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CatherineS2

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Posts posted by CatherineS2

  1. This may seem like a really dumb question, given the previous comments about them not being very bright, but do they cause any light polution?

    We are in a very isolated position, and sometimes we turn off all the lights at the house and lie on the sunloungers gazing at the stars, looking out for satellites and shooting stars.

    If we installed solar lights, would they affect the ability to see the stars at night?

  2. I am in the Sawday's French Holiday Homes book (I am not a B&B, I am a gite owner - hope it's OK to post in your forum!).

    Although I get most of my bookings from other sources, not from the Sawday's book or website, the advantage for us is that we can say that we have been recommended by Sawdays within our other advertising, which gives us one extra brownie point and hopefully makes us stand out amongst all the other gites being advertised. Also it gives people the comfort of knowing that our gite really does exist and that they are not going to arrive to find a non-existent gite.

    It's not cheap, in fact it is our most expensive form of advertising, but I have just signed up for another two years (£481) and I am proud to have successfully gone through the inspection.

    BTW - Alastair Sawday was featured on "The Hotel Inspector" which was on channel 4 this week - he was inspecting a B&B in Greenwich.

  3. [quote user="alnmike"]  I guess I'll have to pay for timed-changeovers now, for guests to collect the keys.[/quote]

    Actually, there is a "half-way" solution, as per my post above. You don't need to pay for someone to sit and wait for your guests, just for them to put the key there on the day of the changeover. That should be a bit cheaper? It certainly is for us, and our keyholder is much happier now that she is not tied to having to wait in for the guests to turn up.

  4. Very worrying, as we too have a keysafe. Where was your safe? Was it very visible?

    Ours is tucked away in one of the outbuildings, and we don't keep the keys in there permanently - our cleaner puts them in there on the day of the changeover, so we'd be really unlucky if someone tried to force it during the few hours when there is actually a key in there...

    But we will bear your experience in mind in the coming months now that the end of the busy season approaches - next weekend is the first time the house will be empty since last spring, so we really need to make sure our caretakers are more vigilant.

  5. [quote user="ltf"]

    Catherine2, do the outof eden protectors have a little give in them to fit the extra 5cms of a French double mattress? And has anyone found any genuinely impermeable mattress covers in France? I have discovered that the ones I bought from Carrefour are not[:@]

    [/quote]

    They must do, because I bought my mattresses in France from a local bedding shop and the covers fit on them fine.

    I think that they are genuinely impermeable, because they have a thickish plastic backing, with a quilted top. But they don't squeak, unlike other plastic mattress covers I have come across in some cheap hotels, and they don't make you sweaty. We even have them on our own beds back home in the UK. Before ordering them I called OofE customer services and they were very helpful, apparently that particular model is the one that they supply to upmarket hotels.

    I thought that the mattresses WERE sprung, but having read the posts above about sprung mattresses not being available in France, I am now starting to question this, and as I am at home in the UK at the moment I can't check. However, whatever it is they are made of, they were NOT cheap, but my goodness they are comfortable, and we have have many comments from guests about how comfy the beds are and how well they have slept....

  6. When you go on holiday, one of the worst things is having to sleep on a cheap, saggy, uncomfortable mattress.

    Therefore my advice is, if you splash out on only one luxury for your gite, make sure it is on good quality, comfortable bedding. You will probably have to spend even more than 200 Euros, but it will pay off in the long run - your guests will thank you for it.

    (And then keep it in good condition by investing in some good-quality waterproof quilted mattress protection covers like the ones sold by www.outofeden.co.uk - they're about £15 for a king size, and very comfortable)

    (PS: hooooooray to gdf for thinking about the customers!)

     

  7. Why is it that every time there is a piece about anything french on TV nowadays, they always use the soundtrack from Amelie? Yesterday it popped up when Keith Floyd was on This Morning, and last night it was on The Restaurant when some people were opening a Bistro.

    Do program makers not have any imagination???!!!

    (BTW, I do have a copy of the soundtrack on CD and I listen to it often, but I'm bored with hearing snippets of it on TV)

  8. Thank you for raising this interesting discussion.

    I would like to install WiFi at our gite, but as we do not live on site (in fact we don't even live in the same country!) I need to install something very robust and unbreakable. Trouble is, I'm not too sure how to go about it!

    I'd just like to have WiFi, but no PC. I do have a laptop, so am I right in thinking that I could take the laptop with me next time, just to set it up, but I won't have to leave it there, the WiFi will continue to function on its own?

