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

Travel Team

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02 May 2021
1100
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09 May 2021
1220
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23 May 2021
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30 May 2021
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10 Oct 2021
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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, center 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.
Traveling by train:
Travelers by train take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord (3hr 30mins). Cross Paris by Metro (30mins), Bus (30mins) or Taxi to Paris Gare Montparnasse. TGV (fast train) from Montparnasse to Niort (2hrs). A transfer service collects guests at Niort train station for the journey by car to the Maison d’Hôte (40mins). The transfer service is generally without charge in both directions. Eurostar and TGV travel tends to be less expensive for earlier reservations. Alternatively, The Folkestone EuroTunnel terminal is accessible from M25 and M20 exit 11A. Le shuttle journey time to Calais is 35 minutes. Calais to the Maison d’Hôte is a 6½ hour drive on free flowing motorways. To shorten the journey, it can be an attractive extension to your vacation to stop-over in France - there is a wealth of appealing localities between Calais and la Maison d’Hôte. The proprietors of la Maison d’Hôte will be pleased to forward directions.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
The proprietors and hosts of the vacations, Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche, are committed to protection of the environment with respect all things relating to the wellbeing of humanity to the maximum extent consistent with the means and resources available to them and they promise to continue so to do.

The vacations enable guests to enjoy the delightful countryside, to appreciate local places of historical, cultural and natural interest and to indulge in an abundance of wholesome local food – beautifully prepared and complemented with plenty of excellent wines of the region – in an amicable atmosphere; all this with negligible adverse impact on the environment.

The region has a huge diversity of trees, wild flowers, animals, birds, butterflies and aquatic creatures. Local biodiversity is almost certainly unharmed by the vacations. The local population density is only 34 inhabitants per square kilometre and guest capacity of the Maison d'Hôte is limited to eight or ten guests, whereas the region is vast and fertile. A balance of good soil fertility, sunshine and sufficient rainfall ensures that minor upsets to the local flora and fauna are rapidly reconciled. Natural habitats are not under pressure as a result the vacations.

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 and land owners 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 unnecessarily clear natural growth from the banks in order to nurture natural habitat for aquatic and land plants and animals.

Food miles in respect of the superb cuisine on the vacations are relatively very favourable, thus minimising pollution from transportation. A quantity of fresh vegetables is supplied from the nearby garden of Pierrot (Pierrot is aware of this). Organic beef comes from Bernard who farms adjacently. Other ingredients are local in so far as practicable.

The copious quantities of first-class wines served on the vacations (and all included in the price) are local from Anjou, Bordeaux, Fiefs Vendéen and other wine producing areas in France. Many of the wines are direct from the vineyards. Thus, the wine-miles may also be considered to be favourable.

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 the vacations.

Most journeys on behalf of the Maison d'Hôte are made using a relatively low-emissions, fuel-efficient hybrid car.

On arrival at the Maison d’Hôte, guests receive as a gift a smart stainless-steel vacuum flask as an investment toward reduction in single use plastic bottles for drinking water. The 50cl stainless steel flasks can also be used for almost all other types of beverage and are of course recyclable. This is only a partial solution since on a hot day of walking or cycling and individual needs more than 50cl of fluids – it is expected that a more practical solution will eventually be established.

An energy efficient fridge filled with a variety of drinks is always at the free disposal of guests. The contents of the fridge include easy-to-carry 50cl plastic bottles of mineral water. Guests are encouraged to refill the plastic bottles (and to fill and refill their stainless-steel vacuum flasks) with the very drinkable cool piped water supplied from the nearby barrage at Mervent (this water has been recycled by Nature, not by Lyonnaise des Eaux). Refilling saves both energy and pollution in connection with manufacture, transportation and disposal of plastic bottles.

