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Everything posted by kenw

  1. We do very well with our Super U card, for which there is no charge; Mrs W takes a 10-minute bike ride there most weeks – with the "money back on the card" deals adding up to decent savings. And starting tomorrow (Monday 27) is the annual wine fair with some great offers. – including a decent Bourgogne Aligoté at €25 for a case of six. More than a bike load – we'll be booking a delivery. Monoprix in Caen city centre is better for cheese – wide range, helpful and knowledgeable staff – but we don't spend enough there in a month to justify the €10 a month. Of course if you're coming this way, the shop to head for in Caen is Frequence Bio, the big organic supermarket which is a leading member of the Biocoop network. Find it on Avenue H Chéron to the West of the city centre. An entire wall of VRAC – bulk dispensers for everything from scrumptious dark chocolate "buttons" to cereals, pasta and rice. Plus good selection of cheese and charcuterie and a helpful butchery. Handy for us since we live 50m away – and can see it from the kitchen window.
  2. Thanks for that ZD. You are 100% correct regarding mergers and partnerships that don't work out – there were times when I think I earned my living analysing and reporting on them, going all the way back to the government-inspired Leyland Cars creation of the 1970s [the chronicles of which earned me a decent living for far too many years!]. But CMA-CGM are no strangers to the strategic partnership game, and given the pressures facing BF after the recent anni horribili I'm sure the culture there will be supportive of efforts to make it work. Writing my earlier note, I'm was distracted by a flurry of inbound info on the topic, and sent it before it was finished. Here's the missing bit: [A sad trainspotter writes] For the benefit of anyone who isn't familiar with CMA-CGM's rail activities, two recent developments are particularly interesting: The acquisition of Continental Rail. This Spanish freight operator specialises in container services to and from 16 major ports and is keen to expand. Given the French government's commitment to a massive increase in freight rail traffic this must be good news for BF. North African fruit anyone? The launch of Rhine Valley Rail. This provides daily freight services from three important Rotterdam freight terminals to major industrial hubs including Dortmund in the hear of the Ruhr. Rail services are synchronised with ship movements. And of course it involves cross-border operation between NL and Germany. HTH Ken
  3. At least any new ships developed by the partnerships be better looking than the floating pigeon lofts - er, I mean luxury cruise ships – that we see littering the oceans. And I suppose we could look for a new unit of measurement for passenger capacity – maybe the 6eu? Or maybe someone could develop "ferry-able" mobile homes based on 20ft boxes? Plug in to a reefer connection for the aircon, shower and breakfast coffee maker? Joking aside, this is the best news we have heard from BF for a long time. I think that over the next 2–3 years we will see some major developments with BF freight services, and, I suspect, some strengthening of key back office functions, including IT. I also suspect that the partnership will boost prospects for the rail link – and tie-up with CMA-CGM's Maghreb services. And who knows? Maybe a future JV could replace / supplement some of the [I choose my words carefully] less successful operators currently serving North Africa. For instance, does La Meridionale have the staying power to develop its Morocco service? Just a thought – and I'm sure both companies have many more topics to study and projects to develop.
  4. PLB featured on the Fbook page to mark World Teddy Bear Day – surely one of the most important events in the calendar – although I fear it's far too wet in Normandie today to go down to the woods for a picnic! Kids love meeting him on board – and I'm sure if he featured in the ad campaigns they would be clamouring to sail with BF just for the opportunity of a hug and a selfie. I know we're supposed to frown on "pester power" promotions – but as the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Taking the thought a step further – why not give PLB an onboard selfie pod? At €5 or so a go I'm sure it would earn a decent profit. I haven't had time to check the latest details but from memory the booths can either take regular card payments or "gift cards" that can be sold in the shops / café / bars. [At least one nightclub I'm told charges £20.] And of course the kids – of all ages – can have and instant print as well as the digital image. The last spec I saw had the facility for batch uploading rather than instant transmission of every shot, so I'm guessing it could be done on arrival in port?
