Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 4731: Owner, La Fontaine (#119016)
4bed/2bath house in Cucuron, Provence
May 15, 2010, 1 Week
Located on a central square in Cucuron in the Luberon. On the plus side, the location is convenient to anything and everything that Cucuron has to offer. We loved being able to walk to the boulangerie each morning for fresh bread and pastries, not to mention having the beautiful "l'Etang." My partner spent most of his days sitting outside Bar l'Etang, starting with coffee, moving on to lunch and a beer, and then ending it with an ice-cream.
The downside of the house location is lack of assigned parking near the house and the proximity of the local bell tower. You could almost quite literally spit into the belfry from our terrace, and it chimed out the half hour (one chime) and then chimed out the actual time every hour on the hour. (Handy if you like "short" naps on the terrace with an emphasis on "short," but you're afraid you'll oversleep.
The town had at least two bakeries, two chacuteries and several restaurants. There is a decent sized "Spar" in Cucuron, but we made several trips to the Hyper U in Pertuis or the Super U near Lauris, both within 15-30 minutes drive.
The house is two story house directly above the Pharmacie on a main square in the village. (Not to be confused with l'Etang). Again, parking is an issue. We usually double parked if there was a load (groceries, luggage, etc) and then parked in one of the municipal lots on the edges of the village. No major inconvenience to us, but others might have a problem with the walk. There is plenty of room and for the price it was very good value. Four bedrooms total.
The owners prefer groups of six or less, not sure why exactly. There were five of us, and we had a "bed" left over, though this was the loft bed above the lower salon. Two sitting areas, one of which we never used, which had anyone been sleeping in the open loft would probably have appreciated. We spent most of our time in the kitchen or on the terrace. Two very private bedrooms on the lower level of the house, that share a bath and a separate WC. One very private bedroom at the top of the house above the kitchen, with en suite shower and basin. There was a second, separate WC on the kitchen level.
Overall, the house is in good shape. Appears to be medieval, with updates, however there was some major peeling (moisture problems) in various places.
There is a very large terrace directly off the kitchen. We made use of it regardless of the weather (it was a cold and WINDY week). Our biggest complaint about the house was the state of the terrace. Granted it had been a cold and drizzly May before our arrival, but there were piles of roof tiles in the corner, and several pots of dead plants. The outdoor garden sink was full of broken flower pots, etc. We found a folding screen in the downstairs that we moved to the terrace and hid the tiles and detritus. The "dining" table in the pictures were actually three small tables lined up end to end and difficult to sit at comfortably. (Several of the chairs were broken.)
The house wasn't filthy, but it wasn't "pristine." Cobwebs here and there in the corners, etc. The baths were clean, as were the linens, and that's the most important thing in my book. Again, our only complaint was the dining table and chairs in the kitchen. Not the most comfortable (heavy metal patio furniture actually.) Two sitting rooms, one two levels. Plenty of space. Again, we never used the sitting room downstairs, and I couldn't imagine using the dining table on the lower level for "dining" because I wouldn't want to carry food, etc, up and down the stairs. Honestly, we had more space than we needed, but we weren't trying to "get away from each other." Quite the contrary.
The beds were fairly comfortable. Standard IKEA foam mattresses, etc. Most of the walls appeared to be a bit bare of decoration. Again, we had a shared bath (with tub, complete with mosquito netting) AND a shower. There were two men and two women sharing this bath ... most of us used the shower. Again, another en suite with the bedroom at the top of the house (accessible by spiral staircase above the kitchen). Our single slept up there and used that shower. It was a fair trade, as there was no AC in the house, and the only windows for that room appeared to be skylights that didn't open. During the high season, I can only imagine how hot that room could get. Even during our cold and windy week in May, it began to get a bit stuffy, according to or friend.
The kitchen was usable, but not for group cooking. If you have a defined cooking team, it's fine, but if you plan to cook as a group, you'll be disappointed. Standard IKEA pans, etc. Plenty of dishes and flatware, etc. (I always bring a decent cooking knife.)
Note: That the stove is a butane cook-top with an electric oven. The butane ran out on a Tuesday. Apparently, it had never happened before, and we (with the help of the caretaker/cleaning lady) managed to get the tank replaced. (Imagine carrying a 30 lb propane tank for your gas grill through the streets of the village ... fortunately, the Spar was nice enough to loan us a cart to push it home in, and while I had to pay for the replacement tank out of my pocket, the owners promptly refunded the expense with our security deposit after we got home. I'm told that they've set up a way for the caretaker/cleaning lady to handle this expense should the need arise again. (At first I was a bit miffed, but then I decided that was silly. If I'd wanted to stay in a hotel where all of these things were taken care of, then I should have done that.
Problems or Bonuses
The above mentioned butane tank was a bit of a surprise, but now it's become one of my fonder memories of "life in France." The laundry facilities in the house are outstanding. If you rent the house, seriously save yourself some frustration and pack light. The square below our house was a congregating area for the local teens and kids. Not an issue for us (we jokingly began to refer to it as "testosterone" square. It's where the boys on their bikes took turns trying to impress each other and the occasional young lady. It did tend to get a bit loud in the evening ... especially during the week we were there as that was the week leading up to the local fete. So, if you're looking for tranquility ... (or if you hate teenagers)...
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We booked directly with the owners who live in New York. On the plus side, that meant that we didn't have to worry about a language barrier when reserving, nor did we have to worry about foreign exchange fees, wire transfers, etc. They accepted the payment(s) via Paypal, though our security deposit was refunded by check sent in the mail. Also, the original security deposit when we made the reservation was to be $300.00, but when the time came, they had increased it to $500.00. I didn't complain as frankly, I thought $300.00 was a very low amount for a security/damage deposit. But again, the price of the house was very reasonable. We paid $1400.00 for a week in May.
Note that the on-site rep doesn't speak any English. We have enough "Rosetta Stone Quality French" that we managed to get by, but this is something to be aware of. If you don't speak any French, you're on your own.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
My friends and I would not stay here again, but that is primarily because the house just didn't suit us. It is not a reflection on the quality of the house, as it was and is a terrific bargain. However, there were enough things that we didn't like that I had to leave an overall "neutral" rating. The house is well suited for groups with kids (who may need a separate space for the kids and the adults).
Things to do in this area
There are several restaurants in Cucuron, and you're only minutes away from Bonniueux, Lourmarin, Ansuois, and other villages. Plenty to do if you're on foot, as well. The hike up above the village to l'Ermitage and beyond is amazing. Or, as I said, you can plant yourself in front of Patrick and Babette's local watering hole "Bar l'Etang" and work your way through the entire line of Movenpick ice cream ... your choice. We love Cucuron. It was our second trip to France and we specifically chose this village again.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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