Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 784: Owner, Bar-sur-Loup - #2286
3 bed/3 bath house near Le Bar-sur-Loup, Provence
September, 2001, 2 weeks
This beautiful old renovated Provencal mas is located on a verdant hillside outside the perched village of Bar-sur-Loup. (If you are looking at a map, the house is actually closer to Chateauneuf-Grasse, just past the D3 turnoff to Gourdon.) The location was perfect -- a quick 5 minutes into town in the morning for amazing croissants, an easy drive to all of the perched villages in the area (such as Gourdon, Coursegoules, Tourettes sur Loup, St. Paul and Vence), maybe 20 minutes in the other direction to the magical village of Mougins. And only 35 - 40 minutes to Nice and the airport, or Cannes. We found it to be the perfect balance between being in the county, but having easy access to all the glitz of the Riviera!
The house itself is on a fairly steep hillside below the road into Bar sur Loup. The road and drive in are gravel/unpaved, but well-maintained. The house is surrounded by olive trees and sits above the other buildings on the hillside, so although you can occasionally hear a neighbor chopping wood or feeding chickens, or a dog barking, you really can't see any other houses. It's very private-feeling, though the rental driveway is a turn-off from the main driveway, which you share with the owners.
As I mentioned, this hillside is fairly steep, and there were amazing views down the valley towards the sea. I used to love to make myself a cup of tea in the morning and watch from the terrace outside my room as the morning fog moved through the valley.
Agnes (the owner) told me that one of her neighbors walked regularly into Bar-sur-Loup to the bakery, but we never tried it. The road was narrow and twisty, and there always seemed to be lots of bicyclists speeding along the shoulder (serious Olympic types in training!), not to mention speeding motorists, so I wasn't game! Parking in Bar-sur-Loup was also a challenge. On the other hand, It's an easy 5 minutes or less into Chateauneuf-Grasse, where there is free municipal parking, a little cafe, 2 Bar-Tabac, 2 bakeries, a butcher, a pharmacy, a small grocery/convenience store, and a market on Mondays. (We didn't go to the market because it poured rain on market day while we were there!)
There is a large supermarket in Chateauneuf-Grasse, outside the main shopping area and on the other side of the D2085, but there is a larger, cleaner, nicer one in Valbonne, about 15 minutes away. (There's also a lovely bakery and post office in the little plaza in Valbonne, next to the Champion supermarket.)
2 restaurants were recommended to us in Bar-sur-Loup, but we never ended up going -- but there are many options within 15 - 20 minutes of the house. Agnes and her husband (Richard? I forget -- she's French, he's British) gave us lots of recommendations for restaurants in the area -- I'm only sorry we didn't have enough days to try them all!
The building itself is a former Provencal mas, or barn/farmhouse, where the family would live upstairs and the animals downstairs. Agnes and her husband bought it when it was really just a shell, and did a complete renovation. (They have a photo album at the house with before and after pictures.) The house is gorgeous, with stone walls and original chestnut beams, 2-foot thick window wells and lovely Provencal shutters. It is built into the side of the hill, so the main entrance is on the upper level. There are internal and external stairs down to the lower level, which has its own terrace overlooking the valley below. The pool is just above the house, about 10 stairs up if I remember correctly.
As mentioned above, the two downstairs bedrooms share a terrace that runs the length of the back of the house. This was perfect for those who were looking for a more private sitting area, away from the rest of the crowd. There is also a terrace/patio area between the drive and the front entrance, where you will find a BBQ and table with seating for 8. A few steps up is the pool area, with a large terrace, many loungers, and an umbrella-shaded table with seating for 6.
We never did use the patio/terrace area outside the front door, but spent many an evening sitting on the pool terrace in the twilight, enjoying a bottle of wine. The views are incredible, and the whole place is very private.
The house was spotless -- you could have eaten off the floor! Furniture was in great shape, ranging from "shabby chic" to brand-new. The enormous dining table seated 8, at least, and two couches plus at least one armchair provided plenty of seating in the living area. In addition, the kitchen has a smaller dining table with 4 chairs.
Beds were great, and we all loved our bedrooms, though potential renters should be aware that the bedroom sizes/amenities are not entirely equal.
On the upper main floor there is a modern addition to the old mas, containing a master bedroom with a large bed (king size? I don't remember), a wall of closets, a separate seating area with love seat and chair, and sliding glass doors out to the terrace/patio at the front of the house. This room was all done up in white and looked like a magazine spread! It had a HUGE bathroom immediately next door, with beautiful tilework, double sinks, and SEPARATE tub and shower stall. The little window over the tub had a great, framed view of Bar-sur-Loup perched up over the valley.
Downstairs was a second spacious double room, with what I think was a queen-size bed, a few cushioned chairs, lots of shelves/closet space, and a small ensuite bath with shower. The one drawback to this bath was that it didn't have a window, but it was the only one that offered the benefit of being ensuite.
The third bedroom, also downstairs, has two twin beds, and is much more simple than the others -- though equally lovely, in a rustic kind of way. It had floor to ceiling bookshelves, a small dresser, and a wooden desk perched in front of the window overlooking the valley. There was a closet with hanging space in the hallway outside, along with a small bath (shower only) done in beautiful blue vitreous tile -- I called it the "underwater bath"! My fiance and I stayed in this room, with the beds pushed together, and didn't feel cheated at all. We loved the simple, rustic qualities, the view down the valley, the writing desk, and the direct access to the terrace outside.
Kitchen was huge and well-equipped. Plenty of pots, pans, dishes, glasses, silver, etc. -- and a dishwasher! Huge (American-style) refrigerator with freezer. We cooked in about every other night -- all but one of us avid cooks -- and loved this kitchen. About the best rental kitchen we've ever had.
Problems or Bonuses
The owners had a black labrador retriever named Rover who, to our great delight, often came around looking for attention from the guests! He wasn't a nuisance at all, and really quite sweet. He was getting old, judging by the white hairs on his muzzle, but loved to have you throw a tennis ball for him. However, if you for some reason loathe dogs, you might mention this to the owners.
Also, the pool is not only heated, it's lit underwater for swimming at night! We loved that. (And the dog knows he is not allowed in the pool. Never saw him even try to go there!)
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt directly with the owners, who advertised the house on holiday-rentals.co.uk -- I think we did the whole thing via e-mail. As mentioned above, the owners live just down the lane, so were on hand to greet us as we arrived, and to deal with minor issues as they came up (e.g. needing new lightbulbs).
I should mention that our rental was to have commenced on September 15, 2001 -- but because of the attack on the WTC on September 11, and subsequent airport closures, we couldn't get out of NYC until September 19, which caused us to miss almost the first full week of the rental. Agnes and her husband were beyond accommodating, and full of concern for us -- they waived the cash deposit we were supposed to have brought them onsite, and offered us an additional weeks' stay at no charge, to make up for lost time! (Unfortunately, we had to go back to our jobs and couldn't take the extra time, but I can't wait to get back!)
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely recommended. In fact, when I told my fiance I was going to post this review he immediately said "Nooooo!! That's our special place, and if you start telling everyone about it, everyone will know about it!!!"
We haven't been back, but hope to visit again next year (2005).
Things to do in this area
There's lots and lots -- but I've run out of time! Will definitely try to post some restaurant reviews later.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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