Saturday, 31 May 2014

Renovation project - CPAM in France

Renovation project - CPAM in France

I have now started to receive post, which is quite exciting, I get post which isn't just bills, and I am actually translating most of it myself (I have really been going at my Michel Thomas language course I still swear at it quite often and at times want to punch the woman on it, but it is helping overall!)

I have had my letter from CPAM (the health authority) asking me to take in my photograph for my Carte Vitale! This means I am officially in the French health system.

I take the photo’s (of which I am so unhappy, I look terrible and this will last me forever!)

I hand them in to the worker at CPAM and ask when Johns card will arrive, the lady only speaks French and uses more words than I know, she explains that she does not speak any English and we should bring a translator, we have never needed this before as we usually manage with my French and a few words of English from the officials, eventually she explains in broken English, that they are not allowed to speak English any more because somebody mis understood and complained, she shows us a new sign on the wall (in English) explaining that all English people must arrange for a translator! I can't believe it, one person has spoiled everything. Life is suddenly going to get much more difficult!

But on a positive note I now have my Carte Vitale, well I will when it arrives in the post.

The afternoon is spent on a more practical issue, we have realised that when we have guests we only have
the dining tables and it would not really be appropriate for us to sit and eat our meals there if people are relaxing in the lounge.

So John builds another table for the kitchen, I actually prefer this to all of the others, I have my kitchen dining room again, this was one of my joys in the UK.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Renovation project - We are going to be estate agents (well an agent commercial but it's close enough)!!!!!!!!!

Renovation project - We are going to be estate agents (well an agent commercial but it's close enough)!!!!!!!!!

We have a very busy week this week, we have not said anything as we did not want to Jinx it, but we are going to start work!

Now this is a bit of a long story but a few weeks ago we were contacted by one of the estate agents about advertising on the blog, well we got chatting and guess what, the estate agency were recruiting!!!!!!!

This week we are off to for a weeks training, we are going to be estate agents in France, now there's a turn up for the books. This should be ideal with the B&B because if anybody wants to come house hunting, they can stay with us as well!!!!

We have an 8 hour drive to the training and get to stay in a beautiful gite, we were a bit gutted that we did not get to stay in the Ch√Ęteau B&B (until we found out that there were no cooking facilities there!).
the week goes by so quickly and we learn so much, we had been worried that it may all be a bit too much, but the support network is excellent and running a B&B alongside is ideal.

The little B&B may be the dream, but in reality dreams don't pay the bills (worth remembering if you are planning on doing this, have you got a back up plan?)

The week was great and we met some fantastic people there. Our head's are spinning by the end, and I now have a short while to get registered in the tax system and to be able to speak French fluently! This had been one of my biggest concerns, but I'm doing well and I am going to have a French man and his English wife as my mentor's.

We return back to Huelgoat and the strangest thing happened, we walked into a nice house the house is still 
clean, there is no copious amounts of dust and no rubble, it still takes me by surprise.

Well we are all ready to go now, just need a few more bookings at the B&B.........

Huelgoat B&B - click on link to go to website

Huelgoat B&B sunset over Huelgoat lakeHuelgoat B&B Huelgoat ChaosHuelgoat B&B Huelgoat town square

Friday, 23 May 2014

Renovation Project - We have our first booking

Renovation Project - We have our first booking

Well this is it, we are are ready and raring to go, we just need to have some customers now!

We have arranged to have our first guests tonight, this is more of a thank you to Gerda, Gerda has taken our photographs for the website and has very kindly offered to do the translation for the website. We had considered using Google translate but after having a practice with it, we quickly realised that this was not a viable option. If you don't believe us, just try adding a paragraph to google translate and see what it gives you!

We have invited Gerda and her husband Andy over for dinner and to give the guest room a test drive. It seems quite fitting as we met Gerda and Andy through this blog, they were one of the very first people who came to visit us in the early days, when we still didn't have floors or doors! So to have them as our first guests truly marks the end of an era.

The evening is going wonderfully well, as always, and dinner is a success.

The telephone rings after we have finished eating and it is not a number I recognise, so I assume it is a sales call (we do get quite a few of these). Here is a small transcript of the call:

Me – Bonjour

Caller – Bonjour

Me – Bonjour

Caller – Nothing

Me (a little louder) Bonjour/hello

Caller – Hello

Me – Who is this?

Caller – It's ******** (names have been removed)

Me – Where are you from (still assuming a sales call)

Caller – From France

Me – (Now getting a bit narked!) - No what company are you from?

