Here is a description of how we rente Gites in France from the Gites-de-France affiliation
Gites de France
The Gites-de-France program was started just after WWII when many people were abandoning their old homes in the country & moving to the cities where there were more/better jobs. The French government started a program where they would provide the infrastructure (advertising, reservation service, rating the Gites) if the owner would fix up the old house & offer it for rental. This program “took off” & there are over 50,000 Gites for rent now. Many of the homes where we have stayed are not old homes, but new ones built as a means of added income. Gites are self-catering homes with fully equipped kitchens, and amenities like washing machines, dishwasher, gardens, pools, etc. Most Gites are in rural areas – not in cities.
Each Department in France (over 90 – a Department is kind of like a county in the US) has its own reservation service, and its own (sometimes different) method of taking reservations and handling payments. Gites are reserved in one of 2 different ways – either directly through the proprietor or through the central Gite reservation service for the Department. The listing will indicate which of the two should be used for a specific Gite. Rentals are almost always Saturday 4PM to Saturday 10AM. For most Gites, the rental rate is much higher in July & August (when the French take their vacations). The gite we rented in the Dordogne in ’05, rents for 440E per week in June & Sept & 750E in July & Aug.
The Gites have a rating system – 1 to 5 Wheat Ears (Wheaties). We stay in 3 or higher. There are very few 4 & 5 rated gites. These ratings reflect the amenities available.
For Gites rented through “Gite central”, you can select & rent a Gite online, or call, or FAX the department’s central reservation office directly. The person at “Gite central” for the Department can probably read a FAX or e-mail in English. Many departments have facilities where you can pay your initial deposit and final payment through a secured web site. Gites rented directly from the proprietor are more difficult – involving (expensive) wire transfers or some other means of payment. We have encountered very few proprietors who can speak or read English.
Prior to 8/2010 we have rented 34 different Gites over the last several years - some of them multiple times, for a total about 74 weeks. We have been vacationing in Europe for almost 35 years, and once we completed the “once over lightly” touring of Europe, we have been almost exclusively staying in Gites. We usually spend two months in Europe every year (mostly in France) and we normally stay 2 weeks in each Gite. We have never been disappointed in any of the places where we have stayed. Believe me, once you have vacationed in a Gite, you’ll never want to stay in a hotel again. Even if you’re only going to be in an area for 4 days, a Gite is a much better way to enjoy your visit. If you get tired if dining out each night, you can go to the local farmer’s market (there’s almost always one close by), and pick up salad greens, roasted chicken, cheeses, olives, pates, magrets, wine, cherries, nuts, or anything you want for dinner at the Gite. At one of our Gites in the Riveria, we almost never eat out because the view over the countryside from our private deck next to the pool is captivating and better than any restaurant’s view.
The URL for the Gites-de-France is
The site does not work well if you use AOL or Internet Explorer browser – I use Firefox.
At this site, you can find and reserve a Gite on-line, or contact the proprietor directly by
e-mail, phone, or FAX. You can also find out the exact location of the Gite using a mapping function provided by the site. Each department has slightly different ways to provide photographs, floor plans, descriptions, and rental rates for the gites. Also, there are often links to the proprietor’s web site where you can find even more into about the gite.
Here is how I find a Gite:
I first select the area I want to stay in (ie, Vaucluse dept in Provence, around Sarlat in the Dordogne, Pays Basque in Pyreneese Atlantic, etc). I then use the on-line service to find all the 3, 4, and 5 “wheatie” Gites in the area. I then sequence them according to price – I figure that the higher the price, the better the Gite if I’m picking cold. However, I only use the price in the off-season (April, Oct). If the place has a pool, the price will really be skewed higher in the summer months. I then look for the square footage of the Gite. My low threshold is about 85 sq meters (roughly 850 sq ft) for a 2 bedroom place. Additional bedrooms are about 14 sq. meters, so I subtract additional bedrooms we won’t use to get an idea of the size of the living space. I would never rent a 1 bedroom Gite – even though there are only 2 of us. You’ll want an additional 2nd bedroom to store your luggage & other stuff. We also like 2 or more bedroom places because closet space is typically scarce, and I will usually use the 2nd bedroom to store my clothes and to dress in, while my wife uses the primary bedroom. Same concept for 2 bathrooms – I use one & my wife uses the other. We have rented many 4 bedroom gites, and even a 4 bedroom & 5 bath gite. After eliminating any “too many bedroom” gites, I then make sure that all the amenities I want are there. One 4 wheatie place we stayed at had a 4 burner cooktop, but didn’t have a standard oven. Another gite had no dishwasher. I also make sure that there is a private garden or grounds (hopefully with a view). I like lots of light in the gite, so I select gites with many windows. I also prefer an “open plan” kitchen/DR/LR – as this configuration makes the Gite feel larger. I like stand-alone Gites that are not part of a complex with many other Gites. I then get the Michelin Red Guide (restaurants) and try to find out how many restaurants are within 30 kilometers of the Gite. I also check the Michelin green guide (sites) to see how close the Gite is to places I want to visit. In driving around, I have seen some Gites that are in the middle of nowhere – make sure your Gite is close to several towns & not in an area where you will have to drive 40 mins to get to the closest restaurant, grocery, or patisserie (unless you want a very remote location).
