Self guided walking vacation in France

“Our only self-guided walking vacation in Poitou-Charentes region, staying at a family run guest house where hiking, cycling, great food, wine and company are what life's all about.”

Highlights

Scillé | Les Cinq Communes Walk| | Le Beugnon Lakes Picnic | Route de Fenioux | Faymoreau | Marais Poitevin (Green Venice) | Butchers Wood walk | Vouvant | Swimming pool | Excellent food and wine | Marvellous ambience

Departure information

Vacations commence on most Sundays between April and October
Our top tip:
Easy to reach by TGV train from Paris, stopping at Niort station, where your hosts can meet you.
Trip type:
Self-guided, centre based.
Activity level:
Leisurely. 14-20 kms per day.
Accomm:
Family-run guesthouse with pool.
Included:
Accommodation, all meals, all drinks, walking itineraries.
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. One single room available with no surcharge per week.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Self guided walking vacation in France

Environment

The proprietors and hosts of this vacation, Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche, are committed to protection of the environment with respect all things relating directly and indirectly to the wellbeing of the human race on this planet, to the maximum extent consistent with the resources available to them and in accordance the means dictated by the development of related scientific knowledge, and it is our promise to continue so to do.
"The proprietors of this Maison d'Hote are actively taking measures to use renewable energy sources, save energy and water, to reduce waste, to improve the local environment."
Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche – Scillé, France 26 November 2011

This vacation enables guests to enjoy the delightful countryside without adversely affecting it, to visit local places of historical, cultural and natural interest and to indulge in an abundance of wholesome local food and excellent wine in an amicable atmosphere.

The region it has a huge diversity of trees, wild flowers, animals, birds, butterflies and aquatic creatures. Local biodiversity is almost certainly unharmed by this vacation. The local population density is only 34 inhabitants per km2 and guest capacity of the Maison d'Hôte is limited to ten whereas, on the other hand the region is vast and verdant. A balance of good soil fertility, plenty of sunshine and enough rainfall ensures that any minor upsets to the local flora and fauna are rapidly reconciled. Natural habitats are not under pressure as a result this vacation.

A charter for the preservation of local watercourses as close as possible to their natural state engages the proprietors of the Maison d'Hote and local farmers in a commitment to avoid watercourse-pollution and to maintain watercourses in a manner that will encourage bio-diversity. The wide ranging charter includes an undertaking not to use pesticides and herbicides on land adjacent to watercourses and not to clear natural growth from along the banks, to encourage natural habitat for aquatic and land plants and animals.

Food miles in respect of the superb cuisine on this vacation are relatively very favourable, thus minimising pollution from transportation. A quantity of fresh vegetables is supplied from the nearby garden of Pierrot (we assure you that he is aware of this). Organic beef comes from Bernard who farms adjacently. Other ingredients are local as far as possible. Non-local produce comes from other parts of France and unavoidably imported food is from not too distant Spain and Morocco.

The copious quantities of first-class wines served on this vacation (and included in the price) are local, from Anjou, Fiefs Vendéen and other wine producing areas within France. Thus the wine-miles may also be considered to be quite favourable. A Merlot sometimes served on this vacation is transported by road tanker from the Pays d'Oc, in the south-east of France, to nearby Niort where it is bottled. The wine is not harmed by this and transportation in road tankers rather than in palletized bottles provides a significant saving in the number of truck miles involved, with obvious benefits.

Little things make a difference if we are all willing to make a similar effort. Here are some small environmentally friendly things that happen on this vacation.

An energy efficient fridge filled with a variety of drinks is always at the free disposal of guests. The contents of the fridge include small bottles of mineral water, in consideration of the fact that small bottles are easy to carry. Guests are asked to refill the small bottles with the very drinkable piped water supplied from the nearby barrage at Mervent (this water has been recycled by Nature, not by Lyonnais des Eaux). Refilling the bottles saves both energy and pollution with respect to plastics manufacture, transportation and disposal. 

Food waste arising from the vacation operation is fed to the free range chickens on site, or if they won’t eat it, it is composted or recycled in conformity with the stringent requirements of the European Authorities.

Winter heating is mainly by logs (ie renewable energy) cut from woods on the site, thereby eliminating the environmental impact of transporting the energy source.

The postlady collects as well as delivers mail, thus eliminating the need for numerous individual journeys to the village post office.

Packed lunches are provided in bio-degradable bags.

The pool is heated when necessary by an energy efficient heat pump.

At time of writing, biologically degradable cleaning products, recently available on the local market, are in use at the Maison d'Hôte, to evaluate their efficacy.

The carbon footprint of city dwellers could well be less on this vacation compared their carbon footprint at home. This obviously depends upon where and how a city dweller lives, however, bear in mind that the Maison d'Hôte exists without the need for a significant carbon emitting infrastructure – and you will be just walking, relaxing eating and sleeping in a beautiful rural environment.

Community

The proprietors and hosts of this vacation, Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche, are an integrated part of the community in which this vacation is operated. The said community has in the past been detrimentally affected by lack of economic activity resulting in low population. Today, thanks to investment and an influx of new residents, including the proprietors of this vacation, the community is more viable. In order to help sustain this balance it is our promise to continue to procure locally all goods required for the operation of this vacation, with local provenance to the maximum extent practically possible, and all services required in connection with this vacation.
Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche – Scillé, France 27 November 2011

The Maison d'Hôte represents a social and economic asset in this remote rural community.

The vacation operation was established in 1993 at a time when rural communities in the region had declined for fifty years due to lack of economic activity. The already sparse population had diminished by 65%. Creation of local employment became an official objective to revitalise these communities.

The fruit farming, cattle production and timber exploitation that exist in the region are insufficient to support a population great enough in numbers to sustain local communities. The area is attractive to visitors on account of the idyllic timelessness of the countryside and the wealth of local places of historic, cultural and natural interest. (It is interesting to note that the region has been nominated by the Lonely Planet Guide as one of the top ten tourist destinations in the World for 2012). Creation of a tourist infrastructure with the associated jobs is officially seen as a means of generating additional economic activity to attract visitors to help revive and invigorate local communities.

Large amounts of public money have been invested in recent years in restoring some significant historic sites to attract visitors. Restoration work has been sympathetically carried out and dynamic ideas, together with the famous French flair for public spectacles, make the restorations come alive. These sites are well worth seeing and your visit will be appreciated.

The Maison d'Hôte is family owned and operated within the said rural community and all revenues (with the exception of external marketing costs) are eventually expended within the community. Apart from the exception, all expenditures incurred to make this vacation possible are beneficial to the local community. Livelihoods of local suppliers, artisans and staff are sustained in part, due to the fact that all resources are local, as follows.

Staff in connection with provision of meals, drinks and housekeeping services is local.

Food and drinks provided for the vacation are purchased locally and much of it is produced locally.

The vacation facilities have been acquired by an investment in the local community.

Materials and labour for maintenance and development of the vacation facilities are procured locally.

Suppliers, artisans and staff are engaged subject to their reasonable environmental protection credentials.

Guests at the Maison d'Hôte are considered to be cultural asset in the life of the community and are liked and respected by local inhabitants.

Reviews of Self guided walking vacation in France

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 10 Oct 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The peace and quiet plus all the birds and different types of cattle

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Ideal if you want walks where you see more animals than people

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes because food is sourced locally as much as possible and also because there is lots to see and do you dont need to keep getting in a car we were encouraged to recycle as much as possible

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent,really good food,drink and company brilliant location, great outdoor space, really appreciated the swimming pool

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you Anthony, for your very nice review - we are delighted that you enjoyed your vacation.
With kind regards, Carolynn and Peter.