  5. We're already looking forward to being on the quayside in 2024 to welcome "Normandie II" home to Ouistreham. Like all BF vessels, Normandie is in sound mechanical condition; there's no reason why she could not have a modest interior refit after leaving the Ouistreham route and then serve an extra year or two on a once-daily rotation from Le Havre. This would serve a number of useful business objectives: Testing the viability of a revived Le Havre route with a large-capacity ship An additional income stream from a relatively low-cost asset [by 2024 I think Normandie's acquisition and development cost will be full written down if not already – thus the breakeven cost of the route should be fairly low with little or no initial overhead in terms of crew familiarisation and training / route learning / engineering ] Additional time for financial recovery before large-scale further commitments for newbuilding Additional time for new propulsion / fuel initatives – although I'm no engineer I've encountered several discussions regarding development of more efficient purpose-built LNG power plant rather than "gasified" versions developed from existing diesels Does that make sense? Ken
  6. You may have seen this week's headlines from Brussels regarding President von der Leyden's latest environmental proposals. They include some big changes for the marine industry. The full document is naturally very dense as you can probably guess from the title: I'm still wading through the 150 or so pages. [In a previous incarnation I used to skim through this sort of Brussels paperwork for breakfast and have radio and print packages ready before lunch. But I'm afraid that as I get older, the jargon gets denser, the proposals get more complex and so it simply takes me lo-o-o-onger.] But here are the points that I've deciphered so far. Ship exhaust emissions will be included in the EU emission trading scheme, which means that shipowners will have to buy emissions quotas to berth in EU ports. You don't need to be an expert to forecast that means the price of quotas will almost certainly increase New limits will be introduced on the greenhouse gas content of marine fuels used by ships calling at European ports – I assume this means the emissions rather than the chemical content of the fuel Cold ironing – use of shore power – will be compulsory from 2030 for both passenger ships and container carriers. This will apparently apply to ferries which spend more than 2 hours in port, so could it be an incentive to even faster turnround times? There's what looks like lots of interesting discussion on new[er] fuels including LNG [I can't understand how the word Honfleur suddenly emerged unbidden from my keyboard] and, as always pages of data that's beyond me. For everyone who's eager to know the full facts, here's the link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/fueleu-maritime-green-european-maritime-space_en First thoughts: How much will the emissions trading add to BF's fuel bill – will this have a significant impact on fares? Will the current generation of scrubbers be adequate to comply with new, even more stringent fuel / emission standards – if not will owners have to speed up fleet renewals? In that context, what are the cost implications of retrofitting existing vessels with cold iron connections? I remember a shipping seminar some years ago at which a senior manager from [I think] Royal Caribbean said retrofitting could cost 8–10x more than installation in a new build. Given the cost of shorepower installations at ports, what are the implications for smaller ports and those with less frequent services? Just on the latter point, one of the most recent cold iron installations is at Bergen, where five cruise / ferry terminals have provided with connections at a total cost of about €10million. Nearer to home, Dunkerque has installed an 8MW facility at the Flandres container terminal. This has cost about >€3million. But in any port power installation the final ship-to-shore interconnect – the "marine mains lead" – is the simplest and cheapest part. The big bills come in providing the supply and converting it to marine-friendly standards. I don't think smaller towns such as Ouistreham, St Malo and Roscoff will have many spare MW of power capacity available, so we're talking kilometres of high-voltage cable – either pylons or underground. The proposed regs do have a get-out, saying that ports do not need to provide cold iron supplies if the cost and technical complexity would be too high, or the quayside and onboard equipments are not compatible. Thoughts? Ken
  7. Dear all Thanks for all the helpful info and commentary Mrs W has now decided that we can happily survive with bus / train / taxi and forego the dubious pleasure of her behind the wheel. Meanwhile, fingers crossed that we can visit the UK sometime before Christmas. But if not, we can simply carry on exploring France. Ken
  8. Dear all Am I missing something, or being unusually dim? I'm in Caen, and would love to go back to Santander / Bilbao next year. Mid-May, not summer peak. The French website suggests that it's possible to book Cherbourg - Santander, which IIUC is possible because of a crew change call en route FROM Spain to UK. However: Clicking on the link gives me an "outward" to PMH and a "return" covering the leg to Santander. With no sign of a "real" return from Spain to either UK or France. But I've tried various departure dates from Cherbourg and the onward sailings appear to be sold out / unavailable. Does this mean that the Brits have already bought all the space UK-Spain? Maybe simpler to go to/from Caen, even though it means changing ships. Aeons ago when we still thought "virus" was a computer gremlin, I think someone here advised against Bilbao as a footie. But maybe out to Santander, return from Bilbao with a couple of days in each city? The BF website mentions taxi from the metro to the port.
