When my husband and I decided to vacation in France with the kids, we knew immediately that we would want to rent a house or large apartment.
As our family gets older and with all of us wanting more space, vacation home rentals are just the way to go. They are also huge money-savers from not having to eat out all the time, be entertained all the time just to get out of the hotel, and the needing an extra hotel room to accommodate the kids.
When it came to lodging during our week at the Midi-Pyrenees, we had several options: hotels, many of which would need more than one room to accommodate my large family, an apartment in the center of the city, or a gîte. I chose a gîte, which was the most costly upfront, but eventually balanced out in what we saved from not having to eat out every night, especially in Toulouse which is pricey.
A gîte is a vacation home that is often rented out by the owner when not in use. It can be a simple country home or a luxury country estate, either way, they are generally in rural environment offering a lot of the space and peace of the same. Because we would be traveling to several cities in France, I wanted to take advantage of a country-side stay.
I’ve grown fond of the small towns throughout this beautiful country. I have found the people to be respectful of our privacy, but also very welcoming and kind, even forgiving and patient of our attempts to communicate in French.
The gîte we rented is located in the small village of Daux, about 20 minutes out of Toulouse center. It was a bit larger for us, with 8 bedrooms spread out across two stories, and another floor dedicated to the service staff, which we obviously didn’t have. But I chose it because of its massive French country kitchen, as well as its beautiful outdoor living area the main attraction of which was the pool.
The Demeure Babonneau, the name of the house, was built in the 1800s and was entirely refurbished under the second empire 0f Napoleon III. The interior architecture reflects the style of the end of the 19th century.
The decor is both traditional and contemporary, and though the kids initially found all the space and art work of people in random places a bit nerving, they quickly got comfortable and looked forward to the afternoons and late mornings we stayed in cooking and enjoying it.
We had a positive first-time experience, but there were a few things we didn’t expect, which are standard when renting a gîte and which are important to note:
- When renting a gîte through websites such as Gîtes de France, note that you will be required to sign a contract and send payment via wire transfer. This is standard for most vacation rentals, everywhere.
- There is an extra fee for linens, which include, but are not limited to bed sheets, towels, blankets, and wash cloths. Most people don’t carry their linens with them when they travel overseas, so be ready to add that to the total cost. We paid about $25 euros (about $5 euros for a towel, wash cloths, and bed sheets).
- Expect to have a personal check for a deposit balance to give the owner at the time of key pick up. If all goes well, the owner will give you the check back. Most people don’t travel with personal check books, so ask the owner/rental rep ahead of time what the total will be if you would rather just have that one check with you.
- There is an allotted amount for gas and electricity usage, should you exceed what has been allotted for your stay, you will be charged extra. The owner went through the meters with me for both to confirm the starting point for both before our stay. But, with a week’s stay and five people and plenty of time cooking we didn’t go over, so note that often has to be excessive use to really be counted.
- The gîte was not stocked when we arrived at 10:00pm to pick up the key and because everyone was hungry, we had to resort to eating McDonalds as all the local restaurants were closed at that hour. My advice is to arrive at the gite with essentials if you can and if you are arriving late, ask to have some purchased for the house before you arrive – of course, be ready to reimburse for that cost.
- There is a fee for excessive cleaning that may be needed after to your stay. This is not including the washing of the linens, but we did make sure to wash all the dishes, as well as sweep floors, wipe down bathrooms, and make sure we left the house as close to the conditions as when we first entered as possible.
We cooked, we rested, we slept in, we swam and ate outdoors, we sun bathed, and we enjoyed our time in Toulouse in great part because of this house. We ventured through neighboring towns and found farmers markets and small shops where we got our daily bread, eggs, and bacon.
The village church rang its bell often breaking the silence which we found so wonderful. We slept with the windows open, because the area isn’t particularly hot, even during the summer and with the frequent rains, we got to enjoy even cooler evenings.
The only other thing to note is that the owner spoke only French, and thus greeted me and gave me a tour and instructions in the language. It’s important to note if you will need an interpreter to help with the meet and greet process upon your arrival to your rental.
Overall, expect to have a very unique and very French experience. I absolutely loved the house and all its charm and would rent a gîte again for my family.
Many thanks to the Midi-Pyrenees Tourism and Atout France team for all their help in coordinating this lodging experience. Which brings me to my last tip: when at a loss for reputable renting sites and locations, always contact the local tourism office (in this case, I got help from a regional office) as they are often well-connected and more aware of great options.