Ever stayed in an 8-bedroom, 9-bath Provençal villa set along a quiet village backroad, beside an apple orchard in the South of France?
No, neither had I…until this past May.
Now I get why a villa stay is a truly wonderful vacation idea. And not just for the bragging rights, either.
While a country home that sleeps 16 isn’t generally in my travel wheelhouse, it has happily introduced me to a company called Demeure, which offers vacation rentals of all shapes and sizes across the globe.
But more on that in a minute.
I lucked into a bedroom at Le Petit Hôpital, the palatial villa in question, because my dear friend/traveling companion Christine was (belatedly) celebrating a big birthday with a big group of friends. Some of her best pals came to Provence from Rome, Berlin, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, intent on warmth, camaraderie and farm-fresh produce; thus after a week of traveling through France as a duo, Christine and I were suddenly part of a group of nine, spilling joyfully all over a fairytale castle.
Fanning out like a platoon on a mission, we engaged in a lot of grinning, hand-clapping, squealing, and thoughtful consideration of which bedroom would make our friends back home the most jealous. I chose a gauzy study in gray and white, peppered with toile, shells and a curving chaise longue. My shower was large enough for three (in France, one doesn’t ask) and my views were of vine-trained apple blossoms and long rows of poplars. The only sounds: wind-shimmered leaves and the clucking of chickens.
Close to the floral, cobblestone and Provençal village delights of L’Isle sur la Sorgue, the villa wasn’t as isolated as it seemed. Our group was never more than a few minutes by car or bike from a train station, fresh-baked croissant, handmade soap stand, antique store or 18th-century church. Luckily, this proximity meant that each day, fresh ingredients and local wines could be procured, and every meal prepared in the villa’s off-the-hook kitchen could be a communal celebration of food — as Provence intends.
(It’s important to note that if you ever choose to rent such a big place, you should be sure to invite your own close-knit cabal of male Italian friends, as they will immediately take over all aspects of the kitchen(s), down to the espresso machine. And the results will be amazing.)
I loved our raucous group dinners, eating my weight in mussels and garlic, drinking earthy red Bandol, then dancing to blues made possible by the resident iPod dock, but I also made sure to hang out in every nook and cranny of Le Petit Hôpital.
I lolled with a book beside the sycamore-shaded pool, and strolled through nearby vineyards and scarlet scatterings of poppies. I perched on wrought-iron bistro chairs and watched the wisteria bloom, tested the flagstone floor of the wine cellar with my bare feet, and snuggled into couches so plush they threatened to swallow me whole. I even whiled away an afternoon stretched out across my whitewashed bed, luxuriating in the breeze wafting through the muslin curtains, the sun making rainbows on the lashes of my half-closed eyes.
On the day that France elected a Socialist as their new president, I was leafing through architectural magazines in a massive drawing room replete with a grand piano. And I remember thinking to myself, “THIS is how you take a vacation.”
Le Petit Hôpital, a L’Isle sur la Sorgue-adjacent, almost-10,000 square-foot villa with 8 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms, starts at $1,428/night and $9,996/week. You can read more about it on/book directly from this web page.
Le Petit Hôpital is one of about a gajillion properties represented by Demeure, a company populated by warm, fun, organized professionals whose collective goal is to have you enjoy your break in style. Their easy-to-use website offers you a live-chat feature so you can have any questions answered in real time, and they offer villas, houses, apartments and more in countries all over the Earth. You can choose a free membership (where you had me at hello) or, if you get really into vacation rentals, spring for the Demeure Club.
If you’re looking for something sized more appropriately for two, however, have a gander at this random sampling: