Summer Events 2021

What’s on for Summer 2021

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.

Summer Events 2021 – La Rochelle Francofolies

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 summer events 2021

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.

Spectacular Parachute Jump Charente-Maritime

A parachute jump with breathtaking views of the French Atlantic Coast

For the thrill-seekers amongst you, how do you fancy a parachute jump over the Charente-Maritime? Experience the sensation of free-falling whilst taking in the breathtaking views over the Marennes Basin and Ile d’Oleron.

Based less than an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites, at the Marennes aerodrome near Ile d’Oleron, is the Big Air Skydiving school. It’s a professional parachute school located on the French Atlantic Coast. You will have sensational views of the sea and the islands during the flight and as you free-fall safely back to solid ground.

Unforgettable experience

If you haven’t done this before then you literally won’t be alone. For first-timers you are on a tandem parachute jump, which means you are safely connected to an experienced, professional member of the Big Air Parachute team. From the smooth take-off to your safe, controlled landing, they are with you all the way. Then, once you have landed you can go and share this unforgettable experience with your friends and family.

And if they don’t believe you, just show them the video of your spectacular parachute jump.

Who can do it?

Almost anyone can experience a tandem parachute jump. However, there are some age and weight restrictions, and parents have to give their permission for under 18’s to take part.

Although a medical certificate is not compulsory between the ages of 18 and 55, it is if you are under 18 or over 55. And insurance is included in the total price. You can check out all the details on the Big Air website.

Book now

So when Bel-Air Gites says you will have a fantastic family holiday and make unforgettable memories, now do you believe us?

The Charente-Maritime is an incredible region, with an amazing range of family attractions and beautiful, historical locations to explore.

Book your 2021 holiday at Bel-Air Gites

Port d’Envaux on the Charente

A day at Port d’Envaux on the Charente River

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.

Limestone sculptures

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.

Les Lapidiales

We hope it inspires you to bring your family and friends to come and visit us soon.

Have a fantastic family holiday at Bel-Air Gites

Image credit : Joan at Flickr

Do chocolate and BBQ go together?

toasting marshmallows on bbq
Toasting marshmallows on the BBQ before dipping in warm chocolate sauce

That’s a tough one. Summer, chocolate and BBQ? – It’s a Yes from Bel-Air Gites!

Even when it’s as hot as it is today, we can still make a little time for a piece of good quality chocolate. But we are not just talking about chocolate bars. They’re good. But when the coals on the BBQ have fizzled out, sometimes you just need a little something sweet to finish off. Nothing beats a perfect serving of ice cream – three scoops, one each of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. So it’s a Yes from Bel-Air Gites. Chocolate and BBQ do make a good pairing.

Sunny morning

I don’t know whether I dreamt it, but this morning, as soon as I woke up my first thought was ‘barbecue’. It’s another gloriously sunny Charente-Maritime morning, so the evening will be wonderfully warm too. So, when the weather is this good, why spend it indoors? A quick mental list to self for today’s barbecue menu and I’m off to prepare the marinade.

But part-way though chopping courgettes for the veggie skewers, I stopped in my tracks. What can we have for dessert? I could just picture their faces in my head..

Veg kebabs AND fruit kebabs?

I was going to have to be a little more ‘inventive’. But what did we have in stock, so that I didn’t have to go shopping?

Still a few strawberries in the garden so that was a good start, and we still had a deliciously juicy charentais melon in the fridge too.

They would go perfectly well together, cut into equal sized pieces and mixed in a bowl. But deep down there was a craving. I needed ‘something’ to bring them together. Both of these fruits are delicious as a refreshing, chilled starter, steeped in a little local Pineau des Charentes. But I’m after dessert ideas. I didn’t want to skewer the fruit, so decided a warm sauce would do the trick.

Berry sauce recipe

250 g frozen raspberries, crushed, and mixed with a little sugar to taste. Warm through later on the BBQ embers. Perfect – almost. Something warm is especially splendid poured over something very, very cold. Like ‘chocolate-ice-cream’ cold.

Et viola! Barbecue menu sorted for this evening, and it’s not even midday. So chocolate and BBQ does go together.

Search results

Apart from making a chocolate sauce for dipping, I wanted to find a few other recipes. Typed ‘chocolate and BBQ’ into my search field and came back with the following results. Try it, and see what you find.

  1. Chocolate BBQ Kit from Choc On Choc. Devilishly simple
  2. Chocolate and Marshmallows Banana Boats. Bananas are great done on the BBQ wrapped in foil
  3. Texas Chocolate and Barbecue restaurant – not actually cooked together, but chilli and chocolate go well together so why not as a steak sauce?
  4. Chocolate baked bananas
  5. BBQ chocolate dip – simply done and great for dipping fruit or marshmallows
  6. Chocolate chilli barbecue sauce – it has to be done!

And those were the top ones. I’m sure with a bit more digging we could find something a bit more exciting. But today, we will be very happy with our mixed fruit, warm berry sauce and chocolate ice cream. How about you? What would be your chocolate and BBQ dream dish?