If you rent your Gite through “Gite Central”, you can usually use your credit card for deposits and final payments. Renting from the proprietor directly is a little more difficult, since most of them do not speak English and want checks, wire-transfers, or cash in Euros as a deposit and final payment.. We often send cash through the mail, or if we are actually in France on a prior trip, we’ll send a “Mandat Postal” from a post office while in France. This is like a money order in the US. We once had to help a friend cancel a reservation and get their deposit back 1 month before departure, when they had a medical emergency. They got their entire deposit back. A rental contract for the Gite will be in French.
Many of the best gites in popular locations (Provence, Dordogne, Cote d’Azur) are usually reserved 12-18 months in advance, if they are rented directly from the proprietor. Often, the same vacationer will reserve a Gite the first 2 weeks in June (for example) every year for the next 3 years. Gites booked through “Gite Central” are normally reserved starting in the Fall (each department is slightly different). It’s best to FAX or e-mail the reservation request (make sure you have several different gite options) as early as possible. We found out that they handle FAXs & e-mail requests before they open up next year’s bookings to on-line reservations or phone reservations.
Some Gites offer sheets & towels & household linens as part of the rental price, but most do not. In the latter case, you must arrange with the proprietor to have the sheets, towels, & linens provided at an added cost. We have seen this cost anywhere from 20E to 65E (we could have purchased the stuff for less than 65E). Also, someone must clean the Gite when you depart. It can be done by the proprietor at no extra cost (very rare), at a fee of 25 to 60E, or by you. There are usually cleaning supplies at the Gite (but not always). Many Gites have staples already supplied – salt, pepper, coffee filters, about 5 days supply of TP, soap, or whatever the previous guests may have left behind. One of our favorite Gites had nothing supplied, so the first day we get there we dash to the store & buy what we needed. Remember, check-in is usually no sooner than 4:00 Saturday, and most stores are closed on Sunday.
If you can not read any French at all – then renting from Gites-de-France might be a challenge for you. That’s why there are other “English” rental agencies that may charge you 50% more than you’ll pay through Gites-de-France. The info on the Gites-de-France internet site is often in English – but not always. All contracts will be in French, most communications will be in French, and 90% of the proprietors we’ve communicated with only speak French. You will most likely have to speak to or e-mail the proprietor (or their agent) to get instructions on how to locate the gite (on-line site is not specific enough), and you will need to arrange to rent sheets & towels and agree on cleaning arrangements (unless they are included) through the proprietor – even if you initially make payments to “Gite central”. You also need to know where the outside trash pick-up is located, and where to take the recyclables in the area.
You will make a deposit in cash or check (no charge cards) when you arrive at the Gite – usually around 200 to 700E. This is refundable unless you trash the place. There is often a small electricity charge – higher if the gite has a pool. There are some small taxes too.
Large “luxury” homes/villas are not represented by Gites-de-France.
Selecting a Gite
The Gites-de-France site changes often, but on 8/12/10 here is how it worked:
1. Go to the site listed above
2. In the green box, click “criteria +”,
3. The above will get you to a new page
a. In the “region” pull-down box, select the region in France you are interested in. These regions are not well known outside of France, so you may have to play around with them. They include “Languedoc-Roussillon”, “Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur”, and others. If you have a Michelin Red Guide, they are “mapped” in the back of the book.
