As the cats settle into their new home in the Dordogne France (more on that in a later post but in short…we have quit our full time jobs, moved into our motor home, rented out our bricks and mortar house in the UK and travelled to France in search of a new life in the sun!) we have been super busy helping our friends with the final preparations on their Gites for the summer season.
When we arrived (you can see that exciting bit here): VIDEO LINKY it was ALL GO! Richard and Eileen had been beavering away for months remodelling and redecorating their Pigeonnier Gite ready for the summer season.
A little bit of help was required to complete the finishing touches so we set to it!
The finished product is stunning! Beautiful airy bedrooms and super luxurious bathrooms. And all the hard work was totally worth it on hearing the excited reactions from the first guests when they moved in.
You can check out some of the final images below
Now the rush is over and the guests are settled we are planning our next move…watch this space!
Sometimes its the things that you live closest to that you never seem to fully appreciate…
A few minutes from Chez Beeston you can find the Hatton Locks. Also known as the “stairway to heaven” due to its difficulty to complete.
21 locks over 3.2km of canal. Rising 45 meters from one end to the other. Its not for the feint hearted of boat travellers! It takes around a day to complete the full flight and with zero automation its hard work on the arms.
Aside from the physical element (which outside of ski season I tend to avoid at all costs!), there is a fab pub close by which does some lovely seasonal dishes. Slight downside is their passion for playing Jack Johnson on repeat but we shall let them off as the wines are great and the views spectacular. Booking is highly recommended though – check them out here: https://hattonarms.com/
If pub grub does not float your boat (pun intended) then there is a lovely little cafe on the flight itself. They are very reasonably priced and have a limited but lovely menu to choose from.
They also sell some basic supplies if you need to stock up! Also replacement lock keys if you happen to drop your in the canal – which I have NEVER done honest!
Failing that – they sell ice cream which is almost always a winner!
Once the foody element is covered you can really appreciate the cultural side of engineering accomplishments.
Whilst the flight was opened in late 1799 on the Warwick and Birmingham Canal it was renamed in 1929 as the Grand Union Canal and they decided to widen the Hatton stretch. The locks were doubled in size in order to accommodate traders with heavy cargos of coal, sugar, tea and spices up the flight. You can still see today whats left of the old locks where they have built along side them. The widening was completed in the mid-1930s but sadly, following the growing popularity of rail and road for goods transfer it ceased industrial use in the 1970s.
Now a tourist attraction its kept some of its heritage as you will find examples of its engineering past along its banks. Little plaques explain and educate so its history is never forgotten.
A lovely place for a quiet (ish) walk and a nice bite to eat
Winter sports on a budget – An expensive hobby does not need to mean breaking the bank and remortgaging the house!
When you buy stuff for a living it affords you a certain insight to an objects actual worth. This is both a blessing and a curse when it translates into your personal life! Buying a holiday or trip becomes a gauntlet of comparisons, research and value analysis. You may see a “deal” and think wow that’s reasonable…I see a black hole of small print and optional extras that mean your “deal” is not quite as sweet at the end.
With a “buyers” eye in this 4-part special I shall guide you through how I book our winter sports holidays and show how its possible to take several trips over the course of a season instead of blowing your hard-earned cash on just one.
I will even share some tips on how we invested our savings to maximise our annual exposure to the glorious white fluffy stuff (SNOW!) in what’s actually quite a small seasonal window.
My first experience of “buying” a snowboarding holiday was a time consuming affair. Searching for a suitable solution that met our needs but didn’t take the piss in terms of total cost.
I am going to share with you the benefit of my experiences with my top 6 tips that cover everything from travel and accommodation to insurance and lift passes so you can save yourself the “pain” (not really pain for me to be honest…I actually enjoy the game of hunting out the bargains! It’s a perverse kind of pleasure!)
The tips and tricks I will share can be summarised as follows (click on the links to jump to the post that you are most interested in!):
How are you going to get there? (To the snow and some of the best resorts the Alps have to offer) Getting there LINK
Accommodation – where are you going to rest your weary body for the evening
Lift passes – how to get the best deal and beat the morning queues in resort
Food and drink – the pesky necessity whose absolute cost can sneak up on you
Insurance – do’s and don’ts
Gear – find a bargain and save on rental costs
First up and before I get into the nitty gritty– “package deals” are they really as good a deal as they seem to be?
