Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals

     A Newsletter by Carolyn Grote and the rest of the staff
Winter 2015
In This Issue:
Join in the Olive Harvest in 2015!
Book a vacation at PR301 any time in October or November 2015 and the owners will take you out into their orchard where you can see the harvest and even harvest some olives yourself! PR301 sleeps 6 adults and a child in 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths. Email us for information.
Read our Blog which has lots of interesting news. It is located on our home page and updated regularly. Some recent posts include “Matisse in the South of France”, “the Picasso Museum Re-Opening in Paris”, Reading: The Little Saint by Hannah Green”. Be sure to sign up to get notifications when there are new posts! Just complete the “VetV Blog updates".
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All our Tuscany listings.

Large Italian villas are now included in our own listings. Here are a few samples:

    I Gelsomini
    All Florence properties

For smaller properties in Tuscany see our catalog
US PASSPORT BUREAU Be sure to use the official government renewal website to find out how to renew. Be careful. Private websites sometimes look official but will charge a fee of $110 or more in addition to your passport renewal fee.
US passport bureau

EXEDITED SERVICE Need your new passport quickly? Twenty-eight official passport agencies in the United States provide expedited service the same day.
Expedited Service Locations

Avoid last minute problems by renewing your passport at least 4-6 weeks before your next departure.
Early booking is important if..
  • You’re going in June which is the 1st month to book up
  • You want a house with a bathroom for each bedroom.
  • You need a very large property
  • You want the best deals
  • You want a long stay.
Email us to discuss your trip.

When I tell friends that I have come back from my annual fall trip visiting properties, they are always envious. This year that was particularly true as I got to stand in the shadow of towering Les Baux in Provence and watch as one of my owners harvested olives from his trees.

The village of Maussane is known for the cold press olive oil it produces. In fact it is so valued that I can buy it here in California at a specialty wine shop, Kermit Lynch Wines! The olive oil is produced at the J. M. Cornille Moulin (or mill) which is tucked on a little side street in the charming small village. Although the mill is hidden, the olive trees are not. They spread in big open orchards below beautiful les Baux de Provence next to the vines that grown the famous wines from the region.

During my stay at PR301 La Maison de Grande-Mère, Hubert, the owner was in the orchards, busily harvesting olives. Danielle, his wife, invited my husband and me to visit them in the orchard to see how it is done. The setting was breathtaking. We were in wide open orchards extending as far as the eye could see. In the distance were the Alpilles Mountains silhouetted against the sky. Looking carefully we could see the fortress of Les Baux, so well concealed in the rock that we could understand why the Lords of Les Baux selected this uniquely defensive site for their castle in the 12th century .

All around us orange and green nets were strewn at the foot of the olive trees, ready to catch any olives that just happened to fall. Hubert and his nephew were working a tree that still had its olive. They had large electric racks that shook the tree limbs freeing olives without harming the branches. Little Yoda, their small terrier ran around with glee enjoying his freedom. At the end of the afternoon the nets were scooped up and brought to the truck where the olives were unloaded. Then back in Maussane, Hubert dumped his harvest into an electronic bin which sorted out small sticks and leaves leaving only the glistening black and green olives. Eventually these olives will be brought to the cooperative where they will be pressed into oil. The smaller olives with less oil in them, Hubert and Danielle will be made into tapenade to sell locally. And if you stay in their house as I did, you’ll find a jar of their oil and tapenade on the table waiting for you to enjoy.

You Can Join in the Harvest in 2015!

The olive harvest is in full swing in October/November and Danielle and Hubert have said that if our clients book with them during that time, those lucky folks can enjoy an afternoon hand harvesting olives in their beautiful orchards under Les Baux. PR301 is in the heart of the village an easy walk to all services. It sleeps 7 in 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths and is quite charming. The village is terrific and it is a very central location for touring. So consider staying at PR301 in fall 2015 and contact us for a reservation.


Parisians are well known and admired globally for their impeccable style. How do the French afford such luxurious garments? The answer, for many, is Les Soldes, or the sales.

