Tag Archives: french holiday

Phone Apps for Saumur and the Loire Valley

1 telephoneHow quickly things have changed. The slow dial up connection when we first arrived here 15 years ago, now that seems more like a caveman chipping  at his tablet of stone.  People still live in caves, but with modern comforts,  in this part of the Loire Valley, but things have moved on fast for everyone.

We live in an exciting world, where we can fly over our house with Google maps, visit the chateaux from our sofa and plan a walk around Saumur whilst sitting in the garden on an iPod touch, phone or tablet.

At Les Mortiers there is a wireless connection to all our properties, ipod docks and phone signals and wifi that works all around.

Previously, we wished for a high speed internet connection like the sophisticated folk who lived in the towns and it took a while before it finally arrived at Parcay Les Pins. Guests ran around waving mobile phones in the air to get a signal.  The meaning of ‘mobile’ meant being mobile, climbing steps, venturing on to the raised filter bed or even driving to an area where there was half reasonable reception.

So here are just a few applications I’ve found which you might like to try when preparing for your holiday – or just enjoy a virtual holiday to brighten the day.

Saumur Touristic’Tour

In French, but some planned walks around Saumur which are easy to follow. It is mainly written in English and packed with local information and history, maps and photographs. It seems to have lots of potential to be a very useful app. when more is added to it.

iTunes Search:  Saumur Touristic’Tour

Chateaux de la Loire

Mainly in French, but a list of 66 chateaux and the distance to each from your location with links to the websites for most of the chateaux. Fun to use.

iTunes Search – Vallée des Rois Tour

Fontevraud Abbey

Henry II king of England and count of Anjou, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine along with their son King Richard the Lionheart were buried at Fontevraud Abbey although it is rumoured the remains were removed during the French Revolution. Fontevraud Abbey is the largest collection of monastic buildings in France. This app. gives a tour of the Abbaye and a rather complicated Agenda (Events List) which is best skipped. Do not be put off by the French text as there are three good videos.

iTunes Search:  Fontevraud

and they are all free!

Finally a Cellar is a ‘must have’ for visitors to France

We have found the  app. Cellar is invaluable for cataloguing our wine and a very useful reference to look at stocks when we are tempted to overbuy – it even gives statistics and a total value of your collection! There’s a wish list, a cellar with creaky doors and the good reason for not putting the car in  the garage!

iTunes Search – Cellar – manage your wine collection in style at a pocket money price of 4.49 euros

ITunes Search:  Cellar Manage your wine

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10 tips for questions you might not think to ask when booking a holiday with young children.

 

You’ve found the holiday property which looks just perfect for your family. The photos are drop dead gorgeous, the sun seems to shine every day, the rural idyll you are looking for. That’s it, that’s the one for the perfect family holiday, perhaps the first time you have been away since the children were born.

But hang on a minute, it is so easy to get carried away and when you arrive find that the holiday you thought would soothe away all the stresses and strains is going to involve some compromises, some extra expense you had not thought about or worse still, driving miles with young children just to find somewhere for the perfect meal in a local bistro that existed only in your dreams.

Here are 10 questions you might not think to ask when booking a holiday with young children.

  1. Is there information provided on child friendly places to visit and places to eat which welcome young children.
  2. Is there equipment for young children eg high chair, cots, potties, bottle sterilisers, safety gates, and are there any supplementary charges these.
  3. Is the pool warm enough for children to use every day during their stay.
  4. Are there any neighbours and would a crying baby upset them?  Settling a child to new surroundings can be stressful enough, but coping with complaints the next morning only adds to the stress.
  5. Are the cleaning materials used eco-friendly, eg no dangerous chemicals left within reach or used for cleaning the property.
  6. Is there a Doctor’s surgery close by, with someone to help with translation.
  7. Is the property owner resident and familiar with local emergency services and the local hospital.
  8. Is the property pushchair friendly in order to walk to the local boulangerie or buy fresh food locally
  9. Is there any traffic noise and how far in the property from the road.
  10. What are the memorable things about the property that children will remember and take home with them, eg collecting eggs from the chickens, patting a donkey, learning about how vegetables grow or the names of wild flowers.

These tips are based on personal experience and comments from guests who have stayed in holiday properties with young children.

www.frenchholiday.co.uk

 

Summer is on its way!

A post from one of our guests from New Zealand.

Rebecca is currently staying at Les Mortiers, a keen runner and cyclist she enjoys exploring the country roads and forest tracks around Les Mortiers.

Summer is on its way!

There is a definite feeling of summer in the air at Les Mortiers – forget spring – my heart belongs to summer! The last three days have been full of brilliant sunshine, and amazing sunrises and sunsets. Sunday afternoon saw us indulging in cider from Normandy outside in the late evening sun, Monday saw me dozing outside the gite in the warm sunshine, and Tuesday saw me running in a singlet!

Cider and Sunshine - a perfect combination

The last few mornings I have awoken with that special feeling of anticipation that only a summer morning can bring. The birds have been much more vocal. The daffodils and crocus are out, bringing cheerful  bursts of colour to the brown ground of winter. The evening light is definitely lasting a good hour longer now than when I arrived three weeks ago.

My favourite thing in all the world is feeling the sun on my skin…so I’m making sure I get all I can in case winter decides to make a cruel return!

Crocus the colour of warm sunshine

Terra Botanica – Just the place for families

Arm wrestle with a Pirate

Just the place for an Easter visit with children. Terra Botanica, near Angers in the Loire Valley, opens it gates again on April 9th. There are 11 hectares of gardens, aquatic areas and greenhouses.

