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Everything posted by betoulle

  1. We were assessed & rejected by Sawdays 7 years ago in favour of a French owned B&B & a Brit owned B&B which served evening meals.  I see the French lady who was accepted, regularly & despite paying a lot (approx 1000euros) to be included she has had a handful of enquiries & even less bookings in the last 6 years, so think we are glad we didn't go the Sawday route....needless to say the Brit owned |B&B stopped doing evening meals a year later (the business is now for sale )& my French friend has opted out for the next 2 years.  We are now on Trip Advisor which is becoming increasingly popular, is free once you get a review, & is bringing us business....  I now use it extensively myself when booking our holidays.  I understand from other friends that Facebook is starting to prove popular also - everyone now wants reviews.
  2. Big antique markets are where we sourced some of our beds - from this Friday 22nd one of the better ones is on in Bordeaux at Place des Quinconces (runs for a couple of weeks).  You will find a variety of brass, wrought iron & upholstered beds at bargain prices.  You will need to make a base & buy a mattress, but we found a beautiful 1900s silk upholstered bed there a few years back which needed no restoration - cost 500euros, so with t he base & a nice mattress we were looking at at least half the price of one to be found in an antiques centre. A similar bed in one of the centres that specialises in such beds in the uk would have cost £3000..  That room is now one of our most popular because of the unique bed.  Otherwise I agree with the previous poster that Emmaus or a good Troc can be a good place to search.
  3. ask at the Mairie - our local office works out of a tabac in the nearby town.  The Gendarmes came to inspect & do the paperwork for them.
  4. thats great news - it is a beautiful place to stay & so close to where you will have your property.  Make sure they tell you about the Belgian run restaurant nearby - we had one of the best meals we have ever eaten in France when we were there last weekend.
  5. we have friends with a beautiful gite near Beaumont - see www.dordognegites.net for details.  I know they still have availability & are currently on site setting up for the season, so will send you a pm with their details & phone number.
  6. Paul Clarke of Arbres & Abeilles is running beekeeping classes & holding regular keepers meetings at their nursery near Civray - highly recommended - google their website for details
  7. just looked at your website - from our knowledge of the area you will appeal to Parisiens for 'short breaks' - often 2 couples holidaying together, so we would go for what will appeal to an older market, especially if both bedrooms are same size & quality.  Our gite does not appeal to that market as the 2nd bedroom is a third of the size & of a different decorative standard to the master - ideal for 2/3children, or a single person (teenager/elderly relative) but no good for a couple, hence our decision to market to 'single couple only' off season who want more luxurious private space at a reduced rate. 
  8. a lot depends on the location of your property & the type of clientele you are looking to attract.  Our family gite has a queen size bed & 2 singles.  This appeals to the family market in the peak months, but approx 70% of our work is off season to mature couples.  We offer a couple only discount during the April/May/June & again Sept/Oct periods & for the 5th year running we are now almost fully booked from early May till October, with just 5 weeks of 'family' bookings - the 'shoulder' period is notoriously difficult to fill for those in the family market.  Is your gite spacious enough to offer 2 double rooms of the same quality to appeal to 2 older couples holidaying together?????  If so, I would offer 1 proper king size bed (very important amongst the older clientele) & a 2 single ziplock in the 2nd bedroom - covers all options.  Good luck
  9. Has anyone any experience of successfully offering WiFi access in gites which are well spread out. We have a WiFi zone in our house which is also a B&B & up till now guests have had no problems with coming over to access the WiFi in our guest living room. The house is open 24hrs a day & the area is comfortable - on occasions we have had quite a crowd in there with their laptops - the youngest last year was 7yrs, the oldest 76....... This year however, I am definitely losing gite bookings because the gites do not have separate WiFi (lost another last night) The gites are approx 100 metres from the house, but the problem is that the walls to both the house & each gite are approx 1 metre thick - solid stone...so no way the signal will reach that far. Digging up the drive to lay cables is not really an option either - anyone have any experience of any of the other methods working successfully??... Thought we had it cracked, offering a huge pool, tennis court, ping pong, giant chess, spacious grounds, gas BBQs, but always seems to be something new they would prefer...last year it was Wii or X-Box (no way are we offering that..they can bring their own..) 2009 it was UK Satellite TV which we have now installed, have always offered WiFi which our competitors have all now installed Just wonder what will be the next demand.
  10. slightly off subject but another option is to find a B&B that offers guests use of a 'coin cuisine'........we have many guests who have stayed with us in gites who now come to the B&B as they get a very generous buffet breakfast which for many gets them through the day, they don't have to go out to eat every night as they are welcome to bring food in from the traiteur & free to make drinks whenever they want.  Our 'coin cuisine' is well stocked with coffee, a selection of teas, milk, water & there are 2 fridges for guests to share + a microwave.  So almost self-catering, but with some added bonuses......  we are fortunate that all our rooms open onto a huge terrace, so guests can picnic outside their rooms in comfort.  No restrictions on them bringing in alcohol - we provide all the glasses, crockery, cutlery etc....so almost a home from home.  We don't offer evening meals, but if you find a B&B that does table d'hote as well..........to my mind that is the ultimate comfort.  I know of several chambres d'hotes in our region who offer this service.
