Update: sadly for 2020 the traditional Les Mathes Halloween Market cannot be held. But the spooky spirit of the market still lives on. And the Mairie of the town wants you to help out.
You can still go and take pictures of yourself and the children, wearing your disguises and fancy dress. The town council has set up a haunted chalet especially to set the scene on October 31st. They want everyone to enter into the spirit of Halloween and share the photos on social media to recognise the good work of the commune.
Share your scary photos
You can send your photos to the following email address : email@example.com
Or share them on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) with the hashtag #halloweenauxmathes
Health and Safety rules require that everyone from the age of 11 will have to wear masks for this event.
Even if you can’t attend the Les Mathes Halloween Market, we hope you have a Spooktacular Halloween and that you all stay safe and well. We look forward to welcoming you back to Bel-Air Gites in 2021. All the best fun family holidays happen here in the Charente-Maritime.
At the mouth of the Gironde estuary, off the coast of Royan, sits the famous Cordouan Lighthouse. Built between 1584 and 1611 it is the oldest working lighthouse in France.
Built on a rocky plateau visible at low tide and surrounded by sandbanks, the Cordouan lighthouse can only be accessed by boat. It stands almost 70 metres tall, at the point where the Gironde Estuary flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
You can visit the Cordouan Lighthouse from April to November and your guides are the lighthouse keepers of this extraordinary building. It’s not an activity for the faint-hearted though and allow at least half a day for your outing. The boat trip takes approximately 45 minutes with cruises leaving from Verdon and Royan. It will drop you off as close to the lighthouse as possible, and then you have a 10-minute walk to actually reach the building itself.
Access to the site depends on the tides, and departure times for the cruises are regularly updated. We also recommend you wear appropriate clothing for the outing because sometimes the water can rise to mid-thigh level during the last 10-minutes’ walking.
Once inside the guide takes you through the various different levels. From the Girondins hall, through to the royal chapel with it’s stunning stained-glass windows. You will also get to see inside the royal apartment. But nothing can prepare you for the breath-taking view at the top of the 311 steps. The impressive view over land and sea is one of the most spectacular in the whole of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
If you have not been able to go to the king of lighthouses, or if you want to find out more, there is a museum at the ‘Pointe du Grave’. It holds a collection of plans, models and documents telling the story of Cordouan, as well as other lighthouses and beacons in the area.
Bel-Air Gites is only a 45 minute drive to the nearest cruise company in Royan, so if you are planning to visit the lighthouse then you won’t be away from your holiday home-from-home for too long. And when you get back you can relax in our large heated pool, or chill out on your private patio.
Every year the resort of Châtelaillon-Plage kicks off the tourist season in April with the International Kite and Wind Festival. There are three days of shows on the main beach with something for the whole family. And as it’s only an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites we definitively recommend you add at least one day at the festival on your holiday planner.
The unmissable events that make this international festival so popular include free flying, night flying and kite-making contests. There are also regular demonstrations provided by kiting enthusiasts and you can learn basic kite-flying at the Kite School. There are plenty of activities for children of all ages, but even if you don’t want to take part there is lots to see. All kinds and sizes of kites way up high, plus sand buggy kites, and kite surfing.
If kites aren’t quite your thing, there are water sports and other beach activities going on too. Even introductory flights in a hot air balloon. Now that would be a great holiday story to tell all your friends wouldn’t it?
All year round
Chatelaillon Plage is popular with families all year round. And in addition to the many annual events there’s also an aquatics centre with five indoor and outdoor pools, and water slides. It’s heated too so can be used even when the weather is on the cool side. For the toddlers there is a dedicated paddling pool and play area.
Bring your own
If you just want to chill out at Bel-Air Gites, why not bring your own kite here? We have plenty of space for the kids to run around and play in our gardens. Maybe they can make their own and have a kite and wind festival with the new friends they will make here on holiday.
Whatever you decide, one thing is for sure, you will make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime when you stay with us at Bel-Air Gites.