Caller – Is that Huelgoat B&&B?

Me - (In my head) Bugger, Bugger, Bugger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

it's someone ringing about the B&B, I now try to back track and attempt to sound professional in my bestest French, luckily she is very understanding and we discuss vacancies for July, she books (I didn't scare her away).

We have 2 rooms booked for the festival in July, both for 4 nights, this is so exciting, but how on earth did she get our number, at this point the website was not live, we had no sign outside the house. Then I check the internet, we have gone live on the Huelgoat Tourist Information site.

My goodness how efficient was that! We had expected this to take quite some time.

We are buzzing for the rest of the night, and I am so pleased that Gerda and Andy were here. It's at this point that we take the champagne outside to celebrate, we had been planning on doing this anyway but to have our first booking is the icing on the cake!

Cheers everyone and here’s to many more bookings!  

Huelgoat B&B France

Huelgoat B&B France

Huelgoat B&B

Gerda Bolton Photography

Click on the links to visit the B&B website or Gerda Bolton Photography

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Renovation Project - a fun Quiz

Renovation Project - a fun Quiz

Yesterday we worked hard on getting the B&B ready (it seems the cleaning never really stops) and using social media to promote the B&B, but as is always the case when you are on social media at least a quarter of your time is spent on, 'Oh that looks interesting it will only take me a minute to have a quick look' and 'I've worked hard a few minutes to play that game or quiz won't really matter' and if you're not like that then I apologise for tarring you with my brush, because I am definitely like that, I think the word is procrastinator, but I'm not sure so I will just take a few minutes to look it up (get the picture?)

Well, anyhow, whilst looking at different social media I actually found a quiz from Parkdean Holiday Parks that asked

'Reckon you know your Newquay from Nice? Your Pendine from Prague?
put that confidence to the test with this captivating quiz'

How simple could that be, plus the fact that there is a 7 day holiday up for grabs for the winner, it was a no brainer, we have travelled all over Europe, of course we are going to get them all right, all you have to do is look at 2 photo's and click on the one you think is from the UK, Simples!

Well apparently not, I didn't get them all right, how on earth can I get the UK mixed up with some of the most beautiful places in Europe, actually it was a bit of a shocker, as I now want to find these places in the UK.

Do you think you would be able to spot the country?

I have added a link to the quiz all you have to do is click on the link and then share your score on social media, to be in with a chance of winning the holiday and showing the world you are a knowledgeable traveller.

I scored 639, which puts me 267th globally, but at least I am in the lead on my Twitter friends. Can you beat me, if so leave your score in the comments.

Now I have to get back to work, or actually I may have a few more goes, and see if I can improve my embarrassing score!

Good luck

Disclaimer: this is a featured post

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Renovation Project - How to open a B&B in France

Renovation Project - How to open a B&B in France

This maybe a bit of a belated post but we are finally there! So thought that it may be useful to let you know how we did it. It may have been more useful knowing this information before we started as apparently we left things to the very last moment and the B&B may have been refused, now that would've been rather upsetting after all the work we put into it!

Please remember that the following guidelines are based on our experience in Huelgoat, Finistere, Brittany. The process may be different in different parts of France so always check before following advice from non official sources (including this one)

The first step is to actually obtain permission to open a B&B, and as with most things in France you need to visit your local Marie. this process was reasonably simple, it would've been very simple had I been able to speak french better! it took a little while but all the words were there and I managed, I was actually rather proud of myself at this point.

This is the very first step to opening a B&B and should be completed before anything else, before the renovations, before you buy your furnishings and definitely before you set up your website, because if the Marie says no, then there will be no B&B. We realised this quite late on!

However it would be quite strange for a Marie to say no, we do not want you to bring more tourism to our town, contribute to our economy and pay more taxes but it is better to be safe than sorry.

There were two forms to complete, but these were only one page each. The forms were called:



Recepisse de declaration en marie de location de chambre d'hote

Both forms are very simple and once completed they are to be returned to the Marie and you wait for a response.

Once they have been agreed, and signed and stamped you will receive them in the post.

So we are all set to open up, the next step is to register with the local tourist board. Again a very easy process (well it would've been easy if we had known the tourist office had moved whilst work was being completed!) once we found it we went in and had to arrange for a visit, unfortunately they have no visits before we left for the UK, so we book in for our return.