    Can anyone point me in the right direction. What equipment do I need and how should I go about setting this up? How much is it likely to cost per month?

    (We have a France Telecom phone line at the house, and I have checked and apparently we are able to get broadband in our village).

    Thanks in advance to anyone who is able to give me some advice!

  9. [quote user="Eslier"]you can buy a freesat card from Sky for a £20 one off fee[/quote]

    I'm a bit confused because I've just looked up Freesat and it appears to be £150 (this from http://www.freesatfromsky.com). Where can I find it for £20?

    We've just had a satellite dish installed, it is pointing at Astra 2D and we have the BBC channels, but I would quite like ITV, C4 and Five too. We live in the UK and have a full Sky package at home, but the France house is let out as a gite and I would like to provide the extra channels for our guests.

    Thanks! 

  10. FURTHER UPDATE

    After my letter to the company and their CEO, I got a response from them, giving us the choice of accepting the work done so far and not having to pay the balance (about 900E), or for them to come back to replace the tiles. Only problem with the latter option is that they couldn't do it within the last couple of weeks and as we are now booked up through the summer, the work would be done in September - but by the same workman, and they require us to be present while the work is done (presumably because they want to make sure that we hand over a cheque at the end!)

    I contacted the CLCV (www.clcv.org) and the woman I had previously spoken to has taken up our case. She has contacted the company and they have now agreed to send someone else - in fact, apparently the original subcontractor has now been licenciee (let go) and I have to say that I feel really bad about that, I don't want people to lose their jobs on my account :-((  Apart from the cr*p tiling job, he was very helpful, polite and punctual and the rest of the work didn't seem too bad... Oh well...

    Also, when I told her that it was very difficult for us to spend a couple more days over there mid-week in September, she said that she and her colleague would go along to our house on the final afternoon to check the quality of the work (bear in mind that her office is 80kms away)!!! I was very pleasantly surprised and thanked her profusely, but she shrugged it off - "c'est normal!".  She is only in the office two afternoons a week, the rest of the time she is a sort of roving dispute resolver, and she often goes along to court with plaintiffs too!

    I have to say that I am so impressed with the way the CLCV have taken up our case, even though we aren't members (although I have now joined the association - it's only 30euros p.a.). I would really advise other people with consumer-related problems to contact them if you feel you need some assistance with any disputes. I'm going to post something in the Legal section of this forum too. 

  11. UPDATE

    Lots of to-ing and fro-ing on this, but to cut a long story short, we arranged for them to come and do the work week commencing Sat 28/4, as we had guests right through since March.

    Last week they sent me a registered letter to confirm the appointment, and advising us that the same artisan was coming back (on the saturday and sunday) and that he was going to tile over the existing tiles - NOT what we were expecting.

    After various research (eg UK trading standards, www.euroconsumer.org.uk, www.econsumer.gov, www.quechoisir.org, I got in contact with the Seine Maritime branch of the "Association de defense des consommateurs" (www.clcv.org). The woman was very helpful and specific and she told me that they were obliged to remove and replace the tiles, and that it was our right to ask for a new equipe to do the work. If they did not do this, I should contact the CLCV again and they would help us to take it to court - she made it sound very easy to take it before the juge, it would be free and that we shouldn't need to engage a solicitor in such a clear-cut case, and that we could even claim some of our money back if necessary (at the moment I only owe them about 900E). I'd be interested to know if others have had to do this and whether it really is that simple?

    Fed up with all the blaming, dithering and obfuscation, I have sent a registered letter telling them that they have to replace the tiles, using a different installer, by 19th May, otherwise the work cannot be done until October, and I will be withholding payment of the balance until it has been rectified.  I also reminded them that the bad tiling job would be seen by all the guests we have throughout the summer, not a good advertisement for them!

    I also sent a copy of the letter to their CEO at their Paris head office - let's see what he thinks of those photos!!!

  12. I really hate to sound pessimistic, but have you already found your corps de ferme for 100,000 Euros? There certainly aren't any around here in Seine Maritime for that sort of money. I call it the "abatoir" theory - if you find a property on a website that has a price that seems too good to be true, that's probably because there is something wrong with it - near the abatoir, the motorway, or some other such negative aspect.

    But, assuming you do find such a property, and have spent 200,000 in total on purchase and renovations, how big a mortgage will you need and how many weeks will you need to book in order to sustain this mortgage? We have had our house in Normandy for 4 years now, and we have been exceptionally successful at letting it out (39 weeks booked in 2006). Even so, we have never made a profit.

