Blue Lagoon of Charente

Pure Blue Lakes of the Charente

Just under an hour’s drive away from Bel-Air Gites is the town of Touvérac. It’s only a small town, but the area surrounding it is a protected natural site, with some wonderful hiking trails. However, this is also a place that can take your breath away. In amongst the pines there is a hidden paradise – the beautiful clear waters of ‘Les Lacs Bleus’. The Blue Lakes of the Charente.

Blue Lakes of the Charente

Hiker’s paradise

Lace up your hiking boots, get your binoculars ready, and head off on the trails surrounding the pure blue waters. It’s a good 2 hour walk so make sure you are suitably kitted out, and have plenty of water. The wet clay can be a bit slippery, so take care as you walk the white slopes. Well-sign-posted trails will take you around the old kaolin quarries.

Kaolinic Clays

Mined in the Charente up until the 1990’s, this beautiful white clay has a variety of uses. Primarily used in porcelain, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and paper-making, it’s now also used in skincare. However, the kaolinic clays extracted in the Charente were mainly used to make refractory materials to withstand high temperatures, such as in furnaces, kilns, etc.

When the mines were finished with, the holes were left open and the rain turned them into small, hillside reservoirs. It’s these old mines that now make up the blue lakes of the Charente. The water is pure and clear, but because the environment is still young, the aquatic life is still developing. So don’t expect to see lots of fish.

Slippery surface

Allow a good 2 hours to hike the complete circuit, and try and allow some time to read the many information panels. Because there are some fairly steep slopes, the trails are not recommended for people with restricted mobility. And tempting though it looks, swimming in the lakes is not allowed. We would also advise people not to go too close to the water’s edge, because if you slip, it can be very difficult to get a firm footing on the slippery clay surface. Don’t be put off though. It really is a beautiful place, and the blue lakes are a spectacular site to see.

The walk around the Lacs Bleu is one of the things I will remember most about our holiday trip. Unsure if we were in the right location, the first glimpse when rounding the bend was just breath-taking.…. Unmissable if you like nature walks!

TripAdvisor reviews

Book Bel-Air Gites

So, yet another wonderful family activity for you to plan into your next summer holiday with us here at Bel-Air Gites. Be sure to bring your hiking gear, but don’t forget your swimming costumes as well, Because when you get back from admiring the Blue Lakes of the Charente, you can take a dip in the beautiful cool blue pool at Bel-Air Gites.

We look forward to welcoming you and your family to our fantastic child-friendly gite complex next summer. Book now to avoid disappointment.

The glorious heated pool
Bel-Air Child-friendly gites in the Charente-Maritime

Cognac Tours and Tasting

Cognac Tours and Tastings for the grown-ups

Camus Cognac tours and tasting

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 !

Quality control

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.

Cognac tours and tastings
Image credit – Eaters collective on Unsplash

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.

We look forward to seeing you at Bel-Air Gites next summer

Bassins de Lumieres Bordeaux

World’s largest digital art centre

Bassins de Lumieres, Bordeaux

Unique experience

The beautiful city of Bordeaux in south west France is home to the newly opened Bassins de Lumieres. Although the original opening had to be delayed because of coronavirus, since June the venue has become a popular attraction. It’s a truly unique experience suitable for all ages. And this magical underground digital art centre, housed in a WW2 submarine base, is one of the few venues that is still open to visitors.

Enjoy a unique experience, explore limitless worlds, and allow yourself to be transported into the heart of art

www.bassins-lumieres.com

Bassins de Lumieres Exhibitions

Until the 3rd January 2021 there are four exhibitions taking place. Each one in a different arena within the art centre. Two are dedicated to the works of Gustav Klimt and Paul Klee. And the others are ‘contemporary digital design creations’ – Anitya and Ocean Data. Each exhibition is an amazing fusion of motion design, with digital projections of vibrant images and colour. All presented to a backdrop of recognisable classical tunes by composers such as Beethoven and Mozart.

bassins de lumieres bordeaux art centre

In order to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, entrance to the venue follows strict health guidelines. These include limited numbers of visitors, reservations only, the compulsory wearing of masks and temperature checks.

Booking your holiday

Instructions on how to get there are included on their website, but from Bel-Air Gites it’s about an hour’s drive. From January 2021 there will be new and exciting exhibitions on at Bassins de Lumieres. So when you are booking your family holiday at Bel-Air Gites be sure to check what’s on the agenda. And once in Bordeaux there are lots of year-round attractions for the whole family to enjoy. In fact, you could easily spend a whole day exploring the city and cruising on the river.

So what are you waiting for? If you want a fantastic, family holiday, then book with Bel-Air Gites. Our child-friendly gites have everything you need. And much, much more.