  9. Look on the bright side. If you book a cruise on board Scarlet Lady you are somewhere you can be certain not to see her. Almost as good looking as the Ark Royal during decommissioning? Or how about some fine looking dredgers we can all admire. Here's the old City of Westminster a few years ago when this was the view of the Thames from outside our front door. Note the Woolwich Radio mast on the right – this was used by harbourmasters and VTS both for ship comms and broadcasts.
  10. I'm sure it will be worth visiting, but sadly not very accessible to those of us who do not have cars. Two buses a day only from Caen, the first of which arrives AFTER the return bus has left! Having seen the opening ceremony online I was hoping to visit this week, but the only way to get back will mean a bus to Bayeux, a long wait and then the train back to Caen. The summer timetable for the Bus Verts comes in shortly, so I'm hoping that will offer better options. I'll keep you posted. Ken
  11. We're just back from a lovely stroll and lunch in the sunshine on the beach at Ouistreham Riva Bella. Our first summer day out, and fingers crossed it won't be the last. As and when "normal service is resumed" and Normandie once again delights to welcome day-trippers and weekend breakers, can I share with you our latest discovery. Coquillages & Co is the archetypal beach bar, Norman style. [Nothing like the high-priced Mediterranean rip-off places]. A warm welcome and cold beer combined with a simple menu. It's a few minutes walk to the west of the Free French memorial, past the casino and hotels. Look for the Poste de Secours and you've found it. When we are all finally liberated from confinement, curfew and quarantine, if anyone fancies a beachfront beer or two, this would be an ideal rendezvous. And the view just happens to include some of our favourite ships! Following the boardwalk back to the town centre brings reminders that this is not simply a holiday resort; this is Sword beach, where British, Canadian and French troops gave their lives to liberate Europe from hatred and terror. Those remembered on the beachfront signs include members of the Kieffer Commando, the elite French force of French volunteers who were among the first to fight their way ashore. Among them was Jean Létang, killed when a bullet hit grenades on his belt. He was just 23.
  12. Dear Admins: If OT or better moved / removed elsewhere, please do. Thanks to the "relationship realignment" [trying to avoid the B...xit word], we have discovered that Mrs W's driving licence cannot be swapped for a French one. [We've lived in France for nearly five years, and didn't see this coming, or could have dealt with it ages ago!] We only want / need occasional hire cars, for a couple of weekends away and possibly for a few days longer when moving apartments later in the year. Anyone know if / where we can hire a VSP – vehicule sans permis – one of those little cars that can be driven without a licence? TIA
  13. Dear all Thanks for the many and varied responses. The guide will be focused on short break / weekends in and around Caen – with or without car – so I'm assuming that most people will want at least one way to Ouistreham. In the years before Covid one of my chums routinely did a triangle trip – out to St Malo and back from Ouistreham – he enjoys the longer overnight crossing, with time for dinner and drinks without the early wake-up next morning. And I'm interested to see that crossing appeals to quite a few folk here. Thanks again to everyone; can I at this stage pose two more questions: Where do you recommend for short stays in and around Caen? Which is your favourite restaurant? TIA Ken PS I will of course let you know on here when the guide goes live.
  14. Dear all Can I beg some brain-picking, please. Having been sitting happily in France enjoying retirement for most of the past four years [excluding last year when I was very poorly most of the time]… I've now decided it was time to give the grey cells and airing. So I'm working on a mini-guide website to weekending / short breaking in Normandy. All contributions – ideas, suggestions, recommendations, questions or whatever – very welcome. For the benefit of newcomers, I'm doing a Getting Here page, with a rundown of the various options [am / pm / overnight and cabin / seat etc]. First thing I need your help is with driving times to Portsmouth. We like the morning sailing, and usually overnight nearby [Ibis / Travelodge etc]. But realistically – as opposed to Google Maps timings – how accessible is the AM departure to people who don't live locally? For footies, the snag with the afternoon sailing is that there's no bus connection – so either stay in Ouistreham or fork out ±€50 for a cab. Thoughts. Overnight - how many people prefer a cabin, despite the shortness of the crossing / early wake-up and cost. Is a day cabin worth having – maybe for those who've had or are facing a long drive? Also if anyone has stayed in one of the luxury chateaux / country house hotels, recommendations welcome. Likewise for seasides. If you don't want to post here, PM and we can follow up by email. TIA Ken
  15. French flour can be confusing, but there's no need to search for self raising flour. If you are into cake making, look for flour which is T55 or T65, plus levure chimique [aka baking powder] and bicarbonate de soude [no prizes for guessing]. Lots of online tips about how / how much to use – typically a couple of teaspoons in a cake mix. BTW if you want to make bread, you want levure boulanger [dried yeast]. For reference on flour types, here's our simple guide which we used when we first moved here. In simple terms, lower numbers are finer [although technically it's a bit more complicated than that!] FRENCH FLOURS.pdf
  16. Still here! Just hoping that you can all come back soon to experience it. The only part of the hexagone [mainland France] where it never rains! If you feel wet stuff coming from the sky, it is simply the latest delivery of cow-fuel. The vital ingredient that makes the luscious grass that our cows enjoy so much as they provide the butter and cheese that we all enjoy so much!
