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.
Since the beginning of November we have been bombarded with Black Friday deals, Christmas sales and online shopping bargains. And they have all helped to take our mind off being in and out of confinement. But now, there is talk about vaccines, and spending time together over the holidays. People are beginning to sound a bit more positive, and some have even asked “are you planning your summer holiday yet?”
What’s on around Bel-Air
For so many businesses, including ours, 2020 meant putting life on hold. We have had several months when we weren’t allowed to open, and even when we did, it was with some trepidation. So we have gone above and beyond the recommended government guidelines to ensure that our guests and staff at Bel-Air were completely safe whilst they were here.
While we’re still in lockdown in France we have been planning our Bel-Air Gites summer family holidays. But not for us. We are checking out what’s going on around Bel-Air for our lovely guests.
And here’s a list of just a few events planned in and around Royan starting in April 2021.
Royan Events Diary
April – Kite & Wind Festival – three days of shows on the beach for the whole family. The ever expanding festival includes aerial displays which will enthral adults and children alike. Each year the festival unfolds along the length of the beach and welcomes regional, national and even international kite flyers and visitors. This is always top of our list because it’s free to watch all the displays, but there are also sessions where you can learn how to fly a kite, water sports and even flights in a hot air balloon. If you can’t get away for the summer then why not plan a holiday earlier in the year?
May – European Museum Night– there are several online events throughout the year. But in May, normally the closest Saturday to May 18th, museums all across European open for the night, free of charge. According to TripAdvisor there are 57 museums in the Charente-Maritime so there is plenty of choice!
Warming up for summer
June – Rendez-vous aux Jardins – The first weekend of June over 2,000 public and private gardens are open to the public. There are guided tours, exhibitions and gardening workshops for adults and children.
Each new edition focuses on a theme relating to knowledge, protection, conservation and gardening: “the child in the garden”, “the stroll”, or “colours”.
Artists and music-lovers of all ages gather all over France, and now all over the world, to perform free of charge every year. It’s an unmissable summer event in the French people’s social calendar. So make sure you don’t miss it – wherever you are.
Just for starters
These are a few, just to start you thinking. If you can get away earlier then your travel costs might just be a little less expensive. So why not check them out, and see if you can’t bag yourself a bargain flight or a cheap ferry crossing? You can even use our Bel-Air Gites Holiday Planner to list your favourite events.
For most English-speaking countries, except the U.S and Canada, we sometimes call big chewier biscuits ‘cookies’ and the smaller crunchy biscuits would be, well.. just ‘biscuits’. But we are not going to argue over terminology when there is a special day for celebrating a good, chunky choc chip cookie. So on December 4th let’s all celebrate Cookie Day!
Different shapes and sizes
Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and they’re really easy to bake. So easy that even the kids can join in. And what could be more fun than making some lovely biscuity treats with your children? Eating them of course!
Here in France we have some lovely, moreish, crispy cookies, like Crêpes Dentelles, which means ‘lace crepes’. They are very thin crepes with have been folded over, so you have a deliciously thin, layered crunchy texture. They were invented over 200 years ago in Brittany by Marie-Catherine Cornie. She developed a secret recipe for making the paper thin crepes, but luckily it isn’t a secret any more. So now you can find artisans all over France who specialize in making crêpes dentelles.
Another favourite of ours is Langue de Chat. These are small, thin, crispy French cookies and you can get them dipped in chocolate for extra scrumptiousness. Or flavoured with lemon, orange or vanilla. Langue de Chat means ‘cat’s tongue’.
It’s probably where the saying comes from ‘has the cat got your tongue?’ when someone is very quiet or doesn’t answer a question
These French biscuits come in three layers – a soft, Genoise sponge base, a jelly filling, and a thin chocolate layer on the top. It’s a delicious blend and a Genoise Sandwich is lovely with afternoon tea.
Speculoos are a crunchy dark brown cookies that originated in northern France and Belgium. They are flavoured with cinnamon and and taste like caramel because of the special dark brown sugar that’s used, called vergeoise brune. These biscuits are delicious with coffee, which is why you will find them served in cafes all over the world. There is also a famous brand of ice cream that makes a whole range of speculoo-flavoured ice cream treats. And they’re very, very difficult to resist!
Image credit – Jonathan Taylor on Unsplash
Bake a Cookie Day 18th December
So there’s also Bake Cookie Day this month as well. So on the 4th we can just choose to eat our favourite cookie or biscuits. But on the 18th December, you can’t put it off any longer, and you have to bake some cookies. And in case you are stuck for ideas, here’s a few simple cookie recipes that all the family will enjoy making and eating.