b. In the “Department” pull-down box, select the department or select several departments within the “region”. A department in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur is the Vaucluse (Luberon area, Avignon, Vaison, not St Remy or Arles)
c. “Town” if you want to be close to a specific town (not mandatory). As you enter the town, there will be some possibilities “displayed” – select the one you want. If you enter an invalid town or a town in another “region”, you may not get any listings
d. “within a radius of” – if you specified a town, select how close you want to be from this town
e. “capacity” select “4 persons” mini & “8+ persons” maxi
f. “No of ears of wheat” select 3, 4, 5
g. Specify any other criteria you want (pool, close to the water, etc)
h. Click “start the search”
4. The system will “think”, and then present a list of Gites meeting your criteria
a. On the “Order by”, select “Prices (decreasing)” and the list will be re-sorted with the highest prices on the first page.
b. Now you have the properties meeting your criteria. Click “locate with map” to find the exact location of the Gite, and then click on the gite name to take you to a page giving you all the info
Note – there is a bug in the selection criteria page. If you need to modify your criteria, you must re-select the “department”.
Here is a brief description of some of the Gites we’ve stayed in. I don't divulge specifics about them - so don't ask. Competition is getting greater & greater every year.
All rental rates are per week
Riveria – just in the hills back of Nice. Fantastic views of the Mediterranean. There are two gites in this complex, both very large with 2 bedrooms each. The larger of the two was the proprietor’s home before their kids grew up & went off. It has a very big sunken living room, separate dining room, large kitchen, & bath/shower with double sinks. The two gites share beautifully landscaped grounds with olive trees, and a very large “horizonless” swimming pool. Nice is only about 5 miles away, but it takes about 30 mins to drive there. St Paul (probably the most popular perched village on the Riveria) is 20 mins away. In June ’01 we rented the larger Gite for 650E, and the smaller one for 500E per week. We stayed there for 2 weeks in both ’00 and ’01.
Riveria – 45 mins from St Tropez and 40 mins from Aix-en-Provence. This is a 2 story, 3 bedroom, 4 “wheatie” stand alone Gite surrounded by vineyards in a lovely setting. It has a private swimming pool with fantastic views of a perched village (lit up at night) and the mountains. We paid 550E in June of ’03. We stayed there for 2 weeks in both ’00 and ’03.
Provence – near Gordes in Peter Mayle territory. Two bedroom/1 bath stand alone gite with a very large private swimming pool with cabana and nice views of the Luberon mountains. Extensive grounds & ideal location in the Luberon. We paid 900E per week (cleaning & linens included) in ’03 and we’ve stayed there 2 weeks in both ’99 and ’03 (the Luberon is expensive).
Provence – just outside of St Remy. An old Mas, which has been turned into about 5 stand-alone Gites. Two bedrooms/1 bath, enclosed grounds (no view), and a shared pool. We paid 460E per week in ’99 & we stayed there 2 weeks.
Provence - near Vaison-la-Romaine. Two bedroom stand alone Gite with a very large kitchen. Extensive grounds with a nice deck. We paid 300E in Sept ’99.
Provence - near Uzes. Very nice 4 “wheatie”, 2 story Gite with one luxurious bathroom, 3 bedrooms, in a small farming village just 15 mins from Uzes (one of my favorite villages in Provence). Lots of sunflowers in bloom when we were there in June ‘03 for 1 week and paid 460E. We stayed there for 1 week in June ’04 also.
Provence – Near Vaison. A large three bedroom house, with two bathrooms, living room, separate dining room, fully equipped kitchen, large private yard with a huge pool. The property is surrounded by vineyards & olive trees, and it’s a 10 min walk to a very cute town with a great weekly farmer’s market, many café’s, bakeries, and a grocery. It rented for 675E in June of ’05.
Dordogne – near Domme. Very nice 500 year old building converted into 2 Gites. Perfect location in the Dordogne. Two bedrooms, large open kitchen/living room/dining room. Beautiful surroundings. Castles everywhere. We stayed there for 1 week in ’97, 2 weeks in ’00, and 1 week in ’03 when we paid 440E in June. We will return to the Dordogne and this gite frequently.
Quercy (just south of Dordogne). Probably amung the nicest gites we’ve stayed in . Four “wheaties”, stand alone gite in a farming area. Two beautiful bedrooms, large kitchen, large living room, and very pretty bath and wonderful grounds. You can hear the cows mooing in the far-off fields. This is located in a very beautiful but non-touristy area. It’s probably better suited for someone who has traveled to different areas in France on quite a few occasions, and now wants to experience the real France. We stayed here for 1 week in ’02 and 1 week in June of ’03 when we paid 400E.
Pays Basque – about 40 minutes from Biarritz at the base of the Pyreneese mountains. Very large, sunny Gite in an ideal location for visiting the beach and the mountains. The Gite was formerly an old mill that was converted into a 2 story, 2 bedroom, 2 bath Gite with an “American” kitchen. Nice views & large covered porch. We stayed there for 2 weeks in June ’03 & paid 430E per week. This is a very relaxing gite.
