Thursday, 11 October 2012

A view from across the channel

I've just returned from a two week holiday in Brittany with the current Mrs Pz01 and some friends, and lovely it was too. I know Brittany quite well and visit at least once most years but you don’t want to know about that, this blog is mostly about how an area that is very similar to Cornwall and is facing many of the same problems is dealing with them.

Brittany Ferries and the Power of Twitter.
As I'm sure most of you will know Brittany Ferries had been having a few problems over the past few weeks. We were due to sail on the overnight ferry from Plymouth on Friday 21st Sept , that’s the day the staff walked out and the ferries were cancelled. No point in phoning them as I'm sure the lines would be blocked so I turn to the internet a quick glance at their website confirming that the ferry is cancelled, the recommendation is that passengers travel to Dover and cross to Calais, agreement having been made with the operators at Dover to carry Brittany customers on their existing tickets.
Now a visit to Brittany Ferries twitter page, lots of questions being asked and answered very quickly, I post that as I'm in West Cornwall and travelling to Brittany a trip to Dover/Calais is not very practical, are there any other alternatives, likelihood of a return to services in near future, its about this time that Brittany Ferries announces that it was suspending all services for the foreseeable future. Within a few minutes my tweet is replied too, agreeing that Dover/Calais was not a practical alternative and full refunds of the ferry cost were available. I then received a tweet from Condor Ferries, space available Poole to St Malo Saturday morning give us a ring, I did, two cars 4 passengers booked, ferry 08:00 Saturday morning from Poole, phone travelling companions in Devon and tell them, drive to Devon and spend night there before driving on to Poole. In the mean time Brittany Ferries phone us and arrange refund. Arrive at our holiday destination just a few hours later than planned. So holiday saved by the power of twitter, Brittany Ferries staff in Plymouth and some clever staff at Condor Ferries. Travel via Guernsey, so full duty frees on the ferry, bonus.
I also received a tweet from Radio Plymouth asking me to phone them for an interview, re ferries, this I did, I don’t know if it was broadcast, I was in France, but I suspect not, as I failed to condemn the striking staff and warned that I thought it was something that we would all have to get used to in the next two years or so, with many workers forced to take action in an attempt to maintain some form of quality of life.

There is a fair bit of building work going on in Brittany, but not the large estate developments planned in Cornwall, most small villages and towns have small developments of up to 5/6 houses being built either in the town or on the edge.

On this trip I definitely saw more closed shops than I had on previous visits mostly in the larger towns, with the odd one closed in the smaller villages. But nowhere on the levels being seen in the UK, France is home to the independent trader with few large chains so no mass closures.

Out of Town.
Many of the smallest villages and all the towns have an out of town supermarket, to give you some idea the small town of Baud, Morbihan with a population of 5800, just a bit larger than St Just has two. The village of Bubry population 2300 has an edge of town Supermarket & filling station. These were a short drive from where I was staying so I use them to illustrate.

FREE, that’s it really, except in the centre of the largest towns, it’s free, but even in the larger towns it would seldom be necessary to pay to park, the yellow line is rarely seen. On the one occasion I did pay to park it threw up an interesting concept, I choose to park in a car park, Mrs Pz01 asked how long to pay for? I reply 2 hours should do it, it’s 11o/c we pay the 1 euro (80p) on looking at the ticket we have parking until 3o/c, strange, I mention this to a French friend who explains, 12 to 2 is lunch time, you don’t pay for lunch time, how else would people working on the industrial estates be able to drive into town for lunch if they had to pay, what can you say.

Lunch time/Sunday
Unless you work in a café or restaurant you close down from 12 to 2 that’s it. Having worked for people who believed that leaving your desk to take your ½ hour unpaid lunch was a criminal offence, it’s a joy to see. Sunday once again unless you are a café or restaurant you are closed.

Just a quick ad, on my last two visits I have stayed in the most fantastic accommodation, you can view it yourself here.  Brittany Thatched Cottages

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