Monthly Archives: April 2010

Remaining “Grape Rentals” Spring / Summer / Fall 2010 Availability

We’re getting full – ’tis true. 

However, we still do have some prime weeks and days available at our four lovely vacation rentals in the vineyards of Burgundy.

Thanks to the foundering Greek economy, the exchange rate is awesome for us North Americans at t he moment and it’s starting to be seat sale season. 

Besides, aren’t you feeling like you need a little fix of France like yours truly?

If so, here is what we still have open:

La Maison des Deux Clochers (2 bedrooms – 550 Euros a week)

May 31-June 10th, June 28-July 1st, July 6-13th, July 25-29th, October 11-November 12th

La Maison de la Vieille Vigne (1 bedroom – 600 Euros a week)

July 3-11th, August 10-18th, Sept. 5-19th, October 28-November 13th

La Maison des Chaumes (2-3 bedrooms – 700 Euros a week)

Sept 11-15th, October 7th-November 2nd

Le Relais du Vieux Beaune (2 bedrooms in the heart of Beaune – 700 Euros a week)  

August 8-12th, October 25th-November 12th

If you have any questions or would like me to help you plan the perfect Burgundian getaway, just email me at laura@graperentals.com

What Will Robert & Mireille Make of Canada?

  They’re on the plane as I type this…probably somewhere over that   troublesome Icelandic volcano that has been causing us so much grief.

Robert – our mystery helper saviour who allowed us to create our wine cellar under the cobblestoned streets of Beaune and his wife Mireille (whom we have never met) are arriving at the Vancouver airport tonight for a three week stay here in the Great White North. 

Except that the cherry blossoms and rhododendrons are all blooming, so there’s nothing much white about it at all.  Robert and Mireille have traveled quite extensively in Europe, but never to North America. 

I am really wondering what they will think of it all…will they mind the dearth of four hour lunch breaks?  Of fabulous cheeses?   How will they cope with everyone blathering in English around them?

And most importantly, will Canada make Robert feel inspired to break out in his now-famous rendition of the “Ban Bourgignon“?

Stay tuned ici at www.grape-journal.com !

Posting at Grape-Journal.com

Sorry posting has been thin the last few days. I’ve decided I just have to bite the bullet and jump to my new blog URL. If I wait until I get the time to learn how to do it properly it will never happen!

So from now on in, to get Grape Journal updates, just type in www.grape-journal.com .

In terrible mood today – must remember to pour self glass of wine tonight!

Le Deluge

Am snowed under this week with work, sick kids, an insomniac toddler, an auto-immune disease flare-up, visitors from France and lots more fun. Will get back to regular posting soon…

Plea From Stuck Canucks

Lisa K. posted this very moving postpone her blog today and asked me to do the same. I have to say, until I read it I don’t think i fully realized how desperate stranded passengers are becoming and how they are being unconscionably fleeced by hotels.

I think her solution to get military jets to start flying people back home via Spain is one that should certainly be taken under consideration – and the High Commission damned well better get off their twat and start doing what us Canadians are paying them to do.

***

Monday, April 19, 2010

GUEST BLOG: Mr. Harper, please take notice!
My friend Janay– the one struck in London who is trying to get home for her son’s first birthday — just posted a persuasive call to action for the Canadian government to respond to those trapped abroad because of the volcano. It was so well-written and moving, I asked if I could post it here. She said yes — especially if it might somehow help get her (and others like her) home.

By Janay Mugent-Moulton

I was at the high Commission of Canada this morning and there were close to 200 with me (I have great photos, but can’t get them off of my camera). It doesn’t sound like hardship to be trapped in London, but there are real reasons people need help. I spoke to people who are running out of medications, one was insulin dependent and another had run out of her blood pressure medication (I’m sure she won’t need that right now!).

Currently there is absolutely no support for us. The people at the High Commission were quite gracious and sympathetic, but they can do little without Ottawa’s approval. As of this morning (5 days after this all started), the federal government didn’t even have a note of direction to Canadians on their main website. Our plight (and this is that of thousands, and probably tens of thousands of Canadians) has not even seemed to really grab the attention of Canadian media.

