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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Summertime at Bel-Air Gites usually means clear blue skies and long sunny days. Evenings on the patio with the smell of the barbecue in the air. The children spend hours playing outside in the pool and the garden, but now and again it’s nice to have a day out. And if you don’t fancy the beach, then the charming village of Port d’Envaux, on the Charente river is a great place to go.
It’s a pretty, quaint little village a few kilometres from Saintes, and only 45 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites. There are some very beautiful, grand houses on one side of the river, and a few shops and a cafe in the centre. So if crowded beaches are not your thing, maybe a relaxed hour kayaking on a lovely calm, wide river might help you to unwind.
Out on the Charente
For a few euros you can hire canoes, kayaks, paddle-boards or dinghies and take off down the river. Before you set off on your waterway adventure, make sure everyone is wearing the flotation jackets provided.
There are some quiet areas where it is safe to swim, so if this is something you plan to do then be sure to take towels with you. Another thing to remember is to take a ‘dry-bag’. Somewhere you can safely store mobile phones, car keys, camera and dry clothes. Where everything will stay dry, especially if you go for a swim.
Designated swimming area
River swimming is different from swimming in the sea. It’s generally shallower for one thing, so you might find that you are just paddling, or wading across pebbles in places. However, there is a large designated swimming area with steps down to shallow water for paddling. Or further along there is a ladder so you can drop down into deeper water. You can then swim out around 15 metres to an anchored pontoon. It’s all very safe, and all this area is cordoned off from the main river, although you can swim out and across the river if you want to.
If you don’t fancy the water there is a play-area with swings and clean sand for kids to play with buckets and spades. Plenty of shade with benches for overlooking the river. Port d’Envaux on the Charente is very picturesque and popular with the locals as well as the tourists.
You can combine a visit to the river at Port d’Envaux with a 5-minute drive to the ‘Les Lapidiales‘. This fascinating place is an old limestone quarry with sculptures carved into the rock. It’s fascinating for adults and children alike.
The open air art quarry is free and open year round just waiting for visitors to come and find their own inspiration.