THE VERY BEST OF FRANCE

May 21st, 2012, 04:31 PM
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THE VERY BEST OF FRANCE

In April this year I made my 10th trip to France and my 8th trip to the Perigord/Limousin/Charante region and it won't be my last trip either. Below is a shortish report of some places of note and things that I think are important i.e. accommodation.

You can see France in two ways - you can take a tour and be shown what other people think you should see OR you can immerse yourself in the French culture and stay at an English speaking establishment where the owners will help you decide on the best of things to see and do in France for yourself.

We have stayed in many gites in France before but none have come close to the facilities & comfort that Penny & John have put into their gites and into their Bed and Breakfast business at La Betoulle, St Claud, Charante France http://www.manoir-la-betoulle.com/. I must also say that I have stayed twice in the B&B section as well which has the same standard of accommodation but this year we decided to take things easy and stay in one of the gites (holiday cottage on site) at La Betoulle.

La Betoulle is a special place. I have run and owned a B&B since 1999 but Penny and John have set their bar so high that I could never compete. The property has many acres in which one can roam, a large swimming pool, Tennis court and huge outdoor chess set. It is built and furnished more like a stately home than a B&B and Penny is a fantastic cook.

The weather was not very nice for our week but we were more than comfortable in the gite & could not have enjoyed ourselves more. The cottage is of course self contained with a large lounge/dining room, two bedrooms - the main is huge with sitting area and deck surrounding most of the cottage and accessable from the main bedroom and lounge, Kitchen with dishwasher stove and large fridge and everything you could possibly need in equipment. Finally a lovely bathroom and a laundry off the second bedroom which incidently has a washbasin.

There are books everywhere, tour guides and tour information and even information on local French Garage Sales and markets which are a real treat to go to. The Gite has Sat TV, DVD and CD and radio and it is nothing short of a home away from home

Penny’s welcome basket with the home made strawberry jam, macarons & honey from their bees was an absolute treat & we were very grateful for the lovely contents of this basket which included a yummy bottle of French wine.

Thanks too to Penny & John for their suggestions of places to see & enjoy. A particular unexpected delight was a trip to the ‘Valley of the Monkeys’ ( Valley of the Singes) I love animals & I think this zoo has to be one of the best ever. It’s a ‘walk through the animals territory’ no cages except for their sleeping quarters which they can get in and out of. I had an extra special treat in being able to sit on a bench with a lemur sitting right beside me, upside down, legs in the air and sunning itself – Wow! what a memory! Little Tamarins were playing peek-a-boo with us from the roof of one of their huts. I most certainly will head back to this zoo next time I am in France.

There are many beautiful places around this area, namely Angouleme with its old ramparts and beautiful river - take a boat ride on that.

There are also places like Oradour-Sur-Glane which stands as it was left in June 1944 when the Nazis killed all the village people and bombed the village to bits. It is a memorial to those people and there is the cemetary there as well. You can walk the village streets and see the rusted cars still left where they were bombed. A grim reminder of a grim past. I can take up to three hours to see everything there.

Many thanks for your hospitality Penny and John & may you still be at La Betoulle the next time I am back in France.

Following our week in La Betoulle went travelled to Monbazillac which is just south of Bergerac in the Perigord region of France and which is a big wine growing area. In previous years we had stayed with Martin and Charmaine Lascelles in the B&B section of their most fantastic 16th Century barn conversion but this time we decided to stay in their gite which is attached to the property.

I don't know whether I should mention this or not but Martin is related to the Royal Family in England which means that the home is dotted with all sorts of interesting objects from Royals personages past and pictures and objects reflect this connection throughout the house. This was the family home and has its own vineyard. Martin's mother was an actress and there are biographies everywhere of people she knew and acted with, photos of herself and memorabilia of her time on the stage. So in fact the house itself is a wonderful drawcard and a beautiful conversion. Having said all that do NOT expect butlers or footmen or any pomp and ceremony because the owners are just ordinary people who have an interesting family history, a beautiful home a welcoming B&B and Martin's main interest in life is his Music Production Company - apart from his family that is.

Monbazillac is only 10 minutes from Bergerac Airport which has flights into it from the UK and other areas of Europe - very convenient.

At present there are some health problems for the owners but I do know that the B&B is going to remain open this summer anyway. My email address is [email protected] and if you want to book at this place email me and I will give you the phone number.

From Montbazillac you can get to St Emilion to the West which is a magnificent Roman village in the oldest wine growing area, south are the villages of Issignac ( some 1200 years old and one of the loveliest villages in France ) Emyet, a bastide village. To the North is Bergerac with its old part of the city which is certainly worth a visit. East of course is the valley of the Dordogne and the Vezere Rivers steeped in history of the 100 year war between France and England and where the pre-historic caves are to be found. Sarlat is the most wonderful town in that area but do not try and go there on a Saturday as the Market is on and thousands of people flock to that town for the market. I have stayed in Sarlat on previous visits but with two markets per week you will be woken up at 4 AM with stall holders setting up - if that is not a problem then book yourself in at La Pivoine, Gite, in the middle of the old part of two and soak up the atmosphere of this fantastic place. There is a Tourism Office in Sarlat which has English speakers who can help with accommodation for you. I personally have stayed in La Pivoine and it too is an exceptional place to stay.

