Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time to wave goodbye to NorfolkLine

It won't be all that long now before NorfolkLine's name disappears from the cross channel Dover/Dunkerque ferry service, to be replaced by DFDS.

In December 2009 the Danish shipping company DFDS agreed conditions by which they would purchase Norfolkline from A. P. Møller - Mærsk for a "mere" for €346 million.
The transaction was subsequently approved by the EU in June and the purchase of Norfolkline completed in July this year.

Norfolk Line have now just posted news of one of the first visible signs of that purchase with the first vessel the Maersk Exporter which runs the Belfast – Heysham service has been renamed ‘Scotia Seaways’ and completely repainted and branded in DFDS blue and white.

Depending on how many Euro's DFDS have in their "painting budget", expect to see similar announcements for the remaining ferries on the Irish Sea and the English Channel.

I quite liked Norfolk Line ferries, the boats were very modern and clean, they offered free wifi on board, and the crossing price (depending on when you wanted to travel) could be very very reasonable - I travelled over once for just €29 one way.
On the downside though Dunkerque is yet another half an hour up the autoroute from our holiday Gite and the ferryport facilities in Dunkerque were "simple" to say the least. Hope they can keep the good things I liked and improve on the less good things .... mind you I doubt that they can do anything about the position of Dunkerque ferry port!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Been 'Gite shopping' again

The pile of things in the garage that's destined to go over to France is growing a little bigger as I've been shopping again ...

Last week I popped into Ikea in Leeds enroute home from my Dad's, not only to buy a coffee and a hot dog [Image], but also to buy some metal hooks for the hanging rails where all the pots, pans and kitchen utensils are in our Gite kitchen. I've been meaning to buy some more hooks for about a year now so pleased I have finally managed to tick it off the to do list.

Whilst wandering round a car boot sale on Sunday I saw a lovely little oak table that I decided would be just perfect as a bedside table in the second Gite. I love the look of natural wood furniture, I think it fits well in the Gite with its exposed beams and simple "country" decor, so most of the bedside tables, wardrobes and chests of drawers have been acquired in this way.
It was only £4 so I had an enjoyable afternoon sanding and wire-wooling it down before applying a couple of coats of beeswax polish. Looks lovely now.

Also at the car boot sale I picked up a new coffee percolator as the one in the Gite has suffered an accident and so we've had to put out the replacement from the second house. It's always the same things that seem to suffer from breakages so I try to keep one step ahead by buying a spare coffee machine in case one gets broken.

Another thing that seems to die with roughly annual frequency is the pump for the swimming pool. The guests currently in the Gite texted me on Sunday to tell me that the pump isn't "making any kind of noise". After eliminating the obvious ideas like checking that the electricity hadn't tripped out, it now does look like the pump's gone to the great pump heaven in the sky so I've asked our agents to pop over and get a replacement pump out for the guests.
Fortunately I already have another spare pump in the garage in the UK, but I've started looking on ebay to buy yet another one now so that we've a replacement for the replacement!

I'm waiting for Mr Postie to deliver me some new bike pedals courtesy of ebay, well admittedly they're not new, but they're new to me, and I need them as the last piece of my repair work on one of the Kids bikes that I brought back from France to repair.

PS: Toby has just put a wet cup down on the newly sanded and polished bedside table that I'd put in the conservatory after I'd finished it. It's now got a lovely circular ring mark on the polish so will have to be sanded down and re-polished again.


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Thursday, July 08, 2010

The early guest catches the booking discount

When I wrote the title of this Blog I was thinking about "The early bird catching the late worm" ... but in hindsight the analogy ran out of steam about half way through so maybe I'd better move on!

I've written before about a flurry of booking enquiries for 2010 I received in August 2009, and more surprisingly the booking we took in August 2007 for the following August - an amazing 363 days in advance, well I've been surprised again with how well organised some people are with their holiday plans.

Last week I received an enquiry from the Spellman family through the France holiday home advert we run on VillaRentals; enquiring what I would charge for a holiday in August next year.

I replied back saying that we normally review the prices for each season towards the end of the year, but for all bookings made this year I would hold the prices the same as this year. Our booking calendar on our Gite website and on VillaRentals only runs up to the end of December 2010 as I don't normally "open up" bookings for next year until September, but as the Spellman's were keen to book I manually marked the week they were interested in as available.

And later that day they made their booking, confirming an 8 day holiday for August 2011 - a staggering 418 days before they're due to rent the Gite.

I will have to talk to Liz and decide what we want to do for our own holidays in France next year because if I don't get organised we risk not being able to stay their ourselves. Meanwhile if you are interested in holidaying with us next year (or even this year we still have availability in September, October and at Christmas), do drop us a line with the dates you are interested in booking and I'll be happy to take your booking.

The question is, can anyone beat a 418 days in advance booking?

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Filling up the garage ready for our next trip to our French villa

Sorry for the lack of Blog postings through June (and some of May as well), as you may have guessed, work intervened to cut short my time to ramble on here about all things Gite-ish and French-ish.

For the last 8 weeks I've been working in Milan on a customer site, leading the high level design for a new computer system for them. It sounds far more glamorous than in practice it's turned out to be, commuting each week by aeroplane is I've decided something I don't particularly relish, but it pays the bills so has to be done. Each Monday I'm up at the crack of sparrows to drive to Heathrow, ignore the shopping facilities at terminal 5, fly to Milan, taxi to the client, then it's hotel/office, hotel/office, with occasional restaurants in between, and then fly back Friday night.

I have learnt that Italy is frighteningly more expensive than France, and I've also discovered that my brain can only cope with one foreign language. After 8 weeks I decided to borrow an Italian language course from the library and so far I keep on answering all the questions on the CD in French rather than Italian. No matter how hard I try I keep on muddling up my responses with French phrases so its a good job I have absolutely no plans to buy a house in Italy any time soon.

Meanwhile back at home, or to be more precise, back in our garage at home, I've been accumulating more things to take over to France.

Each time I go to our French home I make a list of things I want to do whilst I'm over there, then usually manage to achieve almost none of them, and on the return I make a list of things to bring over from the UK and usually manage to acquire a load more "useful" things that I hadn't originally thought of as well.

As well as two more kids bikes including one I brought back from France to repair I've been busy buying things off ebay and in the shops near home so have gained some more Brittany tourist guide books, a new cover for the swimming pool (after the last one got torn - grrr), a small side table to go underneath the freezer in the kitchen, replacement parts for the "swing seat" in the garden, a spare pump for the pool, some more videos, a metz post to repair a wobbly bit of fence, some masonry drill bits, etc, etc.

And as well as all that lot I've got to pack a load of tools so that I can finish off the laminate flooring in the hallway, the tiling in the second bathroom, the rubber matting walkway around the edges of the swimming pool, etc, etc.

Plus of course we've got to take ourselves and the dog in the car as well.

Going to be a full car - again.

Looking forward to going though, only 5 weeks to go now ...