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About kenw

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  • Birthday 15/05/50
  1. Spot on. We've been using Ibis for years and their flexible rates are always competitive – I've never considered Premier Inn until this week, when I think it was the only hotel available in the city centre. And the development of the Ibis Styles has broadened their appeal, although I'm not sure why the Ouistreham hotel moved up to that range. We'd always thought that being "on the other side of the hedge" from the ferry gave them lots of ready-made customers.
  2. If you are stopping over in Caen, try something completely different from the usual supermarket: Frequence Bio – the big BioCoop supermarket in Venoix (near the Parc des Sports) The BioCoop movement is an organisation of independent organic / bio / sustainable shops – and is a wonderful experience. fruit and veg that is usually local, and of course seasonal – but not all straight, clean and shiny a great cheese and deli counter a whole wall of "vrac" dispensers – selfservice cereals, dried fruit and even chocolate biscuits at lower prices than the prepacked. Even if you're not sure what things are, this is a great way to discover new! 3 litre boxes of quite drinkable house wines for about €15 or so. It's about 20m from our door – in fact we can see it from the kitchen window. But it's NOT why we moved here, honestly.
  3. We've been using the Ibis in Portsmouth city centre for several years, but this week it went from an eye-watering £140 a night to sold out (on own website - so actual, not an allocation). I guess this a peak week for holidaymakers in Portsmouth and those breaking journeys en route to / from IoW, France, Spain and CI – we have rarely been asked over £100 for the Ibis, and off-peak have paid less than £60. We've stayed at numerous Ibis in the UK, France and Belgium over several years and never been disappointed. We were going to overnight tonight at the Ibis Styles in Ouistreham – after a seaside day out – but we abandoned that idea after taking just two paces from our own front door this morning. Windy, dull and drizzly. If you are travelling regularly, the Accor loyalty card guarantees the lowest available rate at any of the group's hotels and a number of special offers which come in handy for those (eg retired folk like us) who can take hols and breaks anywhere anytime. And, to be honest, have made several choices for us! So for tomorrow (Thu 20 July) saved £20 by booking the Premier Inn just next to P&S station (as you can see in the pic). Only the second Premier I've tried, the other was a few years ago in Liverpool. One possible advantage I can see right away is that it is just yards from Wetherspoon's where breakfast is probably cheaper. Also nearer to the shops in Commercial Rd for the "click and collect" run – and I think there's a bus from round the corner which drops off a few yards from the ferry at PIP (but can't remember the number). But a note of warning in advance. Like most chains, you get the lowest price if you pay upfront when booking, but those are usually no cancel, no refund deals. In other words if your plans change, you've lost your money. So I always opt for pay on arrival which gives flexibility to change or cancel. But with Premier Inn, there's a bit of a twist. A couple of days ago I got an email offering online check-in – billed as a timesaver on arrival at reception. I clicked through, filled out the online form – and then discovered that to complete the check-in process you have to prepay. That apart, I will report back on the Premier at the weekend.
  4. All cabins long sold out by the time I booked, so it looks like an hour or so in the bar and then either stay chatting or head for the lounge for a couple of hours dozing. The sailing will obviously be busy but will it mostly be family groups rather than groups of kids who are often noisy? I don't really mind the absence of a cabin since it is a short crossing and – since I live in Caen – I can be sitting at home by 09:00 and then have a couple of hours in bed if need be. I should be easy to spot at PIP - look for a guy with a big yellow wheelie case! Cheers
  5. Pieton (+ Assistance) for a quick business trip to Portsmouth (returning Fri overnight) Although we only live down the road in Caen (Venoix), we're having a seaside / potter about day out at Ouistreham on Wed and overnighting at the Ibis Style so I can get the morning sailing. (The alternative would mean leaving home at 05:55 because of bus connections or >€30 for a cab). Mrs W will have a leisurely morning before heading home – not sure if she will come over to the terminal to see me off. In Portsmouth I'm staying Thurs night at the Premier Inn near P&S station – the Ibis, which is the usual overnight for either / both of us was fully booked. Anyone stayed there can give feedback? Hope to see any members taking this route. Cheers.
  6. Having booked the Ibis directly I'm saving the best part of €100 over BF price!!! Thanks to Cabin-boy for spotting the hotel pricing panel on the opening page of the Escapades - that would be at the top end of current retail web pricing but for those who are looking for an easy deal it could work. Not much "legwork" involved with either Travelodge – 5min through the subway from PIP – or Ibis (bus into town from near T/lodge and then less than 10min walk, or a fiver for a cab door to door).