If you don't believe me about the Perigord region and the Dordogne Valley google the writer Henry Miller and see what he said about it. If you have not been there you have not been anywhere I think.

These areas of France are sublime, the food, the wine, the villages, the countryside and the people is everything anyone could want and more. ENJOY!
















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ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 05:51 PM
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Interesting report. Thank you.

But, <>

There are loads of other ways to see France, actually, including lots that don't involve staying at English-speaking establishments.

What's your connection with these B&B owners?
StCirq is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 07:30 PM
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If you want to be pedantic StCirq I should have said " you can see France in two MAIN ways" of course there are many ways you can see France and any other country for that matter but that is what I wrote and that is the way it has to stand - can't change it! No you don't have to stay at English speaking establishments either but if you are a person with less than fluent French it certainly helps to be able to converse with owners if they speak English - which is my first, and really only language apart from a few gutteral yoinks which, in the main, are not understood.
My connection, as you put it, with those B&B owners is that I was a PAYING Guest who was particularly pleased with the quality of the accommodation that I paid for, the help and attention that I was given by the owners which made for a most memorable time there and who went out of their way to ensure that I, and others staying there, had the most enjoyable time possible. I firmly believe that if there is somewhere or someone which/who is particularly good then I have a duty to applaud its, or their, wonderful achievement/s so others can benefit as well. Isn't that why there are forums? I have stayed in an apartment in Sarlat which was owned by a "less than good English speaking Frenchwoman" who must have thought that anyone was a target for her second-rate accommodation and bad manners. She, I reported to the Office of Tourism in Sarlat, they inspected the place and had her make major changes - the good ones I write a review on. I also had the misfortune to stay at an "organic" vineyard owned by South Africans who could not possibly have had a worse establishment if they tried.
It seems to me that over the years whenever I have written anything on France, particularly the Dordogne Valley, you have replied with criticism. I find this most strange because unless you own this forum or unless you have a vested interest in people not being directed to quality establishments I would have thought you would approve all positive reviews thinking it would be good for you and those about you in these particularly troubled and not so touristed times.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
May 21st, 2012, 09:49 PM
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ivenotbeeneverywhere - touchy, touchy, n'est pas?

StCirq - very good points,

If there are 50 ways to leave your lover, then there are more than 50 ways to see France, or any other country, for that matter.

Slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just listen to me
Hop on the bus, Gus
Don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
Get yourself free
Rastaguytoday is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 12:12 AM
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This trip report leaves me feeling uneasy, both the positive and negative reviews.
tarquin is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 01:57 AM
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Please do tell me what your unease is about as I have written a complainty to Fodors about this and I am sure they would also like to know.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 03:02 AM
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The hyperbole and sheer length of your B&B review.
tarquin is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 03:18 AM
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Just the title of the post made me stay away from it when I first saw it this morning. Now I am kind of sorry that I finally clicked on it.
kerouac is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 04:33 AM
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I apologise, Jack. Vous avez l'air gentil.
tarquin is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 06:39 AM
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Our favorite hotel is a non-english-speaking french establishment, and we couldn't be more happy there.
RonZ is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 07:34 AM
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It makes people feel uneasy because from the get-go it sounds like a shill for the places you chose as accommodations. It's one thing to come on a forum and say hey, I found a great B&B you should all know about - quite another to go on at great hyperbolic length, and give your own email asking people to contact you for the owners' telephone number.

And because you declare there are only two ways to visit France, when everyone here knows better. Saying there are two MAIN ways to visit France doesn't correct that problem. Yours aren't the main ways for most people, at least not on this forum.

And because after 8 trips you spell Charente wrong.

And last but not least, because you end with this: <> Which is insulting.
StCirq is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 07:46 AM
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Well it is nice to get a new style of report. If we all did our reports the same way it would be dull and there would be nothing to narque about.
bilboburgler is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 08:15 AM
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Please continue, I'm interested in hearing about this area.

I am often very enthusiastic about places we've stayed.

If this had been her FIRST post I would read into it differently, but it's NOT.
susanna is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 10:52 AM
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It sounds like there was something besides jam and cookies and honey in Penny's welcome basket.
robertino is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 11:05 AM
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I googled the names OP gave for the second place and below came up:

http://www.vacationfrance.com/vf/vf3002_en.php

Is that where you stayed, ivebeen...? If so, that link would have been more straightforward.

I too wondered when you said you own a B&B so don't be too hard on StCirq.

