09 August 2011

Staying in a gîte rural

In two weeks, we are going on vacation. And for that vacation, we've rented a house in the country. Since we already live pretty much in the country, the environment won't be a big change for us. We hope the weather will be good. We're going to Le Perche, a region that is sort of sandwiched in between Normandy and the Loire Valley and is a 2½-hour drive north of Saint-Aignan.

The gîte rural that we are renting in the Perche region

The house is what is called a gîte rural in France. Gîte means shelter, a bed, a place to sleep. When somebody provides you room and board, you are being given le gîte et le couvert. Couvert means a place setting at the table (why do we call that "board"?) Because it's le couvert is why some restaurants have what is called a "cover charge" — they charge you just to sit down at the table.

Here's the living room.

A gîte rural is a vacation house in the country. The original idea was that you'd be staying in a farmhouse on a working farm. There aren't that many real farms anymore, however. I think gîtes ruraux are popular in France because so many people live packed into densely populated cities, and renting a house out in the country gives them a chance to breath fresh air, enjoy some sunshine if they're lucky with the weather, and eat farm-fresh food. Listen to roosters crow and cows moo.

The bedrooms and one of the bathrooms

Gîtes seem to appeal more to Europeans that to Americans, according to everything I read. They usually are rustic, not luxurious. Some owners speak English, of course, but maybe not that many. Besides, some basics are not provided by many owners. For example, you might need to bring your own sheets and towels. You might find a gîte that has a TV antenna but no TV — you bring your own. There's probably no radio or wi-fi. Heat might be an extra charge.

Here's the kitchen.

This is all because the prices are very low. And it's because French people and other Europeans who rent gîtes arrive by car. You can't really stay out in the French countryside without a car nowadays, anyway. But Americans, arriving by airplane, can't really bring sheets and towels and TV sets and radios with them. Besides, U.S. TV sets won't even work in Europe. Often gîtes don't have a telephone in them these days, because everybody seems to have a cell/mobile phone.

Another view of the front of the old farmhouse

Prices are very low, as I said, by most standards. The gîte we've rented, near Mortagne-au-Perche and Nogent-le-Rotrou, a little farther from Chartres and Alençon, rents for 375 euros per week, all fees included, for a week in high season. It's a lot less in low season. And you can rent sheets and I assume towels from the owner if you need to. We'll take our own, because we can.

And here's the floor plan — one bedroom and one bathroom
upstairs, and everything else on ground level.

Since there will be five of us, the price per person will be 75 euros — for the week. The gîte is a typical old French farmhouse, and it might look a little old-fashioned to you in the pictures. That's kind of the point. It's supposed to be an authentic rural experience.

This gîte has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, an equipped kitchen, and a garage. There's a telephone, a TV set, a washing machine, a dishwasher, a microwave, a freezer, and a fireplace (hope we won't need that!). Why go to the Perche? Because it's there, and because we've never been there before. The local culinary specialty is boudin noir — black pudding, or blood sausage, it's called in English.

There are some pictures here of a gîte we rented a couple of years ago in the Auvergne region of central France. That one was even larger and even less expensive that the one you see in the pictures above (which are publicity photos I grabbed from the Gîte de France website).


  1. Hope you have a wonderful vacation.
    I know you've been through Normandy before. The pictures of Carrouges are beautiful. But since nothing is really very far, and if you don't see any percherons in La Perche, a visit to Le Haras du Pin is a nice outing. On Thursdays, they put on a show outside. And Bagnoles de l'Orne is a quiet, nice little spa town. (Got stuck there with a bad back a few years ago and we were desperate for little excursions once I was able to move.)

  2. These photos and those of your earlier gîte are beautiful... like so many settings I've seen in films. I think I'd miss the city life!

  3. Hi Ellen, yes, I've been to Carrouges a couple of times and we may go back again on the upcoming trip. Nearby also are the Château d'O, the cathedral at Sées, and other sights and sites. I'm looking forward to going to a charcuterie in Mortagne to get some boudin noir.

    Mitch, I don't miss the city, the noise, the traffic, the dirt. Country dirt is so much cleaner!

  4. What a good place to exile from hectic

  5. The gite looks fantastic. I'd stay there in a heartbeat. We've been renting gites in France for 20 years or so through Gites de France. It's a fabulous system, and while you can now pretty easily make the initial arrangements without speaking French, it's a good idea to be able to speak French for making the follow-up arrangements to set the arrival time, get the keys, make arrangements for sheets and towels, etc.

  6. Ooooh, that's great looking! What a price, too!

    My au pair family had a home in Le Perche for a while, and we visited them there once. I had never heard of that area before. I think I've mentioned before that they were in la Ferté-Vidame.


  7. This place looks terrific. That's my favorite building style in France. Only part of Le Perche, le Perche blanche, has buildings like this. However, I seem to remember you rented north of l'Aigle, so I must be wrong!

    Judy, you mentioned Le Perche buildings once, but I didn't know you'd been there. Isn't la Ferté-Vidame cool?

    Ken (and Walt), we're coming back! Thought we wouldn't, but decided a few weeks ago to go ahead. I'll be reading your blog to see what places you find.

  8. The gite looks lovely. I don't know Le Perche area at all. It will be fun to look at your pictures and discover the region through your eyes.

  9. Hi Carolyn, we are renting south of Mortagne-au-Perche and west of Nogent-le-Rotrou. I think we're straight east of Alençon, but a little ways.

  10. We stayed at a Gite this summer for the first time. And we flew in from Canada.
    Then we rented a car to get to the Charente.

    Rural it was, the pool saved the day for the kids, whereas us parents went into Cognac or Saintes more frequently than we thought. Sheets and towels were provided which helped with the luggage.

    We enjoyed the nights best, so quiet and peaceful, being woken up at 4am by the birds....a different experience. We just closed the windows to sleep some more.

    The Gite was equipped well, had a TV, WiFi and everything else to make a week long stay comfortable.

    We liked it so much in fact, that not only will we return to France next summer, we were also contemplating a Gite operation one day. But that may have been the romance speaking....not common sense.
    It's quite an undertaking I think.

    Personally I believe that Americans would enjoy the experience, even if it's rural, as long as they have CNN on the TV.....
    They could enjoy a certain immersion maybe, when they are in a rural setting?

  11. Love the picture of the jardin. Every thing looks like it's doing really good.

  12. That is a really nice gite. Have a good time...will you be posting while you are away?

  13. It looks a beautiful gite. We have stayed in many gites found on the "Gites de France" website over the years and never had a bad experience. They are always good value for money. We have also stayed in that part of France for a while, in a tent as it happens, and I'm sure you will have a great time.
    Mind you, we have a collection of miscellaneous items in our kitchen that we bought because the gites we have stayed in were sometimes short of essentials, such as sharp knives, full-size plates, mugs and so on. All good fun. I hope you have a wonderful time.

  14. I am visiting France in September and have rented two lovely gites in Brittany; one in the far north where it will be blustery, and one outside Loctudy in the south in a fishing village. I agree with you Ken, it's definitely the way to holiday in France...

  15. Am looking forward to visiting the Perche, especially since the countryside there reminds me of Kentucky where I grew up!


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