Young adventurers looking for a life on the ocean waves or parents interested in spices and tropical plants should discover ‘De caps et d’épices’ (area C7)

Land Ahoy for Young Pirates!

Young brigands can try their strength against a pirate, spy oncoming vessels or look for treasure in a dead man’s chest!

Shipwrecked on Treasure Island

And if that does not rock your boat, then enter the glasshouse and experience the tropical heat of the Spice Islands.

This place is fun with a capital F,  yet at the same time inspires to care for our fragile environment. No preaching, just well presented information and entertainment for all ages.

‘De caps et d’épices’ is just one of 40 areas at Terra Botanica.

Terra Botanica, Angers

Journey to the centre of your digestion.

Terra Botanica is a full day’s outing, easy access and parking, all in a beautiful setting. The catering is excellent and sensibly priced: fresh salads, creative and healthy hamburgers all made from local sourced ingredients and served in recyclable containers.

Visit:                                  Terra Botanica

How to get there:         Directions

Camping or Gite Holiday – best value?

A random search of prices for static tents in Brittany and the Loire area produced a few surprises.

The quality of tents offered by large companies undoubtedly improves each year, showers, fridge/freezers, microwaves, 4 ring hobs, hair dryers, heater and fans, even a stereo and ipod dock. All that you would expect to find in a good quality gite in France.

Then there are the extras to make your life more comfortable, electric lights,  linen hire, welcome pack (payable), company representative on site.

Not too different from renting a gite? It was worth making a rough comparison of prices for Easter 2011.

A 2 bedroom superior tent for 4 people, with linen and welcome pack ranges from 386 € to 494 €. (taken from 4 sites)

Our gite for 4 people over the Easter week is 520 €, with which you get a solid roof over your head, no noise from neighbours, a heated swimming pool and privacy. You do not have to bring your own dishwasher, there’s one already there, the heating is free if the evenings are cooler and the sunset is all yours!

I know we are biased, but we’ll be staying at Les Mortiers for Easter!

Sunset at Les Mortiers

What’s in the Stars for French Tourism?

A short description of the new classification for tourist establishments and why we feel classification is important for us.  The new system applies to a wide range of establishments, e.g. hotels, campsite, gites, holiday centres.

The New System

The French Government through its Ministry for Tourism has introduced a new national quality standard for tourism.  Classification is not obligatory, but from July 2012, none of the old systems will be valid.

Approval is by the Ministry of Tourism and must then be notified to the Prefecture. It is valid for  5 years, but control visits can be made at any time to check that standards are being maintained. The control and subsequent visits are done by accredited organisations.

These are the new ratings which have already come into force.

1*  Economique                                Value, minimum standards

2*  Milieu de Gamme                     Middle range

3*  Milieu de Gamme                     Superieur Good Quality

4*  Haut Gamme                             High Quality Range

5*  Tres Haut Gamme                     Very High Quality

(5* is over above the existing classifications from the other validation bodies)

The audit has to be done by a body accredited by the government and all accredited properties will be published on the ATOUT France website.

Why did we want to reach for the stars?

From the start of opening our holiday rentals we were aware that a holiday is something which can never be replaced. It is just impossible to go back in time to make something right which is not. We knew that it is very difficult to demonstrate what is the true standard of our three gites in the same way as you can for a hotel or restaurant.

People enquiring about bookings have told us how helpful they have found comments from previous guests when making a booking, but we are always conscious that these comments are subjective. Each person has a different level of expectation when selecting a holiday property and for us it has been impossible to accurately benchmark with confidence what we offer against similar properties. Each website is the showcase of the proprietor with their own recipe for success.

We are always delighted that guests take time to make a comment in the Guest Books. Not only do they give us a warm glow and great pleasure, but they provide valuable information when deciding upon changes and improvements each year.

In summary we felt:

  • Our guests are important and their holiday time must not be wasted
  • We wanted a reputable guarantee of quality for that was easily understood.
  • We want to maintain our high reputation and high return rate.
  • It was a good discipline and a self-audit.

Why did we not do it before?

It was difficult to make valid comparison between properties with the classifications of Gites de France, Clevacances or similar. They have very little meaning for anyone not resident in France and it is even more difficult for guests who come from different parts of the world, where expectations and standards of provision might be different. The old validations were often carried out by organisations also promoting rental properties so ran the risk of not being impartial.

The results!

It took money, stress, time, energy and lots of enthusiasm and has been well worth it.

The audit took place in mid-October and the result came very soon afterwards. It then had to be sent to the Prefecture for approval, which we received in December 2011.

We applied for 4 star rating for each property. The Grange and Poppas gained 4 stars with ease and with a couple of tweaks would have gained 5 stars.  The Grenier was awarded 3 stars, since although it is equipped to the same standard as the other two, the total floor space can not be counted since some of the ceilings are below the minimum height of 1.80 cms. This is a problem for many rural properties.

We were delighted with the outcome and feel that the 3 star rating for The Grenier accurately reflects the price differential between The Grange and The Grenier.

The benefits so far.

We can not demonstrate any results for increased business as it is too early. However, it gave us a very clear insight and a good structure to help us organise our yearly maintenance programme differently. We are still uncertain and amused about the need for a salad spinner and full length bathroom mirror in each property, but the Guest Books for 2012 might provide some feedback!

The badge

The journey to get classified took time as the system was promoted but the structure was not in place as rapidly. Keen readers will notice this example is 2010, so now to find the 2011 badge for our website.

Links:

Agence de Developpement Touristique en France

Demande – Plateforme de demande de Classement des herbegements touristiques

Our audit was done by Headlight Audit, but there are other bodies registered with COFEC.