Both places sound great!
TDudette is online now  
May 22nd, 2012, 12:38 PM
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TDudette, I was not aware that M & C had put up any advertisement for their place because previously when I had stayed there, there had not been any - I stand corrected and it would have been more straightforward but I did not know. As I left my email address I wonder why St Cirq did not use that to email me directly and spill her venom.
If you are going through a hard time selling your place and other personal problems St Circ I can well understand why you are so bitter, sarcastic and nasty to me but to be so when it only reflects on those people I wished to give credit to makes you look no good at all in my eyes, just a spiteful bitch. So I made a spelling mistake with the name of a French area, oh dear, if only I was an American I could be perfect so I guess that is why the World loves you all so much!
For those other people who follow in St Cirq's accusatory fashion, the reason I mentioned I own a B&B ( which by the way is the other side of the World from France and which I have not connected it to anything at all ) is that I am aware of how they are run, I am more aware of what goes on behind the scenes to make someone's stay a memorable one and I take my hat off to someone who has got that side of things so perfect.
Yes I have made many reviews and posts over the years but never have I come across such a nasty, snide and spiteful person as St Cirq - so I will bow out and let Fodors be run by Americans, for Americans. I do apologise for stepping on your toes!
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 01:05 PM
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I thought the opening post was an ad too until I clicked on the OP's handle. Here is a review from his/her stay in Turkey. It's also gushing in praise. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ntal-villa.cfm

So...I think the OP simply has a writing style that some might consider over the top. The OP's reaction to StC's suspicions/criticisms stuck to the same style. But I do agree that the OP shouldn't assume he or she is the expert on the only ways to see France properly.
FoFoBT is offline  
May 22nd, 2012, 01:16 PM
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ivenotbeeneverywhere, StCirq is not a b*tch or spiteful. I think you are over-reacting. I hope you won't leave in an anti-American snit either. Since Fodor's is primarily an American pub, why should the plethora of Americans on this thread surprise anyone?

Please tell us more about your trip. Can we all lighten up?
TDudette is online now  
May 22nd, 2012, 03:01 PM
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FoFoBT Yes my Turkish review was gushing with praise because it deserved to be. Whether it was or was not "over the top" is a matter of conjecture. The two men who own the Villas are American and one is of Turkish origin therefore he arranges cars, tours through his contacts in Turkey, which means he gets rentals cheaper and tours cheaper for his guests, they print out every possible detail of how to get there, with photos of what you can expect to see en route and what to see and where the best places to go when you are there. The other chap is the brains behind the decoration and presentation of the Villas and he is a genius in that respect.
My style of writing is of course different from people who live in other countries - I hate items written in the present tense for instance, particularly when it moves in and out of the present tense which makes for difficult reading but I do not condemn people for writing that way, its their choice and neither am I surprised at the number of Americans on the Fodors threads. However there are Millions of people who are not American and perhaps they are not as picky with expectations that people should write how they want them to to.
What makes you think I "assume" to be an expert? I can have an opinion - it is a free country where I come from and we are encouraged to have opinions. If that opinion is not to your liking then so be it, I did not do it to win hearts and praise for my writing style nor for some people's unwanted comments and attention. I did it because I wanted to let people know of exceptional places worthy of attention.
I travel overseas about 4 - 5 times a year for 3 or 4 weeks at a time. I stay in hotels, Gites, holiday accommodations, do cruises etc etc but do you see hundreds of reviews...no! and that is because I only write about those places that deserve praise and are above all my expectations. This last trip was not only in France but Spain, the Middle East, Asia and a cruise around the Med. In February I was in China and no I did not do a review, in November last year I was in Norway, UK and Czech Rep and no I did not do any reviews.
So if I said that I have been to 79 Countries, thousands of cities, all the Continents in the World, 45 US States and all of the Canadian Provinces and only written a handful of reviews perhaps that might put things a little in perspective. Sometime I do not do reviews because I am a busy person myself, I do not haunt this forum daily nor any other forum, things were quiet for me over the last few days and that is the reason I had time to do this review however tomorrow will be a different kettle of fish and I will not have time on my hands.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
May 23rd, 2012, 07:20 AM
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I am the owner of the B&B & gite business in the Charente & have read with interest the replies to my guest's review. The only connection I have with this guest is that she & her husband have stayed with us before a couple of years ago after she found us on another web listing aimed at English speaking travellers. She & her husband (retired medical professionals) spend a lot of time travelling when not running their B&B - we have never stayed in their establishment as it is several thousand miles away, so we were delighted that they chose to return again to stay with us this year. 85% of our reservations are from regular guests as we pride ourselves in offering a personal service with extra touches not found in other establishments & were greatly touched by the review she has left as well as comments in our visitors book. As a B&B owner I now find that when I write reviews of B&Bs they do tend to be longer than your average as I notice the little things that the general public do not. We have had other B&B owners stay with us in the past who have left equally long reviews on TA, so I guess it goes with the territory. If anyone doubts the quality of the review with regards to our level of service I suggest they come to stay with us sometime to see if the comments are indeed true. I am open to criticism, but only when it is justified & made by a paying guest who has not been happy with our service & facilities - in 9 years so far all have left us happy with promises to return & we welcome visitors from every corner of the globe not just French & English speakers. The comments left by others to a genuine review can only prove harmful to our business & that of the couple who own the property in the Dordogne, so I trust that those of you genuinely looking for somewhere to stay will not be put off by the comments made by others about the authenticity of her review.
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