Our date is set and when she arrives we sit and complete the forms, we have great fun doing this as her English is not the best so we help each other along, I speak French and she speaks English with each other correcting each other. Luckily she is really impressed and happy with the B&B so is willing to put us on the tourist website. There is a cost of 100 Euro’s and we have to e-mail some photo's over later in the evening.

If the tourist office are not happy with your B&B they will not advertise it!

Next step is to make sure we have public liability insurance, we have found a fantastic insurance broker in our local town who is able to discuss all of our insurance needs, the liability insurance is so much less than we expected, which was a nice surprise. This is mainly because France has not joined the lets sue everybody brigade.

We have had an appointment with an accountant to look at our tax regime and will be making an appointment with the local tax office to register under the appropriate tax scheme. There are so many tax schemes in France that you will need to take official advice as to the most appropriate scheme for you.

So we are now registered and really ready to go everything is in place or so we thought, I have just realised that we have not registered the B&B at the office for our tax fonciere, I will let you know how this goes when we go to the office.

I hope this helps anybody considering opening a B&B in France, it may seem daunting at first, but we have found the process so much easier than we thought it would be. Just remember to get the permission early on!!!!!!!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Renovation Project - An anti climax!

Renovation Project - An anti climax!

We arrive back in France and it is such a strange feeling, we empty the car and what an anti climax, it is the strangest feeling, we are here, but the website isn't finished, the house is and we are not having to get to work on the house straight away.

The house is still clean and ready, what do we do? We are so used to just working constantly this is really weird.

I'm also feeling really gutted that my daughter and granddaughter are not joining us, they were meant to be coming over for a couple of weeks but it didn't work out, I am totally lost. This is not what I was expecting.

We spend the next couple of days having a major spring clean making sure that everything is perfect but without the website we will not get any bookings.

I start to feel more and more down, this is not how it should be, but the having nothing to do, does not last long, I am busy trying to get the website sorted and then realise I have to get the business tax sorted and registered as a business, arrange to have the tourist office come out to view the house and register with the tourist board, the Carte Vitale sorted and the health top up sorted, I am back to being busy and stressed in no time.

John finds more work to do on the house, he is going to build our kitchen terrace, this is the bit of the house I have looked forward to the most, we buy the wood and decking when we go shopping.

The area is very uneven so John has to make a frame for the decking to go on. This decking will hide all of the pipework that is currently on view, we had considered putting flag stones on here, but it would have taken so much concrete that it would have cost a fortune, plus we would not have had access to the pipework, this is the best way forward.

The terrace is in place and next it is the fence, this is to be the same as the fence around the top patio. Once finished it looks just as I imagined it would, this is definitely my favourite bit of the house. This is also a bit just for us and for the grandchildren when they arrive, it is a kitchen terrace for adults or somewhere safe for the children to play (a baby cage in other words!)

Tomorrow I will feel better and I can talk about the experiences of registering the B&B but for now I am going to go to bed, my head is going to explode, so much for it all being better once we have finished the work, obviously that was the easy part (though we would never have thought that whilst we were building the house!)

Friday, 9 May 2014

Renovation project - Is the trusty Volvo going to die?

Renovation project - Is the trusty Volvo going to die?

Our air conditioner in the car has stopped working, the system is just blowing hot air, not a problem in cold wet England, but a major problem for when we are driving on the continent and for our French MOT when we get home.

We have arranged for a car mobile air conditioning company to come round and refill the air conditioning unit. This is great he turns up at the house and connects his machines and the job is done, the company we used was called CoolCar and the guy was called Paul, we end up chatting about France for a while and what we are doing.

As he leaves the air con is working fine, but the next day it stops again, we now think that the problem may have something to do with the fact that John had a cup of coffee in the cup holder and went over a speed bump! The coffee spilled everywhere.

But Paul from CoolCar comes out to check anyway. It is not a problem with his work and he tells John what the problem maybe, I am all for lets just get it into a garage but John believes he can fix it.

We order a pollen filter as this has never been changed, we also try to buy an air conditioning control panel ((the bit in the car with the dials on) we contact the Volvo breakers we have used before and they tell us there is an independent Volvo specialist in Stockport, it's 4.30 and he closes at 5.30 and we leave for France in the morning, John gets there and he does a full diagnostic check, we do need a new control panel. 

We manage to find one at a breakers near Derby, we order it and go to collect it on our way home.

We can't believe our luck as we have found out that our Volvo was a change over model. So the part we need is rare, but Salvo Group has one. We arrive and he lets us try it before we buy, it works!!!!!!!!