We have been patient and quiet Canadians, but it is important that people realize the hardships that are happening here. One couple I spoke to this morning stood in line to renew their hotel reservations and the prices of the room rose with each person in front of them, 119GBP, 129GBP and then 159GBP by the time it came to them. A young family I spoke to is virtually out of money, they have used up all of their vacation time and are almost out of sick days – so they face losing their wages from work as well as paying all of the expenses piling up here. Another person I spoke to called Aeroplan to book the hotel on their points and the hotel charged them 500GBP to make the call.

Many people are running out of money and don’t have options. Where will they sleep and what will they eat? I spoke to a retired man who was terrified by the prospect of trying to stay off of the streets. There was another woman who was trying to get to her father’s deathbed and others who wanted to make a sister’s wedding and a grandchild’s baptism. I am desperate to make it home for my son’s first birthday and my 3 1/2 year old just doesn’t understand why I don’t walk home or take a boat.

The reality is that it is incredibly difficult to get out of Europe or to know what to do. Should we stay put in the UK and hope that once Heathrow, the major airport gets going we will have some hope of getting home? Or should we undertake our own Amazing Race? There are many stories of people paying cabs to drive across entire countries, buying bikes just to get on ferries as commuters, buying cars to drive to the Mediterranean and catch cruises to places where you can fly from. It currently takes days and hundred (usually thousands) of dollars to take public transit to places where there are flights like Lisbon and Madrid. But this is not feasible for many people financially, and many others who are travelling in Europe for only the first or second time do not have the travel literacy to make it across multiple countries, in many languages, with many forms of transportation. And this all comes at a risk anyhow, after you have spent hours (probably days) and untold financial resources getting to a southern city, will there be a flight for you? how much will it cost? Will the airport be shut down because the ash cloud has moved?

The Canadian Government needs to give us some direction, and they need to help us find a way out. At the high Commission today there was a very concrete solution offered which got huge applause – charter buses from around Europe to take us to Madrid and fly a Canadian armed forces transport plane to take us home.

The ability is certainly there, but there needs to be a will. I ask that the media and government take notice (if you could contact your MP or local media that would help) and help us out. And please do it soon before personal hardships become financial, medical and familial tragedies – and before the cloud gets bigger and our window of opportunity closes.

***

Janay Nugent-Moulton is a professor of history at the University of Lethbridge. She can be reached by contacting me or by joining the Facebook group “Canadians Abroad Trapped by Volcanic Ash”. Reprinted with permission of the author.

What To Do About Eyjafjallajoekull?

In case you haven’t been watching or reading the news, yes that last word in my post title is truly a REAL WORD. In Icelandic, anyway.

It is the name of the spewing volcano that is causing unprecedented flight cancellations, travel stoppages, and accommodation cancellations.

Yes, that last one strikes directly into the heart of Grape Rentals.

We experienced a slightly slower season as a result of the aftermath of September 11th, but planes actually began flying again very quickly after the initial stoppage. People essentially had a choice – were they going to continue on with their vacations as planned before September 11th, or were they going to stay at home for fear of further attacks from Al Quaeda?

Our guests – an independent-minded, feisty bunch as a rule – almost unanimously decided that their best response to Bin Laden was not to drop their dreams and plans.

The current situation is entirely different; travellers have no choice. Eyjafjallajoekull’s eruption is a quintessential First Testament “Act of God”. You almost expect to see Moses lurking around in the ash in search of his Staff.

As the airline losses ratchet up by the hour, fingers of blame are being pointed at various European government officials but the reality is that no-one, besides God, is to blame for this one. And good luck trying to get monetary compensation from Him.

There are industry officials who say that the ash really isn’t that dangerous and that the airlines should giving flying through it a shot. I don’t know about you, but being a aeronautical Guinea Pig does not appeal to me in the slightest. So…where does that leave everybody?

Stuck.

I’m still mulling over who should pay for this Act of God.

