Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

In This Issue:

Ile de Ré - a beautiful secret destination
The charms of the Bouches du Rhône
A trip to Barcelona then on to France
When you travel with Ville et Village you get more

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Ville et Village was selected by Condé Nast Traveler as one of its top rental agents. We are one of only 4 agencies listed for France! See the June 2006 issue for details.

Also visit the June 2006 issue of More Magazine to read more about Ville et Village.
Ville et Village offers 200 rentals in France and Italy personally selected by Carolyn, our owner. Plus we have over 1000 rentals we offer via select local French and Italian agencies with whom we have worked closely for many years. Many of these properties are personally inspected by our staff, as well. You can rely on us.
France Information
Ile de Ré - a beautiful secret destination

One of the most beautiful, authentic beach vacations you can find in France is a secret. It’s the Ile de Ré , a magical little island off La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. Here you’ll find charming little villages, broad sandy beaches, mild weather and friendly locals. As this is a favored destination for the French, but hardly discovered by other nationalities, you actually need to speak French here! 

Locals say that the Ile de Ré has a special micro-climate (or “meekro cleeemah”). In summer it is wonderfully warm, without the overbearing heat of the south. And in spring and fall it remains pleasant. Ideal for enjoying the outdoors.

Just 20 miles long and only 3 miles across, this delightful island has 10 villages. Until 1975 it was reachable only by boat, and that has helped to shield the island from crass commercial development. Even now with the bridge linking the island to La Rochelle, the island has maintained its local flavor. There are no billboards, no chain hotels, no traffic jams and no high-rise buildings. The villages and residences are all low-profile and allow visitors to focus on the natural beauty of the landscape.

The island has pine forests, sand dunes, salt marshes and vineyards. In the villages, all the buildings have white washed walls that are accented by pink hollyhocks poking their heads from every crack. It’s a treat to wander through the narrow, cobblestoned streets. There are two harbors on the island-- both filled with colorful fishing boats.

Salt is a major industry here, and you can visit the marshes to see salt being racked by hand. Vacationers explore the lighthouse, the ruins of the old castle and the monastery. Each village has its own special character and with its outdoor markets.

The sea is, of course, a major attraction here. There are swimming beaches galore, all with golden sand and calm waters. The island is crisscrossed with paved trails and everyone rents a bicycle to get around.

Our rentals are all in La Flotte, the village with a picturesque harbor and an outdoor market that is open every day of the year. In the evening, everyone strolls around the port to enjoy the view. The village is pleasantly vibrant.

The food is wonderful on the island. There is a large selection of restaurants specializing in seafood. Wine from the Charente is a specialty. And it is easy to purchase fresh fish from the market to prepare at home for those who enjoy cooking.

The Ile de Ré is easy to get to. You can fly into Paris and then take the high-speed train to La Rochelle, a pleasant 3-hour trip. At La Rochelle you can rent a car and simply drive across a bridge to this delightful little island. Or, you can manage without a car. There is convenient bus transportation from the rail station to all the villages on the island. And once on the island, our rentals are all within an easy walk to all facilities. For more extensive excursions, you can rent a bike, take a bus or a taxi.

So when you plan your next vacation, consider a village rental on the prettiest “secret” island in France. But plan early. July and August book early. However, spring and fall are ideal times to enjoy this paradise,  and our rentals still have good availability.

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The charms of the Bouches du Rhône

Although Americans who travel to France may be familiar with Provence, many aren’t aware of the particular charms of the Bouches du Rhône. This is the area south of Avignon, east of Arles and extending to Marseille …the mouth of the Rhone Valley.

My favorite area within this region is around the Alpilles, the tiny mountain range that pokes up from the gently undulating countryside just south of St. Rémy. We offer many houses right around this little mountain range. The Alpilles, as its name implies, is strikingly beautiful—a craggy profile visible from miles away. Tucked at the top is Les Baux, one of the most famous perched villages in all of France. There are pine forests to hike through and canyons to explore. They say Dante was inspired by these formations when he wrote The Inferno.

There is so much to see and do here. There are famous wineries to visit near Les Baux. One of the most well-known olive oil mills around is at Maussane. Remnants of Roman aqueducts dot the rolling countryside. The ruins of the 12th century Abbaye de Montmajour are magical.  

