Published by Andrew on 6 April 2017
Jacqui Brown stayed at the Gites Au Marcassin and Au Cocorico, self-catered gites that welcome cyclists in the Deux-Sèvres region of south-west France.
Situated in the Deux-Sèvres, but very close to the Vendée too, these two gîtes are in an area that is able offer a variety of cycling possibilities for all types of cyclists and of all levels. The owner, Fran, has put a lot of thought into the facilities on site and is keen to attract groups of cyclists – she will even offer a discounted price if the two properties are booked together.
5 things we liked
1. The gîtes:
The two properties are bright, cheery, clean and comfortable – a lot of effort has gone in here to help make guests feel welcome and relaxed. Fran's well-behaved dog and the two neighbouring horses, who graze in the meadow next to the pool and play area, also offered us a warm and friendly welcome.
Gîte 'Au Marcassin' sleeps four in two-bedrooms (double bed and two singles) and it also has a sofa bed for extra guests. Gîte 'Au Cocorico' has a main bedroom with a double bed and a single bed, and a small second room that has bunk beds – ideal for families.
The views from the terraces of rolling hills and green fields are not something you would ever tire of looking at, and as the properties are situated in a small hamlet, the night sky is dark and free from light pollution, meaning we were treated to a beautiful display of stars.
2. General facilities.
The gîtes are cosy and compact, but with well-equipped kitchens that include dishwashers, coffee machines, a slow cooker and even a food processor. We had no trouble finding our way around the kitchen and making ourselves a pasta meal during our stay.
In a separate building there are two washing machines and a tumble dryer for guests use. There is also a fully equipped outdoor children’s play area and an indoor games room. For summer visitors there is a natural swimming pool that uses no chemicals as a reed bed and pump system filters and keeps the water clean.
3. Bike facilities.
There is a selection of bikes and helmets available to use for guests travelling without their own bikes. There's also a separate, safe and lockable bike store with brand new wall hanging cycle storage facilities for those who bring their own.
4. The cycle routes.
Fran is a keen walker and knows her way around a map. She provides a folder in each property with laminated route suggestions for walkers, mountain bikers and road bikers. These have been carefully thought out and include maps and directions in both English and French, and offer a variety of different distances, level of difficulties and start points.
We followed her 21-kilometre road bike route No 2 that offered us some leg-testing hills followed by rewarding descents, a quiet forest road and at, 14 kilometres, a café for morning coffee (it also serves an €11.50 three-course lunch from Monday to Friday).
The gîtes are superbly located for days out, with and without your bikes. Less than an hour by car and you could be visiting any of the following:
* Puy du Fou, an historical theme park with entertaining shows and displays suitable for all ages.
* The departmental town of Niort on the Velo Francette route, with its Donjon, market hall and shopping facilities.
* The Marais Poitevin, an area of reclaimed marshes, popular with walkers and cyclists, where you can also hire boats.
* The historic towns of Bressuire and Parthenay (which is also on the Velo Francette route).
We may have only stayed one night, but we were easily able to try out two different cycle routes, one of 32km that gave us an afternoon bar stop in Bressuire, and one of 22km that left from the gîte and gave us a morning coffee stop in Chantemerle.
We experienced old railway lines turned into voies vertes, some with better surfaces than others, but all relatively flat and safe from traffic, plus undulating roads which were also fairly quiet. I'm sure we could have cycled somewhere different every morning and afternoon for a week and not run out of possibilities.
ABOUT OUR REVIEWER
Our guest reviewer Jacqui Brown writes French Village Diaries, a blog about life in Poitou-Charentes, cycling, French food, travel, and books.