Romanesque Church Hunt Looking for churches and other France adventures.

March 8, 2008

Le Figuier • The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree - rental house in ardeche, France
For several years, we have visited with our friend Martine in the tiny village of St. Andeol de Berg which is just a few kilometers from the town of Villeneuve de Berg in Ardeche, France. She has made available her wonderful rental house to us and these stays have been a highlight of our trips. We have loved our evenings sitting at the white wooden table under the fig tree and looking out to the sunset while drinking delicious wine of the Rhone. And Romanesque churches! It will take a lifetime for us to visit them all in Ardeche.Google Map Ardeche

Click on the map icon to see the Ardeche Google church map with “Le Figuier” marked.

Click on the photos or below to visit Martine’s website for more information on booking “Le Figuier.”

 We have grown to love the Ardeche and St Andeol de Berg where the house is located. Martine is a mile away at her own house at the other end of the village and is a caring and knowledgeable hostess, offering the warm hospitality that will be one of your best memories of France. You will need to book early to reserve the house for summer, but spring and autumn should have some availability. I have not had the privilege of staying in this region in the fall, but my guess is that it would be magnificent.

The house is on one of the GR (grande randonee) walking routes and is quite large and would be perfect for a family or group. To find out more about Le Figuier, click on this link or on any of the photos below.

Sunset in St. Andeol

house in Ardeche


House in Ardeche

Zazie, the dog, is not included in the rental–but she may visit to say “Bonjour!”

February 22, 2008

Our very first house in France – 1997

NOTE: I have tons of photos from this expedition, but I will have to find them and scan them in — Apologies!

I want to tell the story on how our little group began renting in France 12 years ago. My friend Becky casually asked me if I would be interested in going to either France or California during the summer. Back then I always thought of a European trip as way beyond my means. But all of a sudden I remember seeing a brochure at work for a company that did France budget flights and accommodations, but also had a page on renting a French farmhouse. So I threw this out to Becky–How about renting a farmhouse? It was only a month or so before we would go and this was the time when the internet was just beginning. So I went to this company and the French lady just said ‘Oh you must have a pool!” and fished out a few grainy black and white pictures with descriptions in French from a catalogue from Gites de France (more in the future on Gites de France)   I picked one out and the rest is history! The arrangements were made by this company, although every house since we have booked directly or through an internet agency.

The house was in Domessargues in Garde, right next to Provence and about 20 miles north of Nimes. I was dragging four other people along with me and we did not know what to expect. The rent was $500 a week – seven nights Saturday to Saturday and we wondered if the pool would be icky or tiny.  With our group of five that made each person’s share $100 for a whole week.

Driving from Nimes, the countryside became very verdant with grape arbors glowing with a purplish hue framed by green.  I was very nervous because  I had recruited all these people and what if the place is a dump!  I think I tried to absolve myself of all responsibility as we drove.  Domessargues was a tiny town atop a hill  surrounded by vineyards. We found the owner and his wife who escorted us to a barn on the other side of the village. From the instant we entered the place we were thunderstruck. It was huge and immaculate. There were four bedrooms and a salon for gathering that led out to a patio. But most astonishing of all, the pool was 10 meters (30 feet) and a sparkling, pristine oasis surrounded by carefully tended flower bed and recliners and umbrella-ed tables. There was a second unit in the barn that was not taken during our stay, so we had this marvelous place all to ourselves.

The town was not big enough for commerce, but each morning a little white truck drove through the village honking and you could buy your absolutely fresh French bread and croissants from a friendly delivery man.   There was an equestrian center across the road and in the evening we could heard gypsy-type music waft over to our place while we were having a barbeque with the gnarled dried roots of grape trees as our briquets.

We roamed all over Provence and marveled at the food, the friendliness of the people.

All my photos from this first expedition are not digital and at some point I will scan them in.  I tried to find the unit at Gites de France, but I couldn’t find it.  I would still recommend it and I know several years ago, it was still just 500 euros.

February 8, 2008

Where to go for your own church hunt

Filed under: Renting Your French Country House — Karen @ 5:56 pm

Church windows at Ardeche cathedralThe answer is you can go almost anywhere in France.  The number of churches there is staggering.  We have generally traveled in June when there is more than a hint of the warm weather and bounty of the countryside, so we have often chosen locations in the south.

