French Find for Rent
One of our clients wrote and published a charming article about
his stay at a house we offer in Provence. So below is
the article written by Ken Gross and published in the New York
Post, October 31, 2000. Enjoy!
By KEN GROSS
The house was right where they said it would be at the
foot of a spectacular mountain in the South of France. The old
church was there as well, along with the charming town hall
and the breathtaking view of the long valley. All there, all
beautiful, all dramatic, all as advertised. The patio was fragrant,
the pool was clean and the sunset on a summer evening summoned
forth immortal thoughts. The house, itself, was perfectly decorated,
well-furnished, thoughtfully arranged.And so, taking in all
this guileless splendor, wandering from room to room looking
for flaws, I was forced to ask the obvious and deeply cynical
question: What's the catch? It is hard not to approach such
an earthly godsend without a certain pessimistic skepticism.
This was not our first trip to Provence, and more to the point,
this was not our first house rental. My wife and I had been
gulled before by doctored pictures and florid descriptions.
Hot south France loc!
Killer vu, conv. to mtns,
Renting a house by proxy thousands of miles from home is like
going on a blind date. When the door opens, the date is always
a small disappointment, always a little older, always showing
a little more wear-and-tear than the advance word promised.
"You won't be disappointed," promised Carolyn Grote,
owner of Ville et Village, a California agency that represents
properties in the South of France. And so we came across the
narrow roads to the town of Lioux in the Luberon Mountains of
Provence, with a chip on our shoulders. For $2,000-a-week one
can be forgiven a certain specific number of impossible expectations.
However, we quickly adopted the giddy attitude of a lottery
winner. The key to the home of Donald and Bea Ettienne was under
a rock, and a housekeeper "Madame Adams"
showed us around the property.
It was not really one house, but two that had been joined and
modernized by a savvy owner. There was a modern bathroom and
laundry room in the basement. The main bedroom was on the ground
floor. The rebuilt kitchen was up a flight of stairs. A second
bedroom was down another flight of stairs. Living here provided
a built-in aerobic workout. It takes a few days to accustom
yourself to a house all the stairs, the quirks of the
bathrooms, the tricks of opening dressers. That can be an element
of the charm of getting to know a house. Even when Madame Adams
announced a "grand problem" (the sink in the kitchen
could not be used for a few days because French plumbers do
not exert themselves over the weekends), we were good sports.
The plumber arrived on Tuesday, which was considered wildly
industrious by local standards, and tinkered with some pipes.
Given our altered states of mind, it seemed a delightful treat
to turn on a faucet and get hot water. It does not take long
to slip into the rhythms of life in the French countryside.
You buy fresh baguettes every morning. You shop for vegetables
and wine grown nearby and from the local caves. You prepare
a salad with a dressing made out of honey harvested from the
lady down the road.It was possible to stay at the house, loll
at the pool, eat on the patio, read on the terrace and drink
in the lazy beauty.
But the Luberon Mountains are filled with sights to see and
markets to plunder and towns to explore.Gordes, a village perched
on the lip of a mountain, was improbable and spectacular. It
was crowded on market days, and spoiled slightly by the inevitable
tourists, who pause in the middle of the road to take a picture
of the unlikely town.Avignon is an hour and a half away, and
there you can always find a music festival, a play, or visit
the Palace of the Popes. The shopping is overpriced, but plentiful
and fine. There are, in fact, dozens of towns, some with Roman
ruins, some with famous restaurants. As far as we could detect,
there was little hostility to linguistically-challenged American
tourists.On one day, after visiting the Roman ruins at Vaison
la Romaine, and after a long lunch, we couldn't find our car.
I had to explain all this in my pathetically broken French to
a gendarme. She nodded tolerantly and went off in her cruiser
to find the misplaced automobile. When she returned, she had
a bright smile on her face. She said that she had found the
car, only it was parked illegally.We drove back to our rented
home under the spell of that sunny smile, trying to imagine
a cop in the Hamptons going off to search for our misplaced
car, finding it parked illegally, and not giving us a ticket.
(Alas! PR90 is no longer available to us as the owner
is currently occupying the house herself. We do have many
others that offer the same charming experience.)