26 July 2009

Un gîte rural en Auvergne

In early September we'll be going to spend a few days' vacation down in the Auvergne region, a four or five hour drive south of the Loire Valley. We're going with three other friends, and taking the dog with us. The challenge has been to find a rental house, un gîte rural, that would be big enough to accommodate us, located in an interesting area, and available to people traveling with pets.

I found one, and it wasn't that hard. The organization called Gîtes de France has a web site that a lot of people say isn't the easiest to negotiate. One problem is that it's pretty much all in French. If you can deal with that, you'll do okay. There's a national site for Gîtes de France, and there are regional sites. The regional sites are sometimes easier to use.

Anyway, here's the gîte I found: it's big — 145 square meters, or 1560 sq. ft. — and it has two bathrooms and two WCs. There are three bedrooms, two with double beds and one with twin beds. There's a living room, a dining room, and a full kitchen.

Some photos of the gîte rural we have rented in Auvergne

In case you are wondering, the French word gîte is used to describe a short-term vacation rental out in the country. Gîte [zheet] means "shelter" or "a place to sleep" and an animal's gîte — a fox's or a hare's, for instance — is what we would call its den in English.

Unfortunately, we can only go down there for three nights, and for Walt and me that's pushing it. We have the vegetable garden to worry about. If it rains a time or two over the four days we'll be away, everything will be fine. If it's hot and dry, well... we'll just water everything thoroughly before we leave and hope for the best.

Most gîtes are rented by the week. That's the case with this one. We are going to pay for the whole week, but only spend three nights there. Some gîtes are rented out for weekends, but we won't be there over a weekend, since we'll arrive on a Tuesday and leave on Friday morning.

Still, the whole-week rental price won't break the bank. It's only 360 euros for seven nights with up to 6 people. So for the five of us, that will come to less than 75 euros per person, or 25 euros per night for our three-night stay. That's pretty affordable. Only in France...

Heat costs extra, but there's a big fireplace and firewood is supplied for free. We hope we won't need heat, but a fire in the evening might be nice. Here's a list of some of the house's other features:
  • fenced-in garden/yard
  • television
  • telephone
  • barbecue grill
  • washing machine
  • dishwasher
  • microwave oven
  • fireplace and free firewood
  • outdoor table and chairs
  • bed linens available at extra charge
  • cleaning service
We'll take our own bed and bath linens with us, and we'll see if we really need to pay for cleaning. We'll probably be able to do it ourselves after such a short stay. We'll also take a couple of coolers, basic groceries, and some wine.

Map of France showing our approximate route from Saint-Aignan
down to Aurillac.
Map shows the French regions and their names.

The house is in a tiny village that is 7 km/4 mi. from a slightly larger village (pop. 1200) with shops, and 13 km/8 mi. from the medieval village called Salers (pop. 368). Salers is one of "The Most Beautiful Villages of France" — here's a link to the page about Salers on the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France web site. Salers also famous for a cheese and a breed of beef cattle that go by the same name.

We'll about 30 km/18 mi. from the largish town of Aurillac (pop. 30,000). All this is in the French département called Le Cantal, which is also famous for a cheese also called Cantal. It's a mountainous region, and a lot of the mountains are actually part of a chain of extinct volcanoes. We'll be right on the edge of a national park.


  1. I hope you really enjoy this. Be sure to factor in the altitude you will be staying at! - two friends and I rented a gite there some 7 years ago for 2 weeks, and stayed 4
    days. It was July/August, and we were frozen. The locals laughed at us and reminded us of how high they were above sea level.
    Bon chance


  2. Good point about the altitude. We'll be at about 3000 ft. of altitude. I'll talk to the landlady before we drive down there, and we'll check our Internet weather sites too, in preparation. I don't know where you live, but it might be in a much warmer climate than ours here in Saint-Aignan. We're used to the chill.

  3. Sounds fabulous and the gîte looks very nice indeed. I'm sure you are going to enjoy it and Callie will simply adore discovering new territory! Pity you can't stay the whole week. Martine

  4. Hi Martine, our friends can't stay the whole week either. So this works out just fine for us. I'm really looking forward to it.

