|The Gite at Petit Champagne||Self Catering||Saturday||4||10||2|
Petit Champagne is a domaine of just 4 houses in the Charente Maritime region of South Western France, the second sunniest after the Cote d’Azur and on the Lonely Planet top ten places to visit in 2012.
We are located 5 minutes from junction 34 of the A10 Paris to Bordeaux motorway, 45 minutes from La Rochelle (which is also the closest airport) and, 25 minutes from the nearest beach.
Connections to the UK are straightforward with flights all year round from Stansted and Birmingham East Midlands, and summer from Southampton and Bristol.
Road connections are also good with the nearest French port of St. Malo three and a half hours distant.
Two of the houses at Petit Champagne make up a small farm dedicated to growing sunflowers, wheat, maize and peas, they belong to Joel the farmer a well-known local character, the other two are ours.
Our property is set on 5 acres of gently sloping land with great views all round, it has a small lake with carp in it, several outbuildings where we keep our small collection of classic cars, then the main chateau and the gite.
The buildings are nicely positioned in the centre of the property with gardens all round. The gite has a large private grassed area great for ball games.
There are lovely walks through the woodland which is surrounded by sunflowers.
There is an abundance of interesting bird and wildlife.
The local river, 'The Boutonne', has excellent fishing and is less than a 15 minute walk from the property. There are many cycle routes in the area, and we can arrange bike hire for you.
The main entrance (there are 3) enters into the country kitchen which has the look and feel of a French country kitchen but with everything brand new and the latest technology is in evidence everywhere.
The dining table, made by Lallows Boatyard of Cowes is solid American oak and seats 10 comfortably.
Lighting is LED spotlights with a dimming and colour changing system for the plinth lights.
Here is a large tv with dvd player and media renderer. It has a UK Freeview box and access to the films and music on the hard drive. Internet access.
There is a large fridge-freezer, a range cooker, microwave, toaster, kettle etc.
The crockery is all Denbyware, the pans are Stellar, the cutlery is Viners and everything is as you would expect of a property of this standard.
The whole gite is centrally heated in the winter.
Through from the kitchen is a lounge with 2 large sofas and a coffee table, there is also a fireplace.
Lighting is lovely warm dimmable LED architectural lighting.
Further on from the lounge is the downstairs en suite bedroom. This has its own patio doors which open onto the terrace. The beds here can either be singles or zipped together to make a 6 foot double. There is an en suite shower room with hand basin and toilet. Whilst not having the required facilities to be classified wheelchair friendly it is certainly suitable for those with limited mobility.
All the bed linen is pure Egyptian cotton with hypo-allergenic pillows and duvets.
The stairs lead up from the lounge to the 3 upstairs bedrooms.
The master en suite has a king sized bed and large en suite shower room with hand basin and toilet.
The middle bedroom has a double bed and we have retained the exposed chimney breast and beams. Next to it is the Rumpus Room, also with a large exposed beam, primarily designed for children as it has the big tv, dvd and Nintendo wii. Here there are 4 single beds, 2 of which can be zipped together if required.
Further on from the lounge is the downstairs en suite bedroom. This has its own patio doors which open onto the terrace. The beds here can either be singles or zipped together to make a six foot double. There is an en suite shower room with hand basin and toilet. Whilst not having the required facilities to be classified wheelchair friendly it is certainly suitable for those with limited mobility.
The master en suite has a king sized bed and large en suite shower room with hand basin and toilet.
The middle bedroom and Rumpus room share the family bathroom which has a P shaped bath with shower over and of course a hand basin and toilet.
Full central heating fired by oil.
Gamesroom with table tennis table and trampoline.
The first thing you see when you enter Petit Champagne through the wrought iron gates are the large front gardens with numerous trees and parking for many cars in the gravelled areas.
The gite has its own private grassed and terraced areas. The gamesroom is located in one of the outbuildings and has a table tennis table and dartboard.
The large 15 meter by 8 meter pool with diving board is fully alarmed and complies fully with local and national legislation, whilst unheated it typically gets to 25 degrees (the usual heating level) in May and stays above that until the end of October. In July and August it is typically 27 to 30 degrees.
There is a pleasant walk across the land to the lake at the bottom. The gardens run to about 1.5 acres, all south facing and with ample room for all ball games
Walnuts and plums can be picked in season. Close by is a wood and lovely walks including along the banks of the Boutonne river which is nice and shady on hot days.
The gite has a private terrace and large gently sloping grassed area of half an acre for ball games etc.
There is of course a gas bbq area and plenty of parking.
With the downstairs bedroom the gite is suitable for those with restricted mobility although there is a step between the lounge and the kitchen.
There is also a games room with table tennis table.
