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      October 2012 > Like staying in someone’s home…

Like staying in someone’s home…

Walking holidays in FranceWhen browsing our brochures or website, you may have come across the term chambres d’hôtes in relation to accommodation on our French holidays – and wondered what one is.

The name literally translates as ‘a room in your host’s house’ which is pretty much exactly what it is – more an intimate guesthouse than a hotel, and somewhere you will get to know your hosts and fellow guests far better than in a larger establishment, in all likelihood, around a large table for dinner.

Some customers have likened it to “sitting in someone’s lounge” and our French expert Emily agrees. “In these places you will enjoy a much more personal and authentic local experience because you are indeed staying in someone’s home, albeit a small guesthouse. The welcome is warm and genuine and you have the opportunity to learn more about the culture, history or cuisine of the area from the people who live there. The owners are justly proud of their region and are determined to play their part in preserving and promoting rural France and its traditional buildings.”

Walking holidays in FranceAt some chambres d'hôtes you stay on a bed-and-breakfast basis, whereas others offer dinner, too, a 'chambres et tables d’hôtes'. “The format for dinner varies between guesthouses, as individual as the owners, though always championing the local region in some way,” continues Emily. “The majority offers a set menu evening meal comprising a starter, main course and a dessert – some may include cheese, wine and coffee, though others will charge for these extras. Wherever possible, important dietary requirements or allergies can be catered for but it must be remembered that chambres d'hôtes are not hotels and do not have a whole team of staff or the facilities of larger establishments.” That’s not to say you will be missing out, far from it…

The great joy of staying in a chambres d’hôtes comes at meal times when a convivial dinner of home-cooked, locally-sourced produce is served around a large table with your hosts and other guests. It’s one of life’s great experiences, enhanced though not determined, by a little knowledge of French or at least a willingness to have a go. Saying a few newly-learned words – or recalling phrases from one’s formative school years – adds to the fun, although many of our guesthouse owners speak some English, too. “If this sounds daunting, don’t worry unduly,” adds Emily. “It’s incredibly informal and relaxed and everyone is in the same position, though one or two chambres d'hôtes do have individual dining tables if you’d prefer.”

Walking holidays in FranceOur customers seem to agree. Mrs Billen of Weybridge told us that apart from the rural, unspoiled countryside, the highlight of her walking holiday in Gascony was the stay in the small village of Bénazit. “The chambres d'hôtes was a delight – a beautiful house with an excellent and very spacious room.” Mrs Barnet of Aylesbury recalled, “The food made by Nellie (at Le Domaine de la Vaysse in the Dordogne Valley, right) was fabulous and the atmosphere at dinner was wonderful”; which was confirmed by Ms Harper of Australia who thought “Nellie's confit of duck was pretty damn fabulous!!”

Mrs Sandercock of Edinburgh, meanwhile, recalls the ridge walk to Mandailles in the Mountains of the Auvergne: “It was absolutely stunning, the weather was good and the views were amazing – then arriving at Les Quatre Saisons to such a lovely big and spotless room and the warm welcome from Geraldine made the day even more special."

Walking holidays in FranceAs an added bonus, most of the chambres d'hôtes we use are located in magnificent surroundings, in the heart of the countryside. You will find them amid the secluded mountains of the Auvergne, Cévennes and Corbières; in the valleys of the Dordogne, Aveyron and Gascony; in the gentle landscapes of Provence, Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussillon; and on the rugged coast of Brittany (left). While walking Beneath Mont Lozère in the Cévennes, Mrs Harris of Church Stretton was thrilled by “the overall friendliness and welcome at both Le Mas Nouveau and Le Temps des Cérises and the excellent meals served by both. Special mention must go to Camille at Le Mas Nouveau for her enthusiasm and flair.” 

Mr Wardrop of Glasgow concurs: “The highlight was the friendliness of the people – at Le Mas Nouveau and Le Merlet especially, where the guesthouses’ scheduling built in aperitifs, when everyone (including the hosts) could mingle and chat.”

Walking holidays in FranceMeanwhile, in the north of the Tarn Valley, in the Land of the Crusades (where you stay in four chambres d'hôtes), Ms Hunt of Manchester delighted in Delphine's house, where “Delphine herself was wonderful”; and Les Vents Bleus [right], which had “one of the friendliest of hostesses in Valerie. She cooked a great evening meal for us and put on some enchanting music while we ate.”

One thing that soon becomes apparent from reading the comments from other Inntravel customers is that they know the names of their hosts. The owners are not ‘the manager’, but Eric, Delphine, Geraldine, Valerie and Nellie. 

As Mr Rose of Aylesbury said after his holiday in Provence, “We found the welcome and hospitality of Eric and Bruno at La Campagne Berne outstanding – it was more like spending a few days with friends.”

Which is exactly how it is meant to be…

Posted: 17/10/2012 16:20:23 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: France, opinions

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