A cuppa and a cookie
A biscuit and a brew. Same thing but different. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious. So sit down with your favourite biscuit or cookie and put your feet up. And while you are relaxing and thinking about where to go, when travel restrictions and lockdown are a thing of the past, remember Bel-Air Gites. Your favourite family holiday destination and all those great memories. Do you remember that wonderful pool, the play barn, and the playground that kept the kids totally entertained all holiday? So what are you waiting for?
Every year wine-lovers around the world wait patiently for November. This is the month when they can celebrate the release of that world-famous wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01am on the third Thursday of every November. And (in normal circumstances) there are parties all over France, and in other countries, celebrating it’s release with fireworks, dancing and music.
It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!
The Beaujolais vineyards cover an area of approximately 22,500 hectares and 12 different quality wine-producing areas, or ‘appellations’. So not surprisingly, there will be a lot of celebrating going on. There are around 120 Beaujolais Nouveau related festivals held in the Beaujolais region every year.
The most famous of these is Les Sarmentelles, held in the town of Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Starting on the eve of Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the five-day festival includes wine tasting (obviously), live music and dancing. During the afternoon on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, there are wines and local foods to sample. There is also a tasting competition featuring all twelve ‘appellations’ of Beaujolais. The prize for the winner is his or her weight in Beaujolais-Villages wine. Later on in the evening, a torch lit parade honours the farmers that made the wine. Then at midnight fireworks mark the official release of the new Beaujolais wine, and the revellers drink until dawn. It’s guaranteed to be a festive atmosphere!
The race is on
In November 1951, the ‘Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais’ (UIVB) formally set the release date. Marketing of the wine capitalised on it’s fast distribution. So the race was on to see who could get the first bottles to Paris. In the 1960s, English clubs rewarded the drivers who returned the quickest and with the most wine. And so it continued. There was more and more media coverage, until by the 1970s it became a national event. Legend has it that some of the transport used to carry the wine included an elephant, a hot-air balloon and Concorde.
Because of all the marketing attention it became necessary to review the shipping date. Eventually, in 1985, the date was changed to the third Thursday in November to take advantage of marketing it the following weekend. Nowadays, the wine is sent to retailers a few days ahead of the release date, with strict instructions not to sell it until 12.01am on the third Thursday.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine, made from the Gamay grape and bottled 6–8 weeks after harvest. The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins. However, unlike other wines it is not one that improves with age, so it is best for immediate drinking. Serve it slightly chilled at around 13 °C (55 °F).
We might not have Beaujolais on our Bel-Air Gites doorstep, but we do have an equally wonderful variety of wines and spirits, and delicious local dishes. Food-wise there are so many fantastic Charentais specialities you will be spoilt for choice. Take your pick from oysters, éclade (smoked mussels with pine needles), chaudrée (fish soup), or galette charentaise. Washed down with Cognac or the local Pineau des Charentes.
What are you waiting for? Book your next family holiday with Bel-Air Gites in the Charente-Maritime. Make wonderful memories and lots of new friends in 2021.
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.
World Tourism Day is on September 27th. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just close our eyes, click our fingers and immediately be transported to our favourite holiday destination? Where would you go?
What is World Tourism Day?
The motivation behind the United Nations creating World Tourism Day in 1979 was to spread awareness about the importance of tourism. And to spread recognition of the tourism industry in terms of its impact on the social, cultural, political, and financial factors for each country. All over the world, even in the most remote places, tourism and hospitality industries create jobs. So we think it’s a great initiative.
Every year has a different host country and a different theme. In 2020, the host country is Djibouti and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. And the theme this year is ‘Tourism – building peace and fostering knowledge’.
What can you do to celebrate?
Travelling and seeing new places is good for our minds. If you’ve been putting off your holidays, use World Tourism Day as an opportunity to make plans for your next vacation. Talk to friends and family who have always wanted to travel, but have never been able to plan a trip. Or they have been putting it off because they don’t know where to go.
“Life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it, the better.”
If you want to make wonderful family memories then look no further than Bel-Air Gites. It’s what we do best. Our guests always tell us that they never want the holiday to end.
Relaxation has to be the most important part of any holiday, especially for the adults. You want to be able to relax doing something that you love. Whether that’s playing golf, walking, fishing, swimming or just putting your feet up. You can find all of the above activities within short driving distance of Bel-Air Gites.
All taken care of
At Bel-Air Gites we take care of everything.
