Bel-Air Gites is a small family-run business and our family live onsite all year round. We fully understand how important it is to ensure that your family and friends are safe during your time here. That is why we want to reassure you that we strictly follow the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the French government. It is also the reason we have come up with our new ‘Exclusive Use’ offer for 2021.
What is ‘Exclusive Use’?
This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we are introducing a new holiday package, aimed at giving you some peace of mind during these difficult times. With our new ‘Exclusive Use’ package you can hire both of our large family gites, that can accommodate up to 13 people. You will have exclusive use of the gite complex, including the gardens, children’s play areas and our huge outdoor pool with sun loungers. We guarantee that no other guests will be booked in to any other accommodation for the same dates. In addition, we will provide hand sanitiser sprays and cleaning products around the complex, and in the gites for your added protection.
Peace of mind
For just €2600 per week you can stay in our two family gites, Châtaigniers and Chouette ,with full unlimited access to all our fantastic family facilities. This will give you total peace of mind, and a wonderful time shared with your loved ones. Our special package is only available by booking direct with Bel-Air Gites. Availability is limited due to already confirmed bookings, so call us now to check availability and get a great deal.
At Bel-Air Gites we care a great deal about all our family, friends and guests who come out to visit us every year. And we understand that the ongoing press reports and COVID-19 variations are a cause for concern which is why we want to keep you up to date with the latest travel advice. We are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation across various websites for advice on travelling in and around Europe.
Since the beginning of the year the UK is no longer a member of the European Union (EU) which means that, even without the Covid issues, there would be different rules for travelling. In addition, because of the rising number of cases of COVID particularly across Europe, all countries have imposed stricter travel restrictions to try and contain the spread of the virus.
We would like to reassure everyone that’s already booked their summer holidays with Bel-Air Gites, and all those who have made enquiries, that we are still open for business and taking bookings for summer 2021. Obviously if the situation changes then we will contact all concerned parties to discuss any new or existing bookings. We encourage all our guests to purchase the necessary insurance when they make any arrangements for travelling. This year it is vitally important that your travel insurance covers you for cancellations. And your car insurance also needs to cover European travel for the full period that you are staying and travelling in Europe.
Remember to bring your driving licence, log book (V5C) and valid insurance documents if you are taking your own car. You will need to contact your insurer six weeks before you travel to get a green card that will prove you have insurance.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
If you are planning a holiday in a country in the European Union (EU), and you already have a valid EHIC, then the card can still be used until it’s expiry date. The EHIC covers you for medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident in any EU country where the scheme is accepted.
What is the GHIC?
If you don’t have a valid EHIC card then you can apply for the newGlobal Heath Insurance Card (GHIC). This replaces the EHIC for the majority of UK citizens. Only apply for the card on official government sites. It’s free but some unofficial sites may charge you. The GHIC can take a couple of weeks to come through so make sure you apply in plenty of time.
Your current passport will be valid as long as it is less than 10 years old and has six months left before it runs out. If your passport is due to run out then make sure you apply in plenty of time before your holiday start date.
If you are travelling from the UK then sadly you can no longer use EU fast-track passport control and customs lanes. Also, when you arrive in an EU country you should be prepared to show your return ticket. So keep all your documents close at hand.
Safety of our guests
The health and safety of our guests has always been – and always will be – one of our highest priorities. At Bel-Air Gites we want you and your family to enjoy your holiday. We also want you feel safe whilst you are here. This is why we provide lots of Covid-19 travel advice and information when you make a booking. There is also detailed information about the French COVID-19 rules in all our gites. And in addition we have implemented some changes of our own, including flexible check-in dates, and allocated areas.
If you have any concerns about travelling this summer, please get in touch with us. Alternatively, you can go to the following websites for up-to-date travel advice.
If only we were lucky enough to have a view like this from our living room window. I could happily sit and watch the waves everyday. We might not live on the beach but we do have lots of beautiful, white sandy beaches on our doorstep. It’s one of the reason we chose Bel-Air Gites as our home, because even just a couple of hours on the beach gives us an energy boost, whatever the weather.
Sound of the sea
At present, in the latest COVID-19 restrictions for our area, the beaches are not out of bounds but they are wonderfully quiet. Even in the peak season, our nearest one, Barzan Plage, is not busy and it’s lovely to just stroll along listening to the sound of the sea. When we’re feeling energetic we walk from there to Talmont-sur-Gironde and back, just to take in the view from Eglise Sainte-Radegonde, on the top of the cliff.
