We've holidayed in French self catering accommodation for a couple of decades now and the quality has been... well... on the whole inferior to what you'd get in the UK. Until we found Bois Blanc...
We knew instantly from the Bois Blanc website that this was something really, really special - and, compared to what we were used to paying in the South of France, the rent was reasonable. The 'look' is boutique hotel. Very modern and minimalist. Think 'Living etc' magazine.
From our first email contact with Mandie and Chris, the owners, we received the 5 star treatment - very friendly and informative. And our expectations continued to be exceeded when they sent their information pack which explained the 'welcome food pack' included ingredients for a full meal with cognac.
This 5 star treatment continued when we arrived when we were invited to take complementary drinks around the pool. The house itself was just as good as the website, if not better. Top quality fixtures and fittings plus fluffy bath robes, 'White Company' bedding, even Royal Worcester crockery - not to mention the state of the art German kitchen (spacious granite work surface), circular glass table with stools, modern sofa and armchair, and the Bose speakers on the Mac / ipod sound system / DVD player (note, no terrestrial or satellite TV). There is also a second bedroom downstairs (twin beds). The house is cleaned and bedding / towels changed at the end of the first week.
The main bedroom (mezzanine, so not very private if people are in the living area downstairs, but we didn't find this a problem) was boutique hotel in style - fantastic, with plenty of storage space. The (downstairs) bathroom is an Italian tiled wet room complete with sink with waterfall-style tap. Facilities include dishwasher, washing machine, large fridge (with small freezer compartment / ice box), microwave, oven, modern hob, kettle and stacks of space to store your food shopping. No toaster or bigger freezer. No mugs, just cups and saucers - so you may want to bring your own if you like a long coffee in the morning!
And of course there was a huge L-shaped pool outside (which, in the future, will be shared with other guests in the other (2 person) property that is in the process of being renovated).
The 5 star welcome continued when Chris announced that he provided free bread every morning which he fetched from the local Artisan boulangerie; we were treated to a different loaf every day - it was like Christmas, seeing what 'Santa' had left in his sack outside the kitchen!
Then, on top of that, Chris arranged for a free private tour round a local cognac producer who produces Eau de Vie for Remy Martin to turn into cognac. We were also invited to watch Mandie's blues band which was rehearsing in their home - a super evening when we really felt we were amongst friends!
The location is superb - neat, gentle rolling countryside with cognac vines - not as touristy as some parts of France, but a true hidden gem. There are good local amenities (local shops in the nearby village and supermarkets within drivable distances). You can get to a reasonable beach (estuary) in around 45 minutes but the better (outstanding!) beaches are around one hour away. The area is great for cycling, too, and there are so many Roman remains and chateaux to look at you'll be spoiled for choice!
You really get the feeling that the owners have invested stacks of love, care and attention to detail into getting this property 'just right' - and the service that goes with it, from the first email contact onwards.
Finally... you can pay the rent in sterling or by PayPal which saves you the hefty bank charges of having to pay in Euros. This is something we appreciated having been fleeced for a total of 50BGP in bank charges last year when paying a villa deposit, then the rental balance in Euros.
So, all in all, our experience of Blois Blanc was outstanding. The trouble is, it's going to be pretty impossible to find anything else that comes close! Which is why we're not even bothering to try to find somewhere else for next summer; fingers crossed we'll be returning to Bois Blanc again!!!
we stayed at bois blanc in August the location is perfect for a bit of peace and tranqility there was 4 of us and still had plenty of space the gite is 5 star accommodation it is fab every thing from booking to leaving was arranged with the finest of detail considered by the owners Chris and Mandie who are the perfect hosts there is lots of places to visit and some lovely restaurants although we cooked alot the fresh local produce was wonderfull and eating outside in the lovely surroundings the smell of the lavender wafting in the breeze then as the sun goes down the magnificent sun sets are not to be missed then all the lanterns lit around the gite made the ideal place to sample the wine and of course the cognac the pool was great with lovely loungers so quiet we only wished we had stayed for 2 weeks best gite we have ever stayed at . lesley and phil whitfield
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We have just returned from a very memorable trip to the beautiful Charente region in SW France, where Mandie and Chris Davis, an ex Army couple decided to set up home and also to build a unique holiday business. In the last year they have completed work on a 2 bedroom cottage, which unlike all other holiday gites is packed with high spec design features that add the luxury not often found in self catering accommodation. Under floor heating, wet room, german kitchen to name a few. They are also currently renovating a barn which which will have 2 one bedroom apartments with the same high spec design features due to be completed in 2010. The property is set in the middle of acres of vines and is only 15 mins from Cognac. Undoubtably though Mandie and Chris' USP is their warmth and hospitality and nothing is too much trouble eg drinks by the pool, fresh bread every morning, welcome basket, a tour of their neighbours local Cognac house and drinks in their home. My husband and I are very fussy when it comes to accommodation on holiday, as we do not feel we should compromise on what we are used to at home, this is definitely 5* all the way.