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Coco

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Everything posted by Coco

  1. God you're brave!!! I can't be specific about Mayenne (we're in Manche) but certainly in Manche all shops and supermarkets are open as normal on the 24th.  You will also find that small shops will be open until about noon on Christmas Day, ie baker, butchers, greengrocers, fish shops, florists.  However, if you're intending to do a tradional Christmas lunch bring your own parsnips with you from the UK!!!
  2. So will ITV1 and 2 just appear on our list of channels available via Astra 2a now or will we have to add them manually.  If so, does anyone know what the settings are please? Well I could get very excited now, Corrie after a 2 and a half year absence!!! 
  3. I keep thinking it's slowing down, then it doesn't.  We know of three Brit-owned properties round here that were on sale from January this year.  None had sold by the end of July and I expected that all three would have to drop their price.  However, all three have sold (at their full asking price) in the last 3 months (2 to local French buyers).   Some may think that's slowing down, and I suppose compared to the peak of around 2003/2004 it may be the case, when houses were selling almost as quickly as in the UK.  However, at the time we bought (1999) it was perfectly normal for a French house to be on the market for over a year (and at least 6 months) before selling.  So it seems to me that we have just reverted to the same state that things were before the little boom.  I certainly don't think that the market has "crashed" but I suppose, as some people think, if a lot of Brits decide to sell up and return to the UK, there are so many in this area now, that it could create a bit of a crash and people may have to wait a lot longer to sell their properties.
  4. Our latest B&B guests said they used the new motorway from Alencon.  They sang it's praises in terms of time saved but commented that the peage system is a little strange.  Apparently you have to park up in a lay-by and get your ticket validated in a machine and then continue on through the barriers.  They said this was away from the line of barriers where the toll booths usually are and was causing chaos, especially with the French, who were not used to this sort of system.  Anyone know if this is true and whether it's temporary or not?
  5. There's quite a big one on the Bayeux ringroad, near the Saint Lo turnoff.  I think the road that it's in is signposted to Saint Loup. It's like all of them, one time you'll go and it will be full of rubbish, another time you'll want to buy everything in there.
  6. Hi Mark All comers welcome, as long as you bring a bottle or two.  We usually start with a bottle of champagne about 10.30 to 11am and take it from there..... The first year we spent Christmas in France I brought my partridges with me.  The second year I plucked up (sorry about the pun!) courage to ask the lady on the poultry stall on St Lo market if they did partridge, as I'd seen guinea fowl and pidgeon on her stall and she said yes, she took orders for Christmas. Since then, I've discovered a farm, less than 3km from us where they raise all forms of game birds, so no problem at all now!!! My mum lives here now too so this year I've got to get a capon for them (they must have their "sliced" meat or it wouldn't be Christmas ) but we're still having our plump little partridges for Christmas Day (with a bottle or two of decent burgundy) and cold pheasant with jacket potatoes and pickles for Boxing Day, with another bottle or two of burgundy and with the Aged P's here you can probably double that - can't wait!!
  7. You're right Margaret, it is so subjective.  I've met several people who are arrogant enough to say they are fluent in French and they are, well, in a word C**p!!!  I have never felt able to say that I am even good but my French neighbours say I'm fluent.  Oh no I'm not!!  It seems to me, the longer I live here and the more French I learn, the more I realise I don't know.  But SB is right.  You only need to know the vocabulary that is pertinent to you.  There are lots of words in the English language that I don't understand. I was very happy with myself the other day when I accompanied some English friends to the notaires because they were selling half their house to some friends and were setting up a company to do it.  They asked me along to translate and I was a little worried that I would make a fool of myself.  However, I surprised myself in how few times I had to ask the notaire to repeat something and even managed, after listening to him, to explain the whole system to my friends.  I even ended up being the "gerant" (is that right?) of their new company!  And of course, right at the end of the 2 and a half hour meeting, the notaire spoke to me in ENGLISH!!!
