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CatherineS

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  1. As Carole says below, you can't please all of the people all of the time - but the fact that you care enough to worry shows that you will please most of the people most of the time!

    I think that the best way to deal with this is to think about all the things you as a holidaymaker would expect, and to make sure that the gite lives up to your expectations. Imagine that you are a holidaymaker who has never been to your gite - what would your first impressions be on arrival? What information would you need to be able to enjoy your stay?
    Then, make sure you have written a comprehensive "handbook" for the guests so that they know how everything works and where everything is. It's a good idea to spend a night in each room as well, so that you can check that everything is comfortable.
    Make sure that you are utterly honest about all the facilities in your advertising - if people's expectations are too high then it is more difficult to ensure that your gite lives up to those expectations.

    And if all else fails, and if someone is still unhappy, you could always offer them a refund - but I would only do this if there was a genuine reason for their disappointment.

    Good Luck!
  2. Don't feel a failure because you are returning home, look at it as a period of "French Leave", and you are now going back having experienced 18 months broadening your horizons and enjoying a different lifestyle! You will probably find that you appreciate your life in the UK more now that you have been away for some time. And when you are older and looking back over your life, you will never have to say "what if?", because you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you'd been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt, and then moved on to try something else.

    Why does moving to France have to be forever?!!!

    My husband and I nearly moved out to our house in Normandy earlier this year, but changed our minds and have decided that by keeping it as a holiday home we have the best of both worlds. This was for a number of reasons, but for me, a very important one was when I looked at my parents. They moved to England 45 years ago, and although they made many friends over the years, they are still not 100% comfortable in their skins. They live in a block of retirement flats, and although there are lots of other people around who are very nice to them and a good social scene (if you like bridge!), somehow they are still slightly apart. They don't always understand all the jokes, they do not have the same heritage as all the others. They still make grammatical mistakes in their spoken English and they still find it hard to write in English. And yet, they have found that over the years they have started to lose their own languages (they are not both from the same country so they speak to each other in English). My mum in particular feels very isolated because she cannot fully express herself in either language. BUT... Neither of them could ever return to their own countries now because so much has changed since they left.

    So I look at them, and I wonder, would I end up like them in 40 years time? I am not sure that this is necessarily inevitable, but I just didn't want to take the risk.

    I wish you lots of luck with the next stage in your life adventure - and well done for having the courage to do something about it rather than "hanging on in quiet desperation" (which apparently is the English way, according to Pink Floyd!).

    Catherine
  3. I agree with Coco about the price, if your house is picturesque and well furnished, I am sure you could charge a lot more, particularly if you have a pool.

    I also think it is definitely worth having your own website - we bought our house last year and only started letting it out last August, and we managed to let 7 weeks last year, and already 16 weeks up to end of August this year (and I am confident that I will get some more bookings for Sept/October as we are in Upper Normandy and within easy reach of Calais so a good off-peak destination).

    I have tried various advertising media (ebay, interschools advertiser, cards in shop windows, etc) but by far the best places for me have been www.frenchconnections.co.uk and www.visitfrance.co.uk.

    Frenchconnections is a very popular site and is in danger of becoming oversaturated as there are now so many people advertising on there. Also, its interface is somewhat dated - I have complained to them about this (for example, they don't display thumbnail images of the properties in the lists) and they have assured me that they are updating their site and it will be released in the next 6 months. But they are also expensive and charge you every time you want to amend your text or add extra photos.

    VisitFrance is a fairly new site and I think it is fantastic. We joined up on a free trial, but even when you start paying it is cheaper than FrenchConnections yet it is so flexible - you can add loads of pictures, amend your text whenever you want, manage your calendar, and once a day you can update the site so that your ad is placed at the top of the list. I am getting more and more enquiries from them and thoroughly recommend them.
    (It also helps that there are only 2 cottages in Upper Normandy on their website so I am not having to compete with so many others - but this may change if I enthuse about it too much!!!).

    But I am sure that having my own separate website as well as the standard pages on these two sites also helps.

    Good luck with your venture!

    Catherine



  4. LAST EDITED ON 02-Jul-04 AT 08:58 AM (BST)

    I have to say that this is my biggest fear about having a holiday home. There is nothing particularly valuable or sentimental, but we did spend a long time furnishing it with good-quality second-hand furniture (not quite "antique", but stuff that you would find in a good brocante and which is easy to sell on at a good price).

    I hear these stories about organised burglars who turn up with a van and clean you out - OK, we are insured, but the hassle of finding replacements doesn't bear thinking about, not to mention the loss of gite revenue whilst we are refurnishing!

    Our house is isolated, but we do have a good-quality burglar alarm which will call our mobiles to alert us of any break-ins - but what if they are organised enough to cut the phone lines?!

    I have suggested to my husband that we put a sign up indicating that this is a "Gite", on the assumption that potential burglars will think it's not worth bothering with as a gite is unlikely to have anything valuable in it. But his argument is that that is just advertising the fact that it is not a permanent residence and is likely to be empty for long periods of time, particularly in the winter (although I think that it is pretty obvious that it is not a permanent residence).

