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Before you come to France, keep in mind…
If you are staying in inland Provence, the most convenient airport to fly into is Marseilles Interna-tional Airport (MRS). The majority of the villas offered through Only Provence are approximately a 45-minute drive from the Marseilles airport. The Nice airport is 2.5 hours away from inland Provence–so we only suggest flying into Nice if you have secured a vacation property in the Cote D’Azur / Riviera.
For those traveling to France for the first time, Paris should not be missed. Many Only Provence clients fly into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and take the TGV (fast train) to either Avignon or Aix-en-Provence in time for the Saturday check-in. See the link to the left for Rail Europe to book your train tickets. We strongly suggest seeing Paris on your way out of France since an overnight in Paris is usually necessary anyway to catch an early flight home. Otherwise you will have to reserve a hotel in Paris on both sides of your Provence vacation.
There is simply no way around it–renting a car is a necessity for your stay in Provence. Even if your villa is located in a village, exploring the region’s villages, wineries and historic sites will require a car. In the summer, the lines at the airport car rental agencies can be painfully long. We highly recommend Hertz Gold as they have expedited services. Rent your car through us here.
If you are not a Hertz Gold member, sign-up is free and easy and will save you at least 30 minutes upon arrival.
We provide our clients with GPS coordinates, guaranteeing a smooth arrival to the villa should you travel with or rent a GPS. While clients are given detailed directions to their villas, getting there after a long day of travel can be challenging with jet lag! No matter how beautiful the coun-tryside, nobody wants to spend precious vacation time lost in the car.
Tourists anywhere in the world can be a target. While Provence is a very safe place to travel overall, cameras and purses are stolen from rental cars in the summer months in the main tour-ist villages. Make sure your rental car is locked at all times, with personal items out of plain sight. Close the shutters and lock the doors of your villa when you leave.
Visions of lavender fields and rolling hills of sunflowers might have you immediately thinking that summer is the best time to go. Yes, Provence is magical in the summer months and time does seem to stop as you sip wine on the terrace with the hum of cicadas in the background. But other seasons offer a peace and charm not found in these more touristed weeks. September and October are ideal months to rent your villa in Provence. The days are still filled with hot sunshine and allow for lazy meals to be enjoyed outside around the pool, yet there is that slight nip in the air, tempting you to get cozy around the fireplace at night. The villages and markets are less busy with tourists, bringing out a slower paced and authentic Provencal life. It’s within these fall months that the precious grapes are harvested–life just seems to take on a special buzz during this “vendange” period.
Travelers checks are now a thing of the past and ATMs are the way to go. Found in almost all villages and at grocery stores, ATMs are the easiest method for access to cash in euros. Limits at each machine hover around the 300-500 euro mark per day. While your bank might charge a small fee to use ATMs abroad, it will be less than what you pay to exchange money at the airport or at a bank. Only Provence suggests getting a small amount of euro from the ATM when you arrive to the airport in France as the toll booths heading into the Luberon require cash — most foreign credit cards are denied at the booth. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted across Provence, the only exception being the toll booths and the odd gas station.
While you will enjoy the local markets for regional specialties, Provence has fantastic, large grocery stores–Casino, Carrefour, Auchan, SuperU and Intermarche are the major names. Many of these stores also have foreign sections stocked with items from home. While the stores may resemble those from home, Provence has yet to make the jump to 24/7 operating hours. Smaller grocery stores will still close for lunch, as well as Sundays or Mondays. As most travelers will be checking into their villas on Saturday afternoon, we suggest asking the person who greets you at the villa to recommend a store open for Sunday shopping.
Almost all restaurants include tax and a 15% service charge (service compris) in their prices. If you found the service exceptional, feel free to leave a little extra change for the waiter (between 2 and 10 Euros). It is customary and expected to tip your in-house chef and maid. We suggest 15% for the chef and between 75-200 Euros per week for the maid, depending on the size of your group, length of stay and the level of service you received.
It comes with the territory. Provence is known for its spectacular countryside and with this comes bugs and some bees. No matter how luxurious your villa, there is no way to rid Provence of its natural side. Bees and wasps will come to the pool for water and flies come and go freely as most houses do not have screens on the windows.