Book Bel-Air Gites for 2021

Happy children playing in a swimming pool

Les Mathes Halloween Market

The Halloween Market at Les Mathes 2020

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.

Haunted cabin at Les Mathes 2020
#halloweenauxmathes

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 :
communication@lesmatheslapalmyre.fr

Or share them on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) with the hashtag #halloweenauxmathes

Les Mathes Halloween

Stay Safe

Health and Safety rules require that everyone from the age of 11 will have to wear masks for this event.

Happy Halloween
Image credit – Mel Poole on Unsplash

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.

Book your 2021 Summer holiday at Bel-Air Gites

#HALLOWEENAUXMATHES #BELAIRGITES #FAMILYHOLIDAYSCHARENTE

Talmont-sur-Gironde

One of the most beautiful villages in France

Talmont-sur-Gironde is recognised as one of France’s most beautiful villages. It is 15 km south of Royan, and situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the Gironde estuary. Less than 30 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites, this pretty little village is one of our guests’ favourites.

Les plus Beaux Villages de France

White-painted houses with blue shutters and gardens filled with scented roses and multi-coloured hollyhocks. It is a photographer’s dream location. But it also has an incredible history and some of the most wonderful views of the Atlantic Coast.

Fishing huts on stilts

Along the cliffs you will also see the ‘carrelets’. These are fishing nets suspended from the fishermen’s huts built on stilts. The carrelets are part of the Charente-Maritime heritage and an incredible sight, standing tall on the coastline.


Surprisingly perhaps given its position, Talmont was founded as an English bastide town in the 13th century and the layout of the streets now is more or less the same as it has been for the last 700 years.

Francethisway.com

Exploring the village

The streets of Talmont are quite narrow so you need to park the car and explore the village on foot. Start by following the old fort ramparts around the outside of the village and finish with a stroll around the streets and the pretty whitewashed houses.

Talmont-sur-Gironde is best known for the magnificent 11th century Sainte Radegonde church, that stands right on the edge of the cliffs. The façade of the church had to be rebuilt in the 15th century after the original façade fell off into the sea. But as well as its location, the church has a beautifully ornate carved entrance, and fascinating carvings of animal heads just below the roof.

Coastal views

The views along the coast from the cemetery are very impressive, with white cliffs in both directions. After completing a tour of the ramparts take a stroll through the narrow streets of Talmont-sur-Gironde to see the little whitewashed houses.

Pink and white hollyhocks

Colourful display

From the end of spring and into the summer months, the hollyhocks dominate the village streets and the cemetery. They are a really beautiful sight and seem to grow from every little crack in the wall.

We have hollyhocks here at Bel-Air Gites as well. Incredibly tall stems that look too fragile to last a long time, but some can flower for several months. They are self-seeding so we get more and more every year. If you want to see the hollyhocks in full bloom then make sure you book your next summer holiday at Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime. We are in a great location close to beaches, woodlands, vineyards and castles. There are plenty of family attractions here as well. From theme parks to golf courses. Hiking trails to water-sports. You’ll find something to suit everyone.

Book now for Summer 2021

Cordouan lighthouse

Cordouan Lighthouse – the lighthouse of kings

At the mouth of the Gironde estuary, off the coast of Royan, sits the famous Cordouan Lighthouse. Built between 1584 and 1611 it is the oldest working lighthouse in France.

‘The Versailles of the sea’

Built on a rocky plateau visible at low tide and surrounded by sandbanks, the Cordouan lighthouse can only be accessed by boat. It stands almost 70 metres tall, at the point where the Gironde Estuary flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Lighthouse keepers

You can visit the Cordouan Lighthouse from April to November and your guides are the lighthouse keepers of this extraordinary building. It’s not an activity for the faint-hearted though and allow at least half a day for your outing. The boat trip takes approximately 45 minutes with cruises leaving from Verdon and Royan. It will drop you off as close to the lighthouse as possible, and then you have a 10-minute walk to actually reach the building itself.

Access to the site depends on the tides, and departure times for the cruises are regularly updated. We also recommend you wear appropriate clothing for the outing because sometimes the water can rise to mid-thigh level during the last 10-minutes’ walking.

cordouan lighthouse
https://www.cordouan.culture.fr/en

Spectacular views

Once inside the guide takes you through the various different levels. From the Girondins hall, through to the royal chapel with it’s stunning stained-glass windows. You will also get to see inside the royal apartment. But nothing can prepare you for the breath-taking view at the top of the 311 steps. The impressive view over land and sea is one of the most spectacular in the whole of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

If you have not been able to go to the king of lighthouses, or if you want to find out more, there is a museum at the ‘Pointe du Grave’. It holds a collection of plans, models and documents telling the story of Cordouan, as well as other lighthouses and beacons in the area.