  17. Thanks, Colin I think you're right. Have since seen a couple of other mentions, and a friend who lives round the corner says it is the "supporting wall of the exterior assembly area"[his transliteration] shown with the arrow.
  18. Dear all Four months of engineering works are starting shortly at Ouistreham. designed to "guarantee the sustainability of the embankment and thus secure the road approaches" This is reported in today's local news from Liberté. But I can't work out where the works will be? Is it the "sea wall" alongside the entrance and check-in lanes? Not sure if it's new, but thought I would onpass. https://actu.fr/normandie/ouistreham_14488/terminal-de-la-brittany-ferries-a-ouistreham-quatre-mois-de-travaux_39207185.html I'm not sure what the significance is, if any, for anyone [?] travelling through Ouistreham, but four months could take us to May when political leaders on both sides of the Channel are hoping for improvements in travel rules.
  19. I've also met more than a few interesting people in both the bars and self-service restaurants on Normandie, Mont and Armorique. Including well-known musicians, a couple of helicopter pilots and a superyacht skipper with all of whom I'm still in touch two or three years later. [2020 was a no-go year for me – my own serious health issues quickly followed by the Covid confinements.] But there were several interesting and educational conversations.
  20. Apologies at continuing the digression, I thought this might be helpful to anyone who is uncertain about how anchors work. Although Tristan is a superyacht skipper, and is replying to comments on a previous post, his explanation is simple: it's the length and weight of chain that matters. HTH - and Happy New Year
  21. I suppose PleB has his own private supply of marmalade. Or does he only eat Breton confiture? Methinks we should be told… Just before I go, a heartfelt Joyeux Noël to BF crews, shoresiders and friends. And of course everyone here who supports France's premier passenger shipping line – and largest employer of local seafarers. Take care <em
  22. Just been looking at the SuperU website - this week's special offer is 20% off frozen food. So I've earmarked some calamars, some coquilles and some tartelettes. All of which can make a contribution to a Galicia buffet. And I can rustle up some mini-pizza if I put aside some of the dough I'm making this afternoon. Add a dish of olives and some crudités, with a bottle of Cava to mark the Spanish connection, and voila, the instant celebration. And if the Mac Mini's internet connection in the salon is working we will be able to watch the event on the big screen TV. Cheers Ken
  23. Sorry if I've missed something… do we know if there are any events at Cherbourg tomorrow to welcome Galicia to her new home port? Or do we have to wait until she is ticolor-ed? Could be a bit difficult for the largest employer of French seafarers to welcome a ship flying the "red duster"? I've had two builds in foreign parts; the first we flagged her in on the morning she first hit British waters (offload from a big carrier at Tilbury as it happens) and the second the night before she left Dutch waters on her inbound delivery trip. In both cases the Flag surveys were undertaken before they left the builders' yards. I don't think the PR value would have been quite the same if we did Tower Bridge or the Liverpool waterfront under the Croatian or Dutch flags.
  24. Can't help with eye drops, but my insulin has survived Eurostar from London, 3 nights Paris hotel and 2hrs Intercités using one of the mini-fridges from Amazon. And I can confirm that BF have a system in place to store meds in fridge. My friend who is more heavily insulin-dependent than I am routinely goes Portsmouth-Santander and hands over his stock when he boards, and reports that on collection it is always cold to the touch – "too cold for immediate use" he says.
  25. For anyone still planning a trip to France [returning home?] note that masks will be required on Caen's city centre streets from 1 September.
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