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.
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.
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.
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.
Our philosophy at Bel-Air Gites has always been to make sure our guests feel at home by trying to make sure our gites feel like a ‘home-from-home’. We seem to be doing something right because I’m happy to report that we have a lot of returning guests.
Families and groups of friends who come back year after year to stay at Bel-Air Gites. Even though 2020 has been very different because of Covid-19 restrictions, quarantines and subsequent cancellations, we have still had returning guests.
Last week we said ‘Au revoir’ to one of our regulars. As this is their ninth visit, I think we can confidently say that they love staying at Bel-Air Gites. And even left us a wonderful surprise gift and Thank You note.
It’s kind and thoughtful things like this which make everything worthwhile.
Relax and unwind
There are lots of things that make Bel-Air Gites the perfect family-friendly holiday location. Being in the second warmest region in France is a bonus, and our close proximity to long, white sandy beaches is another.
Then there is the abundance and variety of family attractions all within an hour’s drive of Bel-Air. You will find something in the Charente-Maritime to suit everybody, young or old. Activities that are new and exciting adventures. Or tranquil places that will gently help you relax and unwind.
New measures in place for the safety of our guests
Wherever you go on holiday you want it to be relaxing and safe. In France the government, health organisation and tourism departments are continually updating the information and advice for businesses in all areas. But for the hospitality sector, there are specific measures that must be in place to ensure the safety of our guests.
At present hotels, gites, campsites and other types of accommodation are open without restriction across France. However, all accommodation must adhere to the strict health guidelines issued by the government.
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, and 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, and in all our gites. And it’s the reason why we have implemented some changes of our own.
Flexible check-in dates
You can now check-in on any day of the week. This helps you make travel arrangements which fit in with your busy schedules. So you can travel on dates and times that suit you. It also means that we don’t have all our guests checking-in and out on the same days, which is safer for all our guests. We also have a minimum of 24 hours between check-out and check-in for each gite. This gives us plenty of time to do a thorough clean and change-over, with less risk to ourselves and our guests.
The safety of our guests and everyone that works at Bel-Air Gites is our priority, and therefore we must impose some restrictions. We have worked extremely hard to try to ensure that the restrictions do not take away from your enjoyment of your holiday.
In the summer months the pool is our guests’ favourite location, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it. With this in mind, we will now be allocating each gite their own area by the pool, with their own sun loungers. All of the sun loungers will be disinfected every evening, and we will also provide disinfectant for guests to use during the day.
There is a limit of 10 people in the pool area at any one time. So we ask all guests to be mindful of other guests, who might be waiting to use the pool. And please make sure that you take all of your belongings – toys, inflatables and pool towels – back to your gite.
Toys and Games
Unfortunately the Play Barn will remain closed for the foreseeable future. This is because we do not feel that we can guarantee that all games, toys and surfaces can be thoroughly disinfected every night, and during the day. However, each gite will have their own box of DVDs and games which can be used for the duration of the holiday.
The playground and trampoline are still open, and it is up to parents to decide if their children can use them or not. The equipment will be disinfected every evening, and and we will also provide disinfectant for guests to use during the day.
Obviously there are restrictions in place for all businesses and you need to bear this in mind when you are planning your days out. Cafes, bars and restaurants are open and everybody must comply with the social distancing measures in place. Wearing a mask is compulsory in enclosed public spaces for anyone aged 11 and over. And you must use the hand-gels provided.
If you are planning to travel on public transport you shouldn’t have any problems, as long as you follow the guidelines and wear a mask. Trains, buses, trams and all the stations have safety measures in place to protect members of the public and their staff.
So I’m sure you will agree that wherever you go in France you will be safe. And there is nowhere that you will feel safer than here at Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime.
If you still have questions about your stay here with us then get in touch. Because at Bel-Air Gites we want to assure you that the safety of our guests is really important to us. Just ask. We are here to help.