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Deciphering where to stay in France

March 15, 2011

So you have decided on a holiday in France, you even know roughly where you want to go, but what about the accommodation, which should you choose, what does it all mean? B&B, gite de séjour, gite d’étape, chambre d’hôte, the list is seemingly endless: deciphering what it all means just needs a few basic pointers….and of course being France it is all controlled by legislation anyway so the owners cannot just do what they want.

Chambre d’hôte = Guest room
These are furnished rooms generally situated in the owner’s house. Usually priced per night and includes breakfast. There may also be evening dinner on offer, also called “table d’hôte”. The owner is limited to a maximum of 6 such rooms.

Before we delve into the world of the gite, just a few remarks on the B&B. In fact this description goes across all sorts of classifications and refers more to the service of providing a bed overnight and food for breakfast rather than a type of accommodation as might be expected in the UK for example. **

OK let’s look at gites > the word gite can be translated in several ways, but for simplicity  best to use “cottage” as very many of them fall into this description.

You may see the sign Gîtes de France. This is an umbrella organisation and comprises many sorts of gite. Their quality system is based on 1>5 ears of corn, 5 being the best.

Gîte rural = Rural cottage

Furnished accommodation preferably with a typical regional character. Houses in a housing estate and homes devoid of outdoor space re excluded from the scheme.

It is separate accommodation, and normally not more than two storeys high. If located above commercial premises the business should be compatible with holiday accommodation and not cause a nuisance. Rented primarily by the week, but weekend or midweek rentals can also be possible.

Gîte de neige = Snow cottage

Accommodation located within 15 km of the pistes or cross country skiing trails which may be either a cottage, a guest room or a lodge and residence.

Gîte accessibles aux personnes handicapées = cottage catering for disabled guests

either “Accessible with some autonomy” or “Accessible with assistance”.

Gîte de séjour

is group accommodation for young people or adults from 12 – 50 people, requiring the presence of the owner or manager nearby. Complementary sports or cultural activities should be offered either by the host team or by outside agencies. These cottages are ideal for groups of friends, families, sports clubs & associations wishing to spend weekends or short breaks together.

Gîtes d’étape

are situated on hiking, cycling or horse riding routes. Quite often these are quite large and arranged in dormitory style. However due to their remote location, hot meals are usually available. They focus on overnight stays expecting the guests to be moving on on their respective trails.

Gîte de charme = “Charming” accommodation

Not really translatable by cottage here as they are high-end character accommodation, particularly remarkable because of their architecture, their fitting out or their environment. you could even find yourself staying in a castle!

Gîte et cheval = Cottages and horses

Accommodation with several equestrian activities available (either for beginners or experienced riders).

Gîte de pèche = Fishing cottages

Unsurprisingly from the name these are specially designed with the fishing enthusiast in mind, located less than 10 km from a fishing spot. In each accommodation will be a place to store equipment, a pool to keep bait and all necessary relevant information (area map, etc…).

Les gîtes Panda.

Cottages located in regional or national which the WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature gives its label if three conditions are met:

– located in a quality natural environment;
– include equipment for nature observation and documentation of specific information
– managed by owners concerned with environmental preservation.


Finally, the new label Eco-Gite promises an environmentally friendly habitat not just for its natural setting, but in many ways for the concrete steps taken to reduce the impact on the environment in terms of energy, water and waste, plus in some cases the actual construction of the gite has followed some very specific eco-rules and falls with the HQE standard.

** There is even a budget hotel chain called B&B. These are hotels, eco-friendly par excellence for environmental labels awarded to them, but often more targeted at the budget business traveller. Therefore there tend to be located in industrial zones, so beware if charm and French countryside is what you have in mind! However if you are stopping for a night en route to your final destination they do offer very good value for money.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 6:36 pm

    I have always found Holiday France Direct to be a great option, dealing with the property owners makes perfect sense to me.

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