Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from Bel-Air Gites

Valentine's Day love heart on the beach

A lot of people feel that Valentine’s Day has become too commercialised. But here at Bel-Air gites, we still think that it is a special day worth celebrating. And it doesn’t take much effort to show that special person in your life how much you love them.

Sadly a romantic meal out might not be possible this February. However, a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal will show them just how much you care. I’ve listed a few recipes below that are quick and easy, and ultimately, will help to inspire you.


Not everyone is a fan of shellfish, so I’m going to avoid the obvious fishy ‘food of love’ oysters. Also, unless you live near the French Atlantic coast where we have the world’s best oysters, then you may struggle to find good quality ones. If you are going to make it a special meal, then try to get the best produce you can afford.

  1. Tomato and basil pesto bruschetta or smashed avocado and ricotta bruschetta. Both of these recipes have a few, easy-to-find ingredients, and only take 15 minutes to make.
  2. Chicken Cordon Blue soup – even the name sounds fancy. But it’s actually really easy to make. This recipe makes enough for 4 so half the quantities for your Valentine’s Day meal for two.
  3. Chicken Satay skewers – this will impress your partner, so long as they don’t have a peanut allergy! Longer to prep and cook though, but we think the effort is worth it.
  4. Baked Camembert with garlic bread – simplicity itself, and Camembert even provides it’s own baking container, to save on the washing up.

Main Courses

We found we liked a lot of the budget recipes that were on a supermarket website, and you can ‘dress them up’ by adding your favourite side dishes.

  1. Sausage whirls with apples and mash – easy to make, and the apples add a great twist to the dish. Use a good Cumberland sausage, or a plain old banger, whatever you prefer.
  2. Tuna pasta bake – delicious topped with grated cheese and served with garlic bread
  3. Easy chicken curry – no need to slave over a hot stove for hours with this curry recipe. Recipe to serve in 40 minutes
  4. Steak and polenta chips – if polenta is not to your liking then it’s easy to substitute your usual fries, or perhaps some crispy little roasties instead.

Cheese Course

valentine's day cheese board

In France the cheese course is always served before the dessert, unlike in the UK. We have hundreds of French cheeses to choose from, and have a number of favourites. But if you are going to put together a date-night cheeseboard for two, then select three or four different cheeses. Or if your skipping dessert, then add a couple more, and a nice glass of port.


There are just far too many delicious desserts out there, but as it’s Valentine’s Day, why not have a sharing one? For us, it would be a large bowl of fondant au chocolat, vanilla ice cream and lashings of gooey chocolate sauce. Oh, and two spoons – so you can share, remember?

Switch on the subtitles if you want to learn how to make this scrumptious dessert!

French Cuisine

Food-wise, there are so many wonderful Charentais specialities our guests always tell us they are spoilt for choice. Oysters, éclade (smoked mussels with pine needles), chaudrée (fish soup), or galette charentaise. Dining out in the region is an incredible experience, and we can give you lots of great recommendations. But if you are not sure about what to do or how to order in French, we are always happy to help.

Peace of mind

When you are ready to book your summer holiday, why not check out our new ‘Exclusive Use‘ package? It’s proving very popular with French families wanting to spend some quality time together.

For just €2600 per week you can stay in our two family gites, Chataigniers 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. 

Why friends are so important

friends are so important

Reasons why friends are so important

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

Good for your health

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

Help reduce stress

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

Group bookings

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

Activities for all ages

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

Exclusive Use

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

Book now for 2021

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.

Banish Winter Blues. Think Sunshine and Bel-Air Gites

Banish the Winter Blues

forget the rain and think about the summer

If ever we needed a glass of mulled wine, twinkling lights on a Christmas tree and carol-singers on the doorstep, it would be now! Winter is finally upon us. There’s a definite drop in temperature, more rain, shorter days, and long dark nights. We are all feeling a little bit sluggish at Bel-Air Gites, so we have been looking at ways to banish the winter blues. And we are going to do this by looking and planning ahead.

