Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Dublin at Christmas

If you are planning on visiting Dublin for Christmas make sure that you are either staying with friends or family, staying at a hotel that is going to be open or a self catering property like those advertised on a holiday homes website like for example.

Unlike France, Italy or England it is very difficult to actually eat out, or even get a drink on Christmas day. The reason is that traditionally it is a day when a family is meant to be together.

I tried in both 2007 and 2008 to find a restaurant or hotel that was open for Christmas lunch. It is nearly impossible.

Most hotels close early afternoon on Christmas Eve and don't usually open again till lunchtime on the day after St Stephens Day (Boxing day) the 27th. The pubs will close early on Christmas Eve and some will open on St Stephens Day. Many Guest Houses and bed and breakfast establishments also closed.
A lot of bar staff in Ireland used to be members of a union and it was agreed therefore that pubs would not open. Although the situation with staff will have changed a lot today, the same rules apply to opening. They don't!!

I discovered that a hotel in Drumcondra on the way to the airport is open for Christmas Lunch, however their arrangements included a small entertainment variety show. A hotel that is part of an American chain was open as well in the centre for a 4 course brunch. The price quoted was 160 euro per person without drink or service charges. They had two sittings and if you were a family of five after spending nearly a thousand euro taking the first sitting you would have to vacate quite quickly to let the second sitting take over.

Another hotel in the centre near Grafton Street that is Irish owned was also open, but by coincidence the price was exactly the same.

Looking outside Dublin, hotels around the country that were open and took guests for 2 or 3 nights were generally much more expensive than they would normally be. I stayed at a fabulous hotel on the west coat for the second time last June. Like the others I discovered their Christmas break prices had gone up considerably.

With the credit crunch biting hard in Ireland, it will be interesting to see if this changes for Christmas 2009.

If you are thinking of taking a break in Ireland over Christmas all of this is worth considering as the only place you might find open on Christmas day is the odd Chinese restaurant or petrol service station.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Have you booked your 2009 self catering holiday?

I have just received the January 2009 edition of France Magazine and a few days ago the January edition of Italy Magazine also came in the post.

We are sent these as and advertise in there and if fact have been advertising in those publications for several years now along with Living Spain and other magazines.

Looking through the magazines and seeing the fabulous colour photos you really feel you want to jump on the next flight off to one of those destinations. This can be by the sea, in the country or even a city break.

Despite of the credit crunch worries we at jml villas are still receiving numerous copy email enquiries to advertisers of self catering holiday homes.

People will be watching every penny or cent now as money becomes tighter and one way to spend less is to go self catering, booking direct with the owner and saving on agents costs.

When you do this remember don't forget your travel insurance or car hire excess insurance. Those are costs that can't be cut back on.

Listed below are a very small selection of enquiries we have recently received.

hello i was just viewing villas for 2009 and i came across yours i was wondering if it was avalible in august 2009 for 2 weeks and how much also does it include flights and transport to the villa and could you give a price on a party of 10 8 adults

hi, your house looks lovely, just wondering if you could let me know about booking for three to four nights over the new year period many thanks andy

Please can you tell us availability and cost for the two weeks 25th July to 8th August. There are 8 of us (2 families of 4). Please can you let us know if there is any other information you think we would need to know.Kind regardsMichelle

Enquiring re price and availability for 3 wk stay starting Sat 4th Jul 2009 for 5 adults. Look forward to hearing from youthank youAlex

Hello, I would be interested in renting your property form 18/07/09 to 25/07/09. Could you please send me all relevant details regarding terms and conditions and booking. Thank you

Is your villa availible for the weeks starting 17th or 24th August 2009? How much?Does the pool have a fence? Thank you.

I am looking for a villa for 10days from the 4th June 2009 until 13th june 2009 for 8 adults 1 child and 2 infants please can you tell me if you can give me a quote for this thank you

Hi there, I was wondering if this cottage is available for the week over new years and if so, how much would it cost? Thanks Jon

Please could you advise whether the villa is available for one week, commencing 27th December 2008. Many thanks

I am looking at renting you 3 bedroom house from the 13th december for three weeks. I will be for myself and two sons ages 17 and 20. Please forward me your price list and availability. many thanks Susie

Goedemorgen Vandaag vertrek ik al naar Marokko en heb nog geen reactie terug op mijn mail gekregen. Ik hoop alleen maar dat ik toch niet té veel lef had om bij jullie in te breken. Ik ben er tot 28 november en kan mail lezen daar.Vr.groe

Have you availability in August 2009 please? Many thanks and look forward to hearing back from you and if so, what is the rate (we are looking for 2 weeks).