Where would you go?
So what would be your ideal location? If you could live anywhere you wanted would it be in a city, or by the sea? A huge mansion with it’s own golf course, or self-sufficient and living off the land? But then where would you escape to on holiday? Perhaps somewhere with beaches, ancient churches and beautiful chateaux. Water sports and woodland walks, hiking and cycling trails, golf courses and fishing – lots of activities for all the family. Well then, you must be thinking of escaping to the Charente-Maritime because we have got all of that, and much much more.
We all need to have something to look forward to and with the COVID-19 vaccinations progressing well across Europe, we should all be feeling a little more confident that things will soon be getting back to normal. We are busy making plans, and so are some of our previous guests, who have already booked to stay this summer. So if you are planning a trip to France this year why not come and stay at Bel-Air Gites? We are child-friendly, family-friendly and COVID-secure.
And if you book now a low 10% deposit will secure your booking for your best ever family holiday! Think of those fantastic BBQs on your own private patio. Your own sunbeds by the pool, spacious gardens for the kids to play in and lots of amazing family attractions close by. Pay your low deposit now to secure your reservation, and then pay the balance 8 weeks before the start of your holiday. Rest assured that we will be totally flexible with all bookings if there are any further changes in the COVID situation. If you are worried at all about booking now, just give us a call and we will talk it through with you.
Everything you need
Here at Bel-Air Gites we understand how important it is for you to get away from the everyday stresses and strains of daily life. That’s why we provide everything you need to make your stay with us as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
Like most people, once Christmas is over then it’s sale time. Travel agents, ferry companies and budget airlines – you can grab some great deals for your favourite holiday destination if you act fast. And if you are staying at Bel-Air Gites you can literally plan to escape on holiday at The Escape Place. It’s only 10 minutes from our family gites complex and has been getting really good reviews.
Enter the heart of an enclosed, mysterious space and try to escape by finding the key to the puzzles.
The Escape Place is accessible to all, although it could be difficult for anyone with restricted mobility. With teams of 3 to 6 people (children and adults allowed) you have an hour to escape. Test your thinking skills and your team spirit in two unique indoor historical adventures! They also have quad bikes if you prefer an outdoor adventure, and these are available all-year round. The quad route takes you between vineyards and the estuary so the whole family can make some great memories.
Walk through the door, and live a unique historical experience in total immersion!
You will need to check out the T&Cs on their website because there are some restrictions. But if you want to make some wonderful memories what better way to do it than with team work. There are three different adventures to choose from to test your thinking skills to solve all the clues. Will you be able to find the secret documents?
Relax and Unwind
After a hectic day solving puzzles or exploring the countryside, what better way to unwind than in the pool? Our large swimming pool at Bel-Air Gites is the perfect place to chill out. Grab a book, sit back and watch the kids playing in the water. Or join in the fun, and make the most of all the toys and games we provide. Everything is included so you can enjoy your holiday, and not have to bring it all with you.
We are confident that we have thought of everything, but if there is something you need, just get in touch. We will try and ensure that whatever you need is available exclusively for you for the length of your stay.
Continuing with our Bel-Air Gites and Charente-Maritime Events Diary, we are moving into the sensational summer months. There is always a fantastic and varied calendar of events for locals and visitors to the region from July to September. Adults and children of all ages will find something to entertain them in the Charente-Maritime.
Let’s get started
First up is July. The weather in the region is hot but not stifling. When you’re at Bel-Air if it gets too hot for you or the kids then you can take a cool dip in the pool, or step into our amazing play barn. If you are out and about then there are several indoor events that you might be interested in.
July in La Rochelle – a month of films, music and song. This historic port town plays host to several festivals in the summer. It’s buzzing with keen film-goers, musicians and singers. During the International Film Festival there is a high-quality programme of events, including some open-air screenings. It’s a gathering for films, filmmakers, actors, professionals, the press and the public.
If music is more your thing then check out the ‘Francofolies festival‘. The music programme runs for 5 days from Saturday 10th July to Wednesday 14th in a variety of open air concerts, churches and theatres. If you can’t make it next year, don’t worry. This festival has been running since 1984 and has a fantastic following.
