Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goodbye France Magazine

French Magazine

New Horizon media who are the owners of both the popular website and the highstreet French Magazine have announced that on 27th October 2011 following 10 years of French Magazine they are bringing the two publication avenues closer together and rebranding French Magazine as 'FrenchEntrée Magazine'.

There's no details of the new magazine look and feel on the current French Magazine website section but in the press release I received the magazine editor Justin Postlethwaite says: "The magazine has been receiving great feedback from readers and advertisers this year. So rest assured that the new name is the only aspect that we will be changing. Once they turn the cover, readers will still enjoy all of the same high-quality articles celebrating the best of France, brought to you by the same team of journalists and designers."

Plus ça change?

There's been lots of prior company mergers of online and offline business models (some with really dire consequences as a result - AOL/Time Warner as the biggest example), and personally I suspect there really will be more to this than just a name change over time.


Moncontour medieval videos

Following on from my earlier posting from the Moncontour medieval festival, here are two short video's to give some further flavour to the day's entertainment.

I tried more than once to upload these video's from McDonald's when I was in France but just couldn't get enough bandwidth over their free Wifi - so had to send these separately when I got back home to the UK.
(and sorry again to my family for having to sit around in McDonalds, twice, for over an hour whilst I tried !)

The first is of a procession coming up the hill for a "mock religious interrogation:

And the second is of some musicians walking past us:

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Very colourful Breton home

[Warning, this is the very first time that I have ever tried the
Mail2Blogger interface of emailing my Blog posting to Blogger, so if the results aren't readable or are badly formatted, blame Blogger not me!]

Across much of our part of Brittany there's a real mixture of properties, the traditional stone-built ex-farmhouses with steeply pitched slates roofs, and the newer block construction properties which are also tiled in slate but are pretty universally rendered and then painted with a near-identical shade of buttermilk or pale-yellow exterior paint.

Most of the Breton population seem to prefer the newer houses than the cost of renovating and maintaining an older property (so us ex-pat's get to buy a lot of them!), and I can kind of understand the logic of wanting to live in a more modern double-glazed and centrally-heated home, but whilst you don't get the "housing estate" effect of rows and rows of identical houses as most new builds are built to order once the owner has bought the land, you still can't get over the uniformity of exterior appearance.

I guess there is no local planning regulations as to what colour to paint your home, it's just convention that causes everyone to stick to buttermilk, but for one house owner we drove past on the way into Loudeac to go to the supermarket for food shopping the other day, the owner is definitely bucking the trend with their brilliant orange home.

We just had to stop and take a few photos:

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Moncontour Medieval Festival

After visiting the car boot sale around La Cheze's lake we carried on to the medieval city of Moncontour for their medieval festival.

The Moncontour Medieval Festival is held every 2 years as the clock is turned back on the whole of the town with the streets full of jugglers, magicians, street entertainers, sideshows, knights and armourers, and everyone is turned out in fancy dress - apparently if you arrive in suitable medieval clothes then you don't have to pay to enter but at €20 for the family of four of us it wasn't exactly breaking the bank to pay.

We've only visited Moncontour's fete medieval once before in 2005 as we've managed to take our holidays either just before or just after the festival so we really enjoyed our visit this time, wandering around the streets and seeing the sights and sounds.

Unfortunately 'rain stopped play' prematurely as the heat wave broke and we were treated to a torrential downpour which caused an early retreat back home to the Gite.

And even the rubbish bins were suitably dressed up for the medieval fete:

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free tickets to A Place in the Sun Live (Birmingham) 2011

A Place in The Sun Live logo

Here's a quick and easy way to save some money if you'd like to visit the Place in the Sun Live show at Birmingham's NEC from 30th September to 2nd October 2011; the tickets normally cost £12 on the door but if you use this special link you can print your own etickets to enter the show for free.

There'll be lots of properties for sale, information about how to buy your own dream place, plus expect some guest appearances from the Channel 4 TV presenters Amanda Lamb et al.

Enjoy !

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Car Booting in La Cheze

Up early(ish) today because we've got a busy day. Slept like a log last night after the short night's sleep the night before, and awoke to a beautifully warm and sunny day.

La Cheze summer festival, car boot sale and stalls around the edge of the lake
The little town of La Cheze is just 2 miles from our holiday Gite and has a range of shops, a supermarket, three restaurants and a couple of bank branches.
There's also a large lake and it was around the bottom and sides of the lake that the 'Festival Ete' (summer festival) was held. As we walked around and managed to buy far more than we'd started off with it was noticeable that there were quite a few English stall holders as well as French families clearing out their attics and garages.

Sitting down to dinner by the lake, car boot purchases surrounding us
The boys were happy because they bought an XBOX game (fortunately in English - I managed to steer them away from the French ones), an inflatable boat complete with Oars for €10 and Toby had the star purchase of a moving electric robot. The boat has been played with extensively in our swimming pool and we're still trying to figure out the robot as all the controller instructions are in French - so far we've found the demo dancing mode and how to get it to walk and move its arms !

Further round the lake we found an old hay maker and displays of old tractors, a parade of classic cars and Liz was happy with the Breton horses she found to stroke and make a fuss of.

Large queue for the fish and chips
We finished up with lunch at the fair which had a longer queue than usual. It wasn't the traditional Saucisse et Frites or Galette nature or even the Sandwiches that was causing such a queue, it turned out to be the battered Fish and Chips sold at a premium €6.60 that was proving to be such a popular item that they kept on running out and having to cook some more for the next batch of hungry customers. I'm sure the french 'language police' would have a fit with the sign that said 'Fish and Chips' not 'Poisson Frites' but the Union Jack flag above the stall and the satisfied customers said it all - this little transplanted corner of English produce was going down a smash hit!

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Travelling off to the Gite for our summer holidays

We're back on the road again today travelling down through France for a summer holiday in our Brittany Gite. From a price perspective I prefer the shorter Eastern channel crossings via Dover so it was an unhealthy 3:30am get-up in order to catch the 7am Sea France crossing to Calais.
For some reason I've always had it in my head that it takes about 2 hours to drive the 130 miles to Dover and so previously we've ended up in a real rush and have several times literaly caught the ferry with minutes to spare, so slightly better planning ahead I allowed an extra half-hour and we then left 15 minute late! Still the extra 15 minutes made all the difference, it was a much less stressful drive down to Dover and we still ended up pretty much driving straight onto the ferry when we arrived.

Our car being winched in the air on the ferry deck ramp
Liz absolutely hates driving onto the ferry, she squeals as we go onto the boat and she squeaks again when we go up the ramp onto the upstairs deck.
Today was even more anguished noises as we in the last few rows of the upper deck so had to park on the inclined ramp - left car in gear and pulled the handbrake on as hard as I could manage. Once the ramp was full and everyone was parked the ramp was lifted up level with the main deck and we were deafened by the noise of all the car alarms going off!

Ferry over was pretty full but took just an hour to sail into Calais harbour and just half an hour later we'd stopped off and filled up at the petrol station enroute to the autoroute, and we were then given our first taste of French roadworks by being directed the opposite way down the autoroute, a U turn over the motorway to head back in the right direction, and then stopped in a tailback by the Calais port exit.

Despite it being August peak Saturday holiday period the drive down wasn't all that bad and we only had a couple of minor delays on the journey. We stopped off for a "traditional" meal at Ikea outside Rouen - traditional Swedish meatballs that tasted pretty much identical to the Ikea meatballs in the UK !

Got to the Super U in Plemet literally 2 minutes after they closed so we diverted on to the small supermarket in nearby La Cheze for some provisions for the weekend. We'll do a bigger food shop early in the week.