Loire – 20 minutes from the Chenonceaux chateau. Very large home in a farm complex. This place is probably 3,000 sq ft. It was the owner’s ancestral home, where they lived until their 2 daughters moved out. They now live close by in Tours, but still use the home for holidays & family get-togethers. There are about 4 bedrooms filled with antiques, 3 large bathrooms, 2 living rooms, probably the best equipped kitchen we’ve experienced at a Gite, and extensive grounds. We stayed there for 1 week in ’01 and paid 490E. This is a perfect Gite for touring the Chateaux of the Loire.
Brittany - near Dinan. An old farm that has been in the owner’s family for over 300 years. The setting is lovely – a horseshoe shaped complex, which is next to a beautiful lake that’s part of the property. There are about 4 gites in this complex. Ours had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths (1 very small), nice kitchen. A vacationer at one of the other gites kept us well supplied with trout he caught in the lake. We stayed there 2 weeks in ’01 and paid 440E per week.
Brittany – near Pont Aven. Newly constructed gite that has a large open kitchen/living/dining room. Two Bedrooms & 2 baths. Pretty surroundings, out in the countryside. We stayed there 1 week in ’01 & paid 410E.
Alsace – near Riquewihr in the heart of the Alsace wine growing region. This is an old wine estate that is surrounded by vineyards. Very pretty setting. The estate has about 4 gites, and we stayed in the largest. Three bedrooms, very large living room/dining room, and nice kitchen. Open patio with views. We stayed there 1 week in ’02 and paid 412E.
Languedoc – near Ganges. New Gite next to the proprietor’s home on a farm with fantastic views. Excellent location for exploring this beautiful (but non-touristy) section of southern France. We stayed there 1 week in ’02 & paid 400E.
Roussillon – 2 story spacious 4 bedroon/2 bath house in a village close to Ceret and the Spanish border. Less than 30 minutes from Collioure on the Mediterranean. Ideal for touring the coast, Carcassone, western Pyrenees, and even Spain. It rented for 470 Euros when we stayed there for 2 weeks in June ’04.
Lot River, near Espalion - A large stone house in a small hamlet with about 5 other similar houses. It’s in a farming area. It was renovated and “modernized” in ’01, and it has 4 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths with “American” showers, a living room with a fireplace, a family room/dining room with a fireplace, and a large kitchen with lots of cookware & a dishwasher. There are two outside garden areas where you could eat or relax. It is within 15 mins of many cute villages – three of them classified as “The Most Beautiful Villages of France”. The surrounding area is very scenic and some of the best “value” restaurants we’ve encountered in France are close by. This Gite rented for about 500 Euros per week in Sept ’04. We stayed there for 2 weeks
Orb River near Lamalou les Bains – a recently renovated Gite next to a large chateau. There are about 4 other Gites in the chateau. This was a very light & airy place, large living area, and a nice garden just outside the kitchen, where you could dine or just relax. A large pool was shared with the other guests. This place rented for 850 Euros in Sept 04 – more expensive than most places we’ve rented, and we could not figure out why. It was very recently restored, so perhaps they are trying to recover some costs quickly.
Auvergne – Large 3 bedroom 2 bath stand-alone house in a small hamlet in the beautiful Puy du Dome department. Recently refurbished, this is one of the nicest Gites we’ve stayed in. Views of the Puy du Dome from the outside deck. It rented for 600E per week in July of ’05.
Beaujolais – 2 bedroom & 2 bath Gite in a very recently refurbished working winery. There are 2 B&Bs on the property along with the owner’s house. The B&Bs are listed in the Red Michelin Guide for France. Beautiful property on a hilltop with 360 degree views of the villages & vineyards below. The Gite has a modern interior, with fabulous views of the rolling vineyards below the Gite. The property has a horizonless pool with views out toward the vineyards & the famous winegrowing village of Julienas. The owners speak English and the place rented for 430E in Sept ’06.
Burgundy – very large 2 bedroom & 1 bath stand-alone gite just 10 mins south of Beaune. The gite has a large “open” kitchen/LR/DR with a garden & deck. It sits on a ridge with expansive views out over the vineyards below. Well stocked kitchen. This is a very popular Gite. It rented for 500E per week in Sept ‘06
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Here is a description of how we rente Gites in France from the Gites-de-France affiliation