France has highly regulated sales, unlike the United States where any small occasion is cause for a discount. The sales, or soldes, as they are called in French, are an exciting 5 week long period occurring twice per year, typically in January and in June. This year, 2015, they will occur January 7-February 17, and June 24- August 4. The discounts are deep – often up to 80% even at expensive designer stores. The sales start out around 25-50%, but after a few weeks reach 70-80% off. Most Parisians advise that shopping in the middle of the sales is the best time to find a balance of variety and discount.

The rules about sales in France have become a bit more relaxed since 2009 when the government allowed stores to have an additional 2 weeks of sales at their choice during the year, and gave them the ability to have clearance sales to quickly get rid of overstock or merchandise that hasn’t sold well, however the soldes are still a very special time to be in Paris.

I was actually in Paris during les soldes in the summer of 2007, doing an internship in college. I had never heard of them before, and the woman I was working for kept talking about “Les soldes!” I had no idea it would be such an important event! Every few days someone would come in boasting of a great purchase they had made and everyone in the office was talking about different strategies to get the biggest stretch on their Euros out of the sales. Everyone has a different tactic. Here are some that may be helpful to you!

- Shop early in the day, especially in department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.

- Try on clothes in the days before the soldes, so you know your French size. Then you don’t have to wait in long fitting room lines during the sales.

- Shop on weekdays when locals are at work to avoid the crowds.

- Ask if you can get sale prices even days before the sale. Small neighborhood boutiques in stylish areas may be able to offer a sale price if you pay in cash or postdated check. Just ask!

So, if you’ve always admired the sophisticated style of Parisians, plan a trip to Paris during the sales, and get your Parisian wardrobe started for a fraction of the normal price.


St. Remy Elegant 5 bedroom/5 bath    PR329 La Grande Bergerie
This remarkable mas is an ideal luxury rental for 5 couples and has additional sleeping for 3 young children and 4 teens. Located in a quiet country setting very close to St. Rémy, the grounds are beautiful and each bedroom is decorated in a unique décor with elegant ensuite bathroom. This is the rental for folks who also want extra services including wine tours, cooking classes and meals provided. Visit it here PR329.

Luberon Country House with Views    PR111 Les Cérisiers
Located on a hillside just outside Apt, this charming family house has wonderful views of the Luberon Mountains. It is spacious and pretty with 4 bedrooms, comfortable living rooms, large grounds and a pool set below fruit orchards. All at a great price. The owner even has a reduced price for parties of 4 in two bedrooms. Visit it here PR111

Views, Charm and the Sea at Beaulieu sur Mer    RV112 La Bastide
For many years we’ve offered RV110 several studio and one-bedroom apartments in a large Belle Epoque Bastide at Beaulieu sur Mer. The bastide is in a private park with views and is walking distance down to the charming seaside town center. Now the owner has renovated two more apartments, each with two bedrooms/2 baths. They are newly renovated and furnished so they are very appealing. And of course, they have the same wonderful views and location. Ideal for two couples or parties of 4. Visit it here RV112

Elegant Parisian 7th arr. Apartment for 4-6    PA075 Rue de Bourgogne
We are delighted to offer this really beautiful apartment in the 7th. This is a neighborhood of elegant apartment buildings, high-end hotels, and embassie; thus it is quiet, pretty and especially safe-feeling. This lovely apartment has a balcony with views of the Invalides Dome. The living/dining room is open, spacious and stylish. There are 2 bedrooms and sleeping for an additional two in the TV room which can be curtained off. Visit it here PA075.


The Leaning Tower of Pisa in San Francisco?
Yes! In celebration of the 950th year since the first stone of the Pisa cathedral was laid and the 450th anniversary of the birth of Galileo Galilei an eight-foot alabaster model of the Tower of Pisa is touring the US. It is on display here in San Francisco through February 5. There have been workshops on exactly how the Tower was stabilized and also on the delights of the region of Tuscany. So here in the office, we are excited about our offerings in the area and eager to help you plan your trip.

Have you been to see Pisa and its famous tower? What a great time to plan a trip to northern Tuscany where there is so much to see. Here are a few:

Pisa – Home of the famous tower and also home to the University of Pisa established in 1343. Pisa is a lovely Italian town on the river Arno. So much more to enjoy than just the Tower. Visit my husband’s article about his 2013 stay in Pisa.