  8. Where do you live Mark?  I'll stop off next time I'm in your area!  I didn't dare respond to this thread before because I thought everyone would think I have a serious drink problem.  At the moment I haven't had a drink for over a week because I'm trying to do a bit of dieting before my trip back to the UK in November (or none of my friends will recognise me after all this good living in France). My husband and I probably have a similar intake to you and Phoenix most of the time.  And for years we drank a lot more than that, so these days are quite proud of our "moderate" intake.  My doctor never thought it was a problem either.  In fact, she told me that she believed that I was actally telling the truth.  She said that generally GPs double the amount of units most people admit to because they know it will be nearer to the truth! There's another old addage, something about giving up sex, booze and fags makes you live longer, or perhaps it just FEELS longer
  9. Mmmmm juniper berries; I should have thought of that with the sanglier!   Not being lovers of turkey, and only being two of us, we tend to have partridge, stuffed with ham, mushrooms and crushed juniper berries for Christmas lunch..... now I've got the taste buds going I might have to have a practise run
  10. Funnily enough we had civet de sanglier for dinner last Sunday.  I'm trying to empty the freezer to defrost it and found a pack in there from last winter.  I can't give a detailed recipe as I tend just to chuck things in til it tastes right, however, this is roughly what I did: Put diced sanglier in a large bowl with a roughly chopped onion, some thyme, salt, pepper and enough bordeaux or cotes du rhone to cover.  Leave for a minimum of 3 hours (I would have done it the night before had I remembered). Then heat casserole dish on hob, with a little olive oil in and add a finely chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Drain and dry meat, toss in seasoned floor, seal in casserole dish, then add the wine and a similar amount of stock and some more thyme.  Put in oven at 175 degrees (gas 4 I think) and leave for about 2 hours.  Then add some sliced (fairly chunky) carrots and return to oven for another hour and a half.  Add some quartered field mushrooms and some trompettes de la mort or any other mushrooms you can find at the moment and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes or so.  By now most of the onion will have dissolved and the liquid should have thickened and reduced nicely.  If it tastes a bit too rich add a squeeze of lemon.  The sauce should be pretty dark red (almost black) looking. It was melt in the mouth and absolutely delicious and after a good 4 hours in the oven should have killed off any bugs than jonzjob was talking about.  Anyway, we're still here!!!
  11. You could also try http://www.neckermann.fr they have a section called Boutique Plus for us more voluptuous ladies.  I've just ordered the catalogue, haven't yet bought anything from them but a friend has, and the quality seems just fine.  Some of the styles are a bit frumpy but there's quite a good selection.  Land's End France has just ceased trading but I've always used Lands End UK but they charge a minimum shipping fee of £10.95 per order, so it puts the price up quite a bit.
  12. Have you tried http://www.findatradeinfrance.com or http://www.artisan-anglais.com both have listings of English speaking artisans.
  13.  Wow, this thread has taken off again!!Funny that, believe it or not, our first guests arrived at 8 and love our hospitality and what we offer B&B. SunnyD, do you mean by this statement your first guest of the day or your first EVER?  I mentioned the annology regarding staying in rooms to the Gentleman and he agreed with me regarding the topic this thread was started on before the "my brother is bigger than your brother" scenario started, they do not expect to have to be out all day if they choose not to. So, first customer survey report  is in......... You refer to this visitor as "the Gentleman" so presumably he is not a regular visitor/friend/relative.  You cannot seriously be saying that within two hours of this "stranger" arriving in your home you told him all about this thread and asked his opinions on it?  Now that really does seem to be taking the "my brother etc" mentality to extremes, involving paying customers in your private squabbles/debates and doesn't sound at all professional to me. I'm sorry, I'm not wishing to have a personal dig, just an honest observation on having read everything that you have said in the previous two pages about working in public relations type work and then coming out with a statement like that.  I find that truly AMAZING! I have had many run-ins with Miki on his forum so it's not us "Gurus" sticking together in a private club, but I have to say, if this is your first guest you have an AWEFUL lot to learn I can tell you, and I'm a long way behind Miki in my CDH experience.  I think your main problem is that you are running a place in France and in France they are Chambres d'hotes and have totally separate legal rules to those of a hotel, which most certainly do not have anything to do with the size of the property, the percentage given over to guests or the number of guest bedrooms.  There are just some things you can do and some you can't. I too started with two bedrooms, this year we expanded to two doubles, one of which could be let as a family suite with a twin room leading off it.  Next summer we will have three doubles plus the twin room.  I can ASSURE you, you MUST have your own time and space.  Perhaps if you don't intend to do table d'hotes you can be assured that your guests will have to go out in the evening, thus giving you that free time and space, but if you run a TDH property your evenings are spent entertaining your guests and thus, for the sake of sanity, you do need some time, free of them, during the day.  I hope your B&B is a success but if tonight's guests are truly your first, it will be interesting to hear your views the same time next year or the year after, following a couple of busy seasons when you cannot call your time or your home your own.  Having said all that, it is good fun and I thoroughly enjoy the lifestyle.  I also worked in the tourism industry before for several years, in the ultimate hotel situation where guests NEVER go out...... luxury cruise ships - but as Miki said, there is plenty of staff to provide 24/7 service to customers and still allowing the workers their own free time.