World Tourism Day is on September 27th. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just close our eyes, click our fingers and immediately be transported to our favourite holiday destination? Where would you go?
What is World Tourism Day?
The motivation behind the United Nations creating World Tourism Day in 1979 was to spread awareness about the importance of tourism. And to spread recognition of the tourism industry in terms of its impact on the social, cultural, political, and financial factors for each country. All over the world, even in the most remote places, tourism and hospitality industries create jobs. So we think it’s a great initiative.
Every year has a different host country and a different theme. In 2020, the host country is Djibouti and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. And the theme this year is ‘Tourism – building peace and fostering knowledge’.
What can you do to celebrate?
Travelling and seeing new places is good for our minds. If you’ve been putting off your holidays, use World Tourism Day as an opportunity to make plans for your next vacation. Talk to friends and family who have always wanted to travel, but have never been able to plan a trip. Or they have been putting it off because they don’t know where to go.
“Life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it, the better.”
If you want to make wonderful family memories then look no further than Bel-Air Gites. It’s what we do best. Our guests always tell us that they never want the holiday to end.
Relaxation has to be the most important part of any holiday, especially for the adults. You want to be able to relax doing something that you love. Whether that’s playing golf, walking, fishing, swimming or just putting your feet up. You can find all of the above activities within short driving distance of Bel-Air Gites.
All taken care of
At Bel-Air Gites we take care of everything.
Within the grounds we have created a safe environment for children of all ages to have fun and create happy memories. With a large playground full of swings, a slide, a climbing frame, trampoline and tunnels. And a large, heated outdoor pool that is fenced in and securely gated so your little ones can’t get in or out unsupervised. That is one less thing for you to worry about.
At Bel-Air gites we have years of experience in providing child-friendly, fun-filled family holidays. So when you close your eyes and click your fingers, just wish you were here.
This year we are looking forward to another wonderful autumn in France. It’s a fantastic season for the senses. Sights, sounds and smells that you can only associate to the end of summer. Leaves changing colour from green to red, gold and brown, rustling in the wind and tumbling slowly to the ground. And the smell of fragrant wood smoke and the crackling of bonfires.
In the Charente-Maritime late September is still relatively warm. This year in particular we have had lots of lovely dry days. The nights are drawing in quickly, but even they are not cold, and we have had our windows open to let in a gentle breeze.
Soon we will be saying ‘au revoir’ to our last guests and starting to prepare the gites and gardens for the winter. Even when we have nobody staying with us there is still a long list of tasks to keep us busy.
In Europe autumn this year ‘officially’ starts on the 22nd September, but nature doesn’t work by the same calendar. Already we are seeing the swallows and swifts gathering to fly south. Their journey will take them thousands of miles to Africa because even the mild winters are too cold. There aren’t many insects around for them to feed on, so that’s another good reason for them to get away for a few months.
Because autumn in France, around the Charente-Maritime is still warm we try and make the most of it. It’s still pleasant enough to be outdoors, and to take the chill off as it gets cooler, we light the barbecue. Winter is only officially here when it’s too cold stand around the barbecue toasting marshmallows.
Precious family time
Autumn is also a time when we look back on the summer months and start thinking about Christmas and planning next year’s holiday. 2020 has not been great, but hopefully next year we will all to get to spend precious time with family and friends. Video-calling is fine, but it doesn’t replace the personal touch, and the warm hugs and kisses that make us all feel loved.
So, if you are thinking about getting together for a well-earned holiday next year, why not bring family and friends to Bel-Air Gites? We have lots of accommodation and loads of great spaces for the children and grown-ups. And in our child-friendly gites we provide everything you need so that you don’t need to bring it all with you. That might just give you enough room to squeeze another person in the car.
Situated on a rocky peak overlooking the Charente River, the village of Taillebourg has a rich historical and architectural heritage. The area, including the chateau park, is also a protected natural environment.
Visitors to Taillebourg go to explore it’s medieval history and visit the remains of the early 11th century castle. They can also to take in the amazing panoramic views over the Charente River. But you will discover so much more if you dig deep into Taillebourg’s long and eventful past.
