline has just about disappeared in the sea mist and so to my surprise I've found out that Norfolk Line have free wi-fi onboard their ferry. The download speed isn't fantastically quick and is certainly nowhere near fast enough to watch a movie over (according to a quick test I did with the BBC iplayer speed test it's rated as 73kbps download speed and between 36 and 148kbps streaming speed - i.e. similar speed to a modem), but the signal strength is good and at least it's completely free.

(As a slight technical aside it appears that Norfolk Line must route their ferry internet connection through Denmark because when I searched with Google I was presented with as the default homepage!)

Compare this to Brittany Ferries who just 2 weeks ago announced that internet access is now available across all Brittany Ferries services to France and Spain ... but that you had to "purchase access time from the information desk onboard".
No details of actual prices are on their website - but it ain't free.

Happy happy holidays !!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Cheaper to eat out in France after VAT cut from 1st July

I just picked up news that on the 1st July the French government dropped the VAT rate on restaurants and cafe's from 19.6% to 5.5% which should result in a nearly 12% cut in the final bill, with a main dish at €15 dropping to €13.20.

French restaurants have been badly hit by the European recession so this reduction comes at an opportune moment. Apparently the French government has been lobbying for this reduction for a number of years but has been delayed by German opposition. Further details on Times Online.

We're off to France ourselves tomorrow (Saturday) for a 3 week holiday in our Gite which'll be a great break that we're all really looking forward to. I've promised to not spend the entire holiday plasterboarding or doing DIY; some spending time with the kids has been booked!

Talk soon


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Euroferries press conference - commencing operations in 'late August'

I first passed on the news back in March of Euroferries announcement of a new ferry service from Ramsgate to Boulogne that was due to start on 31st March and this date came and went without the service launching. By June there was still a holding page on their website and it looked like the service had been nothing more than a pipe dream.

Well on Friday as announced on Kent Online Euroferries held a press conference at Ramsgate Port and finally confirmed that the service would be going ahead with crossings on the Incat Bonanza Express taking just 75 minutes.

There's a fuller press release on Euroferries website which I've repeated below:
EUROFERRIES announces today it will commence its planned Fast Cross Channel Passenger Ferry Service between the ports of Boulogne & Ramsgate during August.

EUROFERRIES recently announced fast ferry services will operate from its two dedicated ferry terminals located within the ports of Boulogne and Ramsgate and have now signed agreements with both Ports.

The fast ferry the “Bonanza Express” will be operated by Euroferries in conjunction with its partner, FRED OLSEN who over the years has developed its highly regarded fast ferry service.

EUROFERRIES initial service, commencing late August will comprise of 5 daily crossings, with Bonanza Express an Incat 96m with a capacity of 146 first class and 570 additional passengers, carrying a combination of cars and luxury coaches. Capable of an operational speed of 38 knots it enables the channel crossing to be completed in a time that favourably competes port to port with the Channel Tunnel crossing time.

A second vessel will join the Bonanza Express service increasing passenger capacity and will also carry a combination of cars and luxury coaches.

EUROFERRIES are responding positively to passenger demand for a fast, efficient and friendly crossing, combined with the use of comfortable seating and attentive cabin crew providing an “in-seat” shopping service. The latest internet technology will further improve our customer experience bringing further added value customer benefits.

Euroferries Chairman, Per Staehr today said : "Euroferries signing of this Agreement with Thanet District Council enables us to look forward to building a long term relationship with the local community. Our new five crossing a day high speed service, will be focused on tourist traffic and takes full advantage of the new motorways both to Ramsgate and Boulogne along with the fast turn round terminal facilities within both Ports.

This agreement permits us to shortly announce the release of the new web booking service, further details and the provision of our new commuter coach service between London’s Stratford Hub and Ramsgate serving Canterbury and the Medway towns. Whilst, today is Thanet District Council's special occasion, we are delighted to attend and to welcome our partner Fred Olsen. The impending arrival of Bonanza Express, Incat 96m in its new Euroferries livery will provide the opportunity for Euroferries to welcome you when we will make further announcements."

Further announcements will be forthcoming in the near future including Euroferries partners, ferry services, timetable, pricing and booking arrangements in addition to further announcements regarding the introduction of Euroferries commuter coach service between London and Ramsgate.

Personally I find the suggestion that the service will be up and running by the end of this month a bit over optimistic when they haven't announced prices and can't yet take bookings on their website; and the idea of a second boat also sounds fanciful - surely it'd be good business sense to prove that the service is viable with the first boat before obtaining a second?

Unfortunately even if they do manage to launch in August they'll all but have missed the peak school holiday period and they'll now be looking to pick up passengers on an unproven route as Winter approaches.

We shall see ...

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