Tuesday 30 June 2009

Just found a great holiday rental at Kilkhampton near Bude, Cornwall

With all the great weather in England this week, what a great time to take a self catering holiday in England. If found this self catering lodge at englishcottagerental.com

Woodland Lodge in beautiful parklands at Kilkhampton in North Cornwall, near Bude. Nestling in a wooded glade with trickling brook in a peaceful, natural environment. Woodland Lodge is the perfect destination for travellers looking for relaxation and comfort, or for action and adventure. Whatever you are looking for, Woodland Lodge is the perfect choice for your visit to North Cornwall.

It Sleeps up to 4 in 2 bedrooms with 1 bathroom has a Shared pool.

There is a Beach nearby and the Shops and bars are nearby. Equipped with flat screen, microwave etc.

Kilkhampton has two convenience shops, a Post Office, 2 country Inns and a real butcher!. The main local shopping and banks etc are in Bude. There are a multitude of independent shops, plus a Morrisons and Co-op. A wide variety of restaurants, take-aways and pubs serving food.

There are two pubs, both serving bar and restaurant meals, within a five minute walk of the house. The village shop, next to the church, also has an excellent cafe serving meals all day (a terrific breakfast) and internet access. Local produce can also be bought from the Post Office on the sea front. Kilkhampton is an old-fashined Cornish Village, The ancient town of Stratton (famous for Civil War battles) is 4 miles. Bude is a bustling town with family owned shops, large sandy beach. Many Surf schools use part of the beach. Coastal walks, rambling, cycle alongside the canal. Golf, Fishing, Horse-riding, cycling, exploring hidden coved or sight-seeing — it's all here.

Woodland Lodge is located in the parkland surrounding a 19th Century Manor House. The former stables (3 minute walk) now has a Bar and Grill, games room and small convenience shop and ofen has live family-friendly entertainment. The Manor House (5 minute walk) has an entertainment suite with nightly Cabaret and a leisure auite with Indoor 22 metre pool, jacuzzi, sauna, indoor green bowls, Squash, Badminton, tennis etc. Sandy beach is 2 miles away and suitable for surfing, Golf, horse-riding and fishing locally. Children (aged 3 — 12) have free membership of the Children's Activity Club at the Manor House.

Places to Eat: There are many restaurants, pubs, bistros, cafes and take-aways in the local area. Here are just a few suggestions you may wish to try:The Bay View Inn Widemouth - Falcon Hotel Falcon Terrace, Bude - The Brasserie Lower Wharf Centre, Bude - Life's a Beach Summerleaze Beach, Bude - Brendon Arms Falcon Terrace, Bude - Inn on the Green Crooklets Beach, Bude.

It is also featured at jmlvillas.com Make the most of summer in Cornwall this year.

If you have any experiencies or memories about the Bude area, let us know and start following this blog.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Touring Tipperary, Ireland (or part of it)

A four day tour of Tipperary, Ireland in June, based at a superb country house B & B makes a perfect early summer break

I spent a few most enjoyable days in County Tipperary in June (09). Tipperary is divided into Tipperary North (where the local car registration is TN) and Tipperary South (where the car registration is TS). It is in the province of Munster and has good road and rail connections from Dublin. (Approx under 2 hours drive from Dublin.

The county is in the midlands and bordered by the counties of Waterford in the south, Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly to the east, Galway to the north and Cork, Limerick and Clare to the west.

As my wife was participating in a four-day course in at the Tipperary Institute in Thurles in north Tipperary we needed to find accommodation that accepted dogs. There are several hotels in Ireland that are “pet friendly”, but from researching this on the Internet, the majority appear to be in the west of Ireland. We stayed at one of these last June at Renvyle in Connemara. In the end I found Ashleypark House, situated near Nenagh via a website that listed B & B accommodation that is pet friendly.

Although they have a very informative web site full of information and great pictures, I used the old fashioned way of contacting them – telephone to sort out our booking. They have a small flat adjoining the property and a renovated gardeners cottage that can be rented for self catering or a mixture of self catering and eating in the main house.

We drove from Dublin on a hot sunny Thursday afternoon using the new toll system on the M50 then via the N4, M4, and M6 and through Tullamore famous for Irish Whiskey Tullamore Dew. We found the house after asking a couple of locals, although it was well signposted on the N52 road and the AA route planner directions were good.

