Little cottages that are old world and offer a different kind of travel experience.
We’ve talked about renting villas as a great way of feeling embedded in whatever country you’re visiting. You get to know some locals, shop in their stores, learn more about foods and wines of the region, and if you’re there long enough, adopt some of the lifestyle manners of the area. Italy is the best country for villas — there are lots of them scattered throughout the country, in various shapes, sizes, levels of luxury, and price. While hotels certainly offer more amenities, you feel more like a guest when you stay at one, while when you stay at a villa you feel more like a resident.
France also has a good number of villas for rent, but what they really specialize in is something called gites, which means cottages in French — I looked it up. They are ideal for smaller groups, and there are quite a few to choose from — more than 30,000 if the gites-de-france.com website is to be believed. To give you an idea of just how many there are, the little brown dots on the map directly below shows the disbursement in just the Versailles area. But what you can’t see is that each little brown dot actually represents as many as 500 gites in that particular area. When the map is expanded to highlight around Versailles, for example, you can see just how many clusters there are, and I say clusters because each brown dot now contains about 25 gites.
So finding one is no problem wherever you plan to travel in France. In fact, there’s so many to choose from, you can spend weeks just working through this part of your trip.
Going through that process carefully and thoughtfully is critical because the range of price and quality is almost as broad as the number of locations. You have to keep in mind that these are not villas. That means they’re quaint and charming, and quaint and charming almost never find their way to luxurious, but they can find their way to quirky. Earlier I mentioned that gite means cottage, but it’s original meaning was any form of shelter — a tent falls into this category. So, be careful. As I talked about when renting a villa in Italy, picking the right gite requires a good deal of investigating. There are lots of questions to ask the owner or agent before making the final decision, and remember to be thorough, because it’s what you don’t ask, what you assume, that can get you into trouble. The answers to questions like are the bathrooms en suite, are they shared by multiple bedrooms, are they indoors, spell the difference between comfort and misery.
Now that’s not to say you can’t find a nice gite for yourself. Gites-de-france does claim that about 107 of their 31,000 gites are luxury properties. And some of them are not bad, in fact, they’re actually villas. Here’s an example — this one is located in Aquitaine near Bordeaux and clearly falls into the luxury class.
These are not typical. They are generally about 1000 – 1500 square feet with 3 bedrooms, and look more like the one below. This gite is 4 star rated and still pretty nice.
One point to note about gites is that they’re incredibly inexpensive. These quaint and charming properties above are well under $1,000 per week, even in peak season. Even the luxury villas shown above are under $5,000 per week.
There is a reason for this — gites are located in the country, and I mean deep in the country. Many of these started out as farmworker homes, or were converted outbuildings and barns near the farm owner’s home that were converted into holiday residences. So it is extremely likely that you will have views like this out your front or back door.
Still, there are lots of cities, towns, and villages that are within a short driving distance from most of these cottages for the times that you need some civilization. And when you’re not in the mood, gites are a perfect way to escape to a simpler old world style of living that’s hard to find anywhere else. The opportunity to have both lifestyles on the same trip makes it worth their consideration.
To learn more, visit gites-de-france.com