The village is just 45 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites. If you are interested in history, ancient ruins and fierce battles, then it’s well worth a trip out. Or if you want to try a new water sport, then the village of Taillebourg can provide that as well.
The region around Taillebourg can trace its presence back to the Paleolithic ages, around 10,000 years BC.
Due to its position high on the rocks overlooking the river, it’s been the site of many invasions. As far back as the 5th century BC it was occupied by Celtic invaders. With Roman and German settlers after that. In 770 the first fortress was built to guard the region. Shortly afterwards the Normans attempted to take over the fortress, but were finally defeated by the local inhabitants in 865.
In the centuries that followed, battles continued to take place in and around the region as invaders tried to take over this strategic fortress. Ownership of the land changed from French to English, and back to French again due to the marriages of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
One of the most important battles fought here was the Battle of Taillebourg in 1242. It began on the bridge over the Charente River, and continued in Saintes, where the English were finally defeated.
Nowadays the village of Taillebourg is definitely a lot quieter. The only invaders are those of the tourist kind. Biodiversity is the key word, and this peaceful environment consists of undulating meadows, forests and marshlands. Since 2004 Taillebourg has been a Natura 2000 Site and protects around 20 species of rare birds.
The Charente River is no longer a battle ground, but an area teeming with fantastic water-based activities for adults and children. And the Nautic Club of Taillebourg has prime position.
The club offers a range of sporting activities suitable for 3 to 93 year olds! They have qualified instructors on hand to teach you in water-skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing and slalom.
Check out their website for prices, booking conditions and availability.
Create new experiences, and make wonderful memories on your next holiday.
The ‘Train des Mouettes’, or the Seagull Train has been travelling the route between Saujon and La Tremblade since 1876. The idea was to attract bathers to the beaches at Royan. So tickets were offered at discount prices, valid only for the weekend. Back in the 1800’s, the steam train brought thousands of new visitors to the resort.
Although the line was closed for many years, visitors today can enjoy a nostalgic trip onboard a steam train. Even in 2020, this wonderful train journey is a major tourist attraction, loved by adults and children of all ages.
One of the most beautiful villages in France
The Train des Mouettes is a wonderful experience to enjoy with family and friends. Your train ticket is valid for a day and includes several stops to explore on the route. Villages including Saujon, Chaillevette and La Trembalde. And Mornac sur Seudre, which is ranked amongst the 100 most beautiful villages in France.
Train times vary throughout the year, and you should book tickets in advance on the website. They even have a Market Train so that you can take the steam train and shopping at La Tremblade market. What a wonderful story to tell your friends about your holiday in France.
Attractions en route
There are lots of things to see and do on your train trip, with different attractions on the route. As well as the railway museum at Mornac, there are Oyster farms and Grandmother’s Hut at La Tremblade. And a wide variety of shops, cafes and restaurants along the way. There is even a brewery at Arvert.
And for Bel-Air Gites guests you’ll be pleased to know the starting point at Saujon is only 30 minutes away.
Work on the railway for a day
If you or someone you know is a real enthusiastic, why not spend a day working on the railway? Ride the engine from Chaillevette station and back,and learn how it all works. At Bel-Air Gites that’s what we would call a making wonderful memories. And we should know, because we are the experts in providing great holidays, and fantastic family memories.
Everyone in France is talking about cheese. You might not think that is unusual, seeing as the French are well-known for their love of cheese. But this is one particular type of cheese. It’s not available throughout the whole year, which is why everyone is trying to get their hands on it. The Mont d’Or cheese is so special, it has it’s own season which runs from September 10th until May.
Mont d’Or is a seasonal cows’ milk cheese that can only be produced from August 15th to March 31st. It is made in France and Switzerland, and is packaged in round spruce boxes, similar to Camembert.
When it is fully ripe after two to three months, the crust of the cheese surrounds a gooey-textured cheese that has a mild, sweet, creamy taste. Because it’s so soft it’s traditionally eaten with a spoon. However, we think it is just perfect for dunking in a warm fresh baguette.