Within the grounds we have created a safe environment for children of all ages to have fun and create happy memories. With a large playground full of swings, a slide, a climbing frame, trampoline and tunnels. And a large, heated outdoor pool that is fenced in and securely gated so your little ones can’t get in or out unsupervised. That is one less thing for you to worry about.
At Bel-Air gites we have years of experience in providing child-friendly, fun-filled family holidays. So when you close your eyes and click your fingers, just wish you were here.
Situated on a rocky peak overlooking the Charente River, the village of Taillebourg has a rich historical and architectural heritage. The area, including the chateau park, is also a protected natural environment.
Visitors to Taillebourg go to explore it’s medieval history and visit the remains of the early 11th century castle. They can also to take in the amazing panoramic views over the Charente River. But you will discover so much more if you dig deep into Taillebourg’s long and eventful past.
The village is just 45 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites. If you are interested in history, ancient ruins and fierce battles, then it’s well worth a trip out. Or if you want to try a new water sport, then the village of Taillebourg can provide that as well.
The region around Taillebourg can trace its presence back to the Paleolithic ages, around 10,000 years BC.
Due to its position high on the rocks overlooking the river, it’s been the site of many invasions. As far back as the 5th century BC it was occupied by Celtic invaders. With Roman and German settlers after that. In 770 the first fortress was built to guard the region. Shortly afterwards the Normans attempted to take over the fortress, but were finally defeated by the local inhabitants in 865.
In the centuries that followed, battles continued to take place in and around the region as invaders tried to take over this strategic fortress. Ownership of the land changed from French to English, and back to French again due to the marriages of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
One of the most important battles fought here was the Battle of Taillebourg in 1242. It began on the bridge over the Charente River, and continued in Saintes, where the English were finally defeated.
Nowadays the village of Taillebourg is definitely a lot quieter. The only invaders are those of the tourist kind. Biodiversity is the key word, and this peaceful environment consists of undulating meadows, forests and marshlands. Since 2004 Taillebourg has been a Natura 2000 Site and protects around 20 species of rare birds.
The Charente River is no longer a battle ground, but an area teeming with fantastic water-based activities for adults and children. And the Nautic Club of Taillebourg has prime position.
The club offers a range of sporting activities suitable for 3 to 93 year olds! They have qualified instructors on hand to teach you in water-skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing and slalom.
Check out their website for prices, booking conditions and availability.
Create new experiences, and make wonderful memories on your next holiday.
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?
Summertime at Bel-Air Gites usually means clear blue skies and long sunny days. Evenings on the patio with the smell of the barbecue in the air. The children spend hours playing outside in the pool and the garden, but now and again it’s nice to have a day out. And if you don’t fancy the beach, then the charming village of Port d’Envaux, on the Charente river is a great place to go.
It’s a pretty, quaint little village a few kilometres from Saintes, and only 45 minutes drive from Bel-Air Gites. There are some very beautiful, grand houses on one side of the river, and a few shops and a cafe in the centre. So if crowded beaches are not your thing, maybe a relaxed hour kayaking on a lovely calm, wide river might help you to unwind.
Out on the Charente
For a few euros you can hire canoes, kayaks, paddle-boards or dinghies and take off down the river. Before you set off on your waterway adventure, make sure everyone is wearing the flotation jackets provided.
There are some quiet areas where it is safe to swim, so if this is something you plan to do then be sure to take towels with you. Another thing to remember is to take a ‘dry-bag’. Somewhere you can safely store mobile phones, car keys, camera and dry clothes. Where everything will stay dry, especially if you go for a swim.
Designated swimming area
River swimming is different from swimming in the sea. It’s generally shallower for one thing, so you might find that you are just paddling, or wading across pebbles in places. However, there is a large designated swimming area with steps down to shallow water for paddling. Or further along there is a ladder so you can drop down into deeper water. You can then swim out around 15 metres to an anchored pontoon. It’s all very safe, and all this area is cordoned off from the main river, although you can swim out and across the river if you want to.
If you don’t fancy the water there is a play-area with swings and clean sand for kids to play with buckets and spades. Plenty of shade with benches for overlooking the river. Port d’Envaux on the Charente is very picturesque and popular with the locals as well as the tourists.
You can combine a visit to the river at Port d’Envaux with a 5-minute drive to the ‘Les Lapidiales‘. This fascinating place is an old limestone quarry with sculptures carved into the rock. It’s fascinating for adults and children alike.