Reviewed on 06 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The lovely walks the evening dinners

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


The walking is easy 14 to 20km if it's treking you are after this is not for you

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. Although the staff were all UK or Irish

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your review Bernard, and we hope that your vacations memories last a long time.

Reviewed on 26 May 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


My wife and I enjoyed an extremely relaxing but at the same time adventurous vacation at le moulin. Everything, including our hosts Peter and Carolyn, the deliciously prepared meals, the tranquility of the rural countryside met all expectations.
Although the weather did not always cooperate, our hikes on farm trails and small hamlets were met by friendly farmers, and the sounds of amazing birds. Like nothing I have ever experienced. We had a friendly group of eight people we met for the first time and enjoyed many memorable dinners sharing stories about the days journeys and our life stories. Oh yes, a few politics also.

What really stood out was the hospitality of the proprietors, Peter and Carolyn. Carolyn's great food preparation and Peter's engaging conversation made us feel welcome and relaxed. I would highly recommend this vacation for bikers or walkers like my wife and I.


2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?




3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?




4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Read the operator's response here:

Thank you Jerry, for your good words and for taking the time to comment – greatly appreciated. For us it was a first-class week – nice interaction at our table with an interesting group of guests and we very much enjoyed yours and Laurie’s company

Reviewed on 14 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Relaxing in the evenings around the dining table with excellent food and memorable conversation. Wonderful to have everything provided and glasses topped up without having to ask!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


A perfect rural retreat, with no urban distractions, apart from free WiFi for the addicted. Plenty of choice of walks to stretch the muscles, outside space to relax in around the pool, time for reading as well as social interaction in the evenings. Self contained which was a plus as there are very few local restaurants or hostelleries. We didn't need them as we were very well looked after.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Emphasis on locally produced food and drink, delicious home cooking, and no real need to use the car as there was always a walk option starting and finishing at the Moulin.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. Can't say I feel reborn as the muscles still ache a bit - but certainly refreshed with a smile on our faces.

Reviewed on 01 Aug 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The beautiful countryside waiting to be explore everyday, and returning back to an amazing 4 course meal every evening. A lovely combination. All enjoyed at my own pace.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Bring sun screen if traveling in the summer, ensure you have trousers as some of the walking routes are a little overgrown. If cycling be warned there are lots of hills. Good exercise but if you are not used to it a bit of a challenge!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, as food and wine was purchased locally, I felt I had a minimal impact as I was cycling or walking to see the local area.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I had a really relaxing break and the couple who run this trip are there for your every need. Having said that, the days are there to be enjoyed as you wish and they are very flexible.

Reviewed on 22 Jul 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Arriving at such a beautiful spot. It felt like heaven!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Maybe try to mix walking with cycling if it is possible. The walks are really nice and picturesque but very similar.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely. The food was fantastic. The veg were from locals and were so fresh. There were recycling facilities and nothing seemed to be wasted.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Really ,really good, relaxing and refreshing. You will be very well looked after and feel genuinely welcome.

Reviewed on 24 May 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Our hosts--Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche--were truly memorable. The hiking also was exceptional.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you plan only to hike and do not have a car, you should be able to work with the provided maps to work out possible alternative hikes. Your host, Peter Roche can also help with alternative hikes and local detail. If you bike--the Moulin has bikes--there are even more possibilities. Finally, if you have car, there are many other options in the area.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. We infused money into the local economy--somewhat depressed--with what we ate etc.. With no doubt we certainly aided the local wine providers. Since we were only hiking and without a car, we reduced our environmental impact.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


This was an excellent vacation. Our hosts were wonderful, the other guests (all British) were delightful, and the hikes, food, and wine were exceptional.

