Author Topic: Velo Ville  (Read 2104 times)

Torslanda

  • Professional Gobshite
  • Just a tart for retro kit . . .
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Velo Ville
« on: November 14, 2018, 05:06:16 pm »
I want to share an idea that's been tumbling around in my head for the thick end of a decade.

To buy a smallholding in Normandy (e.g) and turn it into a camping site with a cycling theme. Offering sheltered camping pitches, hardstandings for tourers and motorhomes. Possibly pods or teepees for 'glamping'. Showers, power hook-up, on-site WiFi, charging for devices and e-bikes, routes for all abilities taking in local attractions and about a million and one other things that I haven't yet thought of!

Turning the outbuildings into bunkhouse for itinerant tourists or possibly gites for those who fancy a cycling holiday without the 'camping'. Plus there'd be a bike mechanic with a fully equipped workshop on site. If I can find one!

The reason I'm looking at lower Normandy is to be on the St. Malo - Caen route, handy for Mont St. Michel, Avranches, Granville and - at a stretch - the invasion beaches. I'm not just looking at attracting Brits (though that would be handy) but promoting the whole thing with an online presence across Europe - multilingual website, online booking, payments and so on.

It's never been much more than a dream (and I know I've bored the arse off more than one or two on here about it in the past!) but I'm trying to plan a retirement strategy which if it's done right will allow me to own the thing outright in about 10 years from now - I'll be 66 - sell up the business and, erm, move to another . . .

So. Questions.
1. Can you see it working?
2. What would you like to see in such a facility?
3. Am I being a dick?
4. Will the YACF Expeditionary Force come to christen the facility?

What does the panel think?

VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2018, 05:16:09 pm »
John, being hard nosed about it, what is the core business?. Stripping out the bike stuff leaves........ a camp site and/or gites and as you know there are lots of those. You need to determine the added value of adding the bike elements as a USP, identify potential demand and prepare a business plan accordingly. Also consider barriers to entry, if you made a go of it how difficult would it be for a local competitor to set up?. A conversation with the local chamber of commerce would perhaps be helpful.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Blodwyn Pig

  • what a nice chap
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2018, 05:23:06 pm »
I like the idea,  you could have DIY perm Audaxes run from there, avec campings.  BUT , and this is a BIG BUT, I'd wait till this Brexit Bollix is done and dusted,  you might be severly restricted in what you can / cannot do, how long you can stay,etc,  if May gets her Way.  If euro folks get wind that its a campsite run by the '2 fingers to Europe' brigade, they might give you 2 fingers, and go else where.  ::-)

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2018, 05:36:12 pm »
Assuming you'd move there, it is clear that camp sites can be viable businesses. I know little about the running of them, but the idea of creating a new site as opposed to taking over an existing business sounds fraught. The presence of even a bike friendly site is unlikely to bring new tourists to the area, so it will be down to a straight competition for existing business between yourself and others (who probably know more about the running of a  campsite). Personally when using campsites I choose based on  where they are and, when there are multiple in the same area based on the value/facilities offered. Oh yeah, and they have to have a vacancy, too.

Good luck whatever.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2018, 05:39:30 pm »
I don't have much to add other than the above points, but:

1. Maybe (see above).
2. Toilet seats *and* loo roll.  (The sheer novelty of a campsite in France that features both ought to be a major selling point.)  Seating and something sensible to lock bikes to for the cycle-campers.
3. I don't think so.
4. Absolutely.   :thumbsup:
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2018, 05:40:11 pm »
I suggest you get a copy of Le Guide Officiel Camping Caravanning https://www.amazon.fr/Guide-Officiel-Camping-caravaning-2018/dp/2358390607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542216982&sr=8-1&keywords=le+guide+officiel+camping
There are handy maps so you can easily see where there might be an area that would suit.  Sadly, I think the area you are looking in is already pretty well served.  I've certainly stayed in quite  afew.

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2018, 05:44:37 pm »
Oh, and the thing I would like to see in Europe is what they had in Oz, that is "en suite" bathrooms on a pitch for motorhomes, a little personal brick built bathroom. Personally I think that would be unimaginable luxury for a bike tour - you could wash, warm up and launder - but I doubt many cyclists would pay what you would need to charge.

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2018, 05:50:46 pm »
This is very similar to the sort of thing that I consider in my idle and frustrated moments at work.

Go for it!