In Provence, we love the Vaucluse which is the most northwest of all the areas in Provence.  Prices get more and more reasonable the farther you are from the Cote d’Azur which can get overpopulated and traffic-crazy in the prime months of July and August.

We have often gone to southwest France where there are magnificent churches to be discovered, not to mention the cathedrals and cloisters of Moissac and St. Sernin in Toulouse.  In the southwest we have liked every place we have visited and that includes areas just outside of Carccassone, the Minervois and farther north in the beautful Dordogne region.

Our latest destinations have been in Drome Provencale (actually just a stone’s throw from the Vaucluse) and the Ardeche, the rugged area just west of the Rhone and directly accross from the Drome.

We have also seen some stunning places enroute, most notably the cathedral at Conques and also a very satisfying trip through Burgundy.  At some point I plan on documenting these trips, but so many churches and too little time!

A map is in progress as well as a list of some of the world heritage Romanesque sites (even though we adore the tiny country churches just as much!)

January 11, 2008

Configurations for house-hunting

Filed under: Renting Your French Country House — Karen @ 4:44 pm

When looking to rent your French country house, there are many different configurations of  fellow travelers.  Our group is two couples and one single person and therefore we look for a minimum of 3 bedrooms.

But some years, we have had up to eight people needing five bedrooms.  One great side effect of our yearly trip to France is that each time different family and friends accompany us.  It makes each trip very memorable.

So the first thing you need to do is figure out what your configuration is.  During my perambulations on this blog, I will stick with a group looking for a 3-bedroom or larger.

In evaluating prices for a house, we divide per person, not per room.  Our thinking is that everyone shares in the kitchen, the pool, the grounds and it’s less important whether there is one or two persons in the room.  That being said, the couples might get the bigger room and the single might get the smaller one.

The next important consideration is when you are planning to travel to France.  July and August are high season and prices will double.  My advice is to consider any months except July and August.  It’s very crowded all over in those months and in the South, it can be a little too hot.

Ideal times to go are May/June and September/October.

So now we have the initial criteria for our search.

• Group size (for examples, we will use our group size — around 5 looking for a 3-bedroom.

• Time of year to travel (we will focus on May-June for our examples here.)

Having flexibility when looking is a good thing.  And starting in January is not too early.  It’s possible to find a great house later in the year, but you might have to go through quite a few before you find availability.

Next up: Where to go in France?

January 6, 2008

Cheerleading for Country Living

Filed under: Renting Your French Country House — Karen @ 5:11 pm

If you are browsing through the entries in the blog and have thought about a French country vacation, this is a cheerleading session for you. While sounding exotic and complicated, this mode of travel is indescribably satisfying and not difficult to arrange.

Staying in the countryside in France can be very economical and yet you will experience all the wonderfulness that is France much more intensely than a weekend in Paris. Here are some common objections….

• Country houses and villas are for millionaires, not me.

Comment: Renting a country house, per person, can be the cheapest vacation that you have ever taken, not to mention the money saved by dining on your terrace in front of your pool on fabulous fresh produce and meat.

• I’m quite attracted to things French, but I know that the French do not like Americans in particular and that discourages me. Plus, I don’t speak French!

Comment: It has been my experience that the French people are very clear about separating politics from people. The fact that they are not enamored of George Bush does not enter into their dealings with American tourists. Also, there are some cross-cultural snafus that you can learn to avoid that will keep you and your French friends smiling. More on that later.

• The dollar is so horrible–everything will be so expensive!

Comment: While things do cost more because of the current unfavorable exchange rate, things can and will change. With your French country house rental, you will know exactly what you are spending.

In my next blog, I will outline a way of estimating costs and we can begin the hunt for a fabulous country house for this year.

January 5, 2008

Finding your quaint French country house

Filed under: Renting Your French Country House — Karen @ 4:46 pm

The new year has begun and with it comes the yearly hunt for a well-priced country house for a week or two in France. During the coming weeks, I will review some things that we have discovered about renting in France and how you can to! Even with the U.S. dollar having problems, you can still find a charming, affordable country house WITH POOL, that will delight your family and friends.

I have started a new category so any beginning Francophile finding this site will have this info for summer 2008!

Happy New Year!

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