I am interested in your property for 14 people from the 10th june 2009 for 7 nights. Could you please tell me your price for this stay. Thanks

I was wondering how much it would cost to rent your villa for 2 weeks in July 2009? It would be after 18th July. There would be four people. Thank you

I would like to enquire to see if the property is available towards the end of February for a 10 night stay. There are four of us coming over for a relaxing time,no exact dates yet. we would be looking at a max of £400 for the 10 days, Many Thanks Beckie

Hello, was enquiring how much this apartment would cost for 10days around the end of june? and is theres much difference between the price for 2 weeks?many thanks Emily

Hi,I have just found your villa on the JML website an wondered if you had availability from the 28th March 2009 for 2 weeks. We have a little flexibility (subject to flights) but need to be back in the UK by the 19th April at the latest. Cheryl

Could you please advise of cost and availability for the first two weeks in August 2009 jayne

Hi, Is your apartment available from the 2nd of August 2009 until the 16th of August 2009. thanks

Could you tell me if the Villa is available for 31 July 09 to 14 August 09 and the price for these two weeks. Could you please confirm the location to Pernera and if the Villa is in a quiet location. Slight flexibility can arrive 1 or 2 August. Thank

hello, we are searching a nice sea view appartment for the time 01.08.2009-15.08.2009 for two adults and a 5years old child. please contact us, if its possible to rent the rooms. thank you ingo

It is the time of year to plan your 2009 vacation and if you are a holiday home owner, why not advertise your property on

Do you know it only costs £11.75 a year including VAT! It is really a very low price and on the 19th December 08 exchange rate that is approximately $17.58 or €12.59. What can you buy for that drinks in a pub or cafe for maybe 3 or 4 people!!

We look forward to receving you holiday enquiries and listing those holiday rentals.

We have been around since 2002 and our brands , and receive numerous daily visits.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Morocco - Maroc A few facts for a short visit

Morocco is located on the northwestern corner of Africa. It is bordered with Algeria to the east and southeast, Mauritania to the south, to west by the Atlantic Ocean and north east by the Mediterranean. It is a fantastic country to visit with great contrasts of wealth and poverty. It is slightly smaller than France or Spain and it slightly larger than California,USA.

From a geographical point of view it is divided into four zones: - The Coastal area - Atlantic and Mediterranean - The plains with the great cities. The Rif and Atlas Mountains and the Sahara - desert and oasis.
A section of History: November 2005 saw the 50th anniversary of independence from French and Spanish rule. The country has a monarch at the head of state and an elected government. Prior to 1956 it was divided into French and Spanish zones. The Spanish running Tetouan, the Rif, Mediterranean and North Atlantic coast and parts of the Western Sahara and the French running the main cities - Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech and Rabat the capital. There is a very a much a French influence the cities and they even have the same yellow Post office letter boxes as in France and when entering the Motorway /autoroute network, you could briefly think you were in France looking at the signage.
The Spanish still have their two colonies Ceuta (opposite Gibraltar) and Melilla that run an hour ahead on Spanish time.
It is a constitutional monarchy with a popularly elected parliament, but the king has considerable excecutive powers. The country is a moderate Arab state which maintains close relations with Europe and the USA and was granted major non-NATO ally status in 2004. The political situation is stable.
The Economy: For many years Morocco has suffered from a weak economy based on agriculture. Over the last five years (from 2001) the economy has begun to expand, growing by 6.8 per cent in 2004. Today the three largest revenue earners are tourism, export of phosphates and remittances from expatriate Moroccans.The expanding economy owes much to the policies of King Mohammed VI who succeeded his conservative father in 1999. He is keen to see the country develop as a modern Islamic nation and to encourage foreign investment, that creates employment. Morocco has a Free Trade Agreement with the USA which took effect in January 2006. This allows for 98 per cent of trade in consumer and industrial products to be tariff free. A Free Trade Agreement with the EU will take effect in 2010.
Climate:The rugged mountain ranges and the Atlantic Ocean moderate the tropical heat of the country. The temperature is 16 degrees - 23 degrees C (62-73 F) on the west coast and 10 to 27 C (50 -81 F) in the interior. There are small variations of temperature along the Atlantic coast and the interior has extreme variations. The Atlas Mountains that divert the Atlantic winds have a pre-Saharan climate. The eastern slopes are relatively cool and well watered. The rainy season is from October to November and April to May. The maximum annual rain is in the north west.
MAIN CITIES Many of the larger towns and cities have the traditional old town "Medina" and a "Ville Nouvelle" where you will normally find hotels serving alcohol

