Saturday, 15 September 2012

Self Catering in France

A Self Catering holiday is a fantastic way to enjoy a relaxing holiday in France. No deadlines, no set dinner times. You choose your own timetables - its a holiday after all !

Some great self catering holiday options include :
  • rent a villa, for example a Gite or,
  • stay in a mobile home or tent on a campsite
  • stay in something more unusual like a treehouse or a gypsy caravan
  • or tour around in a motorhome (you can buy one or rent one !) 
  • or why not try youth hostelling !
Self catering allows you to stay in beautiful locations and sample a slice of real French life, whether you chose to stay in a small rural hamlet or in a large beach or mountain resort.

So what are the options ?

The term gîte originally meant quite simply a form of shelter. Gîtes today vary from being luxury holiday homes to very basic apartments. The owners very often stay nearby.
There are a number of classes of gîte, including "Gîte Rural", self-catering accomodation in the countrysde, near the sea or in the mountains and "Gîtes d'Etape" which useful for an overnight stopover


Campsites in France are rated according to facilities. So for example a 5 star campsite might have a swimming pool, shop and a good number of other facilities. It is not necessarily going to be better than, for example, a more simple 2 star campsite with friendly owners, but the 2 star site is likely to have fewer facilities. So it all depends what you are looking for.

On a first expedition to France for a family holiday then it is definitely an easy option to book with a tour operator such as Eurocamp or Canvas Holidays. They will book your ferry travel for you and on arrival at the campsite you are often met by an English speaking rep, so if your French language abilities are needing a bit of extra help then this can be reassuring to know there is an English speaker close by.


However you may then become more adventurous and want to explore different areas of France or even go touring with a motorhome. In that case you will probably want to try a variety of campsites. Many towns and villages in France also have stopping off points, called Aires, where you are perhaps allowed to park your mobile home overnight.

We have seen some great car parks where you can park up overnight in your mobile home and enjoy a sea view. For example at Tahiti Plage in Nevez in Brittany.

The sign to the right was taken from near Roscoff in Brittany and it is directing Motorhome owners, or "camping caristes" to the nearest Aire de Service where they will find water and facilities for emptying their tanks and parking overnight.

Youth Hostelling - Auberges de Jeunesse

In 1930, Marc Sangnier, co-founder of the Fédération Internationale des Auberges de Jeunesse (I.Y.H.F.) th hostel in France. He was inspired by a similar German movement 11 by Richard Schirmann.
In France they are open to young people, group and to families.
They offer reasonably priced accommodation, a convivial atmosphere and the chance to get to know others while cooking in the communal kitchens or enjoying some of the activities on offer. You may also have to join in some household cleaning duties, which are an important part of the whole ethos of the youth hostelling movement ! Everyone needs to participate to keep things going smoothly !

At one time there were over 400 Youth Hostels in France. Today only 200 remain. Youth Hostels are non profit associations. Therefore you need to get a membership from the Youth Hostel federation in your own country or by any Youth Hostel of the country you plan to visit. Memberships are usually valid for 1 year and give access to any Youth Hostel in France and worldwide.
Accommodation is often in dormotories but there are also options to stay in individual rooms and family rooms. You just need to check what is offered at each youth hostel when booking. Although they are generally self catering, some youth hostels offer breakfasts or meals. You usually have to take your own sheet or hire one and before you leave you should leave the room as you found it by folding your blanket, hoovering your sleeping space, empty the bin, and taking the sheets back to the reception.
So travel light, put on your rucsac and head off to wherever you want !

And self catering holidays definitely seem to be becoming more popular in France, both from French customers themselves and with visitors to France.

2011 saw a record number of holidaymakers staying in camping and mobile homes in France, with 106.8 million overnight stays, according to a survey by the services of the Secretary of State for tourism, Frédéric Lefebvre.

Campsites and mobile homes recorded an increase of 2.8% from 2010 attendance. It has become even more popular with the French who showed an increase of 4.1% while foreign customers had stayed roughly the same at an increase of only 0.4%.
Campsites on the Mediterranean coast recorded the greatest increase at 5.1% while those on the English Channel and North sea only had an increse of 1.3%.  4-5 star campsites showed a large increase of 14.3 %

Other interesting possible self catering holidays include youth hostels, the huttopia group of sites or centerparcs. There are also numerous companies offering villa holidays in villas that are privately owned. The Pierre et Vacances group also has interesting self catering apartments among other options.  They have quite a few of the places which are rented out in the Alps in Winter for ski-ing but are available in the summer for a fantastic Alpine holiday offering all sorts of activities such as walking, climbing etc. Pierre et Vacances is the european leader in holiday apartments and villages in France and Spain!

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