GÎTES in France: TROUBLE?
Updated: Oct 14, 2019
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You are now planning your itinerary and you are considering spending a week in Brittany, then a few days in the Loire Valley, down to Dordogne, and add a grand finale in the Bordeaux area.
“Gîtes” are a great choice because you settle in, and you instantly feel at home. You explore the area in the daytime, and you come back at night. You cook your meals, or you eat out. You relax all day in your chaise lounge enjoying the view of the rolling hills, or you hike through the vineyards, or you tirelessly stay behind the wheel as you drive past jaw-dropping cliff hanging houses, magnificent châteaux, Roman vestiges, and sensational gorges that you thought only Disney could create.
Be aware though: “Gîtes” can be full of surprises, and you need to know exactly what you are getting for your money. If you find one that can accommodate 4 people for a modest $350 weekly rate, it will probably be very minimal. Let me explain and sort it out for you: 1) The “épis” system If you are familiar with the “star” system for hotels, this system is very similar. An “épis” is actually an ear (related to corn or wheat - the grain-bearing tip thereof). “Gîtes” originated in the countryside of France where they are still prominent, as opposed to urban areas. The lowest ranking is 1 and the highest is 5. 1 “épis” does not mean that it is terrible. It may mean that you will get the bare necessities, yet it may be decent. I personally like to consult the reliable and official “Gîtes de France” repertory.
2) The “gîte” capacity If you start looking for the perfect “gîte” for two, you will scroll down a long list before you find it. Rest assured however, the perfect place does exist, and it can be a real gem!
Typically, a “gîte” accommodates a family of four, but many go up to twelve people. You may wonder why… Even though the French still love to go on vacation, they are forced to be frugal, very frugal. Taxpaying working people struggle to make both ends meet. As a result, they often choose to split the costs with one or two other families and share the “gîte”. Not a bad idea.
Also, some “gîtes” are specifically designed for family reunions or larger venues. You, as a couple or a family of four, are free to book a “gîte” as large as you wish, but you might be paying for more than you realistically need.
3) The “gîte” amenities The kitchen or kitchenette will most likely be equipped with a sink, a cooktop, a refrigerator, possibly an oven, possibly a dishwasher. Depending on the level of sophistication, various pots and pans, utensils, and cookware will be provided, ranging from the bare necessities all the way to awesome gadgets. Sometimes the cleaning supplies will be left from the previous occupants, and sometimes you will have to buy dish and laundry soap, sponges, toilet cleaner, etc., and the appealing savings get shattered very quickly if you are on a tight budget.
You may have a washer (usually in the kitchen or in the bathroom) but very seldom a dryer.
Also, and most importantly, make sure you understand the linen situation before booking. You may have to bring your own sheets and bath towels. You may be able to rent them from the landlord. That too will add to the price.
4) The cleaning arrangements… the part that TROUBLES me! When you book your “gîte”, you must decide if you will clean it before you check out or if you will pay (approximately $50.00) to have it done. If you decide to do it yourself, you must have all cleaning products needed to do a good job out of respect for the next occupants… at least that is what I (and probably you) think. Well, more than once, I had to thoroughly clean the place first. I remember one in the south-western part of France. The shower stall was slimy, the shower head was broken, and a strong smell of sewer came from the drain… I will not give you the whole list of problems. Obviously, the first impression was highly disappointing. Since that episode, I only choose all-inclusive “gîtes” that do not give you the choice. They charge you for the cleaning, and it is done professionally.
The bottom line is, if you think you are going to save money by staying in a “gîte” instead of a hotel, know ahead of time what exactly you are getting, and do the math. If money is not an issue and you choose a “gîte” for the lifestyle, then choose a 4-5 “épis” ranking. Chances are, you will not be disheartened.
Finding the right “gîte” is time consuming, and you should give yourself plenty of time. When you think you have found the perfect, romantic “gîte for two”, newly remodeled and immaculate, with bedding and bath towels included, you review everything one more time before making the reservation ... only to realize that it does not have the dryer that you were hoping for or you have to park your car ½ km away in the village because the access to it is pedestrian only. Keep looking, and you will find the perfect one for you.
I have a few excellent addresses to share with you. Please be aware that I have no ties whatsoever to these few great addresses, but I highly recommend them should you be traveling in these specific areas: 1- Guérande (in Loire-Atlantique, south-east of Brittany) 2- Jura 3- Alpes de Haute Provence 4- Dordogne area 5- Bordeaux area
I will e-mail the addresses to you if you are interested. In the meantime, I invite you to my Travel Page on my website: https://www.voilabycoco.com/travel