  14. First question:  presuming that you mean you would like to work 6 months then have six months off; where are you going to find a mug prepared to work the busy six months and let you have the easy 6 months and then let you have half the income?   Unless you've got pots of money and plan to buy in somewhere like Paris, the Cote d'azure or one of the larger tourist towns I think you'll find that for a large part of the year it will be quiet enough to allow you to close for several months anyway.  Sharing the work (and profits) with another couple sounds a bit like a non-starter to me!!!
  15. I would think there could be a good legal case there if they continue to accept voluntary or self-employed contributions from overseas residents and then try to stop the pension.  A bit like the compensation claims currently being made against the endowment sellers from the 8s and 90s for not giving clear advice  But as someone else has said, nothing would suprise me!!!  It's something worth keeping an eye on though!
  16. That's interesting.  We've just booked our crossing for 24th/28th November and no mention at all!!  As it's a free crossing I think I might notice a surcharge of £8.  I wonder if they haven't made the charge because it was supposed to be a free crossing. Incidentally, they've just been awarded Channel Operator of the year and have introduced a new pricing policy, which is the opposite to most.  ie  £20 each way if you book within 48 hours of sailing and £30 each way if you book in advance.
  17. We contacted AS and asked about being put in (so much for recomendations) no proble the guy will stay with you for one night and wont expect to be charged for the 30€ for the bed and meal. If it's OK, which even a tent would be then hand over around £680 per year and you are in. Have you actually tried it yet though Chris?  We contacted them in our first year and just got a standard email saying they would get back to us, they didn't.  Tried every 6 months for 18months with the same standard reply.  I then got a couple of friends to write in recommendations for me and almost immediately AS contacted me and asked if I would like to fill out their relevant forms and would I let the man stay for 25€ a night.  No problem I said; we'll be in touch between March and October they said; well, I suppose we've still got another 3 weeks to go!!!  Also, the amount you pay is like GdF, it depends on how many rooms you have available. Emma, no I decided not to go with GdF because the lady was only prepared to give me two epis.  When I asked how I could get 3 she told me it would be impossible for me to ever get 3 because my rooms aren't big enough.  I felt that because I currently charge towards the top end of the 3 epi ratings in this area I was not happy being put in at a 2 epi (who around here charge between 25-35€ per night) as it could do me more harm than good to be charging25-30€ more than those with a similar rating to me.  