  7. Perplexed. Bewitched, bothered, bewildered even. i'm in Caen and need to pop back for a day or two to Portsmouth. On BF's French website there is an offer "Escapade à Portsmouth". Overnight both ways including a seat for €55. Pretty good, I thought. Even better, there's a little red panel in the corner which offers [en Francais] "possibility to prolong your stay with a night in a hotel". Bookable only by phone. So I make the call, only to discover that the roundtrip ferry overnight plus 1 night hotel [Ibis or Travelodge] will cost €254. Being generous, allow BF €25 or so for admin - based on the charge to change a booking – since they have to fiddle with the regular Escapade ticketing to allow the later return, then contact the hotel to check availability. Which means a staggering charge of €174 for 1 night in the Ibis or Travelodge. OK, let me do it differently, and price the crossing at the regular fare: €45 each way plus 2x €7 for lounge seats = €104, which would allow a "mere" €150 for the hotel. Needless to say I didn't take up the offer. Since tomorrow [23 April] I can buy the Ibis directly for €76 or less – half the BF price. Am I missing something, or is this simply BF rattling its collecting tin to fund the new build?
  8. Sorry to miss an update – the "third stake" after Fincantieri and the government will be held by DCNS the naval shipbuilder. (I was on a brief business trip to the UK without my full media feeds). Here's an interesting analysis of the final plan:
  9. How long does it take from letter of intent to contract? Longer than you expect, longer than the "experts" both inside and out forecast, longer than you have allowed in the project plan... but that's common in the industry. A former P&O director told me that one of their cruise ships took twice as long to go through the pre-contract stages as its predecessor (sorry can't remember which). As you will appreciate, there are several different layers to the project which all have to come together "on the day": tech spec and design, including hull form [critical for performance] structure and upperworks = budget interior – allocation and utilisation of spaces and prelim specs = budget accreditation / validation of suppliers = budget financial guarantees for build and performance [ie to pay compensation from builder for late delivery / under-performance etc] contract and legals approvals and compliance [regulatory - IMO/SGMer etc – and class, eg Lloyd's or Bureau Veritas] price ... and of course there are the parallel negotiations with the financiers to make sure the money will be available in line with stages – and that those terms are acceptable to the builder as well as the buyer. All of which are made much more complex when owner, builder, equipment/fit-out suppliers, bankers and insurers are spread across Europe and possibly beyond, which makes lawyers rich and gives everyone else headaches! And when you think everything is agreed and you gather for the signing ceremony and of course the photocall, expect a final few days of crossing I s and dotting T s before you can finally lay out the pens!
  10. Two quick points if I may: Dover – my colleagues in the TV and events business go back and forth between the UK and France regularly. Sometimes an estate car with a two-person crew, sometimes with the truck load of equipment and in convoy including a minivan packed with more kit and crew. They avoid the Dover ferries and the Tunnel whenever possible, having been forced to reschedule studio and location work several times thanks to Operation Stack and/or various disruptions in and around Calais with which everyone here is familiar. They know that London - PIP - Caen - Ile de France takes longer and costs more (fuel, fares and manpower) than the short sea route when the latter is working. But it has the big advantage of predictability, with disruptions comparatively rare. (Yes, I know we had a 36-hour strike and more recent linkspan probs over here, but overall, the route is much more reliable). As someone remarked here earlier, a truck marooned on the motorway is a cost, not a profit-earner – and the delay does nothing to enhance the production company's reputation. Portsmouth – naval base v PIP: Recent and continuing reductions in RN ship numbers and manpower, combined with changes in support systems / operations could enable a significant reduction in the size of the Base, notwithstanding the needs of the carriers. I say COULD, because MoD has a long, long history of being (I'm searching for a polite word here) sluggish at relinquishing land which was patently surplus to requirements, or could easily be vacated. I'm thinking particular of the area NW of Trafalgar gate around the Northern "jetty" opposite the passenger linkspans – which adjoins the international port. (Not sure what's there, these days, I haven't been inside the Base for a while).
  11. UPDATE 6 APRIL: Reported by Le Monde today: The French govt and the Italians have agreed terms. Fincantieri will hold about 45-48% of STX, with an Italian investment bank also taking a stake. This will ensure that control lies in Italy. The French govt will keep its 30% stake. Full details will be announced later today at an official presser.