  11. Try Trip Advisor for properties in a specific location - for the most part reviews are genuine.  Otherwise try searching on one of the hundreds 'book via owner' websites - owners direct, holiday rentals, chez nous etc are the obvious choices.  Most gite owners have a visitors book on their website these days.  If worried then phone the owner direct - we are always happy to chat to prospective guests about their needs & you can tell a lot about the owner (&for us the client) by a friendly chat.
  12. If I read your posting correctly you are wanting the gite for a months time, in which case yes it is normal especially if using an agency to pay in full.  Most people ask for a deposit with the balance payable between 1 & 2 months prior to your stay.  If booking 'last minute' ie within that time frame, then would expect to pay in full at time of booking.
  13. Wait till the fruit is red in colour & you will find it much nicer to eat.  Can also make a fruit butter/cheese with it - delicious...
  14. oops, forgot to mention that if catering for just a couple in the B&B we do find that the majority of our guests like to drink, so need somewhere to store wine, beer, tonic, coke etc...  Before we set up our coin cuisine we had baths full of beer bottles, bottles of milk in the showers, mouldy cheese in dressing table drawers, empty pizza boxes & chicken carcasses in the waste bins & needed to offer our guests access to our fridges which did not work out as invariably they spent a lot of time in our kitchen & some of our food & drink went walkabout...  If concerned about having guests in your home, then the secret to everyones happiness & comfort is to give all of you privacy.  Those who don't want to be in a family home & object to you having children or pets etc won't come & stay in the first place.....  Those who are OK with it will not cause you any problems (fingers crossed) & as with the gites the secret to success is happy guests who become regulars & hence friends who you look forward to seeing every year.
  15. Further to Quillan's excellent responses (though how many of us actually sit down to have breakfast with our guests as stipulated by GdF is debatable.....it would be impossible for 90% of the time) another idea is to turn the dining room adjacent to the guest bedroom into a guest sitting area with coin cuisine, equipped with a fridge, microwave, kettle, tea & coffee facilities & games/books etc.  If you place a TV & DVD player in there as well then the B&B room turns into a suite & you could charge a little more....alternatively you could have a single bed/divan in there & turn it into a family suite which would be fine for sharing a bathroom & again you could increase your rates & accommodate more at peak times.  GDF have no problems with 2 rooms sharing a bathroom if it is only offered as a family suite, I have a colleague in the village who was for 15yrs president of our GdF & she offers 2 double rooms with shared bathroom, supposedly only for 1 couple or a family/2 couples travelling together.  We have both CdH & gites & frequently have B&B guests staying who are part of the family/friends of guests in 1 or both gites - another thought for your marketing.  I have another friend who successfully increases her gite occupancy in the summer this way - it is ideal for grandparents who want to be with their family but also have some independence & privacy. You will also find that you will get more bookings for the B&B if there is a small facility for storing food & being able to make tea & coffee with a possibility of having a take away or picnic - extremely popular with our guests, especially if you provide some private outdoor seating areas where they can have some privacy from their hosts - also gives you more privacy.
  16. For us October - Xmas time is usually quiet for new bookings (we do get repeat bookings when I send the annual newsletter late October), it starts to pick up late December through to Easter.  We are now into our 8th year & aim to have 20wks/gite/year & I would say that 80% of our guests are couples over 45, many have now stayed with us for 4yrs or more, so I currently have 9wks provisionally booked for each gite.  We tend to only have families booked for the school holiday period in our larger gite only.  As already stated the peak time in France is July & August, so you should always be able to fill those weeks, especially as the French tend to book later, so no need to panic yet.  In our slower years we have found that by Easter- Ascension Day w/end we have sold all our weeks - so that will be time to start worrying.  Our GdF inspector says that in the Charente we should aim for a minimum of 14wks/year, which we have always exceeded but mainly because we concentrate our marketing for the older age group.  After 8 yrs I would say that the secret of our success is that we now have a regular clientele who book every year & we cater for the 'couple only' market, who seem to have more disposable income & come during the 'shoulder' periods.  Demographically this market should increase as the baby boomer generation approached retirement age.  So relax a little & think about who you wish to market your property to.  We have found that Chez Nous & Holiday France have always performed well for us & generated the sort of guests who enjoy France & wish to return year after year.  Owners Direct are good for the last minute bookings, but they tend to be looking for Special Offers & rarely return - similar applies to Holiday Rentals.  For the French market try pour les vacances & the Dutch favour gites.nl, but both nationalities tend to be late bookers.  Bon courage
  17. forgot to say that despite having our best ever summer season, like Quillan overall it has been a bad year, obviously not at year end yet, but overall better than last year which was 33% down on the previous 4 years.  Dependant on final figure at year end will be approximately 25% down on our best ever B&B year, BUT the gites side of our business continues to improve each year - that part of our business is 100% from the UK, & payable in sterling.  Have noticed over last 3 years a marked reduction in the number of gite guests eating out & many pack the car with food to bring with them.  Now we have a 'coin cuisine' many more of our B&B guests this year have eaten on their terrace in the evenings - also helped by a fantastic new traiteur who has opened in the village.  Our regulars say they have noticed that the cost of everything has gone up over the last 3 years & not just due to the exchange rate.  Our local restaurant owners though have all commented that the majority of their clientele in the season is from tourists/2nd home owners & far less French eating out in last 2 years - both locals & tourists.  For a couple of local restaurants (French owned) they are being kept going by their regular Brit & Dutch clientele. Like Mayday we are receiving enquiries already for 2011 from new B&B guests & more than usual number of early enquiries for gites.  You just have to take each year as it comes - every one is a surprise we find...take nothing for granted....  
