Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Euroferries now delayed until 2010

I guess it was inevitable that after several announcements of Euroferries new service from Ramsgate to Boulogne that was due to start in March, but was delayed in March, June, August, September and was finally due to launch on November 14th - when I commented that this wasn't a good time to start a new service with bookings dropping off during the winter season.

On this is Kent there's the (sadly unsurprising) news that on Wednesday (25th November) Euroferries announced that they won't commence sailings until 2010.

There's no publicly announced revised start date for the service, and I tried a few booking enquiries on Euroferries website but drew a blank from there as well.

It was always going to be difficult launching a new service into the competitive channel ferry business; Speedferries tried and failed spectacularly, so we'll have to wait and see whether Euroferries ever does make it off the starting blocks.


Just how big is Brittany Ferries website?

I came across a rather odd article the other day that announced that as a result of implementing some website optimisation software, Brittany Ferries website had leapt from having 3,000 webpages indexed by Google to 308,000 pages being indexed by the search engine.

I have to admit I was astonished by this marketing claim. Just how big is Brittany Ferries website? I can't imagine how they can possibly have three hundred thousand unique pages of website content even if they include affiliated organisations such as their Brittany Ferries Gites & Cottages directory. A thousand or so maybe but that's an absolutely incredible amount of material.

So I did a few searches for myself.

Self SEO have a tool that will search the major search engines and tell you how many pages you have indexed on the search engines.

For SelfSEO reported 14 indexed pages, but for it reported 346,000 pages as being indexed!

Alternatively in the Google search box you can type the query

          " -qwertrew"

where "qwertrew" is some term that does NOT appear on any of your pages.

Try this for and then click on the 'repeat the search with the omitted results included' and I got 42,300 pages but if you dig down then an awful lot of the pages seem awfully similar to each other.

So it's odd that the numbers can be so wildly different depending on how you 'ask' Google what it's indexed.

So repeating these queries on something I know the answer to, my very own vacation rental website.

SelfSEO revealed 119 pages indexed, and via the 'inurl' Google search trick, 118 pages indexed.

Digging around and counting up I found that there are 27 actual pages of content (Gite description, places to visit, travel directions, current availability) on the Gite website, 74 availability calendar pages (one for each month from January 2005 through to January 2011), 14 different 'test' pages I've written whilst trying out ideas (like the website redesign of 2006) and 5 different PDF documents (booking enquiry form, etc).

So the 'correct' answer is somewhere around 120 if you add all these together - thus the SelfSEO number seems just about on the mark.

Which leads me back to sort of trusting the website index statistics unearthed by SelfSEO, and thus begs the question I started off with, Just how does Brittany Ferries end up with so many unique website pages?

It's taken me long enough to write a hundred or so pages !

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Every search is a quest. Every quest is a story - Google search videos

Under the title "Cool, Even Batman uses Google" last week Google also announced a short series of video's about using Google search to solve everyday problems.

As well as Batman using Google there's a resident working to fix local potholes that runs for local election, a grandma starting to use YouTube, an American High School student trying to fit in to a new school, and more. Altogether there's 6 different search story videos under the "Every search is a quest. Every quest is a story" theme but I must warn you that they're all ultra-smultzchy.

My favourite is the Paris love video:

Don't say I didn't warn you !

They are good though ...


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

First look at Google Chromium - the shape of personal computing to come?

Chromium logo
Last week on Google's official Blog was the open source launch of Chromium OS, Google's operating system.

Like many Google announcements it's been lept on by some industry speculators and is being touted as a future Microsoft "killer" - despite this being a very early version that won't be properly available to consumers for another year.

So what's it really like?

Over on Computer Weekly there's a good photo review of Chromium OS which takes you through the main features of the forthcoming operating system. In essence it's a locked-down linux-like operating system that appears to the user as just a web browser so you can "only" browse websites and run web apps (such as Google Mail, Google Docs). In a nod to other dominant internet standards a Flash player is bundled in, but you won't be able to install any of your own apps at all.

In use there's clearly a long way to go before Google perfect the user interface but judging by other Google endeavours this'll only be a matter of time, but the reviewers at CW commented on the lightning fast (20 second) startup time and responsiveness. Designed for the next generation of internet-connected devices I was a bit disappointed to learn that Google plan to only make it available on new devices so it won't be a PC or Mac replacement Operating System .... but given that it's all going to be open source'd then maybe this'll change?

For more details see the home of the Chromium projects where you can subscribe to email updates, or read the Chromium Blog, or you can even download and build your own copy of Chromium OS and buy the developer hardware.