We are on our way, we also collect some other parts from Euro Parts (who do not have any shops in France)

we are so relieved as if the parts had not worked we may have lost our trusty Volvo, it is getting to old to spend a lot of money on it, but it has been so reliable w do not want to replace it, the total cost was only £250, and this includes new brake discs as well as diesel and oil filters.

It's a good day, the trusty Volvo lives on and we are on our way home. The only downside to today is leaving the family behind again, this part never gets any easier!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Renovation Project - the best places to eat in Macclesfield

Renovation Project - the best places to eat in Macclesfield

We couldn't have a trip back to Macclesfield in the UK without telling you about some fantastic places to eat, one we have mentioned before, the Cheshire Gap, this is a deli in the town centre and no visit to Macclesfield is complete without a trip there.

The Cheshire Gap MacclesfieldThe Cheshire Gap MacclesfieldThe Cheshire Gap Macclesfield

Todays delicacy is a scotch egg with a difference, you have a selection of pies (not just everyday pies!) and in the centre is a runny egg! We have no idea how these are made but they are so nice and so different (Cheshire Gap if you read this can you please let us know what they are called).

Next is take away food, this is something we really miss in France, and as Macclesfield is not a big town, there is not the biggest selection but why would you need a big selection when some of what is on offer is so good!

Our favourites were Micco's, this as an actual Italian pizza take away and the pizza's are (in my opinion) far nicer than those we ate in Italy, so thank you Micco and in the words of Arnie 'we will be back'

Next favourite is Allan’s fried chicken, this is like a KFC but much nicer (in our opinion) as it is much smaller and the guy behind the counter is so friendly.

This is partly what makes these 2 take a ways so good the staff could not be nicer or more friendly.

Next we move up market to Fina Bar and Grill, we had a belated Mothers day evening here, which was me, my daughter and my mother. The food is absolutely amazing, and the Monkfish Pancetta is to die for! Mix this with a couple of bottles of Prossecco and the friendliest and most helpful waiting on staff and you have the ideal recipe for a fantastic night out, moving on to a bar afterwards also helps!

It is a wonderful feeling to be able to go out for the night with my family, even if the door men asked my 25 year old daughter for ID at the door, Revolutions in Macclesfield are definitely on the ball when it comes to keeping kids out of the bar.

We also met up with some friends of my daughters and my ego had a boost as I no longer look like the fat controller when I sit with them!

Revolutions Macclesfield

Macclesfield is definitely worth a visit if you make it to Cheshire in the UK, I have only talked about the eating opportunities but the bars and night-life are fantastic in this area and there are so many places to visit nearby.

We also take a visit to Manchester, and yes more food is involved, this time with a different age range, it is me, my daughter and baby granddaughter. We stroll through Spinningfields which is an area of Manchester city centre. It was specially developed in the 2000s as a business, retail and residential development of Manchester, and is located between Deansgate and the River Irwell and has been described as the Canary Wharf of the North.

Poppy has a thing for ducks, so seeing the massive duck on the green was her highlight, for me it was seeing such a green space covered in deckchairs in the centre of the city.

Spinningfields Manchester UK

We stop for some lunch at the Alchemist, and I have to take a photo of the menu to send to friends in France who never believed that fish finger butties were available on restaurant menus. But they are!

Fishfinger butties at Alchemist Manchester, UK

Now you may not expect a place like this to be suitable for toddlers but it is and my goodness is it better than the types of places you would normally take children too! A high chair is provided and the staff change the menu so that she has some fish fingers with a few chips, whilst we sit and have a selection of starters with 2 amazing cocktails. The table next to us order 2 tea's and these arrive in what look like test tubes with smoke billowing from them, I want one just because they look so different.

The Alchemist, Manchester ukThe Alchemist, Manchester uk

Here are a couple of photo's of Manchester that you may not expect, on a sunny day, Manchester is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever visited!

Manchester UKManchester UK

Manchester UKManchester UK

Manchester UK

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Renovation project - We have another grandchild

Renovation project - We have another grandchild

The house is clean and the photo's are taken, we are now going to leave for a while as we have some important business in the UK, well this is an understatement, we are going to babysit my granddaughter and John is about to become a granddad again.

Leaving when we are so close may sound a mad thing to do, but we are not going to be able to leave again until late in to the year and people are not really going to be able to visit us as we are going to have to concentrate on earning some money.

This is where you become really torn, we need to be up and running but I need to spend time with my babies and we need to be there for the new baby.