  18. For us in the B&B this 3rd quarter of 2010 has been our best ever - have taken more in these three months than during the whole of the previous 18........mainly long stay of 1 wk or more & mainly from UK, with the French being a close second...a few Dutch, Belgians & Aussies.  We were hit badly by the ash cloud fiasco with cancellations in April, May & into June......& sadly lost some of our regular guests to terminal illness - problem with appealing to the over 50s.  Have just had a houseful for the Angouleme Race weekend & then later this week we are accommodating the Deux-Sevres Pompiers for the conference in Angouleme. but after this next weekend we have no bookings till next April - normal for us.  Will have a few French around All Saints Day + occasional business travellers, but far less house hunters over the last 3 years, though have a few regulars working on 'projects'.....  In the gites this has been our best ever season - fully booked for both gites from easter till mid-October & once again a very high percentage of repeat bookings for 2011.  Looking forward to a much needed rest after serving breakfast every morning since early June...........& to closing the pool for the year......
  19. We gave up with GdF as we were getting very few bookings through them & looking at the stats for our website, very few hits - never in the 10 ten of referrers on our site over the 6 yrs we were with them.   Since joining Likhom & Pour les Vacances this year & dropping Gdf we have doubled the number of French enquiries, have nearly 100% occupancy this quarter & more French guests than ever before.  Having spoken to this years French clientele, they have all stated that they find GdF a little old-fashioned & no-one seems to like their website.  Most importantly your own website must be of a high-standard & in French....
  20. Think it was 700 euros approx 5 yrs ago, but have never regretted it, makes life so much easier - having just ironed 56 pillowcases & several duvet covers with a full house for the next few weeks definitely think it was worth the investment............
  21. Go to Metro & buy yourself a Miele rotary iron - worth every penny....
  22. On the subject of TVs in gites - we have over the years weighed up the pros & cons of TV or no TV - friends of ours have no TVs, & have a good level of occupancy during the peak period...... while we have TVs with French channels only & have always had a good level of bookingsfrom Easter till October.  The last 2 years we have definitely lost bookings as we do not offer UK freesat TV stations, so this year have installed it & now gites are fully booked for this year from early May through till October......with the current weather conditions they have been a welcome distraction, plus the World Cup & Grand Prix etc so taking the TVs out while saving you the licence fee may result in less bookings......
  23. We have used Anglo-French to move 3 loads & they are excellent.  Have also recommended them to others in the region & everyone agrees that Mark Brett offers a first class service.  He also has a storage facility in the Charente.
  24. Not really a question of trust.....we trust our guests completely & have many regulars to prove that our formula works, but once in a while you will get a family who just don't care....usually late bookers, looking for a last minute bargain, invariably those who are not used to clearing up after themselves in the 'real world', children are either in private school or looked after by nannies etc  For those the security deposit is neither here nor there......that is just the way they are.  I would say 95% of our guests are decent, honest people who tell us when something is broken or if there is a spill & we never take anything out of the security deposit.  However, when there has been willfull damage by bored teenagers, especially when it means our facilities have to be closed for a period of time to other guests or it affects the next guests stay, or results in me throwing away a whole weeks linen due to 'stubborn stains' then a security deposit that can be witheld, just helps cushion the anger...........   As a footnote, a security deposit can be a useful tool for securing a repeat booking...at the end of a guests stay I always say that if you would like to come back & wish to reserve a specific week for the next year, then  rather than refund the money it can be used as a deposit for a provisional booking - 100% refundable if they have a change of plan before Xmas...this year in our larger gite I have a re-run of last years guests....15 weeks worth......& already have a couple of provisional bookings for next year......
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