What do you think? An Internet flash-in-the-pan or the next-big-thing? Personally I think with Google's backing it should do well, but big companies (like Microsoft) have gone awry on the Internet before so who knows for sure?


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google Translate gets better

Google Translate
Google announced three new features on Google Translate today that will make it even easier to bring the international internet to the masses.

As well as being able to cut and paste in a paragraph of text or a web page to have it translated, Google Translate now offers:

  • Instant translation - as you type in one language the text is instantly converted.
  • Read and write any language by having your text converted to phonetics.
  • Text-to-speech - listen to the English conversion of what you've just typed.
My broadband connection is a bit dodgy some mornings so I found the 'instant translation' was quite jerky and didn't always convert what I'd written, and the text-to-speech didn't work at all; but I'm sure these are problems at my end rather than of Google's making.

Alternatively I'm still using the Translate Button I wrote about in March 2007 - select a paragraph of foreign text, click the bookmark button, and you're instantly dropped into a Google translation of the selected text.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 09, 2009

Driving in France - hints and tips

One of the things that I managed to do whilst we were on holiday in August this year was to finish writing the new 'driving hints' page for our Gite website.

I remember when I first registered the domain name and I'd placed a Gite advert in the village magazine before the website was finished. The race was on to get the website finished before the magazine was distributed around the village and so I spent night after night churning out the pages of the site.

Since then my output of writing new content has slowed down somewhat ... ok, it's slowed down and awful lot, and the time between writing new pages has stretched into months and months.

Looking back in the Blog archives I can see that I added a 'what is RSS' page in February 2007, the PictoBrowser-powered photo gallery in March 2007 and details of the nearby world heritage site of Mont St Michel in June 2008. So looks like I'm averaging about one page a year - so this could be the only new page I actually finish writing this year!

Anyhow, back to the plot (such that it is) ...

Although we've had a holiday travel options and routes page on the Gite website since launch which has some details about driving in France, it's mainly focussed on whereabouts in Brittany the Gite is, and how easy it is to get there whether you choose to go by plane or ferry, and from wherever you want to travel across the UK and Ireland.

I thought that I ought to supplement this with more specific details of what it's like to drive in France and what the key rules and regulations are for both you and your car. I spent quite a lot of time trawling through different sites on the internet to put this page together, including the AA and RAC motoring in Europe pages, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth 'advice for travellers' and various leaflets and brochures I'd picked up over the years.

There's details of French speed limits (which vary according to whether the road conditions are dry or wet), important things you need to know when driving such as 'Priorité àDroite', how and where to fill up with fuel (and what the different pumps contain) and the legal obligations for taking your car to France such as carrying a warning triangle, spare bulbs and a reflective jacket.

Finally I've included English/French translations for dozens of the most common road signs you could see on your holiday so you're not baffled by Toutes directions, Suivre Rennes or even Cédez le passage!

Hope you find useful the new Driving in France - Hints and Tips.

And as a bonus challenge, test your knowledge of driving in France with the roadsign above. Do you know what it means? On a holiday programme I saw last year they quizzed people on the cross-channel Ferry and hardly anyone knew what this sign meant - do you?

And if you don't know, suggest you surf over to our French motoring information page!!

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ferry news from Euroferries, LDLines and a maritime disaster

Three different bits of ferry related news that I picked up whilst surfing through Google news today ....

First up, after all the long delays of getting the Euroferries service from Ramsgate to Boulogne up and running it was good to read on that the Euroferries ferry service is due to start on time on the 14th November. The article reports that the Bonanza Express which has been languishing in the Canary Islands for most of this year has finally been repainted in Euroferries colours, work on the dockside ramps has been completed, and the Ramsgate tax free shop is also ready for customers.

Last month I wrote about LD Lines transferring the Norman Arrow fast cat from Boulogne onto the LeHavre service and thisiskent leads with news of some of the fallout from this service change as a number of the LD Lines Norman Arrow crew are being made redundant. Some crew will transfer to the conventional ferry and some will be retained whilst the boat is laid up for the winter, but presumably they could then be at risk afterwards?
The article closes with commenting that a number of those affected were previously employees of SpeedFerries which of course went bust a year ago.

And finally KentOnline describes a major maritime disaster exercise that took place on Wednesday when volunteer members of the UK Maritime and Response Group practised some of the emergency drills they'd have to invoke were there to be a major marine emergency. The simulation covered a fire and cross channel passenger ferry evacuation in the Dover Straits. Let's hope they never have to do it for real.