If you are going to do something like this, are you fully prepared for leaving new grandchildren and returning to visit with the worry in your head that they will not know you? We have been gone for over 18 months now and I still miss my daughter like crazy, and now it's even harder as I miss my little granddaughter so much as well, she is growing every day and I'm not there.

Skype has been a God send and we speak at least once a week, but this is not the same. This is why we are going now.

We have booked the posh cabin again on Brittany Ferries, I know look forward to this journey and the fear of my sea sickness is much less (it may cost more but it really is worth it!) 

As soon as I see my family all my fears of not being recognised leave, she runs up with her arms out and a big smile, I am in heaven.

We spend a week baby sitting and my greatest triumph is teaching her to say mu mu mu mmm (doesn't look much on here but you had to be there) my other greatest moment was teaching her to wag her finger and say no no no no no, my daughter still finds this really cute, but I wonder how long it will be cute for?

We have trips out and I have the best time but my goodness am I knackered! This is why the blog has fell a bit behind, I had all these plans of what I would do, but once she was in bed I just wanted to die on the sofa. I had forgotten how tiring a toddler was, the work on the house was nothing in comparison and I raise my hat to all of you working mums out there, you really are amazing!!!!

John's daughter does not seem to be in any hurry to give birth, and every day we are waiting for the phone call, but finally the call comes and I have a cold, I am gutted, but we drive to the hospital and John gets to see his new granddaughter when she is only an hour old.

Welcome Laila Grace.

I get to see her twice before we leave as I do not want to pass on any germs, she is such a little cutie.

We split our time between the families and fill up on cuddles and love, but somehow I have not taken very many photo's, it is hard to remember to get your camera out when you are just trying to soak up everything, next time I will try harder!

We have so many memories from this visit, one of the funniest is visiting my parents with little Poppy Mai and my mum asking her where meme is (I have stuck with this name rather than the G word) and instead of coming to me she goes straight to the laptop and shouts me. This is when we realise how confusing it must be for such small children, and wonder whether she thinks we live in the computer?

This is definitely one of our best trips back, and as a bonus I didn't end up in hospital!!!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Renovation project - We have finally finished

Renovation project - We have finally finished
Do you remember reading this? this was part of my first post written on 4th August 2012. We have finally finished and are ready for opening.
We are both older and wiser and have more grandchildren and it never gets easier leaving them behind when we visit. There have been many tears along the way both from joy, frustration and exhaustion but what a transformation. 
Well this is it, we’ve done it!!!!!!
We have sold up lock stock and barrel and moved to France, Huelgoat in Brittany to be precise and I would like to welcome you to join us on our adventure, I plan to complete a daily blog (well when the hangover or work do not get in the way) detailing the trials, tribulations and joys of renovating an old town house in to a luxury B&B. You will probably get to hear about the drunken antics, rows and tears as well, but John isn’t too happy about that bit, but hey ho, I’m the one typing!
Let me introduce ourselves, I’m Jenny, I’m 42 in my previous life I was a Quality Management Consultant (great title, I know and roughly translated it meant that I inspected adult social care accommodation). I left work full time approximately 18 months ago to work with John as his labourer come dogsbody, so my family thought I had already had my midlife crisis before setting out on this one.
John is 48 and 4 quarters, he’s still not got his head around being 49 (it was a recent event) and in his previous life he had been a self employed builder for over, well lets just say a very long time.
We met a few years ago and had the same outlook on life and easy going nature, which is going to be essential for living in a house with no water, electric or other essentials. First tip of the day is to be very wary of French estate agent particulars, as we apparently bought a house with electricity and water!!!!!!!! Both had to be switched on but I’ll talk about that later.
Everybody has seen the TV programmes and read the magazines about how fabulous it is to renovate a property abroad, this blog will give you a realistic, detailed account of what it is really like, including leaving children and parents behind, made doubly difficult as one child (she will not be pleased at being called a child) is currently 6 months pregnant with her first child, am I going to be nominated for mum of the year??????
Has it been worth it?
Yes we think so.
Here is a selection of before and after photo's, we hope to see many of you here this year and would like to say a big thank you to so many that have supported us on this journey and hope you enjoy our next chapter.
The photo's are all taken from similar angles and really show the difference between before and after
A big thank you to Gerda Bolton photography 
The back bedroom

The Landing

These photos were taken from similar angles

The front bedroom

The bathroom

The living room

The dining room

The porch

The staircase

The garden

We are now taking bookings if you want to get in touch contact us via the blog or on our new website