A villa of your own in Provence is one of life’s pleasures. You can stroll into a charming little village in the morning—or whenever you wake up; this is vacation, after all—fill your basket with fresh baguettes, croissants, fruit, butter and cheese, and then mosey back to your homebase for a meal al fresco with a panoramic view.
Surprisingly, this fantasy is harder to make a reality than you might think. A search on one of the big vacation-rental websites isn’t likely to provide all the info you need to suss out the gems, since those sites prioritize quantity over curation. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of rental properties on the market in Provence through various online sources,” says Annie Flogaus, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for villa vacations in France. “But the number of truly quality properties in the region is finite.”
One common mistake she sees travelers make: not understanding location and distances. “You can search for villas near a village and get a listing that looks like the most gorgeous house, and it may indeed be,” she says. “But it turns out that the village is too tiny to be interesting, 25 minutes from a town of any interest, and a full two hours from a must-see town like Saint-Remy or Gordes. There are innumerable little villages in the area that just aren’t that interesting and will cost you 25 minutes in the car each time you want to go somewhere for a proper restaurant or shop.”
Those huge websites usually leave out other important details too, such as the availability of parking, the lack of air-conditioning, and the truth about the view you’re searching so hard to find. “A rooftop terrace may have a lovely view over the vineyards or mountains in one direction but the other side is an eyesore,” says Annie. “An online description is not going to point out the nest of antennas and pigeons on the neighboring rooftop, but you can bet we will!”
Because it’s not easy to find a sure thing, it’s smart to reach out to an expert like Annie who has solid knowledge of Provence and its available homes. You can read reviews of Annie, posted by your fellow travelers, to get a feel for how she helps. She speaks fluent French and can arrange every last detail of your trip, including car rentals, in-house chefs, babysitters, tour guides, and train trips.
“Where you set up shop for the week is important, depending on what you want to do—wine, cycling, ruins, or relaxing at the pool with a view,” she says. Many of our readers love the idea of being able to stroll into a picturesque town, so we asked Annie to share her picks for beautiful rentals that fit that bill.
Get in touch with her for more info on any of the following villas; be sure to use this contact page so that you’re marked as a WendyPerrin.com VIP traveler.
La Maison Perchee
Bonnieux is one of the famed perched villages of Provence, dating back to Roman times. The villa here is built into the village ramparts and overlooks the Lubéron Valley. You can spend part of each day strolling around town and sightseeing on foot, part of it lounging by the pool or on the terrace.
Ivy-covered walls, a crystal-blue pool, a private garden, and a beautiful kitchen. You may not want to leave this restored 18th-century stone farmhouse but, if you do, you’re in luck: It’s just three minutes from the center of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. “Two notable things about Vers-Pont-du-Gard are the well-preserved lavoirs throughout the village and that it’s not a town many tourists frequent,” Annie says. “But it is a lively typical small village, where the residents are out and about and commerce is happening year-round.” On another day, take the car or a bike a short 8km to the market town of Uzès.
Le Clos de la Paix
This early-19th-century house with rose and lavender gardens and a lap-length pool has been renovated to have all the modern comforts, including air conditioning, satellite TV, and Wi-Fi. But you’ll still feel like you’re vacationing in carefree olden times when you walk out of your door and into the Provencal village of Le Paradou, where a bakery is just steps away. Only a 7km drive or bike ride away is Les-Baux-de-Provence.
“This house is a great example of old-school French charm,” says Annie. “The grounds are especially attractive, with flowers everywhere.” Its four bedrooms mean you can bring the whole family (or two), and the five-minute walk into Maussane les Alpilles, one of the Alpilles’ most charming villages, means there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied. Don’t miss the Thursday morning market in front of the village church.
La Bellevue du Luberon
This charming Provencal-style villa used to be owned by an artist, which makes it sound like something out a movie (and in fact, this region has been featured in two—A Good Year, with Russell Crowe, and Surviving Picasso, with Anthony Hopkins—plus a book, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence). The scenery is classic southern France: sweeping views of the Lubéron Valley, rows of lavender in season, and the historic village of Ménerbes within a seven-minute walk. Stroll in for croissants, coffee, or a game of boules.
Mas de la Tour
Just 500 meters from the village of Fontvieille and its small streets lined with stone buildings, this 17th- and 18th-century manor house has four bedrooms (with air conditioning) and an annex with another three bedrooms and bathrooms. Throw in a pool, a terrace with several dining areas, a built-in outdoor barbecue, two kitchens, and a fireplace, and you’ve got plenty of places to relax once you return from Fontvieille with snacks.