Reviewed on 02 Oct 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The personal touches from our hosts Peter and Carol such as courtesy taxi transfer from Train station at Niort on arrival and departure and the offer to meet us off the train were very welcome. We also particularly enjoyed the convivial company at meal times and our hosts taking the time to share meals and local insight with us. Carol's cooking combined the best of local produce and traditional French cookery.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


For those doing a self - guided walking vacation, local detailed maps and compass would be an asset as there are so many intersecting paths and few distinguishing features on the landscape.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We enjoyed speaking to locals in neighbouring villages and farms - particularly as we come from an agricultural background and I have a background in French - visitors with no French would have difficulty making themselves understood.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Really good value for money compared to other similar type vacations we've done. Excellent food, wine, company (maybe we were lucky) and glorious walking. Thank-you again Peter and Carol. We're already recommending it to friends.

Reviewed on 06 Apr 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Swaithes of wild flowers - cowslip, primrose, oxlip, violets, wild garlic. Birdsong in peaceful woodland, sometimes walking for miles without seeing anyone else.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Expect all weathers in Spring - most of our days were sunny, some t-shirt weather after chill starts, the picnic day was cold with rain! Take a compass, the walk guides are not perfect and often unmarked.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Peter and Carolynn seemed part of the local community using local people to help them and bought all their food locally.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very relaxing for the mind and exercising the body in hilly countryside, the evenings spent on food, wine and conversation. We were in two minds on the all-in basis that made life easy but meant that you missed real French cuisine.

Read the operator's response here:

The large-scale highlighted maps and comprehensive route-notes we provide for our walks have been developed and refined over a period of nearly 20 years. More than 1,000 guests have followed the routes without significant difficulty. Our magnificent region is remote from centres of high population and consequently few of our walks are physically way-marked. It was unfortunate and we regret that on this occasion some difficulties were experienced.

With regard to real French cuisine,16 different courses were prepared for the four evening meals of this vacation. All the dishes were characteristically French and prepared in the local style, except for two Italian dishes (which are also well known in France). All the dishes were based on local ingredients. We suggest that it is a misrepresentation to imply our cuisine is not ‘real French cuisine’.

The menus for the respective evening meals were as follows:

Day 1 – Salade de mozzarella et tomate – Poulet fermier à la moutarde de Dijon – Plateau de fromage – Tarte au citron – (principal wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Pays D'Oc rouge 2010)

Day 2 – Terrine de Brocolis – Jambon Vendéen et mogettes – Plateau de fromage – Pudding aux fruits secs – (principal wine: Bordeaux Comte de Sérac rouge 2008)

Day 3 – Tarte aux courgettes – Poisson du jour – Plateau de fromage – Panna Cotta – (principal wine: Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire rouge 2010)

Day 4 – Poivrons rôtis – Bœuf Bourguignon – Plateau de fromage – Tarte aux fruits rouges – (principal wine: Tarragona de Barcelone rouge 2005)

Reviewed on 08 May 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Along with the peaceful setting and very well organised walks, the warm welcome and great hospitality of our hosts was perhaps the highlight. We were treated as friends and individuals rather than paying guests, nothing was too much trouble and any requests were happily fulfilled.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Go for as long as possible! Take your swimsuit and walking boots and make the most of the idyllic and unspoilt countryside. Bring your binoculars to help you spot the many different species of birds, butterflies, insects and other animals which you are sure to spot.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, the vacation did benefit local people as it encourages sustainable tourism and respects the local customs, traditions and way of life. I believe that the majority of the food and wine was locally sourced by our hosts, thereby limiting the 'food miles' and giving us the opportunity to try local seasonal cuisine. We were also encouraged to visit local tourist attractions, thereby contributing to the preservation of some historically important sites. The impact on the environment was minimal as we were encouraged to chose the greenest travel options, travel largely by foot once on the vacation and to respect the local flora and fauna.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I would thoroughly recommend this vacation to anyone wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The hosts encourage you into a very relaxed and idyllic way of life, respecting and learning about the local customs and culture. I guarantee that you will relax, unwind and not want to go home!

Reviewed on 15 Aug 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The hospitality of our hosts.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Just book!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


10 out ot 10.

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