If the beach is your thing then the Atlantic coast is well equipped to satisfy all tastes with shallow gentle shores at Chatellaillon Plage and for surfers there is the Cote Sauvage. There is a wealth of golden beaches many uncrowded even in high season. Our favourites include Chatelaillon- Plage and Fouras, famous for its oyster beds. Royan has a spectacular beach stretching 2 km where you can sail and windsurf.
The Charente Maritime is the second sunniest region in France after the Cote d'Azur. It also remains predominantly French. There is a great mixture of rolling countryside and flatter plains nearer to the sea. There are loads of things to see and do from the high tech. Futuroscope in Poitiers, to the historic port of Rochefort with the wooden frigate restoration museum to the beaches at Royan. The Bordeaux wine region is a great day trip, and Cognac rather closer.
The Islands - Beautiful yet unpretentious. Brimming with charm, Ile de Ré is picture postcard where the beaches are sandy soft and the island’s salt marshes deliver the ‘Fleur de Sel’ or ‘white gold‘ as it is known locally. A culinary find for any discerning cook. St. Martin, the largest town is a lively hub for food, nightlife and shopping. Artisanal ice creams are hard to resist. Ile d’Oleron also offers exceptional beaches on the ‘Cote Sauvage’ where you can picnic amongst the pine forests and sand dunes or just browse the shops in the narrow lanes. Both islands are accessible by car or boat but we never tire of the journey across the 3km bridge despite the toll. Cycling is also an excellent way to explore these self-contained islands. From Fouras you can visit the Ile d'Aix where Napoleon considered his future. Lovely beaches here as well has history.
Saint-Jean-d'Angely - Medieval market town full of character with leafy squares, timber houses and cobbled streets. The 15th Century clock tower and abbey towers impose on the skyline and the colourful twice-weekly market selling superb regional produce is an assault on your senses. Enjoy a fresh coffee at one of the pavement cafés and soak up the atmosphere. You will find abundance of restaurants and bars catering for all tastes. Swim indoors at the Atlantis aqua centre with 50m amazing waterslide. There are more water sports to be had at the lake by paddling a canoe or kayak. For the less energetic, a round of crazy golf might prove a better alternative. For children with a need for speed, Go Karting offers fast track fun. Afternoons 3– 8pm.
Château de Dampierre - Our local château! A 16th century Renaissance treasure surrounded by running water in a wooded setting. Wander through the tranquil, green gardens or lose yourself in the small maze. Chizé forest - A nature reserve where you can safely see roe deer, wild boar, wolves and many other animals in their natural habitat in the cool forest. Surgères - Unassuming market town with a beautiful Chèteau nestled in green parkland. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays stall holders set up their wares at the crack of dawn, and Surgères comes to vibrant and very French life. Try the superb locally produced butter on your crusty baguette washed down with some good inexpensive vin! Antezant - A little known spot on the river Boutonne, shaded by tall trees and perfect for children. Ideal setting for picnics. The snack bar provides light lunches and ices. There is also a boule pitch and children’s play area. La Rochelle - Not to be missed! Head here for serious retail therapy, credit cards at the ready (husbands optional!) Discover the chicest boutiques amongst arcaded streets in this cosmopolitan, bustling city. Enjoy the finest fresh seafood overlooking the historic old port or take a boat trip to one of the islands. When the heat is on head to The Aquarium to cool off. This water wonderland is a deservedly very popular attraction. Magical, mystical and ultra modern, but go early! When you’ve exhausted the shops and the children, take time out to relax at the small beach. . The park and mini zoo with black swans and peacocks are just a stone’s throw away. Sip a coffee or chilled beer at ‘ La Brasserie de la Plage’ whilst overlooking the sea. Parfait!
We were a party of 8 adults and 2 babies. Pre visit enquiries were dealt with promptly and we arrived to find the Gîte clean and tidy. Whilst the details mention a recent renovation, it is quite basic accommodation and the photographs, though beautifully staged, are very flattering! We were there at the same time as another large party in the big house and as a result were never able to relax in the sunloungers by the pool simply because they always got there first. As a result we needed space to relax outside the Gîte however apart from the dining table and benches there was no outdoor furniture and no shade of much of the day. The owners were helpful in trying to remedy the situation. They found us 4 comfortable chairs and cushions which were very welcome. However we were a party of 8 adults so not everyone was able to take advantage of a more relaxed environment. We moved the table around under the trees for breakfast and lunch to get shade.
The pool became very cloudy for the last 2-3 days and because of the chemicals added we were advised not to use it.
I now understand that cleaning the Gîte at the end of a stay is normal practice in France but we were unaware of this and could find no mention of it in any information that we had been sent. ( We have always stayed in accommodation where the cleaning is done for you and the cost takes this into account.) The cleaning fee was €95.This was a rather unpleasant surprise at the end of our holiday.