Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

Newsletter Archive


In This Issue:

Art-What I Love Most About the Riviera
Houses on the Riviera
Northern Tuscany near Lucca
Traveling with Children

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Ville et Village

has been written up in Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, The LA Times, Food and Wine, Consumer Report Travel Letter, Fortune Magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, American Express Departures, The New York Post and many regional papers.

Some Happy Parent Comments:

“Very helpful caretakers. Set up babysitters and chef.” Jeanne H., PR303

“The games were a plus. Every age played ping pong (great fun, much laughter). The young adults rode bikes. It was a perfect way to celebrate my birthday.” Lucille W., PR315

“The house is large and beautifully situated in vineyards. The owners are warm, friendly and hospitable. Great place for little kids with the enclosed courtyard.” Robert C., La Corte di Campalli

“The house was lovely –well furnished with everything needed in the kitchen. The kids LOVED the TinTin sheets.” Kelly W., RV200
France Information
Art – What I Love Most About the Riviera

The geography of the Riviera is beautiful: mountains drop to the sea; coves sparkle with clear blue water. But that’s not what draws me most.

The cities are alluring: Nice with its Belle Epoque buildings; Cannes with its elegant Croisette. But that not why I go to the Riviera.

The seasides are terrific: calm, warm water; boardwalks where people stroll arm in arm along the shore. But that’s not my favorite activity along the Riviera.

I go for the Art! Where else can you find so many small museums each specializing in the works of one artist? Having the privilege of seeing a full body of an artist’s work is the best way to learn about the artist. And a small museum means you have ample time (and energy) to see the full collection without being overwhelmed. This is particularly nice for children who can tire easily.

On trips to the Riviera our family would select a museum as our reason to go to a different village on the days we decided to tour. We would visit the museum in the morning, then select a local restaurant for a long Provencal lunch. Late in the afternoon we’d take our swim. If we were seaside, we’d go to a private beach club so we could change into our swim wear in a cabana. If we were at a hillside village, we’d go to the local public pool. These are usually beautiful and often have wonderful views.

Here are just a few of my favorite museums and villages.

Matisse Chapel at Vence. Located on the outskirts of Vence, this beautiful little white chapel was designed and decorated by Matisse in 1950. Its signature pieces are the stained glass windows that represent the Provencal sea, sky and land. Open Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

Chateau Grimaldi (Picasso Museum) at Antibes. Picasso arrived in 1946 and arranged to live at the Chateau where he produced an outstanding number of works of art. Most of these still remain, and a visit through the chateau is a delight. One sees joyful, imaginative works that helped to bring France out of the dark war years.

National Museum of War and Peace at Vallauris. Picasso helped to revive the traditional pottery industry at Vallauris. His fanciful pots continue the postwar theme of the joys of peace. Located in a small chapel its centerpiece is the spectacular huge War and Peace usually seen by us in books only. Here you get to see it in person. And of course, there are ample ceramic pots to enjoy as well.

Museum Marc Chagall at Nice. Chagall is famous for his lyrical paintings and brilliant colors. People and buildings fly through the air. Born to a poor Jewish family in Russia, Chagall loved France, his adopted country. This museum was his gift to France. Built partly in glass, it is hidden in the trees on a hill above Nice. The entire museum is filled with massive paintings depicting his “Biblical Message”. Even the nonreligious among us will be overwhelmed by these beautiful works.

Fernand-Léger National Museum at Biot. The galleries show the evolution of this artist’s paintings from his youthful geometric compositions to his mature works which celebrate work and industry. If you ever wanted to understand a single artist, this is an ideal museum to visit.

Maeght Foundation at St. Paul de Vence. This wonderful modern art museum has the unique distinction of being designed by artists to display their “modern” art as they thought it should best be seen. Thus it is has a broad collection including sculpture and paintings with works by Miró, Picasso, Giacometti, Bonnard, Braque and many more. Yet the museum is still reasonably small, and thus forms an ideal half day visit.


Houses on the Riviera

Here are some of our houses that are well-situated for visiting these incredible museums and enjoying the charming villages where they are located.

RV81 - Vence Wonderful 3 bedroom/3 bath house with private pool. Walk into Vence!

RV71 - Juan les Pins
Comfortable 3 bedroom/2 bath house. Walk to the beach and take public transit to the Picasso chateau!

RV200 - Cagnes sur Mer Pleasant 2 bedroom/1 bath house with private pool. Walk to the beaches.

RV100 - Nice
Romantic 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment in a lovely residential neighborhood. Walk to the Promenade des Anglais and the beach.

RV53 - Grasse
Charming hillside house with private pool. Lovely views. 3 bedroom/2 bath and walk into Grasse.


Northern Tuscany near Lucca

Many of the houses we rent are located within an easy drive of the beautiful walled city of Lucca. Lucca is a wonderful city to visit, for it has retained its local flavor. Unlike Florence which sometimes feels like it is overflowing with American university students, Lucca remains a city filled with Lucchesi.

