It is that time of the year again, when I get a new organizer for 2016 and start planning. In a way, this also coincides with writing a list of resolutions for the New Year. Previously any New Year’s resolutions that I might have dreamed up were based more on a wish list, with no thought given as to how I would achieve the goals. I naively believed that if you set the goal you would achieve it. And then I would forget my goal and become preoccupied with other endeavers.
Develope a system for independently verifying properties on the website. This is in the initial stages of planning and I hope to implement the new system in 2016. The current properties currently do go through a vetting method and I research them thoroughly before they are allowed to list on the website. But I am planning to implement a more extensive verification system in 2016.
Read one good book a month for inspiration regarding business strategy or inspiration. I enjoy purchasing books that inspire me in business, but many times they sit on the self waiting for me to find the time to read them. This year I plan on focus on setting aside the time to read one each month.
Walk 3 miles at least two times a week. This one will not be difficult to implement as I am already walking through our neighborhood. I love to walk with my dog and do that several times a week. But I am setting a specific goal with this resolution.
Set up a podcast to interview travel bloggers and property owners. Now this one is a bit speculative regarding whether it will be implemented. I have read all about the necessary equipment and systems that are required to record and produce a podcast. But I think this resolution might be very time consuming and time is not something just laying around.
Do a monthly mailing of a brochure that displays the properties on the Vacations Abroad site. I have been doing this randomly but a monthly schedule would be good. I found an easy way to get addresses is to go to Google Maps and look up the area where you want to market. It is time consuming but you know the addresses are good and you can find the addresses for different markets, including international markets if that is your target.
I know that most people have more resolutions than just 5. But I hope that I am being realistic by limiting my resolutions to just 5. And..
Happy New Year Everyone..
And if you have any personal New Years Resolutions that you found you were unable to keep, or your favorite resolution for the new year then share them with me in the comment section below. I would like to hear about them.
Your guests have the need to feel indulged, pampered and taken care of…. And, sometimes it is the simple things that can change the ambiance of a hotel, guesthouse or B&B and cause an improvement in their rankings from a 1 star to a 3 or 4 star accommodation.
One of the major impressions when someone enters a hotel or guesthouse is the cleanliness of the facilities. And with hundreds of guests coming through the premises, it can be a daunting task to make sure that the premises are constantly updated and cleaned.
Below are “Before” and “After” examples of how changes can affect the presentation of various hotel rooms.
Cleanliness must be continually evauluated. Any floor carpets, hallway, entrance or area rugs see continual and high volume traffic and will accumulate dirt and grime over time. The carpets become so unsanitary and worn that even steam cleaning the carpet won’t help. The only alternative is replacing the carpets to make sure your premises have a good foundation. Remember, your clients comfort is very important and their sensory experience of the hotel will affect their happiness and comfort while staying in your property.
Decor is sometimes overlooked by the management without realizing the effect of the style and ambiance of the premises. The rooms can be stuck in the 1970’s with styles that are no longer popular. Dated bedding linen with comforters from another era and sheets that are worn and frayed can also contribute to an unappetizing atmosphere. This is perhaps one of the simpler tasks that can make dramatic improvement in your hotel and make the guests enjoy the facilities.
Walls may need a new coat of paint. The wallpaper may have become dated, worn and peeling. Styles change with time and your rooms should also. Another simple modification to your rooms are the lighting fixtures which can change the atmosphere of a room garish to soft and inviting.
Mold and mildew thrive where humidity and heat are prevalent. They can also contribute to an unhealthy smell enveloping the premises and causing guests to not enjoy their stay. There can also be health issues associated with mold or mildew circulating in the heating or air system. Due to the unhealthy aspects of mold and mildew, all air conditioning systems and bath rooms must be continually checked.
The images above were before and after photos from the Travel Channel Series Hotel Impossible.
There are many aspects involved in managing and running a one of a kind quaint hotel. New owners envision themselves as being the Lord or Lady of the manor but can fail to realize all the responsibilities associated with the day to day activities. The tasks are almost an unending series of coordinating staff and verifying inventory of supplies; all the while meeting the demanding needs of the hotel’s clients.
Everything about the hotel becomes a reflection of the character and personality of the owner. From the attitude of the employees, to the cleanliness of the rooms and including the ambiance and style of the hotel. All are a direct or indirect reflection of the taste and preferences of the owner.
