The Gîte Life Continued…
If you haven’t read the first post, The Gîte Life, from our trip in 2012, you might want to do that before continuing to read this post as this article continues from there.
Experiencing the gîte life while traveling has its many advantages. However, there are many things that one has to get adjusted to and be prepared to do. I believe that our experience is unique because we have stayed and are currently staying in France for a lengthy period of time. Most people who stay in gîtes stay in the same gîte for only a week or two during their vacation and then return home. We move every week to a new location. Nevertheless, if you plan on trying a gîte on your next vacation to France, there are some things you should consider.
First of all, a gîte is intended for those who wish to avoid the high expense of hotel rooms and who would rather prepare their own meals as opposed to eating out every day during their stay. In gîtes that offer several accommodations, an opportunity to meet and get to know people from around the world can present itself. Recently, we got to know a couple from Scotland. They were very interesting and we enjoyed a long conversation at the pool during a hot summer spell.
Secondly, while gîtes can be found in towns and villages, the majority of them are located near or within a few minutes driving distance from them. After all, most gîtes are created from existing buildings that were once a hay barn, tobacco barn, pigeon tower, winery, family residence, or hotel and have been renovated into separate quarters that are self-contained.
Thirdly, gîtes are self-catering, meaning that you will be completely on your own just like you are in your own home. No one will come in daily to clean up after you, change your sheets or towels, wash your dishes or make up your bed.
Furthermore, even though people from around the world stay in gîtes, the vast majority of them are occupied by the French who may spend a week or two of their vacation in one gîte just relaxing, sitting by the pool talking while the kids play or just reading. This type of accommodation allows one to slow down the pace and enjoy a much anticipated rest.
So, if your idea of a vacation is to use every minute to try and fit in every possible tourist sight and event in order to maximize your vacation time, maybe a gîte might not be as suitable for you as say, a hotel. You will after all save lots of time, won’t have to make up the bed or pick up after yourself, and if your hotel offers breakfast, well voila!, Just be down at the lobby before 9:00 a.m. to beat the late comers. Oh, don’t forget, you’ve got to think about lunch, dinner, and snacks for the kids!
Well, if you ever do want to try the gîte experience, here are some facts and suggestions on how to go about it.
Decide how much you want to spend per night. Prices vary widely depending on location, amenities, and level of luxury. Like anywhere in the world, the more luxurious the accommodations, the more money you will spend. The main reason we have decided to keep our expenditure to around $100 per night is because we are staying for so long (8 weeks).
Decide on the amenities. Will you need a dedicated parking spot for your leased or rented car?
How many beds/bedrooms? Wi-fi? Television? Pool? Private bathrooms in each bedroom? Full kitchen with dishwasher and oven? Air conditioning? Washing machine? Within walking distance to a market, bakery, bank, etc?
There are several websites that you can use to inform yourself of many gîtes and their locations.
Typical ones used by most Americans:
Those that many Europeans use:
- VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)
- Gîte.com (French site)
- HomeAway (British site)
- HolidayLettings (British site)
Plan far in advance to be able to book the accommodation you want. Minimum, 6 months. The best places have regular guests who often book a year ahead.
You will find that many accommodations are listed on multiple sites. This is a good way to cross check and get a variety of view points and opinions on each accommodation. It also helps to verify their legitimacy. You want to make sure that the places actually exist and that they are truly what they claim to be.
The process of researching these accommodations takes a lot of time, but in the end, it is well worth it! My wife is exceptional at this and has untold hours of practice. In all of our travels, we have rarely been disappointed with the accommodations.
Keep all this in mind and stay tuned for the next installment about The Gîte Life.