  5. Lucky you! Since watching that show on lightning balls, I bought in Laguiole a book on "Le volcanisme du Cantal" from decouverte du patrimoine. I will have to go there on our next trip to France. Since you asked (lol) le Plomb du Cantal probably used to look like the stratovolcano Misti in the city of Arequipa in Perou. The last eruption was probably the same as type as Mt Saint Helens. I only know the region from driving through it from Limoges to Nevers and seeing the mountains far away from Aveyron (Aubrac).
    I had a kick of hearing my sister calling fleece clothes "polaires". I like that word; just bring a bunch of "polaires" just in case.

  6. The gite looks fabulous. What town is it in? We spent a week in the area many years ago, at a gite in St. Charmant. It rained a lot, but we loved the area.

  7. I've always wanted to see the Puys of this area! I didn't know Salers was one of the beautiful villages, chouette.

  8. can't wait to see pics of Auvergne.....my son-in-law's Dad has a "country house" in Auvergne & I hope to visit someday....it's one area of France I haven't visited at all.....your gite looks lovely

  9. Ohhhhh..... that's my deep sigh of amazement :) What a great looking gîte! I hope it's cool enough to have a fire in that fireplace-- and I hope we get to see a photo! I can't BELIEVE how reasonably priced such a roomy gîte is, too!

    I was in Auvergne with my au pair family for Easter holidays. They had a friend who lived in Vichy, so we went there, and we saw the Thermes de Vichy, and tasted some of the different thermal cure waters. More than Vichy, though, I remember the beautiful mountain-forest drives -- our drives felt like they were through the mountains in New England. We also did visit un puy, and on the way, we went to Puy de Dôme.... and, of course, we had some Bleu d'Auvergne during our stay!


  10. We have stayed in several gites found on the Gites de France website. They have varied a lot in size and price but we have never been disappointed. We have given up taking linen and doing the cleaning to save a few euros, though. The charges are usually quite modest. The only problem we have ever had is finding them. Some have been quite hidden away and that's where our lack of good French has let us down. Following instructions and directions on the phone can be challenging when you're lost and hungry. I hope you have a great time !

  11. from our experience over the last 6 yrs of renting gites, I would say you are getting a bargain - we have had good luck too but at a bigger price tag - only one didnt work out and that was not througth GItes de france

    Gites De France has some depts that are available in english but not all unfortunately - I like their rating service as some assurance that the gite is OK!

  12. We have rented gîtes many times over the years and never had a bad experience. Some are nicer than others, but hey, that's to be expected.

    Bob R., yes, our place will be in Saint-Chamant, the one in the Cantal department (15). There's another Saint-Chamant a ways west, in a different department. Which one were you in?

    Evelyn, I just learned today that Salers is l'un les plus beaux villages de France. I thought it was a real town, but with a pop. of only 380 we can certainly call it a village.

  13. It looks beautiful, Ken, and sounds like quite the bargain. Two bathrooms and two WCs? So that means the toilets are separate, I suppose?

  14. Hi Ginny, yes, it's standard for the toilets to be in a separate room from the bathtub/shower etc. That's the way it is at our house. I think one of the WCs in the rental is "private" -- off one of the bedrooms, I mean. The other one is probably off a "public" area like a hall or downstairs off the kitchen maybe. I don't know where the two bathrooms will be. Maybe one of the bedrooms will be on the ground floor and the other two upstairs. There's no floor plan on the site for the vacation house.

  15. My understanding is that on farms, the gites were the smaller animal pens / shelters eg pigsties, the goat pen. These gites can be tacked on to the end of the grange (barn) which housed the bigger animals (cows, horses) and their stalls are referred to as écuries (stables). Ecuries can also be a separate building referred to as such if there are/were riding or carriage horses rather than plough horses. It is not unknown for holiday rental accommodation to be a converted pigsty :-)

  16. Susan, two thoughts:
    The gîte we are renting in Auvergne must have been a luxury sty for some lucky pigs! And telling people that gîtes are often converted pigpens isn't a very good way to encourage them to rent self-catering accommodations through the Gîtes de France association.

    The word gîte is derived from the verb gésir in French. It just means to be lying down or sleeping. The expression "le gîte et le couvert" is the French equivalent of our "bed and board." I think in French you don't use the regular word for bed, le lit, because things besides sleeping happen there.


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