Ashleypark House is set in 76 acres of woodland, formal gardens and a lake and with two entrances, both with gate lodges it has a long drive of approximately 1 km. It is an 18th century country house that has been restored by its present owners. It is full of character and apart from providing bed and breakfast accommodation there are excellent four course dinners with wine.

The first night we were in a back bedroom overlooking a grass covered courtyard that is home to peacocks and cockerels. As it does not get dark till nearly eleven at this time of the year and is getting light soon after 3, these birds don’t have much sleep and are calling out from just after 3.30 and they are noisy. Sean the exceptionally active 80+ resident owner of the house suggested we move to a room at the front of the house that has superb views over the lake and much quieter. This was the room that President Mary McAleese stayed in a few years ago. What an honour for our Irish born dog to sleep in the same room that the president had slept in!

The house was very good value costing around €100 per person a day for bed (with en-suite), full Irish breakfast, a four-course dinner with coffee or tea and this included the wine. Prices of wine ranged from €22 to €30 a bottle on average (and we found a very good red at €25 a bottle).

Each day I had to take my wife to Thurles (some 40 km + away) and return for a full Irish breakfast and then take in some touring with my mother in law who had come with us and Joss the dog. On the first day we decided to explore the local area – Tipperary Lakeside in Shannon’s Lough Derg District. Lough Derg is the largest lake on the River Shannon. Although there is not a lakeside ring road, you can drive up to the various villages situated around it. Taking in a visit to the newly built “Thatched Cottage” pub in Ballycommon plus a factory shop was a great day. The area was full of recently built houses, many large properties with electric gates illustrating Ireland’s wealth over the last few years.

On the second day we went shopping in Nenagh. Nenagh is a very prosperous looking Irish midlands town. There only appeared to be one shop that had closed down and the town has a centre for tracing your ancestry, a cinema, modern out of town shopping complex plus many traditional shops in the town. There are a couple of shops that years ago would have been described as “drapers”. These establishments are on 2/3 floors offering ladies and gentleman’s clothing, soft furnishing, furniture etc. One was Gough O'Keefe and Naughton drapery store and each shop was well stocked and busy.

After the shopping trip we moved onto Limerick, driving into the city from the outskirts is now similar to any major Irish city where the out of town shopping centres are full of UK retailers. The city is not large and unfortunately has a reputation over the last few years for gangland activity. This appears to be family gang members of one gang attacking members of others. This should not put off visitors to the city that has many fine streets and great scenery.

We crossed over the Shannon again and moved into Co Clare and stopped at Bunratty Castle. This fine old castle that has a “folk village” adjoining it is well worth visiting. I had been then some twenty years earlier so on this occasion did not go around the village. They hold mediaeval banquets in the castle. Bunratty now has a bypass, but it has been well landscaped and you certainly don’t miss the turning off the main N18. Limerick and Bunratty are just a short distance from Shannon Airport.

It is a very popular location for holiday makers with a large development of self catering holiday homes run by the “Dream Ireland” company who feature many of their properties on the jmlvillas.com website. We parked outside Durty Nelly’s which is one of Ireland's most famous pubs.

After coffee in the spacious craft shop complex we moved onto the smaller roads following signs for sixmilebridge. This is a picturesque little village and has a pub by a stream that has miniature version of the pub next to it called the “Duck Inn”. Following on from the recent UK Parliament’s expenses saga when an MP was claiming for costs involving his floating duck island house, I could not resist taking a couple of pictures of this floating “duck pub”.

We then followed signs to Knappogue Castle. I remember going there one summer when visiting Ireland with relatives over thirty years ago for a Mediaeval banquet. The more popular even at Bunratty was booked out so we went to Knappogue, which is not so much on the tourist route. That Saturday in June it was deserted, the weather by that time had changed to rain, but the notices said they still hold these banquets and wedding receptions there.

The next objective was drive to Thurles via Limerick and not taking the road to Nenagh which would be out of the way. You needed a map with the villages you would pass through as the route was deliberately not signposted to Thurles until you were some 30km from it. Although it was raining it was a great drive through these picturesque villages, most of which has a shop, pub and church. Rather like the day before there has been a lot of new houses built over the last few years and property, old and new are in very good condition. No doubt the owners would be working in Limerick.

Wherever you went to be it in the remote countryside, a town or city there were hundreds of poster picturesof candidates for the Irish local elections and the European Parliamentary elections that was held in Ireland on the Friday. Visiting Ireland again a couple of weeks after the event, there was something missing with all the bare lampposts and telegraph poles where these posters had been. It was rather like when the Christmas decorations have to come down at twelfth night with just the odd poster slipping through the removal net.