Book Bel-Air Gites for 2021

If you want to have your own daily barbecues dilemmas, then you need to book your next family summer holiday at Bel-Air Gites. Child-friendly, family holiday accommodation in the sunny Charente-Maritime. Our gites are booking up fast. So don’t delay – book today!

Sunny Days. Starry Nights

Image credit : Michal Mancewicz on Unsplash

Starry, starry nights

Think of Bel-Air Gites in the summer and you will dream of long, hot sunny days relaxing by the pool, or family day out at the beach. But here in the Charente-Maritime when the day-time is cloud-free, so are the evenings. Just imagine.. all the kids are settled, and the grown-ups are chilling out on the patio. The evening is warm, crickets are chirping in the grass and the skies above are twinkling with beautiful bright stars. Sunny days and starry, starry nights.


We are so lucky in France to have clear open skies, ideal for star-gazing because we do not have the artificial background light from street lamps and traffic. This makes the various regions of France popular with amateur and professional astronomers, as well as star-gazing romantics. There are regular events throughout the summer months when the starry nights are more likely to be cloud-free. And you don’t need an expensive telescope or binoculars to enjoy our incredible skies.

Comet over Mont-Saint-Michel, Brittany

Comet Neowise

Throughout July and August this year we can all witness an incredible event with our own eyes. Comet C/2020 F3, – or Neowise to it’s friends – is visible at dusk and in the early hours of the morning. Before the sun brightens the sky, and the birds start singing their dawn chorus, you can see the comet making it’s way towards the northern horizon. It is a truly incredible sight. You are going to have a long wait if you miss it this summer, because the next time it will be visible will be in 7000 years time.

If you can’t watch with us at Bel-Air Gites then see if it is possible to view it where you live. Just search for COMET C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

Events Nearby

On your next visit to Bel-Air Gites, if you are interested in finding out more about the night sky, why not check the French Astronomy Association website. They hold various events most of the year. This summer there are several in the Gironde department, which is not too far from us.

But if that all sounds too intense, why not just plan an evening with a special someone, star-gazing at some of the universe’s most incredible creations? Cuddle up together, find a shooting star, and then make a wish.

Bel-Air Gites Book Now For 2021

Image Credit – Chats de Chatillon Cat Refuge, Parthenay.

Food & Drink Charentais Specialities

Fish and seafood lovers in particular will admit that they have a bit of a ‘foodie’ love-affair with the Charente-Maritime. But whatever you prefer, we’re sure you’ll find something to tickle your taste buds. Here we list a few of the Charentais specialities that we think you should try when you stay with us at Bel-Air Gites

If you want the freshest produce then you have to take trip out to one of the many weekly markets. For fish and seafood our favourite has to be the market at Royan, where it’s freshly caught and sold the same day. But you have to get there early, because these markets are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Most of our favourite Charentais specialities can be purchased at the markets, depending on the time of year.

Fresh Oysters

Marennes-Oléron Oysters

Oyster farming began to be more commercially developed in Marennes in the 19th century. Today, the Marennes-Oléron basin produces around 40 to 60,000 tonnes per year. Most of the production is centred around the port of La Cayenne, about an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites. Even if you don’t want to try the oysters, it’s a pretty little village. Go for a day out just to see the charming multi-coloured oyster huts and the oyster beds established on old salt marshes.

The Marennes-Oléron oyster has a unique green colour, a delicate and refined aroma and a light, nutty flavour. You will find a lot of restaurants and stalls offering a tasting of quality oysters in the area around the port. Or you can even buy your own to eat on the spot, or take away. Oysters can be served raw as a canapé with a little dressing. Alternatively, they can be grilled, poached, fried or steamed.

Charentais Melon

Another of the Charentais specialities is the hand-picked Charentais melon. It’s a member of the cantaloupe family and was imported to France around the beginning of the 15th century.

The melons are harvested in July and August, and sold at the local markets. If you want to make sure the melon is ripe, pick it up. It should feel heavy, and if it has a little crack near the stem then this is a sign that it’s ripe. Perfect when served with summer meals and aperitifs, and goes particularly well with a chilled white Pineau des Charentes.


In Charente, they don’t talk about “escargots”, but “cagouilles”, the popular garden snails common in the area.

Enjoy a delicious pan of snails stuffed with meat, and slow-cooked in a white wine and tomato sauce. We can even give you the recipe for cagouilles a la Charentaise

Black Truffles

Most people associate the truffle with the south east of France and the Périgord. But the Charente also has numerous truffle patches, because they live very happily next to vines. Some connoisseurs will even tell you that the scent of the truffles is one that can be found in cognac’s array of aromas. Most truffle patches in the Charente produce the highly-prized ‘Tuber Melanosporum‘, or Périgord black truffle. The famous truffle market at Jarnac is on every Tuesday from December to February. You don’t have to buy. Just go to take in all the sites, sounds and aromas of this wonderful market.