  12. A friend and colleague wanted me to go with him to a meeting in Southampton on Wed. But he had already been booked to one in Brittany on Tuesday. But we wanted to travel together so we could talk about future business. No problem, Having checked both routes I found out that the one-day Escapade à Portsmouth ticket is the same price (€45) from Saint Malo as from here in Caen (overnight both ways). Moments after booking separate email e-ticket and card receipt arrived in my inbox. The ticket showed Tuesday 14/03 departure from St Malo, returning the following night. My wife initially decided against joining our trip, but changed her mind just after I had booked. So I went back online and made a second booking for her. Unfortunately on Tuesday she was not feeling well and so decided to stay at home. OK, we thought, I've added the €7 insurance, so when I'm back will work out how to claim. Arriving at St Malo terminal, I handed over the e-ticket, only to be told "we haven't got a booking for you - it's in your wife's name". But I had two separate emails – one showing MY name and the other my wife – both departing that night on Bretagne from StM. Eventually, the patient but bewildered BF staffer found me on her system: booked to depart from Caen, which was NOT what it said on the e-ticket! Much confusion, but full marks to the team on the desk who quickly sorted it and made the necessary change. One disappointment: La Baule restaurant had no steak, so was serving thick slices of roast beef instead. But still up to the usual standard. Oh - and the mains socket in the cabin didn't work so I couldn't charge my phone overnight. I was obviously concerned that my wife was unwell so on arrival at Portsmouth asked the desk if there was any chance of changing the return crossing to Caen rather than StM – which would get me home about four hours earlier. Five minutes later, all done, with a new ticket printed – and no extra charge. So big thanks once again. So for anyone over here who wants to make a quick trip – business, shopping or family – back to the UK, the Escapade ticket is ideal. Mind you, if it was just a shopping trip, I'd prefer the AM departure from Caen. That would just give enough time to hit M&S and Debenhams then down to Gunwharf. But that doesn't seem to be available.
  13. (I've made this a new post since the last mention was some months ago). Those following the saga closely will know that disposal of the St Nazaire shipyard is in the hands of the Korean commercial court, since STX is insolvent. Damen was interested – but the Italian shipbuilding giant Fincantieri has now been named preferred bidder by the court. However, the Mayor and other locals aren't entirely happy. They have two worries: that some of the French yard's technology might end up in China, where the Italian group already has a joint venture with the China State Shipbuilding Co to build cruise ships (which IIRC will be operated by a local associate of Carnival). that if the market tightens, the Chinese might combine this know-how with lower labour costs. So the locals, the regional authorities and the French govt are all taking a hard look at the proposed deal. Personally, I think that in five or so years time we could see some collaborative efforts involving Chinese yards – perhaps on the lines of the multi-yard modular block methods used for the Royal Navy carriers? But the combination of Chantiers and Fincantieri would be a passenger ship building powerhouse. And as such should surely be welcome. Ken
  14. For those who enjoy BF's short break / ferry + hotel deals I've just been told by Reservations here in France that next years offers will be available from 7 November. Our favourite trip is definitely Santander – as a minicruise (afternoon ashore), short break or longer stay. And I remembered a mention here that at certain times the ship called at Roscoff, I think for crew change. I couldn't find it on the .fr website, but this was what I was told. The oddity is that for Ferry Only the web booking engine shows a route Roscoff to Bilbao, which does not carry foot passengers, but there is no mention of Santander. Roscoff is a bit of a trek for us from Caen, but I thought "well, an extra day or whatever en route to explore that part of Brittany, which we don't know well. And then in the 2016 (French) brochure I found mention of Santander from Ouistreham via Portsmouth as well as from Roscoff. On the face of it this would be more convenient, although we would obviously have to disembark for a "breakfast break" on the way out. Now trying to work out if a return via Plymouth would also involve changing ships. I'll keep you posted.
  15. Following the "strays" from the original posts to the more general question of prices in France... we have now been in Caen for 10 weeks, with our main shopping originally Carrefour or Monoprx and now the Biocoop which we can see from the kitchen window. So what's the difference in pricing? Wine noticeably cheaper, the rest swings and roundabouts, so overall, pretty much the same. And when it comes to quality, France ahead for many items, particularly fresh produce from the Bio.