Saturday, 14 January 2012

Organising from this end.

As I'm always on my computer i thought the best way (although I do love pen and paper and making physical lists) to get myself organised was do a checklist of things I need to do before we go.

It's 10 and a half weeks till we leave so I still have plenty of time to get organised but for me making lists is the best way to do this and once I go back to work i will be alot busier so will have less time to languish in the luxury of planning and arranging.

No time like the present:

Starting with...accommodation - this is pretty much done except for Bordeaux. I am having trouble finding accommodation here just for one night for some reason.

My system for accommodation is as follows:

Once I have decided on the city/town we are staying in and the length of the stay I go to Trip Advisor and look up the type of accommodation we are going to stay in. This can range from a hotel, to a B & b or an apartment.

I have mostly chosen apartments this trip as there are 5 of us and this will give us plenty of room and also the option to eat at home if we want to - mostly for breakfast or dinner.  This is good for the budget as well as the "overeating on holiday syndrome".

I always choose accommodation close to the action. I figure if we are only in a place for a few days I don't want to waste time travelling by public transport into the heart of the place. It may cost abit more to stay in the centre of a town butyou have to remember to add the cost of transport from where you are staying out of town. Anyway it's more fun to stay in the action.

I pick a budget. This trip I am basing accommodation costing on Jenny Martin's budget of 150 euros per night. This hasn't proven too hard as April isn't high season. We also have 5 people so have to also take that into account but have managed to stay pretty close to that figure.

Our Accommodation:


In the countryside of France b & b's seem to be the way to go.

Sarlat, Dordonge: I found our place, Le Jardin Sarlat via trip advisor as it gets really great reviews and sounded really lovely. I read the reviews, looked at the travellers photos, checked out the website of the place then emailed them direct to request pricing and availability. Wendy emailed back to confirm two rooms at 85 euros for a family room - eddy, soph and george will share this room with an extra 15 euros for a 3rd person per night and 80 euros for me and Andrew. I have confirmed and paid 90 euros as a deposit.

The remainder is due when we check out in cash. (270 euros).

Burgundy: this one was recommended to me by Heidi Lillyman through Mr & Mrs Smith. It's a boutique hotel in Autun called Moulin Renaudiots. Originally I had planned to stay in Beune which seemed to be the main part of Burgundy to stay, but Moulin Renaudiots looked so beautiful and the reviews were fantastic. I thought it would be beyond our budget but emailed the agency to see what the prices were for that time of year and was pleased to find out that it would be 135 euros per room. Eddy, Soph and george will again share a room and split the cost. I have paid 51euros as a deposit. The rest to be paid on check out.

Before confirming the accommodation, still unsure about whether to stay in Autun or Beune I emailed Heidi and also emailed a girl from Melbourne who had done a review on  Moulin renaudiots to ask here about it and to see whether it was a good place to stay as far as not staying in Beune. Basically she told me to do myself a favour and stay there as it was fantastic - Heidi confirmed this when she replied but by this time I had already gone ahead with the booking.

It's about 1/2 an hour from Beune which Heidi said is too far for dinner, but she said Autun is divine also and to go to Beune for lunch.

I have also been using Google maps alot for this part of the trip and street view which is fantastic for seeing where things are located and what they look like.

CITIES (England, France & Spain):

San Sebastian: I used google maps and streetview quite alot here to try and determine what part to stay in. It's only small I believe but again we want to be near the beach in the old town. I googled apartments in San Sebastian and came up with a few options -enjoy rentals was one that I found some well priced apartments. I read the reviews to find proximity to the places that I want to be. This is a 2 bed apartment which looks light and lovely.I sent the link to Sophie of a couple in town and she picked this one called Centenario II SS. It's 600 euros for 3 nights and I have paid $268 as a deposit.

The rooftop particularly appealed to us for nice brekkys.

Madrid: I found our apartment, The Prince of Anglona Apartment on tripadvisor as it was featured under the Madrid section and the reviews were great. The old building it was it appealed to me and it's central position. I emailed Carmen the owner. For this part of the trip it's just me, minky, soph and ed as george has to fly back to London after 2 nights in San Sebastian so i have booked this apartment which is one bed with sofa bed for the kids. It's 350 euros for 3 nights for the 4 of us which seems so cheap so I hope it's OK... but it is only small from the look of it which is fine, and the reviews are all excellent.

Barcelona: I booked this apartment through Halldis which is the company i have booked Paris through. I emailed Christina to ask her the most central part to stay and she suggested Eixample District or barrio Gotico. With Sophie's help as she's been there we found a lovely apartment just off La Rambla. We used Google maps again to determine the best area and then emailed to find pricing. This is the one we have chosen; (Barcelona apartment). It's 774 euros for 4 nights + 15euros check in fee. 20% paid as deposit.

It's abit hard to know where is a good spot as far as centralised goes. The reviews on the halldis website were good. There aren't alot of reviews for apartments on tripadvisor. Halldis were good with lots of suggestions on apartments.

