One of the main purposes of the LostInFinstere website (other than to give me an excuse to indulge my unfulfilled desire to be a “writer” using this blog) is to let anyone who may stumble across it know about our lovely gites and some of the things they can do whilst visiting fascinating Finistère. In order to optimise the chances of the website actually being found by our target audience I have had to learn a lot about search engine optimisation or SEO. Being a complete novice with regards to web design and marketing it has been a steep learning curve! There is a lot of conflicting advice around and loads of strange terms to get use to – meta tags, keywords, alt tags, web spiders, crawling, robots.txt, impressions – the list goes on and on and sets my head spinning! I have found many helpful people who are willing to share their advice and experiences on various forums – though sometimes I find myself more bamboozled than educated by the stuff I read. The latest thing I have been trying to get my head around is the recent “penguin” update by Google. Yes, penguin. Apparently for some reason Google has chosen to name its updates after animals, the previous one being “panda”. Some web pundits are putting their money on “panther” for the next one – oh well I guess they need to keep themselves amused. There seems to be a lot of panic being generated as some people think their Google rankings have been affected by the update. The good news is, because I have not used underhand methods to boost our search positions, (or I don’t really know what I am doing...) our rankings have not been affected . If you are still with me and haven’t yet lost the will to live, and are vaguely interested, you can find out more about the Google penguin update here .
I know that you are eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the NeverEnding Story of “The Search” or “What Katz Did Next” (geddit? I’m showing my age...). So one dark autumn evening we set off in the shiny new La bête on her debut adventure to La Belle France. It was our first trip with Brittany Ferries though ironically we actually docked in Normandy but hey, that just splitting hairs now isn’t it? We thoroughly enjoyed our first overnight ferry crossing. I am not a good sailor having suffered from mal de mer in the past so I did face the voyage with some trepidation. We sailed on the Bretagne and I hardly notice that we were at sea – and, touch wood, I haven’t had a problem on any voyages since . I think it is the sheer size of the ships on the longer crossings that have saved me. Having said that, our next journey in June is on the so called “Vomit Comet” or the Normandie Express which is Brittany Ferries high-speed catamaran – fingers crossed for a smooth crossing!
It was dark and wet as we set off from Caen for our first viewing in the Cotes-d'Armor. By the time we reached our destination it was literally bucketing down and we were trapped in the car for a few minutes on our arrival. This was my dream French home, I had found it privately and couldn’t believe that we could afford this charming looking house. It was rented out as a gîte so there were lots of lovely photos on a website. It was an old stone farmhouse standing in its own grounds overlooking a pretty wooded valley with a little stream at the bottom – bliss! We rang the doorbell – nothing, rang again after a few anxious minutes, nothing again. The door was open and the lights were on but apparently no-one was home! My brain immediately went into overdrive – did I have the wrong time (I knew it was the right place from the pictures), did I have the wrong date – had I mucked it all up?! So I dug out my trusty property search spread-sheet and found the phone number of the English lady we were supposed to be meeting. I then make a relatively expensive call from my UK mobile (I must sort out a French network SIM card!). Oh yes, she is expecting us, she was up in the longere that is by the entrance to the property we were standing in front of in the rain – she'd be right down!
One observation I will make at this point, is that I have found that many ex-pats have joined their French compatriots in a laissez-faire attitude towards life. She must have seen us drive past her house – the property we were at was last one on a dead-end road (well more of a mucky farm track – thank goodness I had opted for a 4X4!). If it had been me expecting people to view my property, I would have been on tenterhooks waiting for them to turn up (and perhaps would have gone for the old fresh baked bread and coffee trick!). I guess the fact that the place was in a bit of a state when we eventually got to look around it spoke volumes about her attitude and explained why it had been on the market for so long. One good thing about viewing a property in a heavy downpour is that it draws your attention to things like drainage – of which this house had none. No gutters, no downpipes and no drains – the water was just left to stream down the walls straight into the foundations – if there were any! This can lead to problems with damp and the movement of walls – not a good sign.
One of the selling features, according to our hostess, was the rather large and unattractive static caravan which was apparently a permanent feature in the lovely garden (well it would be lovely once all the old vehicles and rubbish was removed...). This had seen better days and was more suitable for a stunt on Top Gear than for living in. They allegedly moved into this “résidence bijou” during the summer when they rented the house out as a gîte. Let’s just say, that, as she apparently had some guests arriving later that day, her guests either weren’t too fussy – or they never returned - which is more likely. It also became apparent that she was a true eccentric who would be your only neighbour for miles – one who couldn’t be avoided – so much for a peaceful life in the countryside! What finished it off for us was the field at the bottom of the garden that was actually a swamp, she had somehow forgotten to mention this “feature” – so we would be paying for a load of useless land that we would have to maintain – no thanks! At least by this time the rain had stopped so we set off for a quick picnic lunch before our next viewing over the border in Morbihan that afternoon.
This blog is about our holiday cottages near Huelgoat in Brittany and places we have visited in Finistere, with a little bit of everyday life thrown in. We hope that you will find it useful and interesting. Comments always welcome!
A House in Brittany Blogspot
Half Term Dates Holiday Blog
Renovation of a Derelict House in Brittany
The French Village Diaries Blog
A Trifle Rushed
Life in France
John's N Gauge