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. The logs are cut from onsite woods to avoid impact from transportation to point of use and dried naturally to avoid impact from the process of kiln drying. Regarding the carbon cycle of trees, it is noted that older trees are less effective at trapping carbon than newer growth. In the region of the Maison d’Hôte, new woodland growth is remarkably vigorous. It is therefore concluded that heating by logs in such circumstances ranks favourably vis-à-vis environmental considerations. Auxiliary heating – when the outside temperature drops below -2 or -3°C, – is by gas central heating using a fuel-efficient boiler (2017 norms).

A post-lady collects as well as delivers mail, thus eliminating the need for numerous individual journeys to the village post office.

Packed lunches are provided in non-plastic bio-degradable bags.

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

Environmentally respectful cleaning products are used at the Maison d'Hôte.

The “carbon footprint” of city dwellers could well be less on the vacations compared with home. The Maison d'Hôte exists without the need for a significant carbon emitting infrastructure – and guests’ activities consist mainly of walking, cycling, relaxing, eating and sleeping in an idyllic rural environment.

26 November 2011, updated 6 September 2019
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

The proprietors and hosts of the vacations, Carolynn Grimaldi and Peter Roche, are an integrated part of the community in which the vacations are operated. In the past the community has been detrimentally affected by lack of economic activity resulting in reduced population. Today, thanks to investment and an influx of new residents, including the proprietors of the vacations, 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 these vacations, with local provenance to the maximum extent practically possible, and all services required in connection with this vacation.

The Maison d'Hôte represents a social and economic asset in a tiny 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 revitalize 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. (The region was 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 has been seen officially 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 restoring some significant historic sites to attract visitors. Restoration work has been sympathetically carried out and with innovative and dynamic ideas, together with the dramatic 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 the vacations 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 vacations are purchased locally and much of it is produced locally.

The vacation facilities have been acquired by an external investment into 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.

27 November 2011, updated 7 September 2019

Climate

19 Reviews of Self guided walking vacation in France

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 05 Aug 2019 by

Just what I needed. Restful, easy, a real vacation. Read full review

Reviewed on 01 Jul 2019 by

The most memorable part of the vacation was the wonderful hosts and food Read full review

Reviewed on 30 Jun 2019 by

Peter and Carolynn source as much as they could locally, especially the wine. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Jun 2019 by

Excellent ! Friendly welcoming hosts, good accommodation and great food and drink. The vacation had all the best elements of a home stay with friends. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Jun 2019 by

Excellent, we had a great time! The camaraderie with the owners, Peter and Carolynn, and the other guests at dinner was memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 06 Aug 2018 by

It was a perfect vacation... The lodging was excellent nestled in greens with lots of hiking and biking trails to choose from, all meticulously planned out by the owner Peter. Food was superb, prepared by Carolyn, Peter’s wife who ran the place immaculately. This place is actually perfect or simply lazing around for a few days, sipping on limitless wine and taking a dip in the pool. Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Jul 2018 by

Top drawer! Read full review

Reviewed on 15 Jul 2018 by

One of the best breaks I have ever had. Carolyn and Peter look after you so well. I am a solo traveler and sometimes you can feel isolated but not this time!!! Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Aug 2018 by

The vacation was...Very enjoyable - our hosts were very helpful and hospitable. There are some good walks in this area and the accommodation provides detailed guides. Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Jun 2017 by

Truly great value and the fact that most of the guests had been before and one set I think 12 times makes its own point. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Jun 2017 by

The beautiful countryside, great food, wine and company. Our hosts Carolyn and Peter were great fun, interesting conversationalists and they run a lovely home. I walked my legs off and swam in the pool every day. Read full review

Reviewed on 01 May 2017 by

The most memorable part was the hospitality of the hosts. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Oct 2016 by

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

Reviewed on 06 Aug 2016 by

Best bits: The lovely walks the evening dinners Read full review

Reviewed on 26 May 2016 by

I would highly recommend this vacation for bikers or walkers like my wife and I. Read full review

Reviewed on 14 Sep 2015 by

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

Reviewed on 01 Aug 2015 by

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. Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Jul 2014 by

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

Reviewed on 24 May 2014 by

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

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