Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I love looking for unique places to stay while we travel. To me, meeting people and getting to know the rhythm of a place is key to travel. Bed and Breakfasts are *the* way to do this - you've got your own glimpse into another culture, while staying!  I've found an incredible B&B in Southwest France to share with you today - called Au Bellefleur.

Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Darren Porter, who runs Au Bellefleur with his wife Franca and daughter Fleur, about the B&B, the Charente region of France, and more. Here's what he had to say...

Please tell us about your hotel/B&B Au Bellefleur…

We started Au Bellefleur several years ago, it is a family run Bed & Breakfast or Chambres d’ Hôtes, as it is known in french,  the family are Darren, an Englishman from near London; Franca, a Dutch lady from Rotterdam; and our daughter Fleur, who is rapidly becoming very French - and we are here to welcome you not only into our home but also to the Charente region of France.  We have 5 rooms available for rent, one double room, 3 other double rooms that can also become triples if required, and a family suite, so in all we can accommodate around 15 people.  As well as traditional Bed and Breakfast we also provide evening meals, table d’hôte, on request.  Free wifi is available on site as well as good old fashioned chat, around the log fire in the winter, and outside in the garden in the summer, but always with a glass of Pineau in your hand.

Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

What is the history of your home, and how did you come to own it?

Our house is an old Charentaise farmhouse built in 1829.  It has been extended three times by the previous owners and we are hoping to add a 4th extension next year, if things go well.  We have discovered from research and our renovation work so far that our house used to be sheep farm and we have even discovered the stalls used to keep some of the animals during winter, though sadly we have had to cover them up again.  Our renovations have been concentrated on getting the guest rooms ready for use, so all our rooms show off the best of the old building while having modern fixtures and fittings.

We almost did not buy this house, by that I mean it was not our first choice, however when measuring up in the house we planned to buy, my wife and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously said to each other this is not the house, however we knew that just up the road there was another house on the market and that turned out to be Au Bellefleur, and we know we made the right decision...

Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

What led to your interest in running a B&B/hotel in France?

I have to say in the first instance it was never our intention to run a B&B in France.  It was always a dream of both of us to run either a Bed & Breakfast or a small hotel, and the plan was to find somewhere in South West England (Dorset, Devon, or Cornwall), however we could not make it work out financially, everywhere was just too expensive.  Having spent a couple of holidays in the Charente region in the 1980’s, I suggested we might take a look in France for a B&B as French property prices are much lower than in the UK.  After a year of researching different areas of France, we settled on the Charente as the area we liked best and set about finding the house.

Au Bellefleur

What sort of opportunities/activities are available to your guests?

We are centrally located in the Charente, which makes Au Bellefleur an ideal base to explore the region.  Poitiers lies 1.5 hours to the north with the world famous Futurascope complex as well as the historic city itself.  To the North West lies La Rochelle, a beautiful sea port and shopping centre, with lots of restaurants serving local sea food produce.  We have the lovely Atlantic coast to our West, just about an hour away, with wide sandy beaches many of which are patrolled by life guards during the summer.  To the south we have the amazing city of Bordeaux, which my wife calls a mini Paris in terms of architecture and shops, and Limoges is also only an hour and 20 mins away to the East of us. There are a number of Chateaux in the area to visit both large and small, and of course being in the middle of Cognac country, a visit to one or more of the Cognac houses is a must.

As our guests you are welcome to come and go as you please throughout the day, you can sit outside in the garden and enjoy the Charentaise micro climate, the 2nd sunniest in France after the Med.  We have bicycles to rent and we are hoping to be able to offer open top touring cars as well.

u Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

Please tell us about the area where your rental home is located...

Au Bellefleur sits on the outskirts of a village called Sigogne. On the one side we face the vineyards, and on the other side you will find our small but friendly village with facilities such as a small supermarket, hairdressers, boulangerie, tabac, and pharmacy. The gently rolling landscape alternates between vineyards for grapes used in Cognac, Pineau and increasingly Vin des Pays Charentaise. You will also see fields of sunflowers which are best seen in July, and fields of wheat. Every now and then throughout the summer you will come across beautiful fields of wildflowers planted to encourage wildlife back into the area.

The local tourist authority have created various picturesque cycle or car routes around the local area taking in all the Charente has to offer. Every weekend during the summer there are local village festivals, brocante (a sort of flee & antique market) as well as the famous food markets. During your stay we can let you know what is happening when and where. There are many possibilities and we will be happy to assist you!

Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

What advice do you have for people travelling to South West France?

My one piece of advice is take the time to slow down to the rhythm of life in South West France, and you will discover France itself. Life in France does not work at the speed or efficiency of the UK or the US, but it works.  We still have a two hour lunch in this part of the world, so don’t expect anything to be done between 12:00 and 14:00 each day, and as for Sunday, commerce is generally closed apart from the boulangerie, it’s a time to relax, be with family and friends, enjoy good company, good food and good wine, le joie de vivre.

In this part of the world ,lunch is still taken very seriously, however that is not to say the French do not work hard, if it needs doing it will be done, take the vendange, the grape harvest, they work 7 days a week and up to 20 hours per day to get the harvest in, still fitting in lunch and dinner though. I think the French have the work life balance about right - take the time to discover it, come and join us on Charentaise time…

Au Bellefleur: A Luxury B&B in Sigogne, France

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

DP: We have mentioned Pineau a couple of times and not everyone has heard of it. Pineau is the local aperitif, it comes in both white and red varieties, a bit stronger than normal wine, but softer and less alcoholic than brandy (cognac).  If you come to Au Bellefleur, we will always make sure you try some before you leave.  Other specialities of the area are the up and coming Vin de Pay Charentais wines.  The Charente has not been widely known for wine, but growers in the region are finding a ready market for the wine they used to make just for themselves.  Charentais melons are another speciality of the area to enjoy over the summer months, especially with some Pineau drizzled over it.  Being close to the Atlantic, sea food is always high on the menu in any restaurant in this area, on the other side of the Charente, to our east, are our neighbours in the Limousin with their world famous Limousin cattle, we are so lucky to have such rich pickings in every direction.

We can writes reams and reams about France, but better still, we look forward to welcoming you one day, into our house and into to the Charente so you can experience it for yourself





Thanks so much, Darren. Au Bellefleur is an extraordinary place - we highly recommend it to our Wandering Educators!

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