About 35 minutes drive from us is the village étape of Bessines sur Gartempe. This summer, as every summer, they are host to a weekend of music and festivals as musicians from all over the world congregate to play. The town is bustling with activity and there are markets and huge variety of food stalls.

Bessines-sur-Gartempe was actually the first village étape in France and was established in 1995. The initiative was created in the Haute-Vienne département of Limousin in 1989 as a way to encourage traffic from the main routes and motorways to take a break, whilst also boosting the economy of small villages who’s services may become extinct without passing trade. There is a website www.village-etape.com that is worth looking at if you are considering driving in France. A village étape are normally located on the edge or by a main motorway and they offer a range of facilities, the minimum being

– shops offering basic requirements (baker, butcher-delicatessen, grocer, newsagent)
– a range of eateries giving visitors the opportunity to discover the culinary traditions of each village
– star rated hotels
– a tourist office or a tourism information point
– shaded parking places
– a telephone kiosk
– a shaded picnic area
– 24-hour accessible toilets
– a cash point
So Bessines is known for being the first village étape in France and it does offer the basics and a lot more too.
The Festival this year was, as usual, a success with sun shining, the bands marching and a perfect end to the weekend with a firework display.
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So next time your are driving through France and see the “village étape” signs, why not try one ans support the local economy and also get to see some great little places.
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