The open air art quarry is free and open year round just waiting for visitors to come and find their own inspiration.
What is most important when booking your family holiday?
Knowing what matters the most will help ensure that you have a fantastic holiday with your family and friends. Here are our 5 tips to help you when you are next booking your family holiday. And coincidentally, we think Bel-Air Gites ranks very highly on all five counts.
1. Great Location
Location has to be top of the list when you are booking a holiday. If you have already decided that you want to visit France then there are so many beautiful places to choose from. Location will depend on how you are travelling too. Most of our guests either have their own car or hire a car from the airport. And unless you are flying into somewhere like Bordeaux or La Rochelle for a city break, then driving is the best way to explore the area. If you don’t want to take the car every day, then you can easily hire a bike for a few days. We recommend Bike Hire Direct as they can deliver to and collect from your holiday accommodation.
There are not many places that can beat the diversity of the Charente-Maritime. Our Bel-Air child-friendly gites complex is perfectly located for white sandy beaches, theme parks, and stunning forest walks. We are also close to some of France’s most beautiful chateaus and historical cities, such as Bordeaux, Cognac and La Rochelle.
2. Amazing Accommodation
When booking your family holiday you want somewhere that has lots of room for adults and children to sleep, and spend time together, without getting under each others feet.
The best accommodation should be fully-kitted out with all the essentials, so that you can dine in without having to source extra pots and pans. If you have small children or toddlers then you should also look for little extras like pushchairs, stair gates and baby monitors. Because the less you have to pack, the less stressful your holiday will be.
Our self-catering family accommodation consists of a traditional Charentaise farmhouse and four rustic-style gites. So there is ample space for all your family and friends. And we provide everything you need for a relaxing stress-free holiday, so you don’t have to.
Here at Bel-Air gîtes we have created a wonderful fun haven for children and toddlers, somewhere they can play safely all day while you relax, unwind and have a stress-free holiday. Our large outdoor swimming pool, playground and trampoline are a big hit with all our guests. As are the fully-equipped gites with private patios, garden furniture, and the all important barbecue. Each gite also has an allocated area with sun loungers by the pool. So there’s no need to get up extra early to make sure you get a good spot.
3. Places to Go
The last thing you need when you are on holiday is the kids saying they are bored. But likewise, you don’t want to have to spend half your holiday driving around looking for things to do. So your holiday accommodation needs to be in a good location with plenty of family attractions on the doorstep. You also need to consider how close it is to shops, and cafes or bars where you can grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
Time spent travelling while you’re on holiday can be more stressful. You can reduce travelling and stress levels by planning your days out. This can also help with advanced bookings for theme parks, or family attractions, and might even get you a better price.
Here at Bel-Air we are surrounded by a multitude of attractions, and there is something to suit everyone, young or old. The nearby market town of Gémozac has plenty of cash-points, supermarkets, tabacs, cafes and restaurants. If you want to take in some French culture and shop for the freshest ingredients for your barbecue the local markets are the best places to go. Royan market has an excellent selection of fresh, local produce and is open 7 days a week from 7 am – 1 pm. It really is a gastronomic experience with its huge selection of stalls selling fruit and veg, meats, local cheeses, seafood, bread and gateaux.
We have listed our Top 10 attractions on our website, but if there is anything you are particularly keen to see or do then just get in touch. We’ve also created a planner that you can download, so everyone can add something that they want to do. Plan in advance to cut down on travel time.
It’s difficult to describe any family holiday as ‘a holiday of a lifetime’, unless you are planning to climb Mount Everest or go swimming with sharks. But you do want everyone to remember the holiday because they had such a fantastic time.
Seeing your child’s face light up when they step into the Futuroscope amusement park, or when they go out on a boat taxi at La Rochelle. These are all moments we treasure for a lifetime.
Making wonderful lasting memories is what we try to do. Our Bel-Air Gites guests always tell us that they never want the holiday to end. And when we have families coming back every year, not as guests but as friends, we know they love their holidays here.
This 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 need time and space to chill-out, and recharge your batteries.
Here at Bel-Air Gites we take care of everything. Within the grounds we have created a safe environment for children of all ages to have fun and create happy memories. With a large playground full of swings, a slide, a climbing frame, trampoline and tunnels. And a large, heated outdoor pool that is fenced in and securely gated so your little ones can’t get in or out unsupervised. That is one less thing for you to worry about.
At Bel-Air gites we have years of experience in providing child-friendly, fun-filled family holidays and are confident that we have can provide everything you need. We want it to be your best family holiday ever.