Paris: I booked this apartment through a recommendation from Juliet Evans who stayed here a couple of years ago. It is in the Latin quarter - 5th arrondissement which is where we stayed last time but this time we will be closer to Notre Dame and the Seine. It is 2 bed with a sofa bed for Eddy. It's 1100 euros for 4 nights - which is more than the 150 euro rule but its' for 5 of us and Paris is expensive. I still didn't feel it was too bad for the location and type of apartment (at the moment it's $330 a night - the dollar is very good too at the moment at 81c).
This was also booked through Halldis. This is it; (Paris apartment).

London: this proved be quite tricky as I wasn't sure what part of London to stay in. I found a good 2 bed apartment near Trafalgar square and another one in Sth Kensington - both through Halldis. Looked at several agencies to book through - London boutique lets, Flipkey, short stay homes and one short stay. I signed up for newsletters. I also tried VRBO but as it's Easter most places weren't available. The other problem apart from cost was minimum stay. We were planning on staying for 3 nights only and alot of places would only rent for 5 days or 7 days.

Eventually when I realised that the cheaper ones would be just that and we wouldn't like them I decided to go with the one in Trafalgar square and emailed Halldis to secure this. While the apartment was available the price had gone UP (what European crisis?) plus they seem to add a whole lot of little extras - a booking fee and a bond that would take several weeks to be refunded. I decided instead to go with a serviced apartment in Sth Kensington with the same company but same thing - other companies didn't specify minimum nights which was frustrating. We did think about staying for 4 nights in London instead of 3 but it's so expensive so went back to 3 nights.

I had received an email from One Fine Stay and one place they advertised in Notting Hill looked really lovely. I sent off an email and I was quoted 275 pounds a night. I accepted this as I was so over trying to find somewhere and sent off confirmation only to be told it was 305 pounds for 3 nights. I was annoyed as I had emailed the dates and Henry had quoted 275 pounds. In the end we negotiated 290 pounds a night - our dollar is good so it's $430 a night which is a splurge but everything decent seems to be around that price. The bond is 1000 pounds though which is very hefty - just a credit card authorisation really and is released immediately.

The place does look lovely though - called Scampston Mews.

Bordeaux: Still trying to find somewhere for here.

OK have now found a lovely place to stay right in the heart of Bordeaux - called
L'Hôtel Particulie​r -

We have an apartment for 170euros.

Our Travel:

Car hire: I am in the process of arranging car hire through Tash at flight centre. We will be picking up from Paris on 9th April and dropping off in Barcelona approx 22nd April ( I dont' think we'll need a car in Barcelona but am keeping it for one extra day in case we want to go on a day trip up the coast) Tash has quoted a Renault Scenic for $699 with a 200 euro drop off fee for dropping off in a different country. After looking this car up on the internet we've decided that it's not big enough for 5 adults + luggage. The 3 in the back need to be comfortable and with Soph's car sickness it could end up being me as one of them. I have asked her to quote on something bigger, similar to an Espace which the four of us had in Europe in 05. She is getting back to me this week so we can confirm.  We have now decided to hire the car on Saturday 7th due to Easter holidays - need to check on parking at our apartment in Paris. I have emailed the company who we have booked the apartment through.

This is where the apartment company suggested we park:

We do not offer parking service, but I can indicate the closest private parkings you could use:
- SAEMES in 34, bd St Germain
- SAEMES in 15, rue Lagrange
- SAEMES in 1, rue Lagrange
- Parc Polytechnique in rue Arras.
Have now organised the car. We are hiring a Mercedes Viano or similar which is a 7 seater. Cost is $842.00 with 200E drop off charge.
We have paid the $842.00

Eurostar: 5 tickets booked and paid online for Thursday 5th April. 280 pounds for 5 of them which was quite good as there weren't many left for that time and when Sophie went back on they were then 390 pounds for 5.
Leaving St Pancras at 7.54am and arriving at 11.17 in Paris Nord. Don't forget to print out tickets!!
A much better solution to last time and although it was fun hiring a car and driving to Dover then catching the ferry to Calais and driving to Paris, it meant that we lost a whole day in Paris.

Car from London to Cardiff: The whole train option was too difficult with the early leaving time for Paris so have booked a car which we pick up on Monday 2nd April and drop off on Thursday 5th April.
Car is Vauxhall Insignia
Pick up from Marble Arch - 7-23 Bryanston Street? Need to check on this as we were meant to be picking up fom Edgeware Road and drop off at Russell street, near St Pancreas.
Cost: $276.00

This has been paid for.

This means we will then have a car to drive to Bath and it probably works out cheaper than all the train trips.

Flight from Barcelona to London: 24th April, before flying back to Sydney.

There will be more organising to add to this I'm sure but for the moment I'm done.

Accommodation costs still to pay and when:

London: 425 pounds

Paris: 770 euros

Burgundy: 244 + 244 euros

Sarlat - 270 euros

Bordeaux - 170 euros

San Sebastian - 519 euros

Madrid -  265 euros

Barcelona - 574 euros

Holding deposits:

London: 1000 pounds

Paris: 300 euros

San Sebastian:



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