Casablanca: Is the Principal city of Morocco. Although not the Capital (See Rabat below) with a population of over 5 million, it is close to the Aeroport Mohammed V. It is a large port city, larger than Marseilles in France - It was modeled in this port under French colonial rule. The city has the Mosquee Hassan II, built with a glass floor on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The minaret is the tallest in the world - 200 hundred meters high. The roof also opens and shuts.
The city has the interesting Old Medina dating from the late 19th century. Casablanca is well known for the famous 1940's film with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. As the second world war was on - it was actually filmed in Hollywood. The Hotel Hyatt Regency located on the Place des Nations has a bar decorated from this film. Nearer the port and the docks Mosquee Hassan II you can find "Rick's bar" There is plenty to do and see here for 3/4 days.

Rabat: The Capital city -Since independence in 1956 is a lot smaller than Casablanca. The lively area is the Medina with many good value places to eat and this borders onto the beach. Points of interest are the Hassan Mosque, Mohammed V Mausoleum, The Kasbah des Oudaisas and the Citadel of Chellah.

Tangier / Tanja / Tanger:Is an international city located on the Atlantic/Mediterranean border that up to independence in 1956 had a special status as an "International zone". There is an international airport at Ibn Batouta and the main attractions are Place de France, The Grand Socco, The Medina, The Kasbah and the Dar el Makhzen.
Fes: Is the oldest of the Imperial Capitals. It is also a complete medieval city in the Arab world. There is an airport 15 km away at Sais. Sights to see: Fes el Bali, Medina, Ville Nouvelle, Merenid tombs and The Bou Inania.

Meknes:It is a sprawling prosperous provincial city situated south west of Fes. What to see:- The Imperial City, Bab Mansour, The Rouah and The Medina and the Souks (markets like in many Moroccan towns)

Marrakesh / Marrakech: Was called "Morocco City" by early travelers. It is Morocco's second largest city after Casablanca. A visitor there will immediately see the difference in wealth and people living on a day to day existence. The Djemaa el Fna is described as the most wonderful city square in the world. It is an open air circus with snake charmers, acrobats, musicians and very inexpensive restaurants that are wheeled out from a storage yard at night
holiday resort after the original town was ruined by an earthquake in 1960. It is a wonderful to experience to visit this city.

Essaouira: Is a traditional fishing town west of Marrakech on the Atlantic coast. It is considered fashionable with foreign holiday home buyers.

Travel: The railway network that is run by ONCF is mostly in the north. A good service that is not expensive to travel on and even first class travel does not cost a lot. There is a motorway /autoroute along the north west coast (south of Casablanca to Tangier and to Fes.
Taxis are a feature of the country. The "Grand" taxi operate on a wide selection of routes - normally a Mercedes that came from the 1970s / 1980's - don't expect to find seat belts!. These carry up to 6 passengers and it is often normal to share the taxi. Each town or city will have its "Petit Taxi" a much smaller (and nearly as old Peugeot 205 / Fiat Uno) and there will be a different colour for each town. - Red in Casablanca - blue in Rabat - yellowish brown in Marrakesh etc. These are very econominical for traveling around in. Finally there are the buses - they are slightly cheaper than the Grand Taxi.

Riads - houses built around a patio garden. They are like a guest house although many are being transformed into houses to rent out to tourists. The interest in this type of property took off in Marrakesh where many a fine example can be found, some now just offering food.
Currency: - Dirham (DH)=100 centimes . Morocco is well worth a visit

First Visit impressions of Morocco

Having never visited Morocco or even Africa, I was very excited at the prospect in mid November 2005.
As soon as I boarded the Royal Air Maroc plane at London Heathrow on a late Saturday afternoon I was in another world. Announcements and signage in English French and Arabic. Moroccan stile cuisine and hospitality.

