Category Archives: Villas & Vacation Rentals

Cucuron

431

 

Just up the road from Ansouis is the delightful walled Medieval village of Cucuron. This picturesque village is pretty enough to have been used as the setting for the movies ‘A Good Year’ and  ‘The Horseman on the Roof’.

 

444

Cucuron is best known for its bassin – a lovely rectangular pool of water in the main square shaded by 200 year old plane trees and a line of cafes and restaurant terraces on one side. The Cucuron bassin began as a small lake fed by water sources from the Luberon hills, and the water was used to power the flour mills. It was converted into the rectangular walled bassin at the beginning of the 19th century. On Tuesday mornings, there is a great little market around the bassin.

411The village is constructed in the usual style of the Middle Ages, with streets and houses winding up to a castle at the highest point, although in Cucuron, only the castle’s dungeon remains.

413You can walk around the village exploring the charming streets up toward the medieval rampart walls and the donjon (dungeon) St Michel. You can also visit the village church: Notre Dame de Beaulieu, which has a rare stone campanile and is quite beautiful inside with a wood mural from the 16th century, an original Romanesque nave, and a magnificent restored organ from 1616. In the summer, there are often concerts held in the church.

From the high points of the village, you can enjoy spectacular views over the tile rooftops to the valley below filled with orchards, vineyards, and olive groves, and the southern slope of the Luberon mountains. On a clear day, you might even see Mont St. Victoire and the Alpilles in the distance to the south.

8458salon2-2014

 

During our stay in the Luberon, Cucuron was our home. We stayed at a lovely one bedroom apartment with a sunny terrace on the edge of the village.    

 

 

8458diningkitchen2-2014 8458bdrm2-2014

Advertisements

Ansouis

IMG_7882

Our visit to the Luberon begins in Ansouis, an exceptionally well preserved village that retains its original beauty. Ansouis is ideally located just 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence and 1 hour from Avignon.

 

 

ansouis-castle

The village of Ansouis is crowned by one of the most beautiful castles/châteaux in the Luberon. Originally, built as a fortress in the 10th century, the castle has some beautiful furnishings and tapestries dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, plus a lovely kitchen and beautiful terraces and garden, which make the castle well worth a visit. Both the castle and the village are beautifully preserved, and many of the houses date back to the 15th century.

346Where to stay:  Ideally located in the heart of Ansouis, this beautifully restored historic village house is very well appointed and well equipped. This Luberon Village house cleverly combines original charm and character with modern conveniences, and features 5 luxurious bedrooms, 5 recently renovated bathrooms, a new chef’s kitchen, a gorgeous sunny rooftop terrace with fabulous views, a pretty interior courtyard with a fountain, and air conditioning.  The house can be rented in a 3 or 5 bedroom configuration.

359   8405cuisine-2014

IMG_7877
Where to eat:  Ansouis also has one of the best restaurants in the region. La Closerie is a tiny restaurant with excellent food and service. The restaurant now has a Michelin star, yet it retains a relaxed charm and reasonable prices. Make sure you book well in advance as this tiny restaurant is very popular with both locals and visitors.

 

 

 

Aix en Provence

tour-horloge

We love Aix en Provence, and coming back is like returning to our French home. We lived here several years ago with our sons, and we return regularly to visit our favourite city, our friends and neighbours, and to check out places for clients.

Whenever we return, the first thing we do is go to the Place de Mairie to touch the golden stones of the arch under the beautiful horloge clock tower, which we used to pass through every morning on our way to French classes at the Universite.

7-marketday

 

We love the markets, and the sunny squares filled with outdoor cafes, and the tree lined main boulevard Cours Mirabeau, where you can sit back and enjoy the sunshine while watching all the activity of daily life in France. There is a market every day in Aix en Provence.

101

 

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday there is a large market with crafts, collectibles and food at the Place Verdun and Place Precheurs in front of the Palais Justice, and a flower market at the Place Hotel de Ville. A daily farmer’s market with food and fresh produce is held in the Place Richelme between the post office and the old grain market.