Have you ever been lured into a 2 for 1 or “mega” deal at the super market by the marketing excellence only to find its actually cheaper to purchase the product in a different way? Like a 6 pack of 2 litre coke is actually more expensive than 6 individual bottles.
Package holidays CAN operate in the same way.
I am a professional buyer and I have never, not even once, purchased a package deal from a no face corporation. That’s quite a strong message in itself!
Sure if you are willing to be totally flexible on location, departure point and times, duration of trip, accommodation quality and positioning in resort & resort caliber then its entirely possible to pick up a bargain but buyer beware!
You may find yourself on a flight or transfer at some unpleasant hour of the day or in accommodation that prompts an “oh well it will have to do, its not THAT bad” attitude followed shortly by additional costs you thought were already included in the total price.
With a relatively small amount of effort you could bag an even better deal than a package on offer and open up infinite possibilities.
Ok so -Package deals – obviously if you don’t have the time or inclination to break down the elements of your holiday and want a potentially “hassle free” option accepting you might not have a say on every element then crack on!
Keep in mind the following to help minimise any surprises:
Read the small print of the offer
Talk to an actual company representative if you can – it can help having a name of someone to sort out any issues and give you confidence that your money is being well spent.
Understand what the company will do in the event of delays in resort or during transit
What insurance does the company have. Are they covered by ATOL?
What elements of the holiday are outsourced to a 3rd party contractor
Will you have a representative in resort to talk to?
Is there an option to change flight/ travel details to better suit your expectations and potentially avoid a 4am wake up call.
If their package includes in resort perks like lift passes how does this work
Whats included in the deal that you may not actually want? For example gear hire.
Understand their offering explicitly and ask questions – its going to help you in terms of negotiating.
IF you have decided to not book a package deal then read on…I am going to share my tips and tricks!
What do you get when you mix a group of total strangers, a delicious Hairy Bikers recipe, a platter of deserts, copious amounts of wine and a sun set to die for? Well…a bloody wonderful evening that’s what!
Its fair to say that countries on the mainland (mainland Europe) have it pretty sweet when it comes to provisions for Motorhomes. Its a totally different ethos to the majority of the UK. Touring in your home on wheels in France, Germany, Spain etc is a pleasure (most of the time) and the culture seems to really embrace motorhomers with free aires and service areas a plenty.
Question is – Are we therefore spoilt when we try to conjure the same experience in the UK?
Typically a UK Motorhomer has to be a little less spontaneous when it comes to general bus servicing. Planning ahead in terms of taking on fresh water or dumping your black waste. The rules about wild camping are also far more rigid for most of the UK and campsites seems to be a lot less accommodating about rocking up later in the day and require booking in advance.
Maybe it just as simple as the Weather?
Does sunshine equal a more enjoyable and laid back experience? Sure blue skies help and do lessen the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms which may make me grumpier than most about having to be a little more organised!
Having just returned from a cheeky night away in Frau, we found a cracking little site in a stunning river side location not far from Leominster. All the usual gripes remain but Arrow Bank in Eardisland somehow managed to dull those into insignificance. A thoroughly well considered campsite where the little touches made all the difference. By little touches I am talking about the fact that they offer free washing up liquid in the dish washing area, a little library of good reads, an area with lots of local information and brilliant shower facilities. Each pitch had all its own services (Premier pitches) and the site layout was clean and well appointed. The site was also incredibly friendly and offered free fishing for those into that kinda thing.
The disappointing downside to this great site is the price! £25.00 a night! Thats HUGE!
It seems therefore possible to have the “experience” in the UK but you have got to pay through the nose for it!
Worth a visit none the less as the village of Eardisland sits on the Cider trail and the Black and White house trail which are both well worth investigating (covering all bases…cultural and alcoholic). Keep in mind Village provisions are limited so stock up on supplies before arriving.