    These are our figures for 2006 (in Euros):

    Sales 19,066

    Insurance: 397
    Repairs/Maintenance: 5342 (we had a new kitchen installed, and our maintenance fees are quite high as we don't live on the premises and have to pay a cleaner and someone to cut the grass)
    Utilities: 1518
    Publicity/Postage etc: 615
    Purchases less than 380 euros: 2187 (miscellaneous furniture and bits for the new kitchen etc)
    Peofessional Fees: 436
    Misc: 273
    Local Taxes: 890
    Mortgage Interest: 5780 (OK, we have a big mortgage!!!)
    Bank Charges: 125

    Anyway, I'll let you "do the math", and yes, we do spend a lot of money on the upkeep and furnishings of the house but that is what makes us successful at letting it.

    We have a lot of (English) friends in the area who are really struggling to make ends meet. There are not a lot of jobs in rural france, well not in our area that's for sure, and it's even harder for non-locals to get jobs. Many of our friends have ended up getting jobs back in the UK and commuting back to th the UK on a weekly basis, leaving wife and children stranded during the week at the house in France, seeing even less of each other than they did before they made the move. and spending miserable sundays with the thought of the commute the following morning hangine over them.

    Sorry to be so negative, but please make sure you really really think this through before you make the final commitment.

    EDIT:
    Just realised that in my figures above, I only quoted for mortgage INTEREST payments as they are the only ones you can set off against tax. Our ACTUAL mortgage repayments are twice that, once you include the repayment part of the mortgage. We took out a 140,000 euro loan over 20 years and our monthly repayments are 902.19 euros. We are very fortunate that we both have full time jobs in the UK so we are able to top up the mortgage out of our UK earnings and don't have to rely on the rental income to cover the mortgage.

    Also: Be aware that I don't think french mortgage lenders base the amount they will lend you based on the value of the property and its potential letting income. As far as I can remember, it is all done based on a percentage of your income, and they are very strict, by law, as to the maximum you are allowed to borrow, inlcuding the total of ALL loans, credit cards, etc, in the UK as well as in France. Please consult a financial guru on this matter because it may have all changed in the past 4 years, but it was certainly very strict when we took out our loan.

  13. Good luck with your house hunting!

    We thought about buying somewhere further South with a better guarantee of sunshine, but with two school-aged children we realised that we would be better off buying somewhere which we could easily reach by car. We didn't fancy having to drive down the French motorways for hours on end, and low-cost airlines don't work out so low-cost when there are four of you travelling during the school holidays, especially when you factor in the cost of car-hire! So we decided to concentrate our search to an area just 2 hours from Calais. Previously we had by-passed this region on our way down to the better-known parts of Normandy, i.e. Manche and Calvados, and didn't realise just how lovely the Seine Maritime actually is. We can get to the house in 4.5 hours door to door from our house in Sussex (and it was the same when we previously lived in London), via the tunnel, and once there we are ideally placed to visit so many lovely places - Rouen, Dieppe, Paris (not forgetting Disneyland!), Monet's house at Giverny, etc etc. So it is perfectly possible for us to go out just for a weekend if we want (although we don't tend to so much anymore as it is so often booked up!). Although we can't take credit for realising it at the time, because the global-warming issue was not so much in the news, we have since realised that we can be smug about the fact that each time we travel to Le Gaillon by car, we only use 99kg of CO2, as opposed to 600kg if we had taken a short-haul flight to a European destination, so it is a much more carbon-friendly option!

    We always laugh when we watch these "Place in the Sun" programs when the people choose to buy somewhere within a day or two. We spent over 6 months viewing properties on about 6 separate viewing trips - we must have spent over £1,000 on ferries and accommodation and seen over 30 properties. We were close to giving up (I even wrote a post on this forum called "should we give it up and get a loft conversion instead?" when I was still CatherineS) then we viewed Le Gaillon on a cold snowy day in February 2003 and it was the "coup de foudre" - we instantly knew that after all that slog we had found the one that we had been waiting for. We wanted somewhere "special", and we believe we have found it - it really is magical because it is so secluded yet has such lovely views. It is big enough for us to go on holiday with another couple and their children so we often go over most half-terms and holidays, and one day, when we have the funds(!) we would like to do a "Grand Design" on the attached barn... In the meantime, to help pay our mortgage, we let the house out as a holiday cottage and we have been very successful (40 weeks booked in 2006! OK, that includes us during the holidays, but those are weeks which we would be able to book 10 times over anyway) - I think this is largely due to its location, people come to us for a week for their "second" holiday in the spring and autumn.

