When we first started traveling to France, I kept hearing about staying in a gîte. I couldn’t quite get my head around this strange word. Was it a rental house for a big group? Was it a bed and breakfast?
Actually gîtes are neither. They are particularly French. Since we learned about them, we’ve stayed in many gîtes. They are a great way to experience the countryside and the culture, though they can be found in towns as well.
French country houses often have outbuildings of one sort or another: barns, stables, small dependencies. And many of these have been transformed into little rental houses called gîtes ruraux. By definition the owner lives elsewhere on the property, where they are available to answer questions, offer travel tips, and give other assistance. Sometimes one shares a pool or other amenities with the owner (If the accommodations are actually bedrooms within the owner’s home, it’s a chambres d’hotes instead. If it’s a simply a rental house, it’s called une maison de location).
Staying in gîtes has almost always been a pleasant experience for us. Many are basic, but they can be quite charming as well. There is an intimacy about them, since the owners are close by and generally very welcoming. Our only bad experience was in the Dordgne. The living area was nice, but the bedroom was in the basement, and the ceiling was only six feet high! After my tall husband hit his head on the stone headers twice, we decided we’d better high-tail it out of there before he ended up with a serious head injury.
We have several friends with gîtes, but our favorite and the one closest to us belongs to our neighbors and good friends, Sabine and Gerard. They have fashioned the chicest little gîtes you can imagine out of two dependencies on their property, each perfect for one couple. The setting and views are fabulous. Each has its own flowery private terrace, a shared pool, and the benefit of having two exceptional hosts. Sabine, who is German, is a tour guide, and Gerard is a cheerfully irreverent Frenchman. (For more photos and info, click here).
Photo above: 'La Pomme' is the more traditional of the two gîtes. Below, the sleek living room of 'Le Lapin', the more contemporary gîte.
If you want to search for a gîte, there is an official website called Gîtes de France with many choices (you can choose your language on the site). So, haven’t you been dreaming of a trip to France? And did I mention that gîtes are some of the most reasonably priced places to stay that you’ll find?
If you’ve had experiences with French gîtes, please share!
In the COMMENTS: Merci for the vegetarian plat ideas, I will try them all!