It is surrounded by a full-intact wall lined with double rows of chestnut trees making a 2 and a half mile garden path. Joining the locals in their evening passeggiata or stroll is one of the great pleasures of the city. Inside the walls, cars have been banned, thus this is a very peaceful city. There are cobblestone streets opening here and there to charming piazzas. The churches in these squares comprise one of Italy’s great concentrations of Romanesque architecture. And, as opera lovers are well-aware, Lucca is where Puccini was born and lived. The city pays homage with an annual music festival in July. This is a city of towers also. One can climb to the top of the Guinigi Tower and get a lovely view of the city below.

The food in Lucca is delicious with many local specialties including fine local olive oil, farro garfagnino (hearty vegetable and grain soup), and tortelli (meat-filled, hand made pasta).

The countryside outside Lucca has much to offer as well. Many summer palaces were built close by with spectacular gardens designed to rival those of the palaces of the Loire Valley. Visits to these palaces are often a personal tour making for a very special event.

To the west is Pisa with its newly restored Tower. Beyond is Viareggio, a charming seaside town with broad sandy beaches. A bit farther along the coast is Cinque Terre, the 5 villages that cling precariously to steep rocky mountainsides. You can leave your car at Manorola, then hike the hillside path to the next village. Alternatively take the little train or the ferry from port to port. A lazy lunch at a tiny trattoria and a swim on one of the narrow beaches make for a very special day.

To the east is Montecatini the famous spa town where you can still enter the park and take the water in your own special glass served by uniformed waitresses much as Italians have done for over a hundred years. This lovely spa was immortalized in the Marcello Mastroianni film “Dark Eyes”. Montecatini Alto is the tiny perched village above where dinner in the open piazza makes you feel like you’ve retreated to a simpler past.

Ask for either of our Italian catalogs for a full selection of houses and apartments in this beautiful corner of Tuscany.


Traveling with Children

For many of our clients this is their first trip to France or Italy with their children. They often have two major concerns about travelling with children. The first is: Will owners be bothered by active American youngsters?

The French and Italian love children and are very welcoming to families.

The majority of rental houses do welcome children. Homes that don’t are typically those with some element that is potentially dangerous such as a hillside drop. These are always mentioned in our description. Otherwise, Europeans themselves vacation with their children and so are happy to welcome youngsters.

We often get evaluations from clients that specially mention how welcoming the owner was to their children. I can give a personal example. Our family with our daughter Jessie, age 11 at the time, once rented near Séguret in Provence from the David family who were local wine producers. Both in their 70s, they grew up as peasant farmers in a very rural Vaucluse. When they realized that our family would miss the local festival, Mme. David took out her original Provencal dresses from her grandmother. She carefully helped Jessie dress up in the complete outfit including dirndl skirt, vest, apron and coif! This ended up being a very special experience for our family, one we wouldn’t have had without having a child along. Many of our clients describe similar experiences.

Europeans use babysitters less often than Americans do and thus you often see entire families having dinner out in restaurants together. Except for the most formal restaurants, it is a common sight to see large families with their children enjoying a leisurely meal on a gravel patio.

The second question clients have is: Is there enough to do in the area to keep youngsters entertained?

Vacationing in season in the French or Italian countryside is a fun event for children. The Europeans are on vacation themselves, and the little villages in the countryside have scheduled lots of special events. Traveling circuses come by, parades take place, merry-go-rounds are set up in town squares. Checking at the local tourist office will let you learn about all the special events that are taking place. We saw trained wart hogs, horse circuses and river floats just to name a few events taking place in season.

The simple act of exploring a foreign culture can be a huge adventure with children along. Figuring out all the different ways to flush the toilet is great fun. Discovering all the different ice cream pops that are sold is a treat! Learning to ask for a particular flavor in Italian is another adventure. If you slow down and enjoy the daily rituals of life in the village, you and your children will have lots of fun.

The weekly outdoor market is a real treat for adults and children alike. Select a market at one of the larger villages for the most fun. Colorful stands display all sorts of items from honey to soaps to exotic seafood to children’s toys. With so many things to look at, all ages of children have a good time. The markets are typically half day so get there early and plan to select a restaurant for lunch in the town, too.

Touring the historic and cultural sights is lots of fun, too. Each day select just one sight to see that involves some physical activity. Always remember to keep bathing suits and towels in the car just in case. So for example, go to the Pont du Gard in Provence, the famous 3-tiered Roman aqueduct. Enjoy the history and take a swim in the river below. Go to the Picasso museum at Antibes and spend the afternoon swimming in the Mediterranean. Drive to Moustiers to see where the beautiful Provence pottery is produced and then rent pedal boats and explore the famous Gorge du Verdon after. Even teenagers will enjoy such a fun itinerary! And also leave a few days just to enjoy relaxing at home.

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