Find out more

Cruises departing from Royan
Croisière La Sirene

Cruises departing from Verdon
Vedette la Boheme
Galantaise Croisieres

Planning your holiday

Bel-Air Gites is only a 45 minute drive to the nearest cruise company in Royan, so if you are planning to visit the lighthouse then you won’t be away from your holiday home-from-home for too long. And when you get back you can relax in our large heated pool, or chill out on your private patio.

We pride ourselves on providing great accommodation equipped with everything you need. And we also ensure that you, your family and friends will stay safe whilst you are holidaying with us.

Start planning your next fantastic family holiday at Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime.

Kite and Wind Festival

International Kite and Wind Festival

International Kite and Wind Festival at Chatelaillon Plage

Every year the resort of Châtelaillon-Plage kicks off the tourist season in April with the International Kite and Wind Festival. There are three days of shows on the main beach with something for the whole family. And as it’s only an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites we definitively recommend you add at least one day at the festival on your holiday planner.

Unmissable

The unmissable events that make this international festival so popular include free flying, night flying and kite-making contests. There are also regular demonstrations provided by kiting enthusiasts and you can learn basic kite-flying at the Kite School. There are plenty of activities for children of all ages, but even if you don’t want to take part there is lots to see. All kinds and sizes of kites way up high, plus sand buggy kites, and kite surfing.

If kites aren’t quite your thing, there are water sports and other beach activities going on too. Even introductory flights in a hot air balloon. Now that would be a great holiday story to tell all your friends wouldn’t it?


All year round

Chatelaillon Plage is popular with families all year round. And in addition to the many annual events there’s also an aquatics centre with five indoor and outdoor pools, and water slides. It’s heated too so can be used even when the weather is on the cool side. For the toddlers there is a dedicated paddling pool and play area.

Bring your own

If you just want to chill out at Bel-Air Gites, why not bring your own kite here? We have plenty of space for the kids to run around and play in our gardens. Maybe they can make their own and have a kite and wind festival with the new friends they will make here on holiday.

Whatever you decide, one thing is for sure, you will make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime when you stay with us at Bel-Air Gites.


Book Bel-Air Gites for 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

Autumn in France

Autumn at Bel-Air Gites

This year we are looking forward to another wonderful autumn in France. It’s a fantastic season for the senses. Sights, sounds and smells that you can only associate to the end of summer. Leaves changing colour from green to red, gold and brown, rustling in the wind and tumbling slowly to the ground. And the smell of fragrant wood smoke and the crackling of bonfires.

In the Charente-Maritime late September is still relatively warm. This year in particular we have had lots of lovely dry days. The nights are drawing in quickly, but even they are not cold, and we have had our windows open to let in a gentle breeze.

Soon we will be saying ‘au revoir’ to our last guests and starting to prepare the gites and gardens for the winter. Even when we have nobody staying with us there is still a long list of tasks to keep us busy.

Officially Autumn

In Europe autumn this year ‘officially’ starts on the 22nd September, but nature doesn’t work by the same calendar. Already we are seeing the swallows and swifts gathering to fly south. Their journey will take them thousands of miles to Africa because even the mild winters are too cold. There aren’t many insects around for them to feed on, so that’s another good reason for them to get away for a few months.

toasting marshmallows on bbq

Toasting marshmallows

Because autumn in France, around the Charente-Maritime is still warm we try and make the most of it. It’s still pleasant enough to be outdoors, and to take the chill off as it gets cooler, we light the barbecue. Winter is only officially here when it’s too cold stand around the barbecue toasting marshmallows.

Precious family time

Autumn is also a time when we look back on the summer months and start thinking about Christmas and planning next year’s holiday. 2020 has not been great, but hopefully next year we will all to get to spend precious time with family and friends. Video-calling is fine, but it doesn’t replace the personal touch, and the warm hugs and kisses that make us all feel loved.

Our French friends in particular have found it a real struggle because kisses are a big part of saying hello, even to strangers.

So, if you are thinking about getting together for a well-earned holiday next year, why not bring family and friends to Bel-Air Gites? We have lots of accommodation and loads of great spaces for the children and grown-ups. And in our child-friendly gites we provide everything you need so that you don’t need to bring it all with you. That might just give you enough room to squeeze another person in the car.

Book Now for 2021

chenes-2-collage

Historic village of Taillebourg

Panoramic views over the Charente River

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.

Battle of Taillebourg 21 July 1242 – by Eugène Delacroix

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.

Paleolithic Settlement

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.

Battle Zone

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.

Biodiversity

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.

Qualified Instructors

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.

Book now for 2021 and have a fantastic fun-filled holiday at Bel-Air Gites!

bel-air-scenes

Follow by Email