13 August 2013 by Chris Jones
Gites de Brive, near Cognac, Charente Maritime, Poitou Charentes
A collection of four gites in a tranquil location near the golden sand beaches of western France: La Grange (a 3-bedroom gite, sleeping 7), Le Figurier (a 2-bedroom gite, sleeping 6), Le Marronnier (a 2 bedroom bungalow, sleeping 6) and Le Studio (a 1-bedroom apartment sleeping 2).
This month’s property is in fact a pristine collection of four luxury gites set in the heart of the Cognac grape growing region that produces the world-renowned brandy.
Surrounded by vineyards, sunflowers and swathes of wild flowers in the pretty village of Brives-sur-Charente – this is truly a place where you can soak up the French way of life and get away from it all for a week or two. The climate is warm, and with the Atlantic Coast just half an hour away, these gites make a convenient and luxurious base for a beach holiday.
Gites blending traditional features with mod cons
The four gites have been sympathetically restored and furnished to a high standard, blending contemporary with traditional features, including beautiful old oak beams, and honey-coloured stone. Each property can be rented individually, but larger groups of up to 20 can rent two, three or all four if they wish. Each gite is well equipped with the latest mod-cons, including flat screen tvs, high speed broadband and fast wi-fi.
The properties share a spacious sun terrace and big swimming pool so it’s easy to top up the tan (and then cool off). There’s a gym, table-tennis table and boules court on-site, and a 6-acre field – home to countless wild flowers, shrubs, trees, butterflies and insects – which means that there’s plenty of room to spread out and relax (or play!).
Charente Maritime charm
Local amenities are found in the nearby village of Brives-sur-Charente, where you can walk for your breakfast croissants or bread. Or if you’re feeling lazy, listen out for the horn of the boulangerie van as it makes its daily visits.
The gites’ owners, Phil and Glyn Silvester, live on-site and are invariably on hand to help their guests make the most of their French experience – assisting with everything from booking tables at restaurants and arranging guided cognac tours, to booking taxis and collecting guests from the railway station.
When asked why in particular they chose this particular corner of France to live, Phil doesn’t hesitate: “Charente Maritime is the second sunniest region and it has a warm microclimate. Plus we have so many places of historical interest close by, and we’re only half an hour from the lovely beaches of the Côte Sauvage.”
Phil is a real expert on the area, and he can direct you to all the local must-see and off-the-beaten-track sights.
“The zoo at Palmyre is the biggest in Europe and makes a fantastic family day out for kids–and adults too. We’ve taken our children there many times over the years, and even though they’re all grown up now, they still love it!”
At the very top of Phil’s must-visit list are the four big-name Cognac houses: Martell, Rémy Martin, Hennessy and Otard. And he also recommends visiting the smaller, independent producers, “You simply have to visit a local cognac producer, as well as a distiller of pineau – the sweet sherry-like fortified local wine.”
Food & drink in Cognac
Cognac and pineau permeate the local menus too, and all sorts of culinary delights are served up with them in the local restaurants–look out for the melon served with pineau as an entrée.
But which restaurant to choose? Once again, Phil is the man to ask. For a simple and inexpensive meal he suggests La Guingette at Rouffiac: “It’s a rustic restaurant-café, perched on a wooden pontoon over the River Charente– an idyllic setting.” And for something really special, he recommends L’Atelier in Old Cognac. “The food is truly authentic French, and the location alongside the River Charente opposite Otard, is simply stunning.”
Phil and Glyn’s enthusiasm for the area is infectious, and this, combined with their hard work and professionalism, and the quality of the gites themselves ensure that guests return year after year. And for Phil, all that effort pays off: “When we hear children screaming with delight as they jump into the pool, we get a real kick out of it – job done!”
A week’s stay at Gites de Brive starts from €250 for a 1-bedroom studio, €400 for the 2-bedroom gites, and €500 for the 3-bedroom gite. To find out more, visit the Holiday France Direct web pages for each property here: La Grange, Le Figurier, Le Marronnier & Le Studio.