Ready to hibernate

None of us can really justify hibernating for 4 months until springtime, so we will have to get active. We need to find ways to push through the ‘winter blues’, and not dwell on the events of 2020. Even though Christmas is just around the corner, we are looking ahead to the New Year more than ever before. Our plans for Christmas are all in hand so we will (hopefully) avoid unnecessary stress. Christmas dinner is all planned out, and the presents have been bought and wrapped. This year we might even find time to relax over the holidays, and read a book or watch a film.

Keep in touch

Not seeing loved ones can have a negative impact but thanks to modern technology it’s easy to stay in touch. Social time spent virtually with friends and family has helped remind us that people are thinking of us. And what better time to speak to people than over Christmas, especially as some people may still be self-isolating.

Planning ahead

One thing that works to banish the winter blues, for us anyway, is to start planning. The garden doesn’t need much work in the winter, but it doesn’t mean we can forget about it. So when we open our gates to guests next year it’s not just the gites that have to be in tip-top condition. It’s the gardens, pool and children’s play areas too. Because we would hate to disappoint any of our returning regulars and new guests. We have a few little changes in the pipeline as well, so make sure you keep a close eye on our website and Facebook page.

Think Sunshine and Bel-Air Gites

To help banish the winter blues and get you thinking about the summer sun, here’s a little reminder of what you can find in and around Bel-Air Gites.

Book now for 2021

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

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

Know your Boules from your Bowls

Boules – contender for the Paris Olympics?

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.

Image credit – Egor Mizynik on Unsplash

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.

The ‘terrain’

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.

Bel-Air Gites now taking bookings for 2021

#childfriendlyholidays #belairgites #charentemaritime #bestfamilyholiday

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!

The Caves of Régulus and Fontaines

Meschers-sur-Gironde is not only famous for its beaches, but also the limestone cliffs and naturally-formed caves.

Located 15 km from Royan, Meschers-sur-Gironde is only 30 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime. The Grottes du Régulus and Grottes du Fontaines have been owned by the town council since 1980. After several years of restoration work, to ensure they were safe for visitors, the caves were opened to the public. It’s an incredible place with a long and colourful history.

This exceptional environment welcomes more than 70,000 visitors a year and is a major tourist attraction in the Charente-Maritime. Open between April and November, they offer guided tours during the day with written translations in several languages. There are also touch-pads available for the deaf or hard of hearing.

One evening a week they hold an original and interactive show in the caves, for adults and children. Hosted by local comedians, amateur dramatics groups and volunteers, the show tells the story of the caves’ famous inhabitants. It’s a popular event that sells out quickly, so if you want to go, be sure to book in advance.

In the waning light of day, the shadows plunge the caves into a most mysterious atmosphere

The Wanderings

There’s a ‘Minidik The Shrimp‘ quiz for kids, and evening walks in July and August, ideal for all the family. In the evening, doors open between 9pm and 11pm, with the ticket office closing at 10.30pm.


Fascinating History

It really is a great day out and the history of the caves at Meschers-sur-Gironde dates back centuries. Find out about the people that used to live there; how they were used to protect the coast from the English fleet, and how ‘Grottes du Régulus’ got their name. It’s a fascinating place!

Because of the Covid-19 restrictions, sadly the caves had to close in March 2020. But keep a lookout for their new 2021 opening times on their Facebook page.

Plan Your Trip

Be sure to include a trip to Meschers on your summer 2021 Bel-Air Gites holiday ‘To Do List’. If you need any more information about the caves, or any other trips, please get in touch. We are always happy to help and want all our visitors to have a fantastic family holiday.

Make wonderful family memories at Bel-Air. Child-friendly gites in the beautiful Charente-Maritime

Sunflowers in the Summer sun
Image credit – Aleksandr Eremin on Unsplash

Le Tour de France 2020

Post Updated 16th April 2020 – new dates, same route

The official Tour de France website has been updated following President Macron’s address to the nation on Easter Monday. He stated that large scale events would be banned until mid-July to contain the spread of COVID-19. In agreement with the Union Cycliste International (UCI) the organisers have now decide to postpone the race.