French National Day
Celebrated everywhere in France on July 14th, outside of France it’s commonly known as Bastille Day. It was a little subdued in 2020, but we’re expecting bigger and better events for 2021, so don’t miss out. Celebrations take place in most towns in France, and dinners and military ceremonies during the day, and firework displays at night.
Tour de France
Another major event impacted by COVID-19, Le Tour was postponed from July to late August in 2020. It will no doubt be the biggest of the summer events 2021 with an estimated 10 million spectators of all ages gather by the roadside to cheer on the racers. In 2020 some of the stages were right on the doorstep of Bel-Air Gites, but sadly we didn’t attend. Next year, stages 19 and 20 are the closest, about 90 minutes drive away at Libourne and Saint Emilion.
Book now for Summer 2021
So if you are planning your next family holiday look no further than Bel-Air family friendly gites in the Charente-Maritime. Get in touch now to check prices and availability because we are booking up fast. We look forward to welcoming you and your family and friends to Bel-Air Gites.
If ever we needed a glass of mulled wine, twinkling lights on a Christmas tree and carol-singers on the doorstep, it would be now! Winter is finally upon us. There’s a definite drop in temperature, more rain, shorter days, and long dark nights. We are all feeling a little bit sluggish at Bel-Air Gites, so we have been looking at ways to banish the winter blues. And we are going to do this by looking and planning ahead.
Ready to hibernate
None of us can really justify hibernating for 4 months until springtime, so we will have to get active. We need to find ways to push through the ‘winter blues’, and not dwell on the events of 2020. Even though Christmas is just around the corner, we are looking ahead to the New Year more than ever before. Our plans for Christmas are all in hand so we will (hopefully) avoid unnecessary stress. Christmas dinner is all planned out, and the presents have been bought and wrapped. This year we might even find time to relax over the holidays, and read a book or watch a film.
Keep in touch
Not seeing loved ones can have a negative impact but thanks to modern technology it’s easy to stay in touch. Social time spent virtually with friends and family has helped remind us that people are thinking of us. And what better time to speak to people than over Christmas, especially as some people may still be self-isolating.
One thing that works to banish the winter blues, for us anyway, is to start planning. The garden doesn’t need much work in the winter, but it doesn’t mean we can forget about it. So when we open our gates to guests next year it’s not just the gites that have to be in tip-top condition. It’s the gardens, pool and children’s play areas too. Because we would hate to disappoint any of our returning regulars and new guests. We have a few little changes in the pipeline as well, so make sure you keep a close eye on our website and Facebook page.
Think Sunshine and Bel-Air Gites
To help banish the winter blues and get you thinking about the summer sun, here’s a little reminder of what you can find in and around Bel-Air Gites.
Since the beginning of November we have been bombarded with Black Friday deals, Christmas sales and online shopping bargains. And they have all helped to take our mind off being in and out of confinement. But now, there is talk about vaccines, and spending time together over the holidays. People are beginning to sound a bit more positive, and some have even asked “are you planning your summer holiday yet?”
What’s on around Bel-Air
For so many businesses, including ours, 2020 meant putting life on hold. We have had several months when we weren’t allowed to open, and even when we did, it was with some trepidation. So we have gone above and beyond the recommended government guidelines to ensure that our guests and staff at Bel-Air were completely safe whilst they were here.
While we’re still in lockdown in France we have been planning our Bel-Air Gites summer family holidays. But not for us. We are checking out what’s going on around Bel-Air for our lovely guests.
And here’s a list of just a few events planned in and around Royan starting in April 2021.
Royan Events Diary
April – Kite & Wind Festival – three days of shows on the beach for the whole family. The ever expanding festival includes aerial displays which will enthral adults and children alike. Each year the festival unfolds along the length of the beach and welcomes regional, national and even international kite flyers and visitors. This is always top of our list because it’s free to watch all the displays, but there are also sessions where you can learn how to fly a kite, water sports and even flights in a hot air balloon. If you can’t get away for the summer then why not plan a holiday earlier in the year?
May – European Museum Night– there are several online events throughout the year. But in May, normally the closest Saturday to May 18th, museums all across European open for the night, free of charge. According to TripAdvisor there are 57 museums in the Charente-Maritime so there is plenty of choice!