On arrival at the Aeroport Mohammed V after showing you passport several times I was soon on the motorway to Casablanca that is the principal city of the country (but not the capital). It seemed rather like being in France – autoroute signage, A French chain owned DIY store, but not so once the taxi had entered Casablanca itself. Here there were people walking out in front of cars, cars just about avoiding other ones and I was\very pleased I was not actually doing the driving, particularly with the lack of seat belts (or even one that worked!).
There is a great French influence in the country – it was ruled by the French and Spanish till 1956 and a lot of architecture new and old is very much of the French influence and even the Post boxes are the same shape and yellow colour as in France.
November is probably not the best time of year to visit the country, particularly if you don’t want to get wet. The rainy season is from October to November and April to May. On my second day I took the train from Casablanca to Rabat the capital. There is a very efficient and inexpensive rail network that is mainly in the north of the country.
Unfortunately just before arriving at the station in Rabat the heavens opened. They had done on the previous day as I explored Casablanca, but the visit to Rabat only lasted just over an hour, because this wasn’t rain, it was flash floods and the roads suddenly took on the appearance of rivers. So much for exploring Rabat.
The day before in Casablanca was much more successful. I had spent a while reading a popular traveler's guide book that helped me understand more about the culture and people. I was not too surprised with offers by people wanting to help, show and ask for money. Men holding hands as they walked along or kissing when they met (like a guard greeting one his passengers) was part of normal life, it happened because they were friends, not a sexual relationship as would be thought of in the west. I also knew that I had to be careful taking photos as many women are not happy about this.
The city has the Mosquee Hassan II a spectacular site, that is built with a glass floor on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The minaret is the tallest in the world — 200 hundred meters high. The roof also opens and shuts.
Unlike a lot of European countries where taxis are modern vehicles, in Morocco you will find the large “Grand” taxis that normally travel with as many people legally possible going from town to city and are usually a Mercedes of the 1980s era that will be a certain colour depending on the town or city they are based in. Each town will also have its own coloured “Petit Taxi”. Theses are normally Peugeots and Fiats (colour coded for each town or city) that most likely started life in the 1980’ and 1990s in Europe and were exported south to start a new lease of life as a passenger carrying vehicle for four.
Moving onto Marrakesh ( known as Marrakech locally) by train proved to be very interesting. Paying the additional amount for first class at least guaranteed a comfortable seat, although my limited experience in second class did not prove to have any discomfort. The landscape changes with more and more “dryer fields”, even cacti being cultivated in places and farmers using ploughs pulled by horses or donkeys. You can see Atlas Mountains in the distance as you come into Marrakesh. Many people decide to stay in the "Ville Nouvelle" where you will find the western style hotels and even villa complexes a few miles out where you are enclosed from the outside “real” world. I was staying in a small Riad in the centre off the Djemaa el Fna – the large city centre square in the Medina.
A Riad is a type of Guest House that is normally built round a patio garden. Normally some of the rooms are open plan to the elements and there is not so much rain there as nearer the coast. The experience of reaching the destination was varied. A petit taxi to the edge of the Djemaa el Fna and then because taxi are not allowed in after midday you have to hire a porter and cart.
The square is full of mobile restaurants, traders, snake charmers and appears to be very much alive most hours of the day.
There are also several panoramic cafés where you can get a superb view day or night of the surrounding scene including the Koutoubia Mosque . If you want to sit there and have a beer or glass of wine think again. Morocco is an Islamic nation so alcohol drinking is not a high priority. Although wine and beer are produced in the country, many cafes and restaurants would only serve light drinks (Coke, orange, mineral water, coffee etc) or the national. drink -mint tea. You certainly would not have a problem in the hotels in the "Ville Nouvelle".
The food is generally excellent and very reasonable as well. The traditional Moroccan — Tajine (A steam cooked meat stew) and couscous were tried.
The country has great contrasts of wealth and poverty. There are numerous developments being built as holiday homes near to Marrakesh and the three hour drive back to Casablanca to take the plane back home took in the new prosperous areas and past little “shanty”town areas of small buildings with corrugated iron roofs held down with boulders and each having a satellite dish. The taxi driver made a couple of stops to buy cigarettes. By the side of the road someone would come out with either packets or split packets. On each occasion the driver bought 2 cigarettes.
Jobs are very important, the host at the Riad said that a waiter in a restaurant cannot afford to make mistakes. He knows that there is another million of unemployed people waiting to take the job. There are numerous police about. Normally going around in fours or more. They man roadblocks at the entrances and exits to most towns. This is probably high security or could be giving the employed force more to do.
If you are going there on holiday make sure that you spend your Dirhams before you get to the airport. You won’t be able to change themback in the departures area or spend them on drink or tobacco at the Duty Free – they only accept euros.
The country is large – about the of California USA, there is a lot to see, I would like to visit other cities like Tangier and Fes. Even though it rained in Casablanca and Rabat it was hot dry and sunny in Marrakesh and the last night of 17 degrees centigrade on the roof of the Riad was quite a contrast to 24 hours later back in the south of England that was undergoing one of the first cold spells of the winter.