Before getting to the Tipperary institute we drove around Thurles itself, even though it was raining you got a very good idea of the town. This town is a very prosperous looking place full of shops, pubs and restaurants.

Sunday was the final touring day and as we were in Tipperary could not miss the opportunity of visiting Tipperary itself. The day was warm and sunny again turning off the familiar Nenagh to Thurles route we drove down a very bumpy road that at one stage turned into a single track road with grass in the centre, rather similar in width to those country house properties like Ashleypark House. The worrying factor was that there were not many passing places and fortunately no other traffic was coming in the opposite direction.

The car was very low on petrol and none of the picturesque villages had filling stations. We arrived on the outskirts of Tipperary without incident and refreshed the car’s tank.

Tipperary was very similar to Thurles, Nenagh and the other local towns. After looking around, we moved onto Thurles again this time following the route via Cashel which is One of the most spectacular tourist attractions in Ireland and one of the most visited. It is home to the iconic Rock of Cashel.

Monday was the day to leave Ashleypark House a place that was so tranquil. There is a rowing boat available for guests to use on the lake and plenty of walks and the bonus is that they accept dogs.

There are so many people travelling with dogs to Ireland that it seems very strange that there are not more establishments that are pet friendly. Maybe the economy has been so good for such a long time that they have had full occupancy without needing to encourage people with pets. Now that tourist levels are going to be lower and fewer visitors from Britain because of the high ferry costs on the Irish Sea routes (unlike going to France) and the weakness of sterling against the euro, hotels will have to look at their market and restrictions they impose.

Ashleypark House is listed with “The Hidden Ireland” here they 30 similar types of accommodation in locations around Ireland. Apart from Ashleypark House there was only one other house advertised that would allow pets and in that case, stating “Kennels and Stables available”. It is a great pity that others are not pet friendly, as we will be looking for another area to visit next year.

It looks like prices in general will have to be reviewed to attract more custom. I discovered in a hotel in Malahide, near Dublin the other day that a pint of Kilkenny beer was costing €4.90 and this is higher than the same brand in the south of France. A pint of real ale back in my local pub in England will set you back around £3.00 so they do need to look at costs to attract the important tourist industry.

On the subject of Dublin, we drove back via Roscrea and the N7 before negotiating the M50 toll again, paying the fee this time at the local Spar store instead of online.

After visiting Ireland for the past 35 years it was really great to go to Tipperary for the first time and managed to cover a lot of the county, be it Tipperary North! It is a very prosperous, place to visit and you get a great welcome and prices appear to be much, much better value than Dublin.

Recession what recession in Dublin Ireland?

Eating out in the suburbs of Ireland is very expensive; however restaurants appear to be busy even on a Monday night in late June. Although jobs are going, some people look like they have money to burn.

There are many signs of slowing up of the economy in Ireland as it is now officially in recession.

I have noticed on my visits this year that that there not so many 09 registrations on cars and in fact when I was in Dublin in early March took four days to see nine new vehicles with 09 number. A year earlier and three months into the new year there would have been hundreds of 08s on the roads.

House prices have fallen dramatically and it is now fairly easier to get hold of a basic plumber or builder with flyers being put through front doors once again advertising their businesses.

The media is full of stories about unemployment rising, however you wouldn’t notice a difference in some of the restaurants in one of the main approaches from Dublin Airport to the centre via Drumcondra.

As part of a walk I give my dog when staying with relatives a walk down part of Upper Drumcondra Road and whether it is early evening or later the restaurants look busy. Last night was no exception.The 22nd June, a Monday evening. We booked a table at an Italian Restaurant for 6.45. The restaurant has been there for a few years and when we went in there were several diners in there. They might have been a mixture of the left over customers from the “early bird” specials 5-7 eating a two course meal for €22.95 or starting out for the evening.

Other establishments along the road also run their early bird specials. What is surprising me is the prices these establishments are still charging. I appreciate they are in a suburb of North Dublin, however the advertised prices look no different to a year ago, but if people are prepared to pay and they clearly look like they are then the restaurant owners can continue to charge high prices.

Dublin has a reputation of being one of the more expensive European cities to visit and if the quality is there, I might not mind it so much.

The Italian restaurant was expensive. Three people €120 including a tip. A few years back when the euro was weak against sterling that would have been around £70, today that is nearly £115 coming from my pocket.

