Archive for the ‘French Gites’ Category

What is a gite?

What is a gite holiday

A gite holiday in France is a self-catering holiday. That is, the accommodation is supplied, but you usually make your own travel arrangements and no food is supplied – you need to eat at restaurants or cook for yourself at home. Barbecues are very popular.

A gite is usually a typical home of the region, and can be a everything from a small cottage to a farmhouse or even a chateau. Gites are available that sleep any number of people, so are suitable for both smaller and larger groups. Most commonly the term ‘villa’ is used for more modern properties, although not always.

On a gite holiday you will be staying in a self-contained property, usually with a garden, where you can ‘faites comme chez vous’ (act as if you were at home). Gites are sometimes independent of other properties, and sometimes form part of a small group of properties at the same location. The owners, sometimes French, sometimes expatriates, will often be English speaking and may also live on the same site as the gites. They will then be on hand to offer invaluable advice about the most interesting things in the region, or to help if any problems arise.

There are several advantages of a gite or self-catering holiday. First is the freedom it supplies to do your own thing. No fixed meal times, no need to dress for dinner, eat and drink what you like, and usually you will be closer to the countryside and beauty of France, giving you a better feel for ‘the real France’. You can do things at your own pace, travel as far afield as you like, or do nothing at all.

A separate benefit is that a gite will almost always cost less per person than a stay in a hotel. But that doesn’t men you are missing out on luxury. Many gites have swimming pools, perhaps for that property alone, and are maintained to very high standards. As with everything, the more you pay the more you get, and a gite for 6-8 people might cost anything from 750 euros to 3000 euros per week or more in high season.

It is true that there are also gites in a poor state, inadequately cleaned, where you would not want to pass a holiday. Happily with the internet it is easy to see in advance what you will be getting for your money – I recommend only choosing a property where you have seen quite a few photographs, both internal and external.

I would also recommend trying to reserve your gite sooner rather than later. Gites are usually available, even at short notice, but the choice of gites available will be much more restricted. Although there is a chance of a last-minute bargain, it is generally better to choose from the wider range available earlier on – there will be bargains in these also, if you look hard. I would try and book a gite for the July – August period by the end of February if possible.

How to find a gite? In France there are many thousands of gites, and tens if not hundreds of gite listing sites, and the task of choosing one can be a challenge. More so if you are booking late, because many of the enquiries you send will be returned as ’sorry, property already booked’. To avoid this you can select a property from one of the sites which maintains availability schedules for all the properties. There are several of these, including the gite properties listed on this site.

You can also book gites or self-catering holidays in France through travel agents. These may provide you with some assurance, although you will usually pay a significant amont extra for this assurance. I personally would recommend dealing directly with the owner, both for the cost savings, and the extra comfort you get from speaking directly or indirectly with the owner.  This will also make it easier for you to discuss special needs for your visit – child stair gate, wheelchair access, questions about how far to the nearest restaurant and so on. Every gite owner should be more than happy to answer these questions for you before you make your booking.

Conclusion? If you have never had a gite or self-catering holiday in France I heartily recommend you try it. It’s a perfect way to really see France and the French countryside, and a well chosen gite can give you the holiday of a lifetime.

Click here to see a full listing of luxury french gites

France is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of Europe

France is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of Europe. The production of wine in France has its origins in the 6th century BC, with the colonization of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. Viticulture soon flourished with the founding of the Greek colony of Marseille. Regions in the south were licensed by the Roman Empire to produce wines. St. Martin of Tours (316-397) was actively engaged in both spreading Christianity and planting vineyards. During the Middle Ages, monks maintained vineyards and, more important, wine making knowledge and skills during that often turbulent period. Monasteries had the resources, security, and motivation to produce a steady supply of wine for both celebrating mass and generating income.

During this time the best vineyards were owned by the monasteries and their wine was considered to be superior.  Over time the nobility acquired extensive vineyards. However, the French Revolution led to the confiscation of many of the vineyards owned by the Church and others.

Despite some exports from Bordeaux, until about 1850 most wine in France was consumed locally. People in Paris drank wine from the local vineyards, people in Bordeaux drank Bordeaux, those in Burgundy drank Burgundy, and so on throughout the country. The spread of railroads and the improvement of roads reduced the cost of transportation and dramatically increased exports.

France now produces the most wine by value in the world (although Italy rivals it by volume and Spain has more land under cultivation for wine grapes). Bordeaux wine, Bourgogne wine and Champagne are important agricultural products.

It’s great to get away, I can highly recommend France for its great culture, food and obviously wine!!

 

France is noted for its cosmopolitan, civilized approach to life, combined with great concern for style, fashion and appearances, but generalizations are not without risk, as in other countries.

The French are often perceived as taking a great pride in the national identity and positive achievements of France.

French cuisine is considered to be one of the world’s most refined and elegant styles of cooking. The national cuisine known today has evolved from centuries of social and political change.

France is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of Europe. The production of wine in France has its origins way back to the 6th century BC.

A gîte, is a French holiday home that is available for rent. Gîtes are usually fully-furnished and equipped for self-catering.

Plan and take a break in France, its a great country.

