If youíre keen to discover the true esprit de France on your next French, you may want to consider swapping your usual hotel accommodation for a traditional gite. So, what exactly is a gite? Is it a hotel? A bed and breakfast? Well, neither really. A gite is a holiday home for hire that is equipped for self-catering. French holiday cottages are very similar to gites except that they usually have a British proprietor rather than a French one. Gites are often owned by a family who either lives on the property or very close by.

Staying in a gite can give you access to parts of the country that donít usually cater to tourists, particularly in rural areas. More often than not, the accommodation is splendidly original, far more memorable that a typical shoebox hotel room. Gites can be found in the mountains, by the seaside, in the centre of a large city or in a tiny country village, in a vineyard or in a wood. The sort of accommodation is as diverse as its geographic location and can range from humble accommodation in a converted barn to lavish chateaux situated on elaborately landscaped grounds.

French Gites are of excellent quality and give superior value for the money spent. It is possible to get an even better deal during the low season as deep discounts are usually given. This sort of accommodation is intended for families on holiday and is, on the whole, well equipped and comfortable Gites de France is the organisation responsible for assessing the quality of accommodation.

There are agencies that either own many properties or market for a group of independent owners. Getting information from these companies can be quite handy for comparing rates if you come across an independent gite. Also, company owned gites are more likely to be of the same standard wherever you go. On the other hand, if you are really after a true French experience, a truly independent gite is the way forward.

Gite owners are a friendly lot and will be quite willing to tell you about the interesting things to do in the area as well as whatís good and whatís not in other parts of the country. Although gites traditionally do not offer board, it is possible to arrange for a cooked supper if you are planning to have a busy day. These meals are often taken with the gite-owner and his family so they can be quite interesting affairs. It may even be worth arranging such a meal just to experience the culture.