My son had a pizza €17 for a basic one, when he asked for oil to go on top he was presented with a small eggcup size container with a small drop in. They should have in fact had a bottle that they would have left on the table when delivering the pizza. They made a great song and dance of offering black pepper from a large mill that was not working well, but other basics were missing. Back in North London, my son eats regularly at an excellent Italian establishment, getting larger better wood oven pizzas for lot money and more flavour.

I had Lasagne served with a side salad, lettuce and tomato covered in mayonnaise. What is the problem making a fine green salad with tomatoes, olives etc? What they are serving up is probably easier.

What about some bread sticks, Italian bread, small chocolate or biscuit with the coffee for example, or better quality napkins and not those cheap paper ones?

We left before 9.00 and the place was filling up well, maybe the restaurant need some real competition. A few weeks ago in Italy five of us had a great meal in Italy near the French border. €150 including a couple of bottles of wine plus bottled water. That place was also full, however you were getting value for money and quality.

I hope restaurants in the Dublin area wake up to the fact that the tourist market is going through a very bad patch this year. Many UK visitors are not coming because of the euro-sterling exchange rate. Although there are cheap flights, car hire is fairly expensive and bringing your own car is very costly compared with taking it over to France. The Irish Tourist board is trying to encourage more Scandinavians, Dutch and German tourists this year.

However they won’t return id prices are too high. Last weekend I was charged €4.90 for a pint of Kilkenny, this was in a hotel in Malahide near Dublin that I had been going to for some 30 years. Their carvery price is now €13 per person and OK. They must be making good money however as they were in the position to run the central heating radiators and air conditioning at the same time.

Recession, what recession.

Monday 15 June 2009

Buy property safely in Spain

Living Spain Magazine has recently published a news report about an organisation called Safe buying Experience (SBE).

It is an international home accreditation scheme. SBE was established as an English company in 2007 to provide safsecure and efficient process for buying properties abroad. The founders come from a,long and distinguished background of law, management and financial services and work to ensure that homes abroad have been built legally, in accordance with panning rules and regulations and that they are not burdened with a poor or unenforcable contract after handing over a reservation deposit.

Taylor Woodrow de EspaƱa are one of the deveopers working to ensure British Buyers of Spanish homes don't fall foul of poor quality workmanship or illegal builds. More info here

Friday 12 June 2009

Good news for those dining in French Restaurants this summer

France is cutting the rate of VAT in restaurants and cafes from the current rate of 19.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent. This should mean the costs of meals will be 10% less.

The move is at the start of the main two month tourist season in France . France’s Minister for the Economy, Christine Lagarde said that allowing people to continue to dine out will encourage improvement in France's area of expertise..The reduction in VAT is going to let France ... conserve and improve its culinary reputation.

In order to secure the new lower rate, trade bodies promised to hire more workers for the restaurant industry, pledging to recruit a new 40,000 workers including 20,000 young apprentices. The change of ratee will cost the country 3 billion euros. In March 2009 a deal was made in Brussels with the EU that permits member states to reduce VAT on a number of services including restaurants.

Will other countries now follow this idea?

So if food in restaurants is going to be cheaper this summer for the self catering holiday maker, then there is still time to find a bargain rental property at jmlvillas.com. There are over twenty one pages of self catering rentals in France to select from. Bonnes Vacances en France

Thursday 11 June 2009

Great time to arrange a great holiday in Cyprus

Holiday makers are enjoying Cyprus sunshine and 35'. June is a lovely time to go to Cyprus and there are still some good deals on flights up to mid July and from end August this year.

Irene of Sundance has reported that Paul Smith of Spinal Injuries Association picked the winners of their Ampelitis Competition to win a weeks free Villa rental.

She would like to thank Lynne Punchard, Paul Smith and all at Spinal Injuries Association for their fantastic help and support with this.

The winners were: 1st prize: Tracey Mullings. One week free rental in 4 bedroom self catering Ampelitis Inn. (Sleeps 2 - 8)2nd prize: Hayley Carter. 50% discount on one weeks house rental3rd prize: Simone de St Croix. 25% discount on one weeks house rental4th prize: Sue Pearce. 25% discount on one weeks house rental5th prize: Steve Dewey. 25% discount on one weeks house rental- Congratulations to all of you!

Coral Bay supermarkets. Clients staying in villas in and around Coral Bay have recently complained of high prices in the Coral Bay supermarkets (some clients have even hired a car in order to shop elsewhere) and of being overcharged on drinks and food etc. here too, so before you order, ask for the menu so you can pre check prices, (as you would in any tourist destination), and if a menu is not available, ask for the price.