Gites camargue

Gites, Rentals And Holiday Cottages In France – Booking Directly With The Owners Can Avoid Surprises

Hiring a cottage in the country, in another country, can be a perfect way to ensure a calm and relaxing holiday that is really a break from the hassle of everyday life; and there is no country more suited to this than France.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of families or groups of friends flee the cities or even just the climate of northern Europe, and head for a cottage or a country retreat in the relaxing environment of rural France. Some of them have their own place to go to, but the majority do not. For them, it is a matter of choosing a place that has been recommended to them, or just of taking a chance and booking a country cottage somewhere south of the English Channel, in a place that they hope will turn out to be all that it claims. Yet before booking a gite, it is best to know a little bit about the system, and how to get the best results.

In France, country cottages are commonly referred to as “gites”; the old French word literally means just a place to lie down, and the first French “gites” were more or less just that; fairly basic accommodation, where you cand get a roof over your head for a few nights, for a very reasonable price.

In recent years, with the arrival of second-home owners from other parts of France and Europe – led by the British and the Dutch – the gite concept has gone up-market; and as a result, today there is actually a double market for gites, on the one hand fairly cheap and quite simple rural accommodation, and on the other hand fairly elaborately restored country properties, belonging either to people who have retired to rural France, or to absentee owners who have their property managed by people living locally. There are also of course properties in the middle, reasonably priced but nicely restored and in attractive locations.

To manage and promote gites throughout France, there is a large organisation known as the “Gites de France”, which has about 45,000 properties on its registers, and runs a central booking service. However, contrary to popular belief, the “Gites de France” federation is neither “official” nor an obligatory partner for promoting gites on the market. On the contrary, the federation was condemned by the French Monopolies commission (Conseil de la Concurrence) in March 2006 to a fine of ten thousand euros for “abuse of dominant position” in the market.

Obviously therefore, there are plenty of other ways of finding a gite or country cottage in France, rather than working through the Gites de France – and one of the best ways to do this is to book directly with the owners.

In the age of Internet, where an increasing proportion of gite-owners have their own websites providing detailed information on their properties, booking directly has become far easier and less risky than it once was. Indeed, it might even be fair to say that in most cases booking a gite directly with the owner is liable to be one of the safest and surest ways of ensuring a successful holiday – especially when you have had the opportunity to thoroughly check out the property you have chosen.

Private owners renting out their property directly – be they French, British, Dutch or whatever – often live close by, and have their own personal reputations to defend if there should be a problem. Many, if not most, take pride in ensuring that their visitors get a great welcome, for if not, it is they, they owners, who are in the direct firing line. They have no anonymous travel agency, gites organisation or tour operator to hide behind. Remember, bad news travels much faster than good news, and gite owners have every interest in ensuring that no-one starts spreading bad news about their property.

Booking directly

There is a standard tradition in the world of cottage rentals in France. A deposit, usually between 20% and 40% of the rental cost, is required to secure the booking, and the balance is due either a month or so before arrival or on arrival. There is also a standard damage deposit requirement, called in French "la caution" – though there is no fixed rate. Between 200 and 500 Euros is normal. Usually the visitor must deposit this in the form of a cheque which will not be paid in unless required. In some cases a deposit in cash may be easier.

Payment

Few gite owners accept online payment, and those who do, especially if they use online systems, often ask the customer to pay the transaction charges. Some owners will accept cheques in sterling on a UK bank or in Euros on a French bank. When payment is required in Euros, this is no big problem even if – as is probable – you do not have a French chequebook in Euros. European banks have now all adopted the IBAN system, and every bank account in France now has its IBAN number.

Gite owners who do not accept payment in British pounds should be able to provide an IBAN number; it is then a simple matter to instruct your bank to make payment of the required sum to the account indicated. Bank charges on IBAN transfers are low, and even – for transfers between countries in the Euro zone, which includes the Republic of Ireland – normally free.

Most owners will ask visitors to sign a rental contract; this is normal practice, and is generally in the interest of both the owner and the visitor. Clauses in the contract may cover such things as arrival and departure dates, damage liability and cancellation; they may also require the holidaymaker to be personally insured for civil liability – which is something any sensible traveller will have anyway.

There are plenty of ways to find gites directly on the Internet. One is just to key in the word “gites” into Google; another is to go through directories like the Gitelink gites and cottage directory which will lead you directly to individual websites where properties are presented in detail by their owners. Many of the properties in the Gitelink directory are run by British or English-speaking owners; flags in the directory indicate the languages in which they have put up their website.

Whatever part of France you are looking for – or even if you just want to choose an area that is totally unknown to you, you can be sure that there will be plenty of gites or country cottages available. In some areas, such as the Dordogne and Brittany, there is even a glut of properties available to rent, and as long as you are not limited just to the very busiest weeks in August, you should have a good choice. However, France is not limited to just the best known regions of Brittany, the Dordogne and Provence; there are lots of other attractive regions with plenty to offer. What better way to discover them than by booking a gite in the heart of the country, and discovering France from the inside.

By: Alexia Granville

Alexia Granville has lived and worked in France for over twenty years, where she has for a long time lectured on the history and economics of tourism. She has contributed to academic journals on environmental issues and now writes for magazines and websites including the Gitelink.com gite and cottage directory.