    By the way, we bought the house while we were living in London. We found that coming back from Le Gaillon was so depressing that it made us want to move to France and we spent a few months planning to move out there permanently, but we realised that moving to France is not always the sweetness and light that people with their rose-tinted glasses make it out to be. But having decided to leave London, it did prompt us to move to the country - and we ended up moving to Heathfield, which is the twin-town of Forges-les-Eaux, our town in France!!!! So now we have the best of both worlds - a house in the country in East Sussex, and one in its twin town in France (although I would guess that most people who have houses in twin towns would do it the other way round, i.e. buy a second home in their twin town abroad, not vice-versa!!!!)

  14. The other night I was watching the program Dragons Den on TV, it's the one where inventors pitch their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs in the hope that they will invest in the product.

    This chap came on and demonstrated something that was EXACTLY what I have been looking for. It's a nightlight that plugs in to any electric socket. So far, so what....
    But, the nightlight part of it is a detachable torch, and whilst it is plugged in, it is constantly being recharged. Then, if there is a power cut, unlike an ordinary nightlight, the torchlight stays on, and even better, the torchlight can be detached and used to find your way around.

    On the program, the "dragons" were pooh-poohing the idea, they just didn't get it, whilst I was screaming at the television at their short-sitedness! I have been looking for something like this for ages to replace my current system of keeping torches in all the bedside tables and hoping that the guests don't move them or use up the batteries. In the end, one of the dragons, who has a holiday home in Spain finally "got it" and decided to invest in the produce. Halleluyah!

    This is the website:
    http://www.safetlight.co.uk/index.asp

    I emailed the inventor, and he just called me and we had a long chat and I have ordered two continental versions for our house. From what I can gather, they have only just created a "schuko" 2-pin version and I don't think they've got many in stock yet but they will have soon.

    I'll post again once I receive them (which won't be until mid-April as we are off to Florida on Thurs for 2 weeks).

    EDIT
    Just found a link to the D.Den episode: http://www.bbc.co.uk/broadband/mediaplayer/players/bbc2/bb_rm_console.shtml?package=4588095&nbram=1&bbram=1&nbwm=1&bbwm=1&clip=ep5_clip2#

  15. Following on from my "Tiling Disaster" thread, the company in question has also let me down w.r.t. the heated towel rail which they installed. I've never heard such garbage in my life, the thing does not work at all, and the salesgirl told me on the phone today that she is "not allowed" to call the supplier, not until they have issued an invoice, which they can't do until the installation is complete and we have paid, which of course we're not going to do until the tiling is sorted out (which could take months).

    In the meantime my gite is solidly booked until mid-April and onwards, and we have guests arriving on Saturday - to a house with no heating at all in the bathroom!!!!

    So I am going to tell them that we are going to remove the towel rail which they installed and I am going to get another one. Can anyone advise where I can get one from, to take away immediately? The problem is that I am back in the UK and will have to order online or by telephone, and get my electrician handyman to take delivery or pick it up. I thought the obvious choice would be brico depot but they don't seem to have their products on their website.

    Anyone know where I can get one? (Please don't say Lapeyre or I will slash my wrists). 

    Thanks guys!

    (PS. I am looking for one of those chrome ladder jobbies).

  16. I've had another look at our contract, and the work that they were supposed to do includes:

    "Depose du receveur de douche, de la cabine existante et de la robinetterie murale." (i.e. deinstall the shower tray, existing shower cabin and taps).

    But later it says that we were responsible for

    "Le redressement des murs avant la pose du nouveau revetement". (i.e. prepare the walls before the new coating).

    But how on earth were we supposed to do this, as we couldn't get to it before the plumber "deposed" the shower????!!!!

    Could any plumbers advise me on this point please? I think it is quite an important one for our case, as they are still trying to lay the blame on the uneven walls. (To be honest, the walls weren't that bad).

  17. Jc - Do they know how to tile and are they anywhere near Normandy??? (ha ha). If so please PM me their details!

    Just got back from France, not much else to add. Went back to the shop this morning and have picked out some new tiles. They are still trying to blame it on us for not having prepared the wall properly. As they didn't have a huge selection to choose from in stock, I stopped off at the Calais branch on the way back. I showed the photos to the bathroom salesman there and he was shocked. He said that it made him want to cry and he took the photos off to show his fitter who said that it the person who fitted it could not have been a professional.

    I now have all my facts straight and will compose my letter to send to the branch and to the head office. We are going to stand our ground and ask for the tiles to be removed completely and for it to be redone. Will let you know what happens next...

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