For some items they were charged half the price when bought from the Peyia supermarkets. If you feel you have been overcharged, keep the receipt and let us know the details and we will inform the Cyprus Tourist Office.

On a positive note, Phillipos supermarket, (behind the church up in Peyia village), which has been popular with our clients since he opened many years ago, (reasonable prices and daily deliveries of bread, fruit and veg.), is opening a new large supermarket later this month. It will be a few hundred metres past the Peyia Coral Bay staggered junction, going towards Agios Georgios.

Nicole has arranged another good deal at Poppadums Indian Restaurant in Paphos. Irene has eaten there, the food is very good. Poppadums has a plush, stylish interior, the service is attentive, has a good wine list with very good house wine (from France she thinks), and polished glasses and cutlery.

Weddings in Cyprus. Have you been invited and are not sure where to stay? Paphos Town istoo busyto have villas,and the closest villas to Paphos are our 2 and 3 bedroom Perla Villas situated close to the sea, 2 bedroom Villa Katerina above and 2 bedroom Villa Yvonne with its low 2 person rates. They also have low priced accommodation including 1 bedroom Petraspiti Cottage from £240 - £280 per week. Don't forget the quaint 1 bedroom detached cottage with own private pool, most dates are available.

If you are arranging a wedding don't forget the all important wedding insurance If you are purely going as a guest to a wedding in Cyrprs or just for that holiday, don't forget your travel insurance

They have great rentals, look at this customer comment - "My daughter and I have just got back from a lovely 10 day holiday to Polis Hideaway. The villa was lovely with everything you could need and really felt like a home away from home. My daughter loved the pool. Joy the owner is a lovely person, kind and helpful and if you needed anything all you had to do was ask.

The Villa has a great location and everything is on your doorstep - come out of the villa and turn left and after a short distance you come to a large supermarket, turn right and after a short distance you come to Polis Square where you can just sit and people watch or have a nice meal in one of the many places to eat.

Polis has a lovely feel to it and the people are so friendly. I am a single parent and Polis is an ideal place for us as we both feel safe and there is always someone willing to help you. A great holiday with plenty to see/do or just doing nothing and chill by the pool. Looking forward to going back." Well she certainly enjoyed Cyprus and so can you. Visit the Cyprus listings at jmlvillas.com

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Traditionally Designed Secluded Villa at Loule, Vilamoura, Portugal

A great property has just been added to the jmlvillas.com site in Portugal.

Villa Racina is a self catering holiday rental that has 5 bedrooms and sleeps 10.

Accommodation Details are: 1 double bedroom, and 4 twin bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, comfortable living room, dining room, modern kitchen, terrace with pool.

Downstairs, there is a twin bedroom with patio doors out to the pool, with its own en-suite bathroom. There are three other twin bedrooms, two of which have views to the terrace and pool area, and one further bathroom. The hall has a semi spiral staircase to the first floor, were there is a double bedroom, with its own bathroom and patio doors to the roof terrace. All bathrooms have been fully renovated in stone and stone mosaic.

The well equipped family sized kitchen has been completely updated. The spacious and comfortable living room and separate dining room each have doors leading to the terrace and pool. Washing Machine, Dishwasher, Microwave, Satellite TV, DVD player and CD music system. Pool: Approx 10m x 5m, and lm to 2m deep.

What to do when you are staying there:

The Algarve is blessed with superb beaches, unspoilt countryside and countless restaurants for alfresco eating. For the sporting minded there are a wealth of activities such as watersports and sailing, tennis and world renowned golf courses. With more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Europe, clean air and sea and a pleasant variation in the seasons, the Algarve climate bears close resemblance to that of California.

Vilamoura is fast becoming the place everybody wants to be. It has some of the finest golf courses, a large tennis centre and of course the Marina complex, providing an excellent choice of restaurants and night life.

It also has one of the finest beaches in the area. Ideally situated, it has easy access to other areas of the coast for people who want to see more of Portugal. Almancil is a traditional Portuguese small town with a good selection of shops and restaurants. The market town of Loule is a short drive up towards the hills .The villa is a convenient drive from Faro airport, and Almancil and all the local attractions including Golf, Tennis, Horse Riding and several beaches.

To find out more Go to Villa Racina at jmlvillas.com/Portugal Better book quick as places like this let very quickly, but is ideal for a couple of families sharing.