There are many charming villages to explore, St. Rémy, Maussane, Paradou, Fontvieille, etc. Drive 10 minutes in any direction and you’ll encounter another. Each one has something special to offer, including their own weekly open-air market.

There is a distinct local culture with its own traditions. For example, the corse camarguaise or French-style bull fights is practiced here. In these, the bull is not killed, rather he engages in a contest of speed and dexterity with the bullfighter. Many of the villages have their own ring, and it’s fun to be present on festival days. The event begins as cowboys on white horses guide the bulls through the streets. Cafes prepare paella and everyone celebrates. Then there are a series of bullfights over the next several days. After, the entire event moves on to the next village.

It’s an easy drive to Arles where Van Gogh lived when he painted many of his most famous works. Arles is a lively and beautiful city with a fully intact Roman amphitheater.

And, as you might expect, there is an excellent selection of restaurants all around. There are two particularly well-known. The Oustau de Baumanière is a famous restaurant just below Les Baux with elegant food, superb service and a stunning setting and view. The Bistrot de Paradou is a charming family-owned café once written up in the New York Times as one of the last authentic bistros in Provence! 

And this is just a taste of the wonders of the Bouches du Rhône. There is so much to see and do in this region, and it is all within a half hour’s drive of our rental houses. Our properties in this region are all coded with numbers in the 300s. So visit them on our website.

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A trip to Barcelona then on to France

Want to visit more than one country on your trip?  Try flying into Barcelona and then continuing on to France! 

Barcelona, in the northeast corner of Spain, is the capital of Catalunya and is a beautiful city by the sea. It offers gothic architecture from the 15th century as well as the ornate modernistic style of the 1850s. Add to that the contemporary renovations for the 1992 Olympics and you have a city that is a visual delight.

The people of Barcelona wear their heart on their sleeve. They are proud of their heritage and enjoy sharing it with visitors. People are friendly and helpful. You see the locals strolling the beautiful, tree-lined streets at all hours. Tapas bars and cafes are filled with people enjoying good food, tasty drinks and good companionship. This is a city of people who love life.  

It’s also a city of art. The Picasso museum has an extensive collection of the artist’s early works donated by Picasso himself. Joan Miró, a native of Barcelona, established a museum with probably the largest selection of his work in one place that most Americans will have ever seen. And of course, the entire city is an open-air museum with the architectural display of Gaudí visible along many streets.

The list of things to see and do is so extensive that we can just touch on it in this article. Visit our Regional Info page for Spain/Catalunya for more details.

After several days or a week here in one of our comfortable apartments, you can pick up a rental car and drive along the coast to France. It’s an hour and a half to Figueres, the birthplace of Dalí   and the sight of his outrageous, delightful museum. From here, you can visit beaches on the Costa Brava, stop at the Greek ruins at Empuries and then go to Collioure, a charming seaside resort in France. France is just an hour away. Your trip can now continue on to include another rental in the Pyrenees or onto one in Provence. It’s an itinerary made in heaven! 

So visit the descriptions of our Barcelona apartments we’ve just added to our website. These high quality apartments are owned by a local family, are in the historic center, and have air conditioning. And you can stay less than a week! Contact us for availability for specific dates.

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When you travel with Ville et Village you get more.

Ville et Village has a well-deserved reputation for a great selection of authentic properties that let you feel like you’re a resident, not a tourist in the region. We are also known for our personal service. We are happy to help you decide which property will provide you the dream vacation you desire.

And now we have a new section on our website called “Regional Info”. Here you can read at your leisure about the attractions of each region. So this will help you decide such things as …. where to rent in Provence….why stay near Lucca vs. near  Montepulciano … what exactly is there to do in Umbria….. will your children have enough to be busy along the Riviera. Then once you’ve picked your region, we can help you select the house.

Our support doesn’t end once you’ve made your selection and confirmed your rental. For our country rentals your travel documents will include our own list of Things to See and Do for your region. This list has been developed through our own travels over the years. It includes our insights on

  • The special character of the region.
  • The most charming villages to visit.
  • Significant historical sights that exist.
  • Villages with the best outdoor markets.
  • Local specialties to buy and to taste.
  • Festivals that take place in the region.
  • Fun activities with children.
  • Outdoor activities.
  • Restaurant recommendations.
  • Books to read to get in the mood.
So make your plans now for this year’s vacation.

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