Lucca - A fully walled city surrounded by green hills. Those walls are topped with a park where locals stroll to enjoy the views. The birthplace of Puccini, Lucca offers a concert each evening in one of its medieval churches—an ideal venue. The city is also known for its tortelli lucchese, a delicious folded pasta stuffed with seasoned meat and its dark green olive oil with a peppery bite . This is a great place to enjoy the local fare.

Cinque Terre - Five villages perches on hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean. A trip here takes you far away into a simpler time. Go from village to village via the mountainside trail, the local train or even the ferry. Each little village has its charms.

Viareggio - A classic beach resort with broad sandy beaches, lounge chairs and gaily colored umbrellas. This is place to settle in with the Italians in the summer’s heat, cool in the refreshing waters and then walk into town for a delicious seafood lunch.

Montecatini - An old world spa town portrayed in the famous Marcello Mastroianni film Dark Eyes. Enter one of the elegant spas where you can stroll through gardens, drink healthy mineral water and even listen to a band performance on an outdoor gazebo.

Garfagnana - A beautiful town north of Lucca in the Appennine mountains whre you can visit a castle or arrive on market day and enjoy the wares.

Florence - The city of fashion, art and renaissance architecture, one of the beautiful cities in the world. Florence with its elegant green, white and pink marble Duomo and its Uffizi gallery is an important stop for any visitor to Tuscany. The Ponte Vecchio arching over the Arno river is a beautiful sight. Here one can enjoy shopping for fashion, gold jewelry, leather goods, and even stationery.


Did you know that if your passport is due to expire within 3 months of your departure date, you can be denied entry to some foreign countries?

One of our clients was very surprised to learn this fact when she tried to board her flight for a vacation to Italy and was denied! Her passport was due to expire within the next three months, and she had to delay her trip by a day to get her passport renewed!

Twenty-six European countries including Italy, France and Spain support the Schengen Border Agreement which allows visitors to travel to any of its member countries and stay 90 days without a visa. So even though you might have a return date well before that time, you could potentially stay longer. Thus your passport must be good for longer than 90 days in these countries.

In addition, there are other reasons to get a new passport. Perhaps you’ve had a name change. Or perhaps you are a frequent traveler and are running out of space for new stamps and visas. Some countries require a minimum number of blank pages in your passport. Italy, for example, requires two blank pages.

Thus, if your passport is set to expire within 6 months, and you have upcoming international travel plans, it’s best to renew with plenty of time to spare—at least 4 to 6 weeks.

WINTER READING: The Elegance of the Hedgehog , by Muriel Barbery

(L’Elegance du Hérisson)

Some say the era of the Paris building concierge is gone. Not yet! At several of our Paris apartments it is the concierge who is the keyholder greeting our clients and responding to issues that arise during their stay. This person is rather important to the building and its tenants as he or she manages the daily maintenance of the building and serves as a “gatekeeper”. Typically, they have a long-term (possibly lifetime) position where they live in an apartment by the entry of the building and receive a small salary.

Paris concierges have an infamous reputation. Whether true or not, isn’t it part of a real Parisian stay to encounter this iconic character? This came up recently when one of our clients dealt with the building concierge when a leak sprung up in their apartment bathroom. The problem was resolved over several days, and the client got to see a concierge who was helpful, fiery and fiercely loyal to the owner.

A wonderful book to read to immerse yourself in the fictional life of a Paris concierge and her tenants is The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbera. It has been a bestseller in France and has been translated into 40 languages.

The author is a professor of philosophy, and she uses her insights in an entertaining fashion making the book a fun read. The book has two narrators: Muriel, the concierge, a 50 year old widow; and Renée a 12 year girl who lives with her upper class family in the building. The reader is thus privy to both the public and private self of the concierge. And of course, the child being young and curious, can take liberties with the concierge that adult tenants wouldn’t even consider.

Read this book and be transported to life in a Paris apartment building. To plan your own real trip to Paris, here are our apartments that have a concierge in the building: PA043, PA064, PA067, PA070, PA071 and PA072.

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