DO: Create a unique style and apply that style to all the rooms. Quite often it is the style of the hotel that differentiates it from other similar quality establishments.
Customer service encompasses almost all the major aspects of running a boutique hotel. It does not just involve the face to face interaction between the management and staff with the customers. It involves the the most minute details: from ensuring that the place is cleaned thoroughly to making sure that the bedding and linen are impeccable.
Do: Create a daily checklist for your staff.
Do: Be very concerned with the cleanliness of the rooms.
Big luxury hotels or resorts may have amenities which are not suited to the smaller boutique type of hotel. Fancy chefs, an elaborate wine list, sateen sheets are not necessary to provide an enjoyable experience for the smaller hotels. As the proprietor of a small hotel, you will find that having on hand a selected a few of your own favorite wines to include with the meals will add all the necessary ambiance to the meals. Put your stamp of preference in regard to art and design throughout the premises. Decorate with your favorite books, art collection or antiques. The menus should typically focus on locally grown produce that can be easily obtained and with a menu of simple and delicious meals.
Do Not: Overcompensate for being a small hotel.
Do: Keep things simple and easy to maintain.
Being the proprietor of a small local boutique hotel, you should be very involved in the community and local activities. This will help you stay familiar with all the local attractions and events that are occurring in your community. Become a site where the locals can hold social functions celebrating events and anniversaries and function as the center for social center for events within your community. This way you will stay abreast of the activities and places to see within your community.
Do: Become a great resource for local activities and current events that are available for enjoyment while staying at your hotel.
Canada stretches along the northern border of the United States. The majority of Canada’s terrain is located north of the 49th Parallel and each province has their own ski resorts, some dramatic and exclusive while others are family affairs. The Rocky Mountains wind their way through the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta with some of the most dramatic resorts. Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec in the eastern region have the older Appalachian mountains that form a backdrop winter activities.
British Columbia Canada
Whistler British Columbia
Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort
Ski Area: 8000 Acres
Largest Vertical Drop: 5234 ft
The best thing about the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort: Whistler is known as the largest ski resort in North America and was host to 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. With over 8000 acres included in the resort the area covers two mountains, Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain. Whistler also has advanced on piste terrain and expert extreme terrain. It is probably the most crowded ski slopes in the Americas offering some of the most extreme and sophisticated slopes.
Revelstoke British Columbia
Revelstoke Ski Resort
Ski Area: 3000-3500 Acres
Largest Vertical Drop: 5620 ft.
Best thing about the Revelstoke Ski Resort: Revelstoke offers extreme skiing that includes snowcat skiing and heli skiing. Snowcat skiing is when snowcat machines are used to access terrain unreachable via a ski lift. Heli skiing includes accessing mountains in remote locations via a helicopter . Heli skiing has been outlawed in Germany and France.
Lake Louise Alberta
Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff
Ski Area: 4000-4500 Acres
Largest Vertical Drop: 3150 ft.
Best thing about the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff: Lake Louise has great terrain, that is challenging for skiers of all levels. The area is surrounded by nothing but nature and missing billboards and power lines. It is a beautiful place to go skiing.
Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort
Ski Area: 3000-3500 acres
Largest Vertical Drop: 1864 ft.
Best thing about the Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort: This ski resort is a car-free environment surrounded by the oldest national park in Canada and 3 majestic mountains. After a day on the slopes the most popular activities is apres skiing around rock fireplaces and visiting quaint coffee shops.
Marble Mountain Newfoundland
Marble Mountain Resort
Ski Area: 225 Acres
Vertical Drop: 1,758
Best thing about the Marble Mountain Resort: If downhill skiing isn’t your forte, you can get off the slopes and try snowshoeing, dog sledding, snow mobiles, and cross country skiing.
Blue Mountain Ontario
Blue Mountain Ski Resort
Ski Area: 200-500 Acres
Largest Vertical Drop: 732 Ft
Best thing about the Blue Mountain Ski Resort: The resort is popular with people from Toronto being the largest ski resort in Ontario. Concerts and festivals during the summer with down hill skiing, tobogganing and sleigh rides for winter activities.
