Archive for November, 2010
Journalist Millie Kerr writes, “Vacation rentals are fast becoming my travel obsession: how else can travelers, especially those on a budget, really get to know a place?” We couldn’t agree more. To read the full text of Millie’s article in the Huffington Post, click here. For 26 years RentVillas has been helping travelers plan authentic European experiences. Our passion? To borrow the words of Millie Kerr, “genuine travel”.
Let’s face it, Paris isn’t cheap. There’s the apartment rental, of course, plus daily trips to the fromagerie down the street and the patisserie next door. Not too mention museums, restaurants, and shopping trips to Printemps. It all adds up! With this in mind we’d like to recommend four often-missed sights in the 5th arrondissement that are free (or nearly!)
First, there’s the Arène de Lutèce (5éme), a public park in the Quartier Latin. Built in the 1st century AD, the arena is among the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris and was originally used to present gladiatorial combats. Second, there’s the Musée Curie (5éme), a permanent exhibition in Madame Curie’s original laboratory that traces the history of radioactivity and its medical applications. Currently under restoration until summer 2011, the museum offers free admission. Third, there’s the Jardin des Plantes (5éme), which includes a botanical garden and four galleries. Four of the gardens, including the main botanical garden, offer free access; the Jardin alpin can be accessed for 1 Euro, and Les Grandes Serres (extraordinary original green houses), can be accessed for 5 Euros (children under 4 are free). Finally, there’s the Institut du Monde Arabe, located just off Boulevard Saint-Germain (5éme). This striking building (which also houses a museum) has a 9th floor terrace offering what some consider to be the best view of Paris. Access to the terrace is free; for 13 Euros you can enjoy mint tea and baklava at the roof top café. Sublime!
La Ferme de la Dronne is a beautifully restored 17th century chateau situated right on the Dronne river in the Aquitaine region. It’s ideal for a large group (sleeps 14) or meeting, especially after April 2011 when L’Orangerie, a newly refurbished meeting room constructed in the chateau’s original swimming pool, will be complete. Also new for 2011: A private riverside beach! The wine center of Saint Emilion is just 45 minutes away.
If you’re renting a villa in Tuscany or Provence in November/December you’ll find fewer crowds, lower rates…and olive oil and truffles! This is the season of l’olio nuovo or l’huile nouvelle (the “green gold” produced in the first olive pressing) and the harvesting of fabulous fungi. Gastronomic festivals in Tuscany and Provence abound.
New large apartment near the Champs Elysees! Located on the 2nd floor of a 19th century Haussmann building, Le Serin is 1800 luxurious square feet and sleeps 5-6. Minimum rental is 5 days. The Champs Elysees is a just a short walk away. Discounted until November 30th, 2010!
Something else to consider as you plan your 2011 RentVillas experience: If you’re headed to a city (such as Florence or Rome) or a location with notoriously difficult roads (Amalfi Coast), DON’T rent a car! Parking and access are a major expense and headache. Instead, rely on excellent public transportation. (In Rome… and on the Amalfi Coast, RentVillas can arrange a driver for you.)
Granato is a 2-bedroom apartment in Palazzo dell’Arno, a restored 19th century building in the San Niccolo section of Florence. It’s ideal for 2 couples because it combines 2 one-bedroom apartments, creating 2 independent suites (each with kitchenette) with a shared balcony. We also like that the minimum stay is 3 days, making it a convenient option if you plan to travel elsewhere.
We’d estimate that 90% of RentVillas customers in 2010 used a GPS if they rented a car. “A lifesaver”, they report. Some people brought their own devices from home (and purchased the application for Italy) or rented it along with their car. In June 2010 RentVillas founder Suzanne Pidduck rented a GPS through our car rental pick: AutoEurope. “I can’t imagine traveling without one”, she says.
Let’s say you’ve found the PERFECT villa rental in Italy…but it doesn’t have Internet access. Problem? Not anymore. As long as you have a computer with a USB port you can purchase a chiavetta (key) from any Telecom Italia (TIM) store. The “Internet Mobile” package gives you 40 online hours for 49 Euros. TIM stores are located in all major cities and many large towns.
Side note on Ireland: There are great mobile broadband options from Vodafone. What’s mobile broadband? It’s internet access without the need for a fixed land line. It’s convenient and portable, allowing you to connect wirelessly to the internet wherever you are on the Vodafone Ireland network.
Another great new option for staying connected while traveling is renting an Italy MiFi device through CellularAbroad. This device provides mobile WiFi access nearly everywhere you go in Italy and unlimited data. If you’re an iPhone user and wish to use your phone in Italy, Italy MiFi will save you money in excess data charges! The device can be used with up to five devices–ideal if you’re renting a villa with friends and family. The MiFi is slightly smaller than a cell phone and has a rechargeable battery life of approximately 4 hours.
- The MiFi allows you to use your iPhone for surfing, roaming, and posting unlimited photos.
- Avoid paying for wireless anywhere you’re staying, or having to coordinate with the hotel front desk to set up access.
Photo courtesy of ElvertBarnes @Flickr
Renting a villa in Tuscany in summer 2011? See Val d’Orcia by vintage steam train! TrenoNatura, a branch of Ferrovie Turistiche Italiane, runs veteran steam locomotives on beautiful stretches of train line no longer used by the state railway. Departures from Siena and Florence as well as locations in Lombardy.