Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 1230: Owner, Apartment in Villefranche-sur-Mer
1bed/1bath apartment on the Cote d'Azur, Provence
September 25 - October 9, 2004, 3 Weeks
The apartment is located right in the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, on the hillside overlooking the harbor. St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is on the other side of the harbor.
There are several small supermarkets in Villefranche-sur-Mer (Proxi and Spar). A large market is the "Marche U" in Beaulieu. The big supermarket is the Carrefour in Nice (15 minutes).
There are some very nice (if a bit pricey) restaurants down by the water (Mere Germain is said to be the best Ė it was very good!). There are, of course, several boulangeries and patisseries throughout town.
We enjoyed eating at "Le Petit Darkoum" in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (10 minute drive). Itís a Moroccan restaurant, which moved from Menton. The food was delicious, and the prices were very reasonable (the fixed-price menu offers a good selection). In addition, itís right across from a parking lot, on the coast road leading out of Beaulieu towards Monaco.
The apartment is in a 4 storey condominium complex. There are three apartments per floor. This apartment is located on the 1st floor (2nd floor American). You enter from the top level (itís on the hillside) and walk down two flights of stairs.
Parking is next to the building at the top level. There are no reserved spaces, and youíre told that if itís full, try to park on the street below. We had problems when the workmen stayed late.
You walk into a small entryway, with the kitchen to the right. The space opens up into a large rectangular-shaped living room. There is a dining table and chairs, a couch and two easy chairs in the room, along with a wall unit containing the TV & stereo system.
The apartment has large double "french doors" which lead from both the living room or the bedroom onto the spacious balcony, which comes with a table and chairs. The view over the harbor and towards St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is beautiful. and is just as the website pictures. This is one of the nicest features of the property. From the living room, you walk into a small L-shaped corridor, from which you access both the bathroom and the bedroom. Thereís a tall closet in the corridor, the right-hand side of which is available for your use. I caution you about using this. The pipes come up through the closet, and if there are people smoking in the downstairs apartment, the smoke will come up through the area surrounding the pipes Ė itís not sealed off. I had to stuff newspaper into the hole to try to stem the rising smoke. Iíve recommended to the owners that they seal this opening.
Since the apartment is not on the ground floor, thereís no garden. However, you do overlook the garden area, which belongs to the apartment below. Itís quite nicely maintained.
In addition, there is an outdoor terrace (accessible from the kitchen) which provides lots of outdoor sitting area. The racks for drying clothes are out here as well.
The apartment was furnished with comfortable furniture. It was fairly clean when we took possession. There was plenty of seating.
Note that linens are not provided with this rental during the summer months.
The bathroom has the usual amenities, and is fully tiled. Everything is in very good condition, and working well. There is a stall shower in the corner with good water pressure and doors which, if you donít hit them with your behind as you turn around, stay pretty well closed.
The bedroom has two twin beds, and a large freestanding armoire. Thereís a chair on either side of the armoire, which give you extra room for suitcases, bags, etc. The beds were very firm, but the pillows a bit mushy.
The kitchen is good sized. When you walk in, thereís a large double doored pantry on the left. There is a full set of appliances: large American-sized refridgerator, cook top, dishwasher, microwave oven, regular oven, plenty of counter space, and a washing machine. In addition, thereís an electric American-style drip coffee maker, filters, and one of those electric pots which you plug in to boil water.
The best part of the kitchen is that thereís a door which leads out onto the outside terrace, furnished with table, chairs and an umbrella, which is a very pleasant place to have breakfast in the morning, sitting under the lemon tree and bougainvilla.
Problems or Bonuses
Pros: - A wonderful view out to the harbor of Villefranche-sur-Mer. - The lovely terrace under the lemon tree. - The owner did give us a discount as we rented the unit for 3 weeks. - Watching the cruise ships come & go in the harbor.
A problem with this unit is that the walls, floor & ceiling are very thin. The upstairs neighbors came back the 3rd week we were there; I was reminded of the scene with the dancing elephants from "Fantasia"! Noise was a constant problem, as anyone speaking in more that a normal volume could be heard throughout.
To compound this, there were workmen in 2 of the apartments below, drilling into the walls from inside and out during the day. I actually went outside and asked them to stop for the day at 6:00 PM! The owner was totally unaware that they were scheduled to be there. It was the smoke from their cigarettes which trickled up through the hall closet.
In addition to the interior noise, there are a few exterior disturbances. On Saturday nights, the local disco played their music so loud that it pounded through most of the night. Being a deep water port, many cruise ships anchor here. Be prepared to hear their early morning "announcements" booming up the hill. While this may not pose an issue to someone who isnít a light sleeper, if you are a light sleeper, you might want to bring some earplugs!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The owner lives in the USA, and rents the unit directly. We found that, in spite of sending numerous emails (from the Internet station in town) asking various questions about the apartment while we were there, we would receive no response to the questions. Additionally, one email I received from the owner asked me what day we were departing, as another renter was due! I found this astonishing, as I had been in communication with the owner since late Winter, when I fixed my dates.
Unanswered questions included items such as:
1. Where to buy a new light for the bathroom, to replace the fluorescent which burned out. In the end, I just left the light burned out, and left a note to the next renter. 2. Sheets & towels. The apartment does not included linen when rented in the summer. Our rental did. We asked what to do with the dirty linens, but never got a response. In the end, we washed everything (2 hours per load), and hung it outside. We left a note to the next renter.
Before we left for France, the owner emailed me concerning the keys, and asking me to take special precautions not to loose the main key to the apartment, as this was a special security key for a new lock which had recently been installed. The owner retained the only other key, and told us that it could not be duplicated. This was a thoroughly reasonable request. The keys were sent to me in the USA via the Post Office. When we were in France, we were asked (after several emails) to just leave the keys under the doormat for the next renter. We did as requested, but this hardly seemed like a secure system.
The final problem has been the return of the damage deposit. As I write this, it has been almost 5 weeks to the day since we vacated the unit. After sending polite emails, I finally had to send a rather tersely-worded email to the owner demanding that the deposit be returned. It was only to this last email that I received a response, saying "Sorry...checkís in the mail." Today, November 26, 2004, I finally received a check for the deposit. This alone is indicative of the ownerís unprofessional behavior in dealing with the rental unit.
In summary, it is a pain to deal with this owner, and quite honestly, it's just not worth it.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I wish that I could. In spite of the apartment, which we found to be very pleasant and comfortable for two people, there are two major problem areas with this unit: a) noise (exterior & interior), and b) dealing with the owner. These are both described in more detail above.
Things to do in this area
Heading East: Nice is a 10-15 minute drive (depending on traffic). Cannes, Antibes and Vence/St Paul de Vence are easy day trips. To head to these destinations, you can either pick up the A8 Autoroute (superhighway) near the airport, or take the coast road. For destinations further east, definately jump onto the Autoroute.
Heading West: Beaulieu-sur-Mer and St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat are within spitting distance. Monaco, Roquebrun and Menton are all within 35-45 minutes (depending on traffic). Beyond Menton, you cross into Italy, to Ventimiglia and Bordighera. Other parts of the Italian Riviera are reachable via the A8, which turns into the A10 in Italy. We had no trouble day-tripping out to the Italian Riviera, and even had dinner there several times.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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