Self catering France - What a fantastic opportunity to become more part of French Culture than to live for a week in one place and there's a huge amount of rental property for holiday goers.
France has its own terminology for various choices of rental options which I found at first very confusing but once understood it's easy.
The first time Gildas, my French husband (he's from Brittany) and I wanted to spend a week holiday in one place we chose to rent a place. There are cottages, chateaux (a castle in France), and manor houses. There are also gites, which at the time I'd never heard of -
What is a Gîte?
A gîte is a holiday rental that is almost always in the countryside. (but sometimes in towns). Technically to be called a gite the owner must live nearby so they can welcome you and help if you need it. There is also a government incentive available to residents if they refurbish their properties and rent them out to holiday goers. The biggest and most known gite rental agencies is Gite de France.
Houses (chateaux, manor houses, cottages, apartments) usually independently owned, the owner rents via an on-line booking agency or through their own website. And there are many. Often they're more comfortable and luxurious than a gite and so cost more.
We use an on-line service called HomeAway French Villa Rentals
. Very easy to use. We found a very high quality rental. Vacation rentals are also referred to as "villas" but includes cottages up to chateaux.
When we took a family trip to Brittany we did a search for "Brittany cottages France" and found the most beautiful and comfortable holiday house through this service.
Saturday to Saturday
Most always when self catering France you get the place starting Saturday and ending on a Saturday. In high season this rule has no exception. If it's off season and booking is low you might be able to negotiate. It's smoother sailing if you go by the rules like most things in France from my experience.
Bring Your Own Linens
For an extra fee they can usually provide linens. You must ask for it AND remind them just before your arrival. We had a fabulous rental in the south of France one September but they forgot that we wanted linens. Lucky for us the lady in charge of checking us in took pity on us and found us sheets in her house and brought them over for our use but no towels. We spent the next hour and more at Le Clerc looking for towels instead of site seeing.
North Americans Beware: French bed linens are not the same size as ours. If you have room in your suitcase throw in towels but not linens. Keep the space for souvenirs.
Be ready to count the silverware at checkout or even believe or not, the clothes hangers. (A friend rented a gite in the Dordogne - the clothes hangers were counted at checkout)
You'll need to stock your larder with food and French supermarkets are a fun adventure in food shopping. And remember, with any rental at checkout you must leave the kitchen clean and swept.
Save money by renting inland.
Coastal rentals can be pricey. The first place we rented was in the south of France above Monaco. The most picturesque medieval village perched high up in the hill. Great view of Nice and the Mediterranean below. A 30 minute drive down to the coast on winding roads but affordable because of the distance from the water. We didn't mind the drive as the scenery was breathtaking. Coast rentals are very pricey on the French Riviera!
Book Early For High Season
Book early if you want a place close to the action. For August you need to be booked before January. Later booking, you'll find places more rural and away from it all. Still all is not lost, it's usually within a drive from where you'll want to visit. But check the mileage to be sure.
However, for our most recent self catering France experience we booked in early February for an August rental. The less expensive places were not available. This was in the Morbihan department of Brittany, the second most popular vacation destination in France. Through an on-line posting site, we dealt with the owners directly. It was the family home. They spent summers away camping. It was more comfy because it was actually lived in. Gorgeous and luxurious without the lux price. We split the price 4 ways between my dad, cousin, us (hubby and me) and bro-in-laws family. So it was quite reasonable. We were not on top of each other. The kitchen was fantastic.
Self catering France is a huge bargain when compared to the same time staying at a hotel.
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