One of the reasons why black truffles are so expensive is because they take so long to grow before they can be harvested. For example, from 100 trees only 30 or 40 might actually produce truffles. On average it can take between 6 and 8 years to see the first truffle. 


glass jar of estuary saffron

Do you know that saffron is the only spice derived from a flower? It’s another one of the treasures of the Charente, and one that we have shared with you in a previous article. It’s another very expensive commodity, but it can be used in so many different ways. Because saffron is rich in antioxidants there are a number of common ailments which herbal saffron supplements can help with. It’s safe to use in small doses, and very simple to add to any diet.

Manslois Cheese

No french meal would be complete without a good selection of cheeses. And we have found one which is a 100% Charentais cheese.

‘Le petit Manslois’ is a fresh artisan cheese traditionally made with cow’s or goat’s milk. Its texture is smooth and soft, and it has a very delicate and creamy flavour. It’s a very versatile cheese and can used in savoury dishes, such as pies and soufflés. Or simply mixed with herbs. But it can used in sweet dishes as well, and commonly used to make a delicious cheesecake with a hint of orange blossom.

That’s just for starters

So I hope we have given you some food for thought. This is only a small selection of the amazing food and drink that can be found in our wonderful region. Why not come to Bel-Air Gites and try some for yourself? Have a day out at one of the local markets, buy all your fresh meats, vegetables and cheese. Then get back to Bel-Air and create a delicious BBQ feast on your own private patio.

Making sure you and your family have an amazing holiday is just one of Bel-Air Gites’ Charentais specialities. Come and find out some more.

Don’t Miss Out. Book Now For 2021

The Best of Bordeaux

Mention Bordeaux and immediately images of french vineyards, and bottles of sumptuous claret-red wine spring to mind. But with a wide variety of tours and activities, you will find that Bordeaux is a family-orientated city. And as it’s only 90 minute’s drive from Bel-Air Gites, you can add it to your ‘Places To Go’ list.

Museums can be a cool alternative during the hot summer months
Image credit : Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Bike Tours

Scattered all across Bordeaux, there are bike stations where you can hire bikes for adults and children. And with more than 200 kilometres of cycle paths, the Bordeaux urban area is a paradise for cyclists.

Explore the city-sights at your own pace. For a leisurely bike ride make your way along the Cours du Chapeau Rouge, down to the recently-renovated quays. Stop for a snack and a cold drink, then continue along the Garonne river path, to the Chaban-Delmas lift bridge. When you cross the bridge, the cycle path takes you along the right bank of the river. Here it is quieter and less-developed, but you get fantastic views of the Place de la Bourse and Old Bordeaux.

Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux – Image credit : Guillaume Flandre on Unsplash

Go back over the river via the Pont de Pierre, which was commissioned by Napoleon and completed in 1822. From there, you can coast down the slight incline to the Porte Cailhau and the Place du Palais. Overall this trip covers about 8 km, assuming you don’t take too many detours on the way.

If you prefer an official guided bike tour, you will find many firms that are reasonably priced with English-speaking guides. In the summer you might want to book in advance as it can get busy. Remember to take plenty of water and sunscreen.


Without a doubt, Bordeaux is a family-orientated city. And when it is hot outside, nothing can beat the cool, air-conditioned atmosphere of a museum. In Bordeaux you will be spoilt for choice. The city has eleven museums in all. With permanent collections devoted to fine arts as well as natural history, archaeology, and regional history. The Natural History Museum was created in 1791. With over 1 million specimens, it is one of the largest in France. It’s definitely worth a visit if there’s a budding David Attenborough or Indiana Jones in the family.

New Light Show in the Submarine Base

The long-awaited ‘Bassins de Lumières’, located in the submarine base at Bordeaux, opens to the public in June 2020. This enormous bunker, almost 20 metres deep, was built by the Germans to house submarines during the Second World War.

It regularly hosts temporary exhibitions and shows, but this year 2020, the Light Show opens for the first time. The transformation is incredible! Visitors will be able immerse themselves in art, light and music as they stroll through this incredibly atmospheric structure. Entrance is by ticket only, with discounts for families, and tickets can be purchased from Basin of Lights.

Parks and Gardens

French families love to take a picnic and get back to nature at the weekend. You can too, and as Bordeaux is a family-orientated city, the parks and gardens are free. For a complete list of family-friendly, natural attractions in Bordeaux check out these favourites on TripAdvisor

Did we mention the wine?

As we are in Bordeaux how can we not mention fine wines? Do you fancy a walking and tasting wine tour? If so, there is a 3-hour walking tour that includes wine tastings along the way. Your guide will shares stories about the city and shows you its landmarks as you walk, the cobbled streets. Take breaks at wine cellars and brasseries for tastings of the famous Bordeaux wine.

There are far too many Bordeaux wine and food tours for us to mention here. To get the lowdown on the best ones available, check out other travellers’ reviews on TripAdvisor. You might just have to stay a little bit longer at Bel-Air Gites to fit it all in.

Bel-Air Gites – Book for 2021

We are pleased to say that Bel-Air Gites is now taking bookings for 2021. So get in touch and start planning your next fantastic, family-friendly holiday.


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