    What do you think? - I'd be interested to hear other opinions/experiences.

    (PS - Sorry Steve to hear about your recent nasty experience, and sorry to "hijack" your posting. I hope they catch the b****s and that you get your stuff back).
  5. We use the season ticket scheme for the Dover-Calais crossings. You have to buy a minimum of 5 tickets in one year, but they cost about 90 for any 5 day return and approx 120 for any longer stays.

    The advantages are that the tickets are fully flexible, which we like as we don't want to be tied down to a specific date and time, we like being able to turn up for any ferry on the booked date. You also get priority loading, and discounted (6) tickets for the club class lounge, which pay for themselves immediately as you get free champagne, teas, coffees, biscuits, fruit, newspapers etc, in a very relaxed environment - a real bonus when the boat is packed full to the gills.

    Apparently you can also allocate up to 5 tickets in any one year to friends and family.
  6. I have some guests flying in to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in July and they need directions to get to our Gite.

    I know that they need to take the A16 as far as Beauvais and then need to head off towards us, but I am not sure which signs they should be looking out for when they first leave the airport.

    Should they be looking out for Beauvais, Amiens or Abbeville?

    Can anyone advise me on this please? Thanks!
  7. I'm afraid we are booked, but I just tried the French Connections "Late Availability Search" facility for NW France for that date, and there seem to be quite a number of places available. OK, so they will not all be close to the beaches, but you may be lucky....
  8. Hello!
    Thanks for this information!!! We are going out to our house near Dieppe for half term, and my sister-in-law and her two children were supposed to be joining us, but as she is a single mother (recently separated) she found she couldn't afford to come - but I have just texted her the price I think she will be able to come after all - so there will be 4 happy children as a result of your info!!!!

    Thanks again!
    Catherine
  9. I didn't make this up myself, but I read it once as a child, and for some reason I still remember it after all these years!!!!...

    There was a young lady from Leeds,
    who swallowed a packet of seeds.
    A beautiful rose
    grew out of her nose,
    and her chest was all covered with weeds...
  10. My brother lives in Thury-Harcourt which is in the Suisse-Normande and we have often stayed with him over the past 12 years.

    Yes, it is a very lovely area - the whole valley of the Orne which runs through Thury-Harcourt, Clecy, Pontd'Ouilly etc. We like Falaise which is the birthplace (I think) of William the Conqueror.

    I don't know much about house-prices in the area though - probably the best thing would be to have a look around while you are there.

    Nor can I recommend any B&B's, but I just did a search on Google and found this which looks super: http://www.frenchconnections.co.uk/accom/4463.aspx

    (NB. I have nothing to do with this place and I have never stayed there so cannot "recommend it", but it looks nice in the pictures...)

    Good Luck!
  11. Does anyone have a gite available for the above dates?

    It is for a friend of mine, it would be for two adults and 3 children (9,7 and 1) plus "bump". As by then she will be 6 months pregnant, they don't want to have to drive for more than a few hours from Calais, but I realise that is the d-day week so places in Normandy etc are likely to be hard to find.

    Can anyone help?

    Many Thanks,
    Catherine.
  12. Have you tried Ebay?
    I've just had a look at French Ebay (www.ebay.fr) and there appear to be 160 "guitares", 32 "amplificateurs" and 23 "batteries" in the musical instruments section...
    Good Luck!
  13. I don't reply from experience - we have only just bought our house and it is our holiday home which we are only letting out as a gite when we are not there, to help towards the costs.

    But there have been a number of threads on this very same subject and the gist of them seems to be that you should think very very carefully before moving to France and expecting to make a living from gites/chambres d'hotes alone. Suggest you have a look through the archives, for example a recent one in the Gite Owners forum called "Advice Needed for Potential Gite Purchase". I don't know the Limousin region at all - does it have a good tourist trade?

    Please note, I am not trying to be a killjoy and I spend many hours daydreaming of leaving London and being able to live full-time in my lovely house whilst letting out a few rooms, but somehow I don't think this is going to come about unless I can find some other source of income...

    I sincerely wish you good luck.


  14. A word of warning to those who are registered with French Connections...

    I have looked at your website offer and it seems an interesting proposition. However, I have recently signed up with French Connections. At first they wouldn't include a link to my own personal website as it had links to other external sites (all related to places of interest in the area). I have since removed these links and visitors to my page on French Connections can now access my own website which has more info and pictures.

    But if I were to take up your offer, I would have to put a link to your site on my website, thereby contravening the FC T&Cs.

    As I am very pleased with the level of bookings I have had from FC, I will not be able to take advantage of your offer. But thanks anyway.

  15. When I log on to the livingfrance website I automatically click on "Read New", and I didn't notice the little message on the top-left of the screen telling me that I had a message in my inbox for nearly a week!
    Is there any way this could be made more prominent - in larger font, or flashing or something? (Perhaps you could arrange for an arm to spring out of the monitor and grab the viewer round the throat to alert them to the message - then I really would have no excuse!)
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