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.
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.
Bel-Air Gites is based in the Charente-Maritime and less than an hour’s drive from the historical city of Cognac. And without a doubt, it is one of the favourite destinations for some of our grown-up guests. There is a varied selection of museums, chateaux and medieval buildings to explore, and boat trips along the river. But it seems the most popular adult attractions are in fact the Cognac tours and tastings. Quelle surprise !
There are different qualities of Cognac produced by the various companies based in and around the city. And the quality of the spirit will affect the price that you pay. Since the early days of Cognac production the main consumers and producers were the British and Irish. They used some of the techniques perfected for distilling whiskey to help improve the Cognac process. Consequently, because of their involvement the different types of Cognac quality are all English terms. VS (Very Special); VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) and XO (eXtra Old). The quality control is based on the length of time the spirit is left to mature in the oak barrels. Generally, the longer the Cognac matures in the barrel the smoother it becomes.
Tours and tasting
Almost all of the great Cognac houses have regular distillery tours and tasting, but we think one of the best is perhaps one of the least famous – Camus Cognac. Founded in 1863, it’s the largest family-run, independent Cognac business and has been in the Camus family for five generations. Today they employ more than 300 people, in 8 countries, spread across 3 different continents.
In you are interested in finding out more about the distillery process and the various quality controls of this wonderful drink, then check out their website. They offer a variety or tours and tastings, but please remember to drink responsibly.
Book for 2021
While you are taking part in your Cognac house tour, the other members of the family can enjoy their own tour. We think this lovely city will surprise you with its impressive architecture, delicious restaurants and charming boutiques. So make sure you include a day out in Cognac on your summer holiday planner.
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.
How many people can say that they didn’t have a teddy as their favourite childhood friend? I’m sure there won’t be too many. They are a popular ‘newborn baby’ gift, and with lots of love, and careful washing they can last a lifetime. So let’s celebrate Teddy Bear Day and remember our favourite cuddly teddy bears, past and present.
History of the Teddy Bear
Teddy bears can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, and the United States President Teddy Roosevelt. Apparently the President was asked to kill a bear that had been captured and tied up. However, he decided it wasn’t very ‘sportsmanlike’ to kill the bear himself, so ordered his assistants to put the animal out of its misery.
People became fascinated with the story, and in particular Morris Michtom. He created a small black bear and sent it to the President with a note asking if he could name it ‘Teddy’s Bear’. After getting permission from Mr Roosevelt he began to manufacture the bears, and they became an instant success. And that is how the Teddy Bear story begins.
However, nobody knows quite when Teddy Bear Day started. Most people believe it to be 2002. That would’ve been around the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Teddy Bear. So it sounds feasible to us, and at Bel-Air Gites we are just happy to have a reason to celebrate.
How to Celebrate
All you really need to celebrate Teddy Bear Day is your favourite bear. It doesn’t matter if it is the one you loved as a child, or if you bought it last week. Spend the day watching TV with it or simply hug it. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate.
Here at Bel-Air Gites, the September days are still warm so it’s perfect weather for a picnic. So why not book your next summer holiday with Bel-Air Gites and make every day a celebration?
Stages of the Tour de France in the Charente-Maritime
For the first time ever during peace-time, the legendary Tour de France will not take place in the month of July. The announcement to postpone the race was made in April, and it is to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. With the race now starting on Saturday August 29th, most of the stages will take place during September 2020. And from the 7th to the 10th of September there are several stages of Le Tour de France in the Charente-Maritime.
Le Tour 2020
That’s right. Stages 10, 11 and 12 are less than 90 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites. If you are avid followers of the Tour de France, then you probably already know the route. If not, then here are the details for the stages that are the closest to Bel-Air.
Stage 10 – 8th September
Île d’Oléron, Le Château-d’Oléron to Île de Ré, Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Stage 11 – 9th September
Châtelaillon Plage to Poitiers
Stage 12 – 10th September
Chauvigny to Sarran Corrèze
Just in these three stages the teams will cover a total of 554 kilometres. Stage 12 is actually the longest stage of the Tour, taking the riders through the Vienne and Haute-Vienne areas. It tires us out just thinking about it.
They arrive in the Charente-Maritime on Monday 7th September, but that’s an official rest day. I wonder what they will do on their day off in France’s second most popular tourist destination.
They are in the perfect place for taking in the culture and the breath-taking beauty of the French Atlantic Coast. Perhaps a boat trip or helicopter ride over Fort Boyard, taking in the old port at La Rochelle. Or maybe an invigorating walk along the long, sandy beaches before they stroll round the Aquarium at La Rochelle. For those preferring to take in the more historical sites we would suggest a visit to the Roman amphitheatre at Saintes, or the citadel of Saint Martin de Ré.
