Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 5264: Owner, Deluxe Multilevel Apartment
3bed/2bath apartment in Avignon, Provence
March/April 2012, 2 weeks
This apartment is located just inside the city walls of Avignon on the Place des Corps Saints. It’s about a 150 meters from the train station and even closer to a large parking garage (where a parking space was included in the rental price). This is on the south side of the city and is a 10-15 minute walk to the main sights of Avignon (Papal Palace, Pont St Benezet, etc.). There’s a ring road just outside the walls which provides quick access to the major roads entering and leaving the city in all directions.
It’s a great neighborhood with many cafes, restaurants, and shops. Place des Corps Saints is surrounded by at least a dozen bars and restaurants ranging from fast food (kebabs and Subway) to pizza to full meals. There was a fantastic boulangerie just a few doors down – with croissants to die for – where we quickly became regulars. There was also a small supermarket nearby. A few more minutes away was a very nice butcher shop and just five minutes away on Rue de la Republique (the main shopping street) were a larger Carrefour supermarket, a Nicolas wine shop, and at least ten different banks with ATMs. The main market – Les Halles – was about the same distance in the other direction and was a wonderful marketplace – we want to live in Avignon for at least a month just to cook some of the wonderful things we found there!
The apartment is on the second floor (third floor U.S.) and there is no elevator, so the stairs could be a problem for some (two fairly steep flights of stone stairs to get to the main level of the apartment). The ground floor of the building is a theater, which we were told is only used in July during the Avignon Festival, and the first floor contains a smaller rental apartment belonging to the same owner.
The living area overlooks Place des Corps Saints and the façade of the former Celestine convent. There are a total of three bedrooms (one has only a single bed, so the apartment would comfortably accommodate five people) and two bathrooms. As the name implies, once inside the apartment there are several levels and a number of stairs – down a few steps to a bedroom and large bathroom and up a few to the other two bedrooms and bathroom, a laundry/storage area with both washer and dryer, and two mezzanine areas, one set up for reading and TV and the other containing a desk with a computer. There are low ceilings and beams in various places on this upper level (a converted attic, I assume) that any tall resident will have to be careful of – I only banged my head a couple of times on one particularly low beam, and I stayed out of the laundry area altogether since it had the lowest ceilings in the place!
There is a small terrace with a table and chairs, a small barbecue grill, and a Jacuzzi (operates only in summer).
The main level is set up as one large room with a very nice tile floor, with living and dining areas on one side and the kitchen on the other. The furnishings are a mixture of basic Ikea style furniture (beds, sofas, etc.) and some older and more interesting pieces (dressers, tables, etc.). The main living area has two sofas and a chair and a couple of small tables on one side and a larger dining table and chairs on the other. The sofas have seen better days but are still workable. The one area which could use improvement is the lighting which isn’t really adequate for reading after dark. For the most part, the apartment was fairly clean, but there was some dust on the floors, tables, and counters in the main level, as if the apartment hadn’t been used or cleaned immediately before our arrival (not really surprising this early in the season). It only took a few minutes to wipe things off, and this was only true in the main living area – the bedrooms and bathrooms were fine. The mezzanine area had a large TV with cable and satellite access as well as a large selection of DVDs, some books and games, and a sofa with good light for reading. We never used the computer provided since we brought our laptops but we did use the WiFi which was fast and reliable throughout our stay.
The large bedroom has a king bed and a decent-sized closet as well as a built-in shelf unit at the head of the bed and a couple of dressers. The bed is lower to the ground than I would prefer, but was more comfortable than many rentals I’ve stayed in. As in many European apartments, there was a bottom sheet and a duvet, but no other coverings, so if that matters to you, you may want to take an extra sheet with you, something we always do since we usually find a duvet to be too warm but still want something to sleep under. In this bedroom, there is also a sink and shower (toilet is down the hall). The shower was small, but otherwise fine with plenty of water pressure and hot water. Also on this level is a second bedroom with a single bed and a dresser which we used as a dressing area and to store our luggage.
Downstairs there is a third bedroom with a double bed and a small closet. We didn’t use this room so I can’t comment, except to say that it overlooks the square and could be noisy on weekend nights. There’s also a large bathroom here with a big tub with a shower attachment but no shower curtain or door.
The kitchen occupies one side of the main level and has all the amenities you would need to cook some of the goodies from the local markets. There is a four-burner stove with oven, a small refrigerator, a microwave, a toaster, about five different kinds of coffee making devices, a kettle, etc. There was a decent selection of pots and pans and tableware. One thing that was somewhat lacking were cooking utensils (other than a good selection of knives). We didn’t really cook much other than to reheat some things, but it would be easy to do. There were also a few staples provided such as salt, pepper, a few other seasonings, sugar, etc.
Problems or Bonuses
The biggest bonus was Avignon. We weren’t sure how well it would work as our base for two weeks. We chose Avignon because it was centrally located for the other places we wanted to visit in Provence and seemed to have good road connections as well as the TGV station, but it seems to have a reputation as a place to visit but not to stay. We couldn’t disagree more – we found it to be a very comfortable city with plenty to do, a great market, good restaurants, etc. It’s true that it is very easy to be mobbed by tourists around the Palais des Papes or to get a bad meal in one of the tourist traps in the Place de l’Horloge, but all you have to do is move away from these places by a block or two to find quiet streets, good restaurants, etc.
The location of the apartment within the city and the convenient access to parking was another great bonus. We were within walking distance of everything in Avignon, but by virtue of our location close to the city walls we were also ideally placed to make a quick exit from the city on the days we were going somewhere else.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I found the apartment initially on VRBO (reference # 155205). It’s also listed on a couple of other vacation rental sites and on the owner’s web site. Patrick Jannin is the owner and all of our initial dealings were via email with him. He was very easy to work with both before our stay and when we had a couple of minor issues during our visit. We paid a security deposit via PayPal (refunded in cash before our departure) and paid the rent in cash when we arrived. I think he would have been OK with paying one week at a time to avoid carrying too many euros, but we had enough to pay the full amount when we arrived. His agent who welcomed us to the apartment was Catherine, and she was a wealth of information about the apartment, where to shop, where to eat, and what we should do during our visit. We used her recommendations over and over, and were never disappointed.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I recommend this apartment highly. It is a great flat in a very good location. We will definitely stay here again if we have a chance (we're already planning a return visit).
Things to do in this area
Avignon is best known for the Papal Palace and the Pont St Benezet, but there are also several good museums (the Petit Palais, the Calvet Museum, and the Lapidary Museum, among others), several nice Gothic churches, and interesting streets to walk, markets to shop in, etc. The central market, Les Halles, is marvelous and well worth multiple visits if you’re interested in great fresh food, and is open every morning except Monday.
As mentioned, we found several excellent restaurants in Avignon – our favorites were Fou de Fafa (just up the street from the apartment), La Fourchette (near the Place d l’Horloge), L’Epicerie (near the church of St Pierre), and Numero 75 (slightly out of the way near the southern city walls). Also, don’t miss the outstanding gelato at Amarino in Rue St Agricol.
We used Avignon as a base to explore much of central Provence, including Arles, Nimes, Orange, Aix-en-Provence, St Remy de Provence, the Camargue, and the Luberon. None of these is more than an hour away and most are far less.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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