  18. I know what Viva means about people thinking they're fluent.  My friends all told me I was fluent when I worried that mine wouldn't be good enough.  And I worried for exactly that reason.  I knew that my holiday French was very, very good but that for day to day living and working it was very limited and FAR from fluent.  However, CdH is probably the easiest kind of work to get into if you're French isn't "perfect".  My husband's was about O level standard (failed) and mine was good, but like you Emma, not fluent, when we started.  My biggest problem was when I had telephone enquiries, as I think that is probably the hardest thing to cope with in a foreign language.   Now even the phone isn't a problem.  I just used to ask them to repeat the important bits, like phone numbers, email addresses and the actual dates they want to book.  We only advertise on the internet, so even though they've contacted me by phone, they must have had access to a computer so are bound to have an email address.  You can therefore ask them to confirm their booking by email and that way you know that you have the right email address for them and that you really did understand everything they asked for! We've been doing CdH for 3 seasons now and all of our French guests tell us (my husband as well) that we are fluent in French.  Again, it's just an area of French, like your holiday French.  They think we're really good but we both know that we're nowhere near fluent - we're now just good at CdH French.  It's even made me start thinking that I could dredge up some of my O level German, brush up on the relevant words for CdH and start advertising that we are German speakers too! Bear in mind that you will get plenty of other (English-speaking) nationalities as well and presumably your names on any advertising are going to give away the fact that you are not French.  Therefore, you're going to get the type of French who are going to be more tolerant of a foreigner anyway.  Just make sure that you listen to French radio and get French TV and watch it in place of UK TV.  At first it will all just be sounds and pictures.  But then one day, without even noticing at first you will suddenly realise that you understood what they were talking about!!
  19. You're missing my point Miki, Chris suggested joining one of these associations because they can give you a lot of helpful advice along the lines of the type of thing Woodlands is looking for.  What I am saying, is that if you get them in to assess your property, they won't let you join til you've conformed to all the legalities, so you can find the information out without having to pay to join. But you are NOT a member ! You are speaking from hearsay for goodness sake and that is one thing that I rarely if ever, give little thought to. And why then, are there around 300 CdH’s with GdF in Manche ? One of the strongest totals for a department (not a region) in France No, I'm speaking from my personal experience of their attitude when I contacted them.  I am also talking about my neighbour's experience when both he and his sone have approached them.  The Director, or at least the staff can only put you in the book and put you on the website, what else do you think they can do ? I don't expect them to do ANYTHING else.  And they don't, which is exactly why I'm saying there can be better ways of spending the several hundred euros that a five bedroom place will cost to place with them. No way would they want 2005 cotisations, get real, it is nearly October, you may not like them but please be sensible. Ahh!  Presumption - just as bad as hearsay in my book.  I had the lady sitting at my kitchen table in August, I told her that I wouldn't be able to make the minor safety additions that she requested before joining until the end of the main season, ie September.  I asked if I would still have to pay the 2005 cotisation and the answer was a very firm YES.  But I agree with you Miki, that is not sensible at all.  To even ask for HALF the cotisation would not really be sensible, but if they had suited me in every other way, most of all their attitude, I would have been happy to pay.  
  20. I would strongly recommend you consider Gites de Fance or Clevacances membership. Not only will it bring in business for you but they have loads and loads of technical experts who will be able to answer all these questions for you and give you constructive help on what to do. Don't forget Chris, it depends on the GdF in your particular departement.  Clearly Aude is extremely helpful and good luck to you, but here in Manche you get no benefit from joining them at all.  And before anyone makes the comment that I have a bee in my bonnet about them, since I have chosen not to go with them and mentioned that fact to various farming neighbours, they have all confirmed that GdF in Manche is worse than useless, due to their director.  And these are people that the organisation was set up to help and who have said that whilst we have this director they wouldn't even consider CdH, but they may do in the future if the leadership changes!!  For example, as for bringing in business is concerned, our GdF openly admitted that they wouldn't expect to be able to bring in business outside of July to September and I can get plenty from my other sources during that time, so GdF to me was only going to be an unnecessary expense. If I were you Woodlands, I would use GdF to your advantage.  I'd certainly get them round to have a look at your place, but you judge them and the advantages to you, as much as they judge you and your setup.   If they seem to be prepared to be helpful then maybe you're in a good departement.  They'll certainly be able to set you straight on all the legal requirements.  However, they will want you to be complying with those before they will offer you a contract to join, so you can check that you are doing everything correctly, but if you don't think they will be of benefit, then save you money and use it to advertise elsewhere.  A joining fee and the cotisations on 5 bedrooms is quite a lot per year and you won't get in a guide til 2007 now but they'll still want 2005 and 2006 cotisations!! As far as fire access is concerned, I can't swear to knowing the legal situation but when we used to let our house as a gite I was very aware that lorries (and therefore a fire engine) couldn't get up our drive (which is over 100 metres long) but when I voiced these fears to locals they all took very much the attitude you have voiced, that there are 1000s of rural properties that a lorry couldn't get to but that the fire service has plenty of 4x4s that can.  I must admit, I was never TRULY happy though, til we got our drive widened.