Mont Tremblant Quebec
Mont Tremblant Ski Resort
Ski Area: 650 Acres
Largest vertical drop: 2116 ft
The Best Thing about the Mont Tremblant Ski Resort: Mt Tremblant is located in the Laurentian mountains just north of Montreal. The resort is surrounded by numerous hills and mountains which includes over 9,000 freshwater lakes and small charming towns where skiing and snowboarding are popular activities. The town of Mont Tremblant has a small town atmosphere and oozing with rural French culture.
Culture, Fantasy and the soft lights of night frame the beautiful Paris Landscape
The vibrant and loud Moulin Rouge
Traveling by boat at dusk along the Siene River
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The old and new collide at the Louvre Museum
The most famous fountain in Paris, the Place de la Concorde.
Old World Wines
Terroir is a word that is unique to France. It represents a location where wine is produced and it gives the wine a unique identity. The terroir is a combination of climate, geography and soil.
Terroir is also the basis for the French AOC wine classifications. AOC stands for appellation d’origine contrôlée. The first French formal mandate ” Law for the Protection of the Place of Origin” was established by the French government for wine in 1915. It was this law that has prevented the usage of the Champagne name on sparkling wine around the world.
The main French wine regions are Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, Côtes du Rhone, Jura, Languedoc , Loire Valley, Médoc and Provence.
Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC)
Appellation is a legally defined and protected region where French wines are grown. Within France there are a total of over 300 AOC classifications, making sure that each wine is uniquely identified. To qualify as an AOC wine, the wineries have additional restrictions with which they must comply. These restrictions include the type of grape varieties allowed in an AOC, maximum yields per acreage and the prohibition of irrigation. And there are additional restrictions for labeling the wine as AOC. Very seldom are the types of grapes mentioned in the labeling of AOC wines.
In order to qualify as an AOC wine, the wineries must follow stringent rules regarding the quality and combination of the grapes used.
Within the AOC structure there are additional ranking factors with the Grand Cru being the highest.
Beaujolais and Chablis Wines
Burgundy wine region, also known as Bourgogne in French, produces a large amount of wines with their two most popular regions being the red Beaujolais wine and the white Chablis wines. These two types of wines are AOC defined. The majority of vineyards in Burgundy are planted with the Chardonnay grape for the Chablis wine production and Pinot Noir grapes for the Beaujolais wine.
In this region, wine gained a foothold when the Romans introduced the vines to the Gaul region during 52BC. It wasn’t until the Cistercian and Cluniac monks established their wineries in the Middle Ages, that the influence of the vineyards increased as wine became a sacred drink of the church.
The wines of Burgundy have an additional classification for their AOC wines: Premier cru is rated just below the Grand cru.
Bordeaux wines are the main wine produced in Aquitaine. Romans established wine vineyards in this area also. But the growth of the wineries was based on the historical and political alliance with England and the majority of the wines were cultivated for export to the UK. The main wines produced in Bordeaux are Sauternes, which is a sweet white wine, and Red Bordeaux, which is made from Merlot grapes. The higher quality of Bordeaux wines are aged in oak barrels.
Grand Cru classifications are used with Bordeaux wine with an additional classification as to 1st-5th Crus for the red wines. 1st growth is the highest classification and sometimes these bottles of wine can reach the price of $1,000 a bottle. In the red wine classification, the Premier Crus wineries are the famous Château Lafite Rothschild , Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion and Château Mouton-Rothschild. In Bordeaux there are over 60 different appellations with 7,375 wineries. And only 62 of the wineries qualify as a Grand Cru classification / as they are listed below.
5 Bordeaux Wineries w/Premiers Crus (First Growth)
15 Bordeaux Wineries w/Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growth)
14 Bordeaux Wineries w/Troisièmes Crus (Third Growth)
10 Bordeaux Wineries w/Quatrièmes Crus (Fourth Growth)
18 Bordeaux Wineries w/Cinquièmes Crus (Fifth Growth)
Vin de Pays
Other types of French wines are called “Vin de Pays” or a Country wine . These wines are still restricted with regard to the types of grapes that are allowed. But there is more flexibility in the labeling and grape combination. There is less control over the factors affecting the wine. However, some of the vineyards take advantage of the less stringent requirements to experiment with the wines. And if you enjoy searching through labels and wine tasting, you might find a wine that is unique.