The new dates are for the race to start in Nice on Saturday, August 29th, and finish in Paris on Sunday 20th September. It will follow the same route, with no changes. The women’s event, ‘La Course’, scheduled to take place on the 19th July is postponed to a later date. As is the ‘Etape du Tour cyclosportive’, originally schedule to take place on the 5th July. New dates for these events are still to be confirmed, but they are expected to take place during the Tour.

Cyclists in the Tour de france

Le Tour 2020

Stages 10, 11 and 12 are just over an hour’s drive from Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime

Top priority

Since the COVID-19 confinement began, as responsible gites owners, we have strictly followed the guidelines of the French authorities and World Health Organization (WHO). We will continue to follow their instructions and advice to ensure the actions we take when we re-open protects our guests and staff.

Your safety, as well as the safety of our Bel-Air Gites team members, is our highest priority.  Rest-assured that we do everything we can to provide a safe environment for you and your family during your stay with us. Thank you for your continued loyalty and trust in Bel-Air Gites in these difficult times. To enquire about future bookings, please contact us directly.

adult riding a boke with 2 children towed behind
Dad, are we there yet?

If you are avid followers of the Tour de France then you probably already know the route. If not, then check out the full Le Tour 2020 route information here. Several of the stages are less than 90 minutes from Bel-Air gites!

yellow bicycle with a red and white rubber ring

Why not take the family and make a day of it at Ile de Re or Châtelaillon-Plage?

If you want to go a little further then combine the stage to Poitiers with a trip to Futuroscope. Make sure you check their website as they frequently have offers for free child places.

In August and September, when the Tour de France is planned to take place, the weather is usually in the mid to high 20’s. So when you’re not chasing Le Tour why not relax by the pool? Or check out some of the other great family attractions close by.

Book direct for the best prices, and the best family-friendly holiday experience at Bel-Air Gites, in the Charente-Maritime.

Travelling Light

Piles of suitcases - everything you needWe provide everything you need

Do you feel that booking a family holiday is like planning a military operation? Finding the right location, booking the tickets, making sure passports are uptodate, ordering currency. It seems like there are a million and one things to do. Then, a couple of weeks before you go, it’s time to think about what you need to take with you for all the family. Pushchairs, highchairs, changing mats, bottle-warmers, baby monitor, potties – times that by two for the twins!

Toys, DVDs and games to keep the children entertained. Bath towels, pool towels, clothes! Will it all fit in?

Well stop, take a deep breath and relax.


We have years of experience in providing child-friendly, fun-filled family holidays and we are confident we can provide everything you need. That means you can travel light. We want it to be your best family holiday ever and we start by providing all the basic kiddie essentials. Whether you have babies, toddlers or bigger kids, twins, triplets or even quads, at Bel-Air gites you will find everything you need to make this your family’s home-from-home. 

Child-friendly means more than just providing a cot and high chair.

In the gites we provide everything you need including:

  • Cots and linen, high-chairs, pushchairs, baby baths, stair gates, changing mats, baby monitors, booster seats, potties and toilet trainer seats.
  • Steriliser bags, child steps, bath/shower non-slip mats, child proof cupboard and window locks, bath toys and children’s cutlery
  • A hand blender, night lights, blackout blinds
  • Bath towels, hand towels and pool towels, even for the babies

And if you can think of something that we haven’t listed let us know, and we will do our very best to provide it for you.


Little girl with a toy camera

As for keeping the kids entertained, the Playbarn at Bel-Air Gîtes is a huge hit with children of all ages. Toys, books, games, a DVD library, including a pool table, footballs, and other outdoor games.

There’s 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. And if that’s not enough, check out the local attractions.

making a splash in the pool

You’re going to love Bel-Air Gîtes, so what are you waiting for? Start dreaming about relaxing by the pool, dining out on your own private patio area and the kids being happy and content.

Book Now – Book Direct for the best prices. 


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