The EC definitely won’t be compensating Grape Rentals and the hundreds of thousands of little European operators like ourselves for bookings that our guests couldn’t follow through on because their flights were grounded. I can’t in all good conscience charge my guests for a booking that they cannot, through no fault of their own, use…let me know if you have any brilliant insights.

In the meantime I’m keeping close tabs of the indigestion of Eyjafjallajoekull, and am keeping my fingers crossed for Lisa K. who is staying at La Maison des Chaumes and is hoping her Mom will be able to make it over on a much anticipated visit to Burgundy.

My toes will also be crossed for Sue Short and her husband Roger who had a fabulous trip to Burgundy planned with a stay at La Maison des Deux Clochers and a chapter of the Chevaliers du Tastevin at Clos Vourgeot.

One tidbit of information that I was able to glean for those people travelling on Air Canada is that once flights get up and running they will be honouring actual reservations first and THEN dealing with he passengers who are stranded. So say flights get up again Tuesday morning and you have a reservation for Tuesday night – theoretically you will be able to fly.

At least I’ve found a silver lining to this huge plume of troublesome volcanic ash; the SNCF strike in France didn’t have nearly the impact that the SNCF union leaders (who don’t give a fig for inconveniencing their passengers) hoped for. Bien fait pour eux

Clementine’s Favorite French Words

Clem’s speech has really taken off, and it is the strangest mix of English and French you have ever heard.

Her favorite words in English: “It’s mine!”, “faster”, “my turn”, “so cute”, “big girl”, and “OKAAYYYY!?!?!?!?!” which is tacked onto the end of every sentence, whether the sentence is in English or French.

Her favorite words in French: “Chocolate”, “habilles (clothes)”, “voila!”, and “fromage.”

The sentences come out something like this, “Voila! It’s mine fromage, OKAAAAAYY!?!?!?”

Maybe she has actually created a new language. Clemlish?

French Sabbatical Secret #1: Don’t Expect Utopia

In my very crowded mind an idea has been percolating for some time now – a series of posts containing all of my thoughts, advice, (which you are free to take or ignore – I won’t be offended), and ideas about how to have a successful sabbatical in France.

My ideas could, of course, be applied to sabbaticals in other countries as well, but France is what I know so France is what I will write about.

Over our 10 years owning and managing vacation rentals in Burgundy, we have had many guests come on sabbaticals – anything from 2 months to 10 months. Some of them (most, I like to think) have had an amazing, life-enriching experience. There is small minority, however, who have been thoroughly disenchanted with their experience of living in France.

In my experience, there is one main difference between these two groups of people; expectations.

The people who become quickly alienated from French culture and French life are invariably the ones who are chasing after Utopia. They expect life in France to live up 100% of the time to Peter Mayle books and those glossy spreads in the travel magazines I love to read.

Dreaming of utopia is something I think all of us humans like to indulge in, but it can become dangerous when we mistake dreams for reality.

To truth of the matter is that if you are on sabbatical in France, you will undoubtedly experience some moments that will truly live up to The France Dream; snatches of time lingering on a cafe terrace, shopping at one of France’s glorious markets, traveling to Paris or the Cote d’Azur for the weekend…but the reality is that between these transporting episodes, there will be a whole lot of real life with all of its ups and downs.

The people who embarked on their French sabbaticals expecting basically a foreign version of real life were by far the happiest. They were able to savour the blissful “French” experiences and yet not be too unsettled by the fact that these always gave way to real life at some point.

Whereas the ones who went on sabbatical thinking that France equalled utopia were beyond unerved when they realised their life in France included mundane things like reconnecting their phone line and going to the Docteur for a bladder infection.

“Wait a minute!” they would think, indignant. “There were no photo spreads in those glossy magazines of anyone peeing in a cup at the medical lab. It’s all a lie! Utopia isn’t in France after all…it must be in Spain, or Greece, or Hawaii…”

And so their fruitless search for Utopia continued unabated, and they would completely forget to go to the cafe next to the lab after handing in their urine sample to enjoy a nice French espresso and a pain au chocolate.