There are four Vin de Pays Regions: Vine de Pays du Val de Loire, Vin de Pays d’Oc, Vin de Pays des Comtes Rhodanians, Vin de Pays du Comte Tolosan. The region that produces the highest quantity of Vin de Pays is the Languedoc region (Vin de Pays d’Oc)
Many people may jump to the conclusion that “Vin de Pays” is a lower quality of wine since it does not fall within the AOC parameters. But that is not always the case. Sometimes the vintner (Wine Maker) will produce a very high quality wine.
New World Wines
A varietal wine means that the wine label will specify type of grape and sometimes names the wine after the grape. This was mainly undertaken in new world countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Australia who were not as rigid in their labeling of wine as France. Examples are: Merlot wines are made exclusively from the Merlot grapes and Chardonnay wine is made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape. Wines produced under the rules of AOC never mention the type of grape. However, some of the Vin de Pays are labeling their wine with the grapes used in the wine.
France Joins the European Union
All of this confusing wine lingo changed when France joined the European Union. However, the basis of the French structure is applicable to European System for labeling wine.
Our Regions of France where you find vacation rentals
Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Brittany, Burgundy, Centre, Franche Comte, Ile de France, Languedoc, Limousin, Lorraine, Lower Normandy, Midi Pyrenees, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou Charentes, Provence, Rhone Alps, Upper Normandy,
Languedoc France is located along the Mediterranean Coast of southern France and extends to the Spanish borders. It is a land of ancient history, political conflict, delicious wines and is also home to several UNESCO Heritage sites.
The Languedoc region is located in Southern France and shares a border with Spain. The Pyrenees Mountains, a mountain range that is older than the Alps, forms a natural border between the two countries. The remoteness of the Languedoc region, far removed from the politics of London, Paris or Madrid allowed the growth of an independence in their politics and religious beliefs. The people of this region were known as the Occitanians, and they spoke a mixed dialect, which was a combination of French and Spanish. The region was called as “les langues d’oc”,
The local nobility built fortresses and castles atop the Pyrenees mountains in strategic positions where they could protect their villages and towns from invasion. During the 11th century, the Cathars, a unique Christian religion gained a foothold in Languedoc. The Cathars found acceptance for their religion and a place to worship in a culture that promoted independence. The religious group called themselves the “Cathars”. A name that is associated with the meaning for purity; ie catharsis. Cathars are thought to be a precursor to the Protestant religions.
Eventually, the Pope heard about the Cathars and their independence and became incensed. He declared a war on the Cathars for being heretics. The war was known as the Albigensian Crusade and lasted from 1209–1229. The crusaders massacred people indiscriminately with over half a million men, women and children that were slaughtered during the Pope’s attempt to destroy the Cathar’s independence.
As you drive along the Languedoc wine routes that follow along the Pyrenees Mountains, and if you happen to glance up towards the peaks of the mountains, you will see ghosts. The ghosts of the Cathar castles, perched in the clouds on the rocky grey Pyrenees Mountains.
Cathar Castles in Languedoc
Abbeys of Languedoc
Even before the Cathar wars ravaged Languedoc, the ancient Romans were leaving their imprint on the region. The Romans had expanded their sphere of influence and control into France and Spain via the ancient road, VIA Domitia, which ran north from Rome over the Alps down through ancient Gaul along the Mediterranean coast of France finally crossing the Pyrenees Mountains into the eastern section of Spain. Via Domitia was built in 118 BC by the Romans and it provided the Romans a military advantage through France and Spain.
Many cities and villages of Languedoc owe their founding to the early Romans who left behind amazing monuments, temples and architecture that were the basic foundations for many of the towns in Languedoc.
The border between Spain and France has always been fluid and a battleground with each country vying for more control. Over the centuries, many of the historic towns and villages have changed political alliance between France and Spain.
Collioure is located on the Mediterranean Coast just a few miles from Spanish border. Collioure became the summer residence for the King of Mallorca, whose main residence was the castle at Perpignan. A castle has been located in the town since the 7th century, with major modifications occurring during the 13th and 17th centuries.
The Knights Templar built the Royal Castle of Collioure in the 12th century as a defensive fort, which later became a royal household for the Kings of Majorca, before it was transformed into a Spanish fortress that guarded the border at the end of the 1400s.
Perpignan is located slightly inland and north from the border Spain shares with France. The city gained prestige over the centuries by being the home of the Counts of Roussillon and the Kings of Aragon. Later it became the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in 1276 and lasted through the 14th century. Located within the city walls you will find the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca which was completed in 1309.