There is also a clothing and textile market on the Cours Mirabeau on Tuesday and Thursday, and at the Palais Justice on Saturday. On Sundays, there is a brocante/antique market on the Cours Mirabeau.

1aix-rotunde
Aix has a wonderful climate and is usually bathed in sunshine illuminating and warming the honey coloured stone buildings. The elegance of Aix-en-Provence can be seen everywhere in its lively streets and squares, historic architecture, and ancient fountains.

 

 

4cours-mirabeau-sm

The Cours Mirabeau is the beautiful tree lined avenue leading from the grand La Rotunde fountain to the statue of Roi Rene, and it is flanked with wide promenades, noble 17 & 18th century  buildings, and lively cafes.  The old town of Aix is filled with beautiful architecture, shops, markets, museums, and fountains. Aix has the third-largest collection of Baroque architecture in France, after Paris and Versailles. Everywhere, throughout the town, you will find fountains that gave this city its original Roman name of Aquae Sextiae.

 

086On this visit to Aix en Provence, we are staying at a spacious & stylish one bedroom apartment in the centre of town. The apartment features tasteful furnishings and decor, and a south facing balcony overlooking a private garden below and over the tile rooftops. The apartment is quiet and tranquil, even though it is situated in the centre of town.

089

The Cours Mirabeau and all the shops, cafes and restaurants in the historic centre are just a short stroll from the apartment. Access to/from the autoroute is easy, and there is a convenient public parking garage just across the street. Our apartment hostess is very friendly and helpful, and the apartment is equipped with all amenities, good quality linens & towels, and thoughtful touches such as lovely Provencal soaps.

Aix is filled with restaurants, and although they change often, we are always delighted to return to some of our favourites, and to discover some new ones. Mitch restaurant has been a favourite of ours for several years, and we returned with anticipation on our first night in Aix. Once again, we enjoyed an excellent meal and service at Mitch restaurant, which is located on the Rue des Tanneurs in the old town. A highlight was the pan seared halibut served with a lobster emulsion and cepes mushrooms – excellente! 

IMG_20141026_142517Not far from town, is the hilltop village of Ventabren, which features the tiny Michelin starred restaurant La Table de Ventabren restaurant with a sunny south-facing terrace. This was our choice for Sunday lunch with friends and former neighbours. The setting on a warm and sunny October afternoon was stunning and the meal was superb. Highlights were the scallops with cod mousselline, and the duck plate, which were both beautifully presented and delicious.  The only downside was that lunch took 3 hours – although it was a very pleasant 3 hours with good friends, good food and good wine!

IMG_20141027_200925In the old town, just a few steps from the Place Mairie and the beautiful horloge, is the Place des Cardeurs and the restaurant Bistrot des Philosophes.  We had a fabulous meal and great service. Our favourite dishes were the starter plate with buratta cheese with pesto, beefsteak tomatoes, duck pancetta, and parmesan crisp. The duck main course was delicious served with a fig sauce, potatoes dauphinoise with cepes mushrooms, and a vegetable tian.

IMG_20141028_204534 Another favourite and very popular restaurant In Aix en Provence is the Poivre d’Ane on the Place Forum des Cardeurs. We chose the discovery menu with selections made by the chef. We sampled a foie gras and lobster terrine starter, a fabulous scallop with cepes mushroom sauce starter, partridge with prune sauce, and an incredible tiramisu with pistachio mascarpone, and raspberries – exceptional and highly recommended.

The weather was outstanding throughout our stay – beautiful, warm and sunny every day – a real treat at the end of November. As always, we left Aix en Provence with sadness, but look forward to returning soon.