  21. Have to agree with Dick here.  I could get over the obscenities if it wasn't just a site full of badly written drivel.  It seems to me that the contributors are totally unable to string a sentance together and that's probably why they link phrases together with plenty of F***s and C***s - they have a serious lack of any other kind of vocabulary.
  22. I believe that this particular area of Normandy is far less populated with Brits than we are here in Manche and the further western areas.  We are ten minutes from the A84 and when we bought our house 6 years ago we were at the last junction of the motorway at that time.  Since the motorway has been completed property prices in this area have at least doubled, so if you're interested in the area, make sure you make your purchase either before, or as soon after the opening of the new motorway as possible.
  23. Don't understand the Loire Valley myself.  Been there a couple of times now because I think I must be missing something but I'm always disappointed by it - scruffy old river full of sandbanks if you ask me. Have to disagree with you Margaret about the Toulouse Lautrec museum - I think it's great, and Albi cathedral would be on my list.  Also St Cirq Lapopie (before it became full of tourists) along with most of the Lot valley and Rocamadour (likewise, 20 years ago) and the view of Mont St Michel across the bay from Cancale, on a cold February day, when the sea is vivid aquamarine.
  24.  This is fantastic news for us - as we specialise in children's holidays in our b&b, so if you don't want these families, please send them to us!!!! It's a deal Okalani!  You can most certainly have them! We find that the majority of children that come here are great, but we are set up for them, and all the parents take responsibility for their children.  Most days in the summer we have 5 rooms full of families, at any one time we could have up to 15 children here - plus my 2! Just one thought here...... if you have up to 15 children staying at any one time with all five rooms full, presumably that means 10 adults as well, which means you have 25 people staying in your B&B.  So how do you get round the 15 max?  BTW, are you completely deaf or are you just a saint? Incidentally, if you're aiming your marketing predominantly at the family market this must mean school holidays only.  Does this mean you make enough during that period to live off for the rest of the year? (perhaps I could learn to like children )  We've found that September has ended up being almost as busy as August, but obviously it has been completely child-free
  25. Any tips for American visitors? Yes!  Don't bother with a gite, come and stay in our B&B, we just luv'em!!!  They've certainly been the best fun, most appreciative and most polite guests we've had this summer - not to mention the tips! Seriously though, Mascamps and Lori have made some good points.  They can be a little more demanding than the Brits but only I think because they want value for money.  I have been caught out on more than one occasion by someone coming downstairs and saying "excuse me, you seem to have forgotten to put any soap in the bathroom".  Well we didn't supply soap, especially with one and two night stops because, like with the opened jars of mustard, no one wants to use someone else's soap, so it was an expensive extra.   However, I immediately responded by apologising for having "forgotten" and gave them a bar.  I now keep bottles of liquid soap in the cupboard, which I offer up when requested. Lastly, bear in mind that the bulk of Americans that you'll get are either 1) young and on a gap year trip or 2) retired. It's rare to get Americans between 25 and 60 as they generally only get 2 weeks holiday (vacation) per year; if you do get any in this category, they very much appreciate information ahead of time to help them get the most out of their time. From my experience I have to disagree with this.  We have had absolutely no youngsters, I don't think they would probably want to pay our rates per night and the only retired couple we had came with the rest of the family.  It appears that the 2 weeks annual vacation is fast becoming something of the past.  Every couple (mainly in their 40s) that we have had stay with us this summer have, on questioning, told us that they now get between 3 and 6 weeks, depending how long they have worked for their company.  And at the moment I have 4 provisional bookings for next Spring/summer from American families who are trying to plan their "European tour".
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