Languedoc has more acreage dedicated to wine than any other region in France. As you drive along the winding roads of the region, every hill and valley is covered with vineyards. Each town has a cooperative where the locals can sell the current grape harvest for the production of the local village wine. And many of the wine producers have small tasting rooms located along the road where you can stop and enjoy a taste of their wines, to see which one suits your taste.
If you are planning a vacation to Languedoc France, enjoy your adventure while staying in one of our listed properties.
Capestang, Carcassonne, Cascastel, Castelnaudary, La Boissiere, Montpellier, Perpignan, Pezenas, Quillan, Roullens, Saint Julien de Peyrolas, Sommieres, Uzes, Vacquieres, Vernet Les Bains,
The first Glastonbury Festival was held during 1971 on a dairy farm in Somerset England (near Bath). And tickets were 1 GPB and all the farm milk you could drink. The instigator of this famous festival is a local dairy farmer, Michael Eavis, who held the festival on his dairy farm. He had the land and decided to hold a music festival during the summer solstice. One of the first performers was the band ,” The Kinks”. A total of 1500 people attended the event. The first year the festival was small but the second year he had Traffic, Melanie, David Bowie, and Joan Baez as performers. As the festival grew, he decided to dedicate the profits to altruistic local charities.
Over the years the proceeds of the festival have been used to fund various charities. One of better known non profits funded by the festival was “Children’s World” a charity started by Arabella Spencer Churchill, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. Arabella lived in Somerset in the same area as Michael Eavis. At this time the festival was called the “Glastonbury Fayre”.
With the 80’s the name of the festival changed to “Glastonbury Festival” and the funding generated by the festival was allocated to “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament”. The festival had reached an attendance of 18,000 in the early 80’s to 40,000 during 1985. It was decided that the current farm could not hold the number of attendees and an adjacent farm of 100 acres was purchased.
By the end of the 80’s over 65,000 people were attending the event and a donation of 100,000 GPB was donated to “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament”
The “Glastonbury festival” is a combination of performance art, musicians, acrobats and theater performers. Over the years there is always several major performers who are the current headliners.
2015 Headliners are the Foo Fighters, Kanye West and Lionel Richie
Tickets go on sale in October for the next Glastonbury Festival in June. Resale of cancelled tickets go on sale in April leading up to the June Festival.
Tickets sell out within 24 hours of becoming available. 2015 tickets for the Glastonbury Festival were selling at £220 + £5 booking fee
The people of Edinburgh gather each year to celebrate the changing of the seasons with the Beltane Fire Festival. Beltane means “bright fire”. Historically, the villages around Scotland built a bonfire on May 1st to celebrate the lengthening of the days. The locals would then gather around the bonfire to dance and welcome the arrival of summer. During the 1800’s the event was slowly disappearing as a celebration in the villages and with the arrival of the 20th century, this Scottish tradition was fading from memory and was no longer celebrated in Edinburgh. So in 1988, Angus Farquhar, choreographer Lindsay John and a folklorist Margaret Bennett of Edinburgh University’s School of Scottish Studies decided to revitalize an ancient Scottish tradition.
The festival began as a small celebration of a few hundred people but today several thousand gather on Calton Hill. The event is no longer free but not terribly expensive.
General Advance Sales – £7.50 + booking fee
From 27th April – £10 + booking fee
Door Sales (on the night) – £10.50 + booking fee (£11) Calton
The event is more of a performance rather than a staged event. The performers and audience mix and mingle creating a unique experience.
For more information about attending contact the Beltane Fire Society
The Sunshine Coast stretches along the southern coast of British Columbia and can only be reached via ferries and or float planes. Vacations-Abroad asked The Legendary Adventures of Anna to provide us with a first hand report about the West Coast Wilderness Lodge that is located in this beautiful rugged wilderness, surrounded by nature and amazing views. Navigating to the lodge is an experience in itself, but well worth the effort for a memorable and a unique vacation.
Here is a list of totally unique and fun things Anna found to do on her journey.
Experiencing scenic flights over the Sunshine Coast.
Finding a purple starfish.
Enjoying great views
and delicious food.
And returning every evening to relax in a wonderful room.
Winter Rates range from $110-$180
Spring Rates range from $139-$260
Summer Rates range from $174-$325
Fall Rates range from $139-$260
Rates are in Canadian dollars.