Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

     A Newsletter by Carolyn Grote and the rest of the staff
Winter 2014
In This Issue:
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The Little Prince: A New York Story
Visit this exhibit at the Morgan Library, on show until April 27.
The Morgan Library
Ste. Maure de Touraine cheese.
  • Made with whole goat’s milk
  • AOC since 1990.
  • Interior is white-ivory
  • Exterior has a grey-ish blue mould
  • Has a “brotherhood” of the cheese.
Learn more about this cheese.
CANAL ST. MARTIN “Paris Where It Sizzles”

For many years we’ve had the pleasure of offering a terrific apartment rental around the corner from the Canal St. Martin in Paris’ 10th arrondissement. With the canal’s charming locks, its arched bridges and its tree-lined banks, it has attracted Parisians who flock there to get a taste of country life in the big city. On warm evenings, the young sit elbow-to-elbow, legs hanging over the edge, sipping their wine, munching on cheese, enjoying the bucolic feel.

A recent article in Condé Nast Traveler, Oct. 2014 “Paris When it Sizzles” extols the virtues of this neighborhood. It mentions the designer shops, the restaurants and the cafes. In fact, several of those are literally 2 blocks away from our apartment. Le Verre Volé was described as a “romantic place for an evening drink”. La Comédie Humaine sells its own brand of shirts, cashmere jackets and T-shirts. And Agnès B, the well-known international clothing store, also has a shop in the neighborhood.

Our apartment is PA101 Rue Bichat, a lovely architecturally designed apartment offering a spacious, attractive 2 bedroom/2 bath plus study with its own small patio. Click here to visit it.

When you stay in a real neighborhood like the 10th, you get the pleasure of being part of the life of Paris. The streets are full of people who live, work and shop in the neighborhood. I find it a relief not to have tourists constantly around. And yet, from our apartment in the 10th it is just a 15 minute walk to the Marais. So visit PA101 and see what a wonderful accommodation we offer in the part of Paris that sizzles.


The owners we work with often ask for our client’s mobile phone number so that they can better coordinate their arrival. Surprisingly, often our clients don’t have one. Whereas we all appreciate having a telephone in the apartment or house we rent, only some of the properties we represent do have them. And you’ll find that phone is useful for getting in touch with friends and family back home or to helping out in case of a problem while en route.

There are several ways to go about it.

You can decide to bring your US cell phone while travelling. France (and 200 other countries around the world) use a system called GSM. In the US only 2 carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, use this system and with different frequencies. If you have a plan with either carrier and if your phone has the 900 and 1800MHz frequencies, it will most likely work in Europe. Call your carrier in the US prior to your departure and ask about the frequency. As I have learned in the past, even representatives can sometimes make mistakes, so make sure you double check before leaving.

If your phone can work in Europe, then you will have 2 choices: Use your US carrier while travelling or get a local carrier. If you choose to keep your US provider, you will need to activate and set up an international plan prior to your departure. You will then have a service for international roaming. It is smart to find out a little more information about roaming charges and when they apply. The second choice is to swap your US SIM card for a local SIM card upon arrival. You then buy a “pay as you go” SIM card (no contract or monthly fee). If you decide to do this, before you leave be sure to get the code to unlock your phone from your US provider. Call your provider a few days before you leave and ask for the code. Unless you are a new customer, they should provide it to you. Then once overseas, buy a SIM card at any telephone retail outlet. These stores are easy to find. In France, you can go to Orange, SFR or Free, just to name a few companies.

Now, if your phone cannot work in Europe, you can certainly rent a cell phone, at the airport for example, once you arrive. Most airports now have stands where you can rent phones with your credit card, near or at the car rental desk.

Finally, if you travel frequently, you can buy a phone and a SIM card in France. The phone will work in 200 countries and when you travel next time, you just need to buy a new local SIM card and service. Last September, I was in France and bought a regular phone for around €35, a SIM card for about €20 with 1 month of service (unlimited calls and Text messages) for €20.


With its narrow windy streets, its delicate architecture and its setting on the Arno River, Florence is a romantic city. When I’m there, I like to stroll through the historic center, unhindered by traffic, and enjoy the beauty. I like to rise in the morning and take my coffee standing up in a café along with the well-dressed Fiorentini, who toss back a “café” while eating their pastry delicately wrapped in a bit of tissue paper. Then I stroll by the Duomo with its grey and rose marble walls, the Piazza Signoria with its impressive statues, the elegant cafes with waiters carrying silver trays laden with drinks and even the expensive stores with fine leather goods. Walking across the Ponte Vecchio, I pass the Arno river and enter the intensely narrow and lively streets of the Oltrano (the other side of the Arno). This area is filled with small workshops which are fun to visit. I often end up at the Piazza San Spirito where the trees and outdoor cafes offer a quiet alternative to the architectural beauty found elsewhere in this wonderful city.

It goes without saying that Florence is a city of art. That is a very large subject better left to the many excellent tour books. For my part, I’ll continue to share with you my own personal delights. One more of these relates to our apartments in Florence and their location.

For over 10 years, we’ve been fortunate to offer apartments in two buildings in the heart of historic Florence. One of the buildings is around the corner from the Duomo, and the other is just a few blocks away, on the other side of the market. All of these apartments offer the chance to be walking distance to the major sites while also being close to the Mercato di San Lorenzo, the major food market in the city.

So another of my special treats in Florence is to go into the mercato and have lunch at one of the little stands where the locals go. Here, I find another side of Florence—that of the working man. I love sitting a counter side by side with the locals. I enjoy the musicality of theor language, the easy banter of friends, the delicious aromas and of course, the good value, too. No pretentions here, just good food served in a friendly setting.

But to get back to our apartments, they are all fully renovated, charming and comfortable. Clients love them. There’s a big choice of size and design. You can rent for as few as 3 nights, for a week, or more. Rentals can start any day of the week. Follow the links below to see a few of them. To book, just give us your desired dates and we can tell you what is available.

Suggested Reading: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The New York Times just had two articles about a new exhibit at the Morgan Library in Manhattan entitled “The Little Prince: A New York Story”. The exhibit shows original manuscripts of the small novel, and explores when and how the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote the book. Did you know that Le Petit Prince is one of the most read books in the French language?

If you haven’t yet read Le Petit Prince or if it was many years ago, this exhibition and the resulting discussions about the author make for an ideal impetus to get a copy and enjoy it again. As the book is short, this is an ideal book to bring on a trip. And for those who understand French, the original version is ideal for practice.

In my opinion, Saint-Exupéry’s life story is as interesting as the book itself. Saint-Exupéry was an accomplished pilot, well-known in France both for his dare-devil flying and for his writing. In 1935, he crashed his airplane in the Sahara Desert and almost died of dehydration until he was saved by a Bedouin on a camel who happened by. This event figures prominently in the story of The Little Prince. In 1940 when Hitler invaded France and an accord was struck to create Vichy France, Saint-Exupéry went into exile in New York. It was there, in New York, where he wrote the book and even dedicated it to a Jewish friend of his who was trapped in Vichy, France. Eventually, Saint-Exupéry re-joined the Free-French air force. In 1944 on a mission, his plane disappeared over the Mediterrean, and he was then presumed dead.

There are a few things in Saint-Exupéry’s life that link him to the south of France, a fact, that might particularly intrigue those of us going there this year. When Saint-Exupéry escaped to New York, his wife Consuelo, lived and worked in an artist’s colony at Oppède, a village in the Luberon in Provence. And then remarkably in 1988 near Marseilles his identity bracelet was recovered with his name and that of his wife on it. That bracelet is now part of the New York exhibit.

You can easily get copies of the book either in French or English. Although conceived of as a children’s book, the story is actually more appealing to adults as it is an allegory about adults and their inability to appreciate the truly important things in life. The pictures are charming and the chapters are short. So for those looking for a book in French that won’t be too hard, it is especially ideal. Get the book and then be sure to read more about the author. And for those of you in New York, don’t miss this great exhibit.

You can purchase it using our Amazon link. Just click below.

AZAY-LE-RIDEAU: A Short Trip from Paris

Clients often ask me where they can go for a short trip outside Paris: they’ve only 3 or 4 days, not enough time to go south to Provence or the explore the Dordogne. My answer? The Loire Valley is the perfect destination! By the high speed train it is only 1 hour to the city of Tours. By car, it’s an easy 3 hours.

In some areas, owners require a week’s minimum stay. However, due to the Loire Valley’s proximity to Paris, owners are more willing to accept short rentals --- a minimum of 3 or 5 nights. Within the Loire Valley, a favorite location of mine is Azay-le-Rideau, a charming small town southwest of Tours where we offer two characteristic rentals.

Azay-le-Rideau has a famous chateau which was described by Balzac as “a facetted diamond set in the Indre”. It is even included as a Unesco world heritage site. The town itself is lively and attractive with a good selection of shops and even an outdoor market twice a week.

The location is ideal with many things to see and do within half an hour’s drive. Drive in any direction and you can visit a famous “classified” chateau. To the northwest is Chinon with its beautiful castle, its wonderful outdoor market and its charming streets.. Langeais, with the oldest keep in France, is to the north. And Saché, Balzac’s chateau is only 10km to the east.

This area is in the heart of the wine production of the Touraine. Azay-le-Rideau has its own appellation and of course, Chinon has one of the Loire Valley’s most celebrated Cabernet Franc wines. In addition, this is area famous for its cheese, the celebrated Ste. Maure de Touraine, referred to as the “king of Touraine goat cheese.” A long tube-shaped cheese, it has a characteristic blue-grey mould on the exterior and a long straw that runs down the middle. With so many gastronomic wonders, the area has a large selection of restaurants to offer.

Lastly, if one wants to enjoy nature, one can bike the small roads or canoe on the pleasant river Indre.

Our rentals are in a troglodyte, one of the characteristic structures built into the side of a hill. Owned by a Parisian family, they offer both history and a bit of style. They are pleasant and attractive and are on the grounds of a private garden. Just on the outskirts of Azay, it is an easy walk to the center of town. Both rentals (2 sides of the same structure) offer 2 bedrooms. Visit LV002 and LV003.

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