Birdwatching vacation in France

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26 Aug 2018
€ 1057
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02 Sep 2018
€ 1057
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23 Sep 2018
€ 1057
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Birdwatching vacation in France


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 humanity, 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 we promise to continue so to do.
“This Maison d'Hôte is 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 wine in an amicable atmosphere.

The region it has a huge diversity of birds, trees, wild flowers, animals, 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 auberge 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 auberge 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, with obvious benefits for bird life.

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 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.
• Most vehicular transportation in connection with the Maison d'Hôte is made using a hybrid car.
• An energy efficient fridge filled with beer, cider, fruit juices, soft drinks and wine is always at the free disposal of guests. The fridge also contains 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 auberge, to evaluate their efficacy.

The carbon footprint of city dwellers could well be less on this vacation compared with remaining at home. This obviously depends upon where and how a city dweller lives, however, bear in mind that the auberge exists without the need for a significant carbon emitting infrastructure – and you will be just watching birds in beautiful rural idyll.


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 community has in the past been detrimentally affected by low population due to lack of economic activity. Today, thanks to an influx of new residents, including the proprietors of this vacation, the community is more viable. In order to help sustain this balance we 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 – 11 November 2011

The perception that the vacation guests at this auberge represent a social and economic asset is widely acknowledged 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 up to 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.

The local inhabitants consider that the Maison d'Hôte is a part of the local culture and an asset in the life of the community. Consequently guests at the Maison d'Hôte are also locally liked and respected.

3 Reviews of Birdwatching vacation in France

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 13 Jul 2018 by

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

Gathering on the terrace in the early evening to sample Peter's selected aperitif and to share our experiences on the day.

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

Most people stayed local and just walked from the accommodation. I took my car which enabled me to see the wider area. I covered the Marais Poitevin, the Baie d'Aiguillon and the Mervent Forest with ease. Very varied scenery for not a lot of extra effort.

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

Ironically most of the local people seemed to be expat Brits! All of our service was by local residents, all of the food was local and most of the drinks provided were local. Taking my car didn't help with the environmental impact, if you just want to walk or cycle the local countryside (including 2 stages of the 2018 Toiur de France) then you can and you will keep your environmental impact very low!

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

There was a particular reason for choosing this trip and it worked. Being a group at breakfast and in the evening really worked for me. Peter and Carolynn were excellent hosts and made sure we all talked to each other and shared together. Just what I needed! Plenty of wildlife around, the spotted flycatcher leaping through the garden was great, several species of dragonfly by the ford and several hummingbird hawkmoths feeding on the lavender by the pool, all to the tune of blackbirds, turtle doves and a Cetti's warbler!

Read the operator's response here:

What a lovely descriptive review - thank you Nigel.
We are delighted that you appreciated the time you spent at our place in this corner of France.
On our part, we very much enjoyed your company and the interesting mix of other guests in that week.
Warm regards,
Peter and Carolynn

Reviewed on 25 Sep 2013 by

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

Most memorable :Exploring the local countryside on foot:it's like going back 100 years. There are small fields with tall, thick hedges.
There is Hardly any traffic. You can walk ( or cycle) straight from Le Moulin, which is idyllically situated at the end of a shallow valley, surrounded by trees and bordered by a stream. There is total peace and quiet. We felt as if we belonged while we were there as Peter and Carolynn are so relaxed and welcoming.
Most exciting: birding in the Marais Poitevin ( West part) and finding St Denis du Payré bird observatory, where after buying a €5 ticket in the nearby village.( and waiting for the afternoon 3pm reopening after lunch break) we watched scores of Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets, Sacred Ibises,Black Winged Stilts, Sandpipers, Marsh Harriers etc

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

Tell Carolynn if you hate fish, or are gluten intolerant. She did a fabulous menu for myself.and my husband who are both of these things!
The steps are a bit steep to some of the rooms, but there are rails for the most part.!

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

Lots of local wines drunk! I was on vacation so don't know about the nitty gritty!

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

Both my husband and myself loved our week. Lazing by and in the pool late afternoon was lovely and the weather was hot.
Being able to walk littlle or miles or not at all, was good -there is no compulsion to be super active, though you can!
If you want to be totally catered for and live in verdant peace for a week, but have company too-this is the place for you!

Reviewed on 23 Sep 2013 by

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

The care and attention given to us by the hosts - maps, information and person recommendations. Details were important.

The food is wonderful - vegetarians are catered for with equal care. French wines and French cheeses served with all the meals.

Easy place to be - no fuss but no neglect either.

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

Its off the beaten track - if you love that, you will love this vacation. Its not in a stunningly beautiful area, just in good countryside for walking and cycling around. So bring books and make sure you have your switch off button. You need to be aware too that each evening the entertainment is the meal (which is excellent) and you and your fellow guests.

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

I would say that we did not have a big foot print. Everything we ate and drank was bought locally. I did not use anything but bike and walking boot all week.

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

Excellent. It was not a thrills and spills vacation, just a quiet retreat where you are looked after. And if that is what you need, this is a place for you.

Thank you Peter and Carolyn.

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