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2018, 05:52:34 pm »
Oh, and the thing I would like to see in Europe is what they had in Oz, that is "en suite" bathrooms on a pitch for motorhomes, a little personal brick built bathroom. Personally I think that would be unimaginable luxury for a bike tour - you could wash, warm up and launder - but I doubt many cyclists would pay what you would need to charge.

I stayed on a site with those in .nl:



Toilet, shower, 'charging socket'[1], and - luxury of luxuries - a heater.  Managed to wash all my kit and dry it in there overnight.  They also had TV aerial hook-ups for the caravannists, which seemed equally ridiculous.

I don't remember what they charged, but it was certainly not memorably expensive.  There may have been an unofficial cycle tourists' discount applied.


[1] ©2016 EldestCub
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Oscar's dad

  • Cheers!
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2018, 05:56:51 pm »
Sounds great, can you have it set up by 2nd May next year which is when our ferry docks in St Malo?  Put us down for 5ish nights, how much of a deposit would you like and where shall I send it?

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2018, 06:00:54 pm »

Sounds wonderful. Personally I love a campsite with everything the others mentioned, plus fire pits so I can have an open fire, but that is really a stretch goal and never a deal breaker.

Good luck!

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2018, 06:28:38 pm »
Ive been thinking of something similar in Cumbria, on the C2C route, based around log cabin pods and camping spaces.

All the issues mentioned would apply there as well, so I'd not want to rely on it for a living right now
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2018, 06:34:13 pm »
plus fire pits so I can have an open fire,
That would make me look elsewhere.  Fire pits encourage people to "socialise" long into the night when I am trying to sleep.  As an itinerant cyclist I'd hate that, and especially since I tend to be an early (but quiet) riser.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2018, 06:47:21 pm »
plus fire pits so I can have an open fire,
That would make me look elsewhere.  Fire pits encourage people to "socialise" long into the night when I am trying to sleep.  As an itinerant cyclist I'd hate that, and especially since I tend to be an early (but quiet) riser.

I'm in two minds about them, myself.  On one hand, I like a good FIRE as much as anyone, and reasonable (ie. conversational rather than music, dogs or random whooping) noise doesn't bother me.

But being downwind of a smokey campfire can be distinctly suboptimal from an asthma perspective.  Depends on whether I'm intending to get up early and spend the day cranking out the miles or not.

I quite liked Britchcoombe Farm approach of having fire pits but insisting that only wood sold by the campsite was allowed to be burned.  That way the smokiness of the wood (and presumably a decent profit) could be ensured.  I've also been on sites where FIRE was only permitted in one of several fields, which gives people an option (unless they're compelled by type of unit or other facilities).
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2018, 08:32:55 pm »
Wait until Brexit is settled.  As it stands, the xenophobes will remove your right to live and work in the EU.
Never tell me the odds.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2018, 08:33:31 pm »
I think the idea is wonderful. I have no idea how viable it is as a business plan – if you took my advice on that, you'd end up in a cardboard box under the bridge – but also, especially as it's a sort of "retirement" project, consider how important that is to you. Do you want it to make a (little) bit of money for you or are you happy just not make a loss? And of course, what does Mrs Tors think of the idea.

As to things I'd like to see there, fire was my first thought. In September some of us down here from ACB had a "Monday microadventure" (fancy name for one night's camping) at a place near Tintern, which – like Britchcoombe – allows fires in specified places using the wood they sell, no other. Also, gurt big stones to sit around on near the fire. But in Tintern itself locals have put signs up objecting to camping, in particular the "pods". I'm not sure what annoys them, but clearly you need to get the locals on board.

As for Q4, yes yes yes!
An ungovernable laughter, a joyous agitation which makes the summer stretching before you seem like an unrolling canvas on which you might draw those first rude pure strokes that are free. (Capote)

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2018, 10:36:57 pm »
Pods presumably attract the sort of people who won't even commit to forking out for a festival tent from Decathlon.  And hen parties.

Not sure why that would be objectionable to local residents, rather than fellow campers.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2018, 10:42:57 pm »
Pods presumably attract the sort of people who won't even commit to forking out for a festival tent from Decathlon.  And hen parties.

Not sure why that's would be objectionable to local residents, rather than fellow campers.

And soggy cyclists.


Anyway:

1) no idea, sounds fun, anyway. See how the land lies after Brexit? I know the french have put in place protection for English expats, I don't know if that only covers existing ones.
2) What Kim said, plus I like pods when it's raining. I don't like too much fire, and prefer to have a field away from it to camp.
3) What Kim said
4) Of course! As soon as I have got us all passports.  :D
Quote from: Kim
^ This woman knows what she's talking about.

fuzzy (retd.) AAGE

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Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2018, 11:07:25 pm »
Tors,
Not much I can add re camping as I haven't slept under canvas/ under a poncho/ in a bivvie bag since I left the army with one exception- 3 nights in a 4 poster bed in a glamping lodge in Kruger National Park.

