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The Chateau Fort Hotel inside Europe's largest castle

The Hotel Martinez brings classic Art Deco style to the Croisette in Cannes

Self-catering at a family villa

An ancient mountain cabin becomes an unusual gite in the Auvergne

Chalet village at a camp ground in Arnay le Duc

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France

 

France accommodations - comfort by any other name


F
rance is well supplied with hotels of all classes in all its major cities and popular regions. Visitors who prefer the reliability of well known, global hotel groups and the international style they offer will find all the major brands in abundance. But among the joys of traveling in France is the opportunity to discover the variety of specifically French lodgings. 

 

Chateaux and manoirs


From the Middle Ages to the French Revolution in the late 18th century, French noblemen built themselves great country houses or chateaux. Some of these are now historic monuments open to the public, but in the Loire and Rhone valleys, in Burgundy and it parts of Brittany many have been converted into magnificent country hotels where visitors can immerse themselves in history. The Chateau de Codignat, a 15th century fortress in the heart of the Auvergne and the 16th century Chateau de Noizay in the Loire are typical. One of the most unusual is Hotel le Chateau Fort, in the Champagne-Ardeche region, where 54 rooms have been created within a French national monument that is the largest castle in Europe. Manoirs are similar but usually smaller, created as country houses by the wealthy bourgeoisie.


Chambres d'hotes and maisons d'hotes


In France, bed and breakfast accommodations are known as chambres d'hote or maisons d'hote (why B&B?). They range from simple to luxury accommodations in pretty country houses, on farms and on estates. Depending upon the facilities, breakfast may be served in the guest's room or gardens, or in a dining room set aside for the purpose. Features like locally made bread and pastries or homemade jams are common. Though not licenced restaurants, some chambre d'hote hosts will provide lunches and dinners by arrangement. La Sarrazine in Lorgues, Provence, is a particularly comfortable example.

 

Auberges


Small, historic former coaching inns in rural or touristic regions are usually called auberges. A modern auberge is a restaurant with rooms. They are most often run by chef-patrons and Michelin stars are not uncommon. The exterior of an auberge can be surprisingly modest, concealing great comfort within. The Auberge du Vieux Puits in the Languedoc region, owned by 3-Michelin starred chef Gilles Goujon, conceals its charm behind quite ordinary, ancient stone walls.

 

Ski country accommodations


Besides hotels, rustic lodges and modern apartment complexes, a popular form of French ski accommodation, in both the Alps and the Pyrenees, is the group chalet. These are large, multi-bedroomed houses close to the lifts and slopes. Some are rented to families or large groups of friends, while others are shared by strangers in the same way as a small hotel or chambre d'hote might be shared. Chalet guests are looked after by chalet girls or boys who prepare all meals, shop, clean and help guests with local reservations and arrangements. Chalet girls and boys are generally students who have taken time off from their studies to ski.


Villas and gites


Visitors who prefer to look after their own needs can rent villas - private houses with well equipped kitchens, swimming pools and gardens. Look for these along the Atlantic Coast, in Provence and Cote d'Azur, in Brittany and in areas popular with families, such as Lot and the Dordogne. The term gite is also used for self-catering accommodations. Gites can be more rustic and basic than villas, but are often located in national parks or unusual structures - habitable wings of ancient castles, old monastic buildings, even caves. Campsites near the Atlantic coast beaches may offer gites or rustic chalets as an alternative to tents or caravans.