If they weren’t following such strict diets and exercise regimes we’re fairly certain that they would find something delicious to eat and drink in this fabulous region. They will be cycling through some of the areas finest vineyards, so maybe cognac would be their tipple. However, if they have been doing their research then they would be more tempted to try the local Pineau des Charentes.
Food-wise there are so many wonderful Charentais specialities they will be spoilt for choice. Oysters, éclade (smoked mussels with pine needles), chaudrée (fish soup), or galette charentaise. What would you recommend?
The Tour is the ideal opportunity for spectators and supporters to admire the diversity and the beauty of French landscapes. From craggy coastal regions and charming coastlines. To soaring mountains, lush farms and picturesque towns and villages.
After all those hours cycling perhaps a round of golf at one of the top 5 golf courses in the Charente would help them relax. Some of our guests at Bel-Air Gites recommend Golf de Royan. It’s an 18-hole course amidst forests of pine trees and natural sand dunes, with a view of the lighthouse. What could be better than that for taking your mind off the Tour for a few hours?
And whilst we are on the topic of relaxation and taking your mind off things…
Booking your family holiday
They don’t call it the Sunny Charente for nothing. In August and September, when the Tour de France is taking place the weather here is usually in the mid to high 20’s. So if you’re not chasing Le Tour why not come and relax by the pool at Bel-Air Gites? Or check out some of the other great family attractions close by. There is so much to see and do here you will want your holiday to last forever.
For the best family-friendly holiday experience come to Bel-Air Gites, in the Charente-Maritime.
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.
The French are very passionate about their beloved game of Pétanque. And contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only played by old men drinking Pastis. Women take part too, and it’s also popular with the younger generation. In fact, Pétanque (or boules) can be played by anyone, young or old, male or female. And with the 2024 Olympic games due to be held in Paris, it couldn’t be a more perfect time for petanque to be recognised as an Olympic event.
The ‘Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules’ have been lobbying for inclusion in the games since 1985. But sadly, the organising committee for the Paris games have already decided that it isn’t to be. Instead the new events could include break-dancing, skateboarding, climbing and surfing.
Origins of the game
Most French people would probably like you to believe that they invented the game of boules. However, its origins can be traced back a very long way. The people of ancient Greece and Egypt used to play games tossing coins and stones. But it was the Romans who came up with the idea of aiming at a target. In this case, the boules target is called a ‘cochonnet’ or piglet. It’s very similar to the jack used in crown green bowling.
The name comes from the french words pieds tanqués, meaning ‘feet planted’ (on the ground). This has gradually evolved into the current name, pétanque. It is also commonly referred to as boules, which is the name for the set of three metal balls used to play it. Boules are much smaller and lighter than the typical bowl used in crown green bowling.
Unlike bowls, pétanque can be played on almost any flat, open space. When an area is constructed specifically for playing petanque, the ‘terrain’ is usually just loose gravel. Sandy beaches are not really suitable for playing with the heavy metal boules, but lighter, plastic boules are available. These are great for the beach, and of course we have a set at Bel-Air Gites that our guests can use during their stay.
In France, you will quite often see village squares and park pathways being used as pétanque playing areas. In addition, a lot of towns have recreational facilities (boulodromes) built especially for playing the game.
How to Play
Our advice for playing boules is don’t take it too seriously. Anyone can play and as it’s generally a team game, have a mix of ages and abilities on each team. Flip a coin to see who plays first. A member from the team that won the toss should toss the jack in any direction. It should be about 6 – 10 metres away from them. And a couple of metres from any object that might interfere with someone’s throw, a tree for example.
After throwing the jack a member of the same team throws the first boule. They have to try to get it as close to the jack as possible. Then a member from the second team throws. They either try and knock their opponents boule out of the way, or throw to get closer to the jack. If they succeed in either of these then they have the lead. The team that isn’t closest to the jack must play the next boule. And so on until they are closest to the jack, or run out of boules.
Count the scores
After all boules have been thrown, the team whose best boule is closest to the jack wins the round. The winning team gets one point for each of their boules that is closer to the jack than the losing team’s closest boule. The losing team don’t score any points. The winning team starts the next round in the same way as the first one, tossing the jack and throwing the first boule.
Don’t worry, if you don’t understand the rules. We will happily show you how to play when you come over for your next holiday.
Way of life
The reason why we love playing boules is because it is a great game for all the family. There’s no running around after a ball, and it can be played almost anywhere. When it’s hot, as it is now in the sunny Charente-Maritime, then play boules under the trees in the shade.
For the adults, why not try it with a glass of Pastis? Who knows, maybe you will enjoy the french way of life as much as we do. And you will want to come back to Bel-Air child-friendly gites year after year, for more fantastic, fun-filled family holidays.