 

 

 

 

Hill towns of the French Riviera

contact_03The hill towns of the French Riviera are a delight to explore, especially during in the off season, when even the most popular hill towns such as Eze are quiet. Eze village is a dramatic Medieval village precariously perched on a rocky outcrop towering above the Riviera coast like an eagle’s nest.  The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century castle, and the castle grounds host the well-known tropical Jardin Exotique.  The charming village is a maze of steep cobblestone streets and arched passageways, and the panoramic views from over 1500 feet above sea level are breathtaking.

gourdonvillageGourdon is another stunning hilltop village near Grasse (40km NW of Nice). From Grasse you can travel the D3 road which winds back and forth through the Gorges du Loup and up a steep ascent to the beautiful village of Gourdon – an unspoiled gem with a spectacular setting clinging to the steep hillside and overlooking the Loup canyon on one side and the countryside and villages to the distant Riviera on the other side. On a clear day you can see from Nice to the Italian border.

027
The village is filled with picturesque cobblestone streets and quaint stone houses, shops, and a handful of restaurants. On such a beautiful day, we chose La Taverna, which has a panoramic view from the large south-facing terrace. We enjoyed a lovely salade chevre chaud (my favourite salad). This version served the chevre cheese bubbling hot on the side of a green salad with tomatoes and croutons. The salad was delicious, and the setting and the view from the terrace were extraordinary.

Other hill towns that we have visited in the past and recommended are Tourettes sur Loup, Biot, and Mougins.

tourrettes-sur-loup-1

Tourettes sur Loup is an especially picturesque village with a Medieval core of clustered warm stone houses, most of which are now artist ateliers (workshops), where you can watch the artisans at work and purchase lovely olive wood products, handmade jewellery, and artwork.

Biot, near Antibes, is known for its colourful handblown glassworks filled with tiny air bubbles. You can visit the Verrerie de Biot to see a demonstration of glass blowing and purchase some of the beautiful pieces, which can be shipped home.

Mougins is a charming medieval village just north of Cannes that has become known as a gastronomic centre. Mougins has a charming pedestrian only centre courtyard with a fountain, lots of flowers, and shady trees, where you can find several Michelin starred gastronomic restaurants.

056We continued our journey NW into the Var region of Provence and stopped at Lorgues, another lovely village to revisit one of our favourite villas: Villa Lorgues.

063This pretty south-facing villa opens onto a sunny terrace surrounding the pool. This 3 bedroom villa now has a studio suite on the ground level, as a 4th bedroom to accommodate and additional 2 guests. Villa

 

Lorgues is ideally situated within easy walking distance of the pretty village of Lorgues, which has a weekly market, and several shops, cafes & restaurants. The villa is very well appointed and features air conditioning. Lorgues is ideally located just 1 hour from Nice and Aix en Provence and the Mediterranean coast.

 

 

 

 

 

New apartment next to beach in Villefranche sur Mer

0630

We just listed another beautifully renovated 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment next to the beach in Villefranche sur Mer.

0630gThis apartment is situated above the quay with breathtaking views of the sea and just steps from the beach, and the shops and restaurants in the village.

The apartment has just been renovated and features beautiful picture windows with views of the sea from every room. The well designed kitchen is great for cooks and is equipped with all new appliances, cooking equipment, and tableware. 0630bThe furnishings and decor are a clever mix of modern and antique with original art. The highlight of this apartment is the private terrace overlooking the beach and the sea with a dining table & BBQ – a fabulous place to call home for a holiday or an extended stay!

New apartments in Villefranche sur Mer

During our stay in Villefranche sur Mer, we inspected two exciting new apartments and revisted apartments already in our rental portfolio. We are thrilled to introduce a new 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in the old town of Villefranche.0629c

This gorgeous apartment has just completed renovations and is furnished and decorated with style. With two sets of double French doors opening onto a balcony, this apartment features stunning views out to the sea. The living-dining and kitchen are open plan and the views can be enjoyed from every room.

0629f

 

The kitchen is a gourmet cook’s dream with lots of counter space and all equipment for preparing great meals with fresh market ingredients.

 

 

The 2 bedrooms and bathrooms are beautifully decorated with lots of attention to detail, including important touches such as make-up mirrors, good bedside reading lamps and lots of storage. This apartment would make a great home for a long stay in the lovely village of Villefranche sur Mer…maybe while studying French at the Institut de Francais (post coming soon).