“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”
Charles de Gaulle, in “Les Mots du General”, 1962
It’s difficult to find up to date statistics about cheese, but in France they produce around 400 different varieties, with numerous variations. Nobody knows for sure, but if you can find out please let me know. I wonder what Charles de Gaulle would have to say about that.
The typical French person will eat around 26 kg of cheese a year. Again this is just an estimate, but why not, if there is so much choice? In the UK the cheese course is usually ‘optional’. However, here in France it’s nearly always included, even at lunch time, and it’s served before the dessert.
Mont d’Or cheese is available in the bigger supermarkets, but if you want the freshest, tastiest cheeses then we recommend buying some from the local farmer’s markets. Not only will you pick up some great local produce, but we think the market is probably one of the most authentic French experiences you could ever find.
But don’t just take our word for it. Come and find out for yourself. Our child-friendly accommodation is popular with families, and groups of friends holidaying together. We have already started taking bookings for 2021, so don’t leave it too long.
How many people can say that they didn’t have a teddy as their favourite childhood friend? I’m sure there won’t be too many. They are a popular ‘newborn baby’ gift, and with lots of love, and careful washing they can last a lifetime. So let’s celebrate Teddy Bear Day and remember our favourite cuddly teddy bears, past and present.
History of the Teddy Bear
Teddy bears can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, and the United States President Teddy Roosevelt. Apparently the President was asked to kill a bear that had been captured and tied up. However, he decided it wasn’t very ‘sportsmanlike’ to kill the bear himself, so ordered his assistants to put the animal out of its misery.
People became fascinated with the story, and in particular Morris Michtom. He created a small black bear and sent it to the President with a note asking if he could name it ‘Teddy’s Bear’. After getting permission from Mr Roosevelt he began to manufacture the bears, and they became an instant success. And that is how the Teddy Bear story begins.
However, nobody knows quite when Teddy Bear Day started. Most people believe it to be 2002. That would’ve been around the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Teddy Bear. So it sounds feasible to us, and at Bel-Air Gites we are just happy to have a reason to celebrate.
How to Celebrate
All you really need to celebrate Teddy Bear Day is your favourite bear. It doesn’t matter if it is the one you loved as a child, or if you bought it last week. Spend the day watching TV with it or simply hug it. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate.
Here at Bel-Air Gites, the September days are still warm so it’s perfect weather for a picnic. So why not book your next summer holiday with Bel-Air Gites and make every day a celebration?
A parachute jump with breathtaking views of the French Atlantic Coast
For the thrill-seekers amongst you, how do you fancy a parachute jump over the Charente-Maritime? Experience the sensation of free-falling whilst taking in the breathtaking views over the Marennes Basin and Ile d’Oleron.
Based less than an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites, at the Marennes aerodrome near Ile d’Oleron, is the Big Air Skydiving school. It’s a professional parachute school located on the French Atlantic Coast. You will have sensational views of the sea and the islands during the flight and as you free-fall safely back to solid ground.
If you haven’t done this before then you literally won’t be alone. For first-timers you are on a tandem parachute jump, which means you are safely connected to an experienced, professional member of the Big Air Parachute team. From the smooth take-off to your safe, controlled landing, they are with you all the way. Then, once you have landed you can go and share this unforgettable experience with your friends and family.
And if they don’t believe you, just show them the video of your spectacular parachute jump.
Who can do it?
Almost anyone can experience a tandem parachute jump. However, there are some age and weight restrictions, and parents have to give their permission for under 18’s to take part.
Although a medical certificate is not compulsory between the ages of 18 and 55, it is if you are under 18 or over 55. And insurance is included in the total price. You can check out all the details on the Big Air website.
So when Bel-Air Gites says you will have a fantastic family holiday and make unforgettable memories, now do you believe us?
The Charente-Maritime is an incredible region, with an amazing range of family attractions and beautiful, historical locations to explore.