The suggestions to wait until all this Brexit bollocks is done and dusted seems eminantly sensible. No one knows how it is going to play out, icluding those making the decisions.

Either way, I really like the sound of the idea and, should you go ahead, I would certainly pay a visit, preferably a lodge or Gitte.

Make it somewhere with a dark sky and I'll bring my telescope!

Quote from: tatanab
The mark of a true cyclist - prepared to try anything on offer

If it ain't bad for you it ain't worth doing

Torslanda

  • Professional Gobshite
  • Just a tart for retro kit . . .
    • John's Bikes
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2018, 12:27:40 am »
Obviously there's some work to do! Like I said at the start there's probably a million and one things I haven't thought of but thank you everyone for your thoughts, I'm taking everything in.

Mrs. Torslanda - of the horned helmet and heavy metal breastplate - is supportive and enthusiastic. That's the foundation of the project. I couldn't possibly consider going ahead with this if I didn't have her support.* We both love France and as we have no parents to worry about we are fairly free to move where we want once our boys are settled. Eldest is in an apprenticeship with good prospects, the youngest is 12, so if things go to plan he will be well into his early career (he wants to be a teacher) by the time we're ready to up sticks permanently.

Regarding the smallholding I'm going to need to do some looking. I can troll through estate agents websites until I'm blue in the face but that doesn't put me on the spot IYSWIM. The intention is to contact the local Maires of the communities I'm interested in and locate other campsites and amenities. The last thing I want to do is tread on toes. My belief is that if 'we' can add value to the local community then we have potential to succeed.

Strategy will be to integrate into the community, engage local tradespeople - if they're willing to be paid - for groundwork, construction, refurbishment etc. By contrast the Channel 4 programme with Dick Strawbridge shows him bringing in labour for the construction work around his chateau. Whilst it might make good telly I think, in real life, it's better to get local people on side.

Realistically I can't do much until next June when, hopefully, I'll have a week on my own more or less to tour around with a few bookmarked locations a motorbike and a sat nav.  There's a long standing arrangement to meet my best mate in Normandy and take in the 75th anniversary of D-Day. (Google 'Daks over Normandy') All I can do until then is research properties, communities and campsite locations.

Regards our falling headlong out of the EU and into the abyss? I don't know. Truthfully I don't think anyone knows. If I buy a property I have to make it my mission to show the local people that I'm not Tommy Robinson (they'll NEVER see a Union flag outside my place) [I'm actually quite ashamed to be British right now] and the property isn't going to be shuttered 49 weeks out of 52. The website will be in English but I'm not trying to just attract UK visitors. The intention is to promote the area as a cycle touring destination, I'm not looking for sportive types or the testosterone fuelled roadies who go looking for mountains. Clue: There aren't any!

That's enough for now, keep on with your thoughts, criticisms and suggestions.

 
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2018, 08:20:31 am »
Hi Tors, all the best with working through this.

My French is limited, but doesn't "Vélo Ville" mean "city bike"?
Any working titles with ville/city in it may not conjure up the rural camping idyl I assume you're aiming for!

Torslanda

  • Professional Gobshite
  • Just a tart for retro kit . . .
    • John's Bikes
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2018, 09:01:05 am »
HMMM. Might need to rethink that one
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2018, 09:38:46 am »
I thought it translated as Cycle City, but my french is limited.

As for point 4 above - did that need to be asked?
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

sib

Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2018, 09:58:58 am »
I think its a great idea, and one i toyed with while camping in Cornwall this summer.
I think the financials are important. Have you got the cash to buy it ? What cash are you left with ? Do you expect to earn an income from it ? How will you manage in the off-season ?
Are you able to run the site yourself - maintenance/plumbing/electricity or will you have to pay someone else ? Worth researching local regulations, permits and taxes.
I hope you can make it work :thumbsup:


Re: Velo Ville
« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2018, 11:02:36 am »
Ville des Vélos.....

Town of Bicycles....

Good luck!  As a suggestion, if you can include a cafe/bar/mini-supermarket in your plans and be near a village then you may get a lot more local buy-in and assistance from the municipality.  The news often has reports on keeping life going in villages, so this would be looked on favourably and could also give a second income source during the quieter months.