Warming up for summer
June – Rendez-vous aux Jardins – The first weekend of June over 2,000 public and private gardens are open to the public. There are guided tours, exhibitions and gardening workshops for adults and children.
Each new edition focuses on a theme relating to knowledge, protection, conservation and gardening: “the child in the garden”, “the stroll”, or “colours”.
Artists and music-lovers of all ages gather all over France, and now all over the world, to perform free of charge every year. It’s an unmissable summer event in the French people’s social calendar. So make sure you don’t miss it – wherever you are.
Just for starters
These are a few, just to start you thinking. If you can get away earlier then your travel costs might just be a little less expensive. So why not check them out, and see if you can’t bag yourself a bargain flight or a cheap ferry crossing? You can even use our Bel-Air Gites Holiday Planner to list your favourite events.
For most English-speaking countries, except the U.S and Canada, we sometimes call big chewier biscuits ‘cookies’ and the smaller crunchy biscuits would be, well.. just ‘biscuits’. But we are not going to argue over terminology when there is a special day for celebrating a good, chunky choc chip cookie. So on December 4th let’s all celebrate Cookie Day!
Different shapes and sizes
Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and they’re really easy to bake. So easy that even the kids can join in. And what could be more fun than making some lovely biscuity treats with your children? Eating them of course!
Here in France we have some lovely, moreish, crispy cookies, like Crêpes Dentelles, which means ‘lace crepes’. They are very thin crepes with have been folded over, so you have a deliciously thin, layered crunchy texture. They were invented over 200 years ago in Brittany by Marie-Catherine Cornie. She developed a secret recipe for making the paper thin crepes, but luckily it isn’t a secret any more. So now you can find artisans all over France who specialize in making crêpes dentelles.
Another favourite of ours is Langue de Chat. These are small, thin, crispy French cookies and you can get them dipped in chocolate for extra scrumptiousness. Or flavoured with lemon, orange or vanilla. Langue de Chat means ‘cat’s tongue’.
It’s probably where the saying comes from ‘has the cat got your tongue?’ when someone is very quiet or doesn’t answer a question
These French biscuits come in three layers – a soft, Genoise sponge base, a jelly filling, and a thin chocolate layer on the top. It’s a delicious blend and a Genoise Sandwich is lovely with afternoon tea.
Speculoos are a crunchy dark brown cookies that originated in northern France and Belgium. They are flavoured with cinnamon and and taste like caramel because of the special dark brown sugar that’s used, called vergeoise brune. These biscuits are delicious with coffee, which is why you will find them served in cafes all over the world. There is also a famous brand of ice cream that makes a whole range of speculoo-flavoured ice cream treats. And they’re very, very difficult to resist!
Image credit – Jonathan Taylor on Unsplash
Bake a Cookie Day 18th December
So there’s also Bake Cookie Day this month as well. So on the 4th we can just choose to eat our favourite cookie or biscuits. But on the 18th December, you can’t put it off any longer, and you have to bake some cookies. And in case you are stuck for ideas, here’s a few simple cookie recipes that all the family will enjoy making and eating.
A cuppa and a cookie
A biscuit and a brew. Same thing but different. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious. So sit down with your favourite biscuit or cookie and put your feet up. And while you are relaxing and thinking about where to go, when travel restrictions and lockdown are a thing of the past, remember Bel-Air Gites. Your favourite family holiday destination and all those great memories. Do you remember that wonderful pool, the play barn, and the playground that kept the kids totally entertained all holiday? So what are you waiting for?
If you had to choose just one favourite French pastry then what would it be?
December 9th is Pastry Day so this calls for a celebration! But there are so many to choose from this is going to be a very difficult decision. And it doesn’t help that the patisserie window is always such a beautiful, eye-catching display of gateaux and French pastry. Perhaps we need a French Pastry Week. What do you think?
It takes a tremendous amount of effort to pass a boulangerie or patisserie, especially early in the morning. Because that’s when the rainbow-coloured pastries on display are supported by the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread.
List of the Best French Pastries
You’ll never know the real taste of France, until you have tried at least one of each of these pastries.
This is just a small selection of some of Bel-Air Gites’ favourites, in no particular order. Each one has it’s own delicious merits so as far as we are concerned they are all at Number 1.
