Château de la Roche Courbon

Château de la Roche Courbon, Saint Porchaire

Less than 45 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites is the very picturesque Château de la Roche Courbon. Built in the 15th century, the chateau stands on top of the original 11th century fort, and prehistoric ruins. The stunning formal gardens, created before the ones at Versailles, make a wonderful setting for the weddings that are held here. For a long time the chateau has been known as the ‘Castle of Sleeping Beauty’. Some even dare to say that the Disney castle is based on designs and pictures of this chateau. Come and see for yourself when it re-opens to the public later this year, with some exciting new activities for all ages. With guided tours, indoor and outdoor games, prehistoric caves, and the occasional re-enactment, it’s sure to be a favourite with our guests.

New activities

The Castle Games, opening in April 2021, take place in 3 different Escape Rooms. These are ‘life-size, action puzzle games’ where you have 60 minutes to escape from a locked room. (Don’t worry, the rooms are monitored by CCTV in case anyone panics or gets upset and needs to leave). The games have been exclusively designed for La Roche-Courbon, and all the themes are based around the castle’s history. Your team’s mission is to solve the different puzzles, find codes, and look for hiding places. So there’s no physical effort involved – just brain power! Outside, the younger children (6+ years) can take part in the new Ladybug Adventure. Solving puzzles to find a hidden chest, and rescuing a colony of trapped ladybirds.

Book online

Access to the chateau, and some of the games, is limited so check the availability and age groups before you go. Tickets allow access to the gardens, ancient games, exhibitions and the ‘PrehistoZen trail’. Guided tours of the chateau (in English & French) are an additional charge.

Back to Bel-Air Gites

Get back to your ‘home-from-home’ holiday gite after an exciting day out, and our large outdoor pool will be tempting you to take a cool dip. Chill out by the pool, or relax with a cold drink on your private patio before lighting up the BBQ. It’s your holiday, so it’s your choice. No strict hotel meal-times. No stressing out trying to find a table. Just total relaxation, and lots of wonderful family holiday memories made at Bel-Air Gites, in the Charente-Maritime. See you soon.

The glorious heated pool

Why friends are so important

friends are so important

Reasons why friends are so important

There is a quote “Whoever has a friend, has a treasure”. I don’t think many people will argue with that. Real friends will look out for you, offer you a shoulder to cry on, and laugh at your jokes (sometimes). Whether you realise it or not, it’s your friends that have helped make you the person you are today. Even some of the ones that you are not friends with any more will have been an influence.

Good for your health

If your group of friends has change a lot throughout your life, then you are quite normal. Because life events, like going to college and getting married, move us around a lot. But whether you have old or new friends, did you know that they are also good for your health? Apparently having a close circle of friends can reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. And during lockdown, you’re less lonely when you have friends, so they’re good for your mental health too.

Help reduce stress

Everyone goes through stressful events at some point in their lives. But if you have got people you can count on, then they will make tough times feel less stressful. And spending time with friends can also help reduce stress. They’ll always be there for you. That sounds like the cue for a song.

Group bookings

Travelling with friends can be great fun. You learn more about them and share new experiences with them. Generally, when you are on holiday with friends you do different things than you do with family. We get lots of groups staying with us at Bel-Air Gites. Some travel here together, whereas others meet here for a regular get-together, or to celebrate a special event. Whatever the reason, group bookings with friends or family – or both! – usually means there’s lots of fun and laughter.

Activities for all ages

Our Charentaise farmhouse and rustic-style gites provide comfortable, ‘home-from-home’ holiday accommodation. It’s the perfect location for families with children of all ages, and we pride ourselves on having created a clean, safe and fun-filled haven for children and toddlers. We also have a brilliant games room, where you’ll find lots of toys, games and activities suitable for adults, as well as children.

Exclusive Use

For 2021 we have also introduced our Exclusive Use package. This is ideal for groups of up to 13 people, and we guarantee no other guests will be booked in to any other accommodation during your stay. So if you want to spend time with your loved ones this summer, book now for summer 2021. We have limited availability left for June and September so call today to check availability, and book your best fun-filled holiday ever.

Book now for 2021

Exclusive Use

New ‘Exclusive Use’ Holiday

Exclusive use deal world tourism day bel-air gites

Keeping safe

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. 

UPDATE : We only have a couple of weeks available in June and September 2021. Call now so you don’t miss out

Summer Holiday Escape

Escape on holiday – literally

escape on holiday grab a sale price
Image credit – Dan Burton Unsplash.com

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!

The Escape Place, Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde
escape on holiday on quad bikes
Escape on holiday on a quad bike!

Wonderful memories

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?

enigma machine

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.

Escape on holiday to Bel-Air Gites this summer

Banish Winter Blues. Think Sunshine and Bel-Air Gites

Banish the Winter Blues

forget the rain and think about the summer

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.

Planning ahead

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.

Book now for 2021

Make 2021 the year to remember – for all the right reasons. A wonderful family holiday, making happy memories that will last a life-time.

Book Bel-Air Gites. Family-friendly holiday accommodation in the Charente-Maritime

Events in Royan 2021

Planning your summer holiday

Positive thinking?

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!

Bordeaux museum planning your summer holiday
Planning your summer holiday

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”.

Rendez-vous aux Jardins

June 21st – World Music Day

Planning your summer holiday World Music day
World Music Day – Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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.

Coming soon

We’ll tell you all about the July, August and September events in our next post. So now, while everyone else is still wondering what to buy you for Christmas, you can be planning your summer holiday.

Wouldn’t that be the biggest and best surprise of all if you told them that you’d booked a holiday at Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime? And they just thought you were dreaming of Christmas.

summer events planning

Book now for 2021

December Cookie Days

December is a feast of Cookie Days

Cookie Recipes

Cookie Day December 4th

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.

langue de chat cookies

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

genoise cookies

Up next is the Genoise Sandwich which is surprising similar to the popular McVitie’s Jaffa cake (is it a cake or is it a biscuit?).

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.

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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.

Image credit - Antevasin Nguyen- on Unsplash
Image credit – Antevasin Nguyen- on Unsplash

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?

Book your next family holiday at Bel-Air Gites

Pastry Day December 9th

Let’s Celebrate with a French Pastry!

French Pastries – spoilt for choice

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.

french pastry on display

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.

St._Honoré_cake_with_chocolate
Image credit – wikipedia

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.

Image credit – www.recetteaz.net

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.

paris brest gateau frecnh pastry
Image credit : Jordane Mathieu

Tasty Tartes

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.

Lemon tarte
Tarte au Citron

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.

french pastry macarons - all colours and all flavours
Multi-coloured Macarons

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.

Book now for Summer 2021

New Beaujolais Festival

When is Beaujolais Nouveau Day?

Beaujolais Nouveau 2020

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.

vineyard beaujolais nouveau
Image credit – Henri Guerin on Unsplash

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.

Tasting

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).

Charentais specialties

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.

Book Now for Summer 2021

Happy World Tourism Day

Celebrate World Tourism Day

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.

Hiking

“Life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it, the better.”

– Simon Raven, author

Planning your next holiday

If you are planning your next holiday, where would you go, and what do you look for in a holiday?

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.

world tourism day bel-air gites

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.

Book now for 2021

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