Éclair au Chocolat – I don’t know how the French manage to make this amazing moist filling that creates such an overall deep chocolatey sensation. The icing starts to melt in your mouth as soon as you take the first bite. (My mouth is watering already, and we have only just started the list!) Some patisseries also make a coffee version, which I’m told is equally as good, but personally I prefer my coffee in a cup rather than a cake.
Gateau St. Honoré– named after the patron saint of French bakers and pastry chefs. Small profiteroles are dipped in sugar and attached to the top of the circle. This base is traditionally filled with crème chiboust and finished with whipped cream using a special St. Honoré piping tip.
Mille-Feuille – You might know a slightly different version as a vanilla slice. But the French version, sometimes called a Napoleon, is even more delicious. It has extra layers of buttery pastry, vanilla pastry cream and a thin layer of smooth icing on the top.
Paris-Brest – A sandwich cake made of two round wheels with lots of thick coffee cream inside, and slivers of peanut on the top. Apparently it got it’s name from the bike race between Paris and Brest, because the gateau is shaped like a wheel.
Tarte au citron – For all the lemon-flavour lovers out there. This is a crunchy pastry basket full of amazingly zingy soft lemon filling. A bit like a lemon meringue pie, but without the meringue! There’s also a Tarte Chocolat – Same as the citron, but with a soft gooey rich chocolatey paste. And who can resist a crunchy Tarte Tatin – an open apple tart, it’s baked pastry side up and then flipped over before serving.
Macarons – All colours and tastes. Probably the French pastry that’s most popular with our Bel-Air Gites guests because macarons are nicely boxed and travel well. Assuming they make it back! Strawberry, mango, pistachio, chocolate – you name it, you can get it. There are more combinations than you can possibly imagine. It’s probably why they’re are so popular.
Bake and Stay?
Why not have a go at making your own macarons? Send us some photos, or better still, bring a few with you next time you come and stay at Bel-Air Gites.
Every year wine-lovers around the world wait patiently for November. This is the month when they can celebrate the release of that world-famous wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01am on the third Thursday of every November. And (in normal circumstances) there are parties all over France, and in other countries, celebrating it’s release with fireworks, dancing and music.
It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!
The Beaujolais vineyards cover an area of approximately 22,500 hectares and 12 different quality wine-producing areas, or ‘appellations’. So not surprisingly, there will be a lot of celebrating going on. There are around 120 Beaujolais Nouveau related festivals held in the Beaujolais region every year.
The most famous of these is Les Sarmentelles, held in the town of Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Starting on the eve of Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the five-day festival includes wine tasting (obviously), live music and dancing. During the afternoon on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, there are wines and local foods to sample. There is also a tasting competition featuring all twelve ‘appellations’ of Beaujolais. The prize for the winner is his or her weight in Beaujolais-Villages wine. Later on in the evening, a torch lit parade honours the farmers that made the wine. Then at midnight fireworks mark the official release of the new Beaujolais wine, and the revellers drink until dawn. It’s guaranteed to be a festive atmosphere!
The race is on
In November 1951, the ‘Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais’ (UIVB) formally set the release date. Marketing of the wine capitalised on it’s fast distribution. So the race was on to see who could get the first bottles to Paris. In the 1960s, English clubs rewarded the drivers who returned the quickest and with the most wine. And so it continued. There was more and more media coverage, until by the 1970s it became a national event. Legend has it that some of the transport used to carry the wine included an elephant, a hot-air balloon and Concorde.
Because of all the marketing attention it became necessary to review the shipping date. Eventually, in 1985, the date was changed to the third Thursday in November to take advantage of marketing it the following weekend. Nowadays, the wine is sent to retailers a few days ahead of the release date, with strict instructions not to sell it until 12.01am on the third Thursday.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine, made from the Gamay grape and bottled 6–8 weeks after harvest. The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins. However, unlike other wines it is not one that improves with age, so it is best for immediate drinking. Serve it slightly chilled at around 13 °C (55 °F).
We might not have Beaujolais on our Bel-Air Gites doorstep, but we do have an equally wonderful variety of wines and spirits, and delicious local dishes. Food-wise there are so many fantastic Charentais specialities you will be spoilt for choice. Take your pick from oysters, éclade (smoked mussels with pine needles), chaudrée (fish soup), or galette charentaise. Washed down with Cognac or the local Pineau des Charentes.
What are you waiting for? Book your next family holiday with Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime. Make wonderful memories and lots of new friends in 2021.