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Guide to House Rentals in France

RENTER'S REPORT The Classic Provençal Experience
The Big Plan "A three-month sabbatical is one of the perks offered to partners in my law firm. When my turn finally came up last summer, my husband and I wanted to spend three weeks in Europe with our children, Sarah, 13, and Joe, nine—including a week in Provence in a rented house."
Locale "The Vaucluse area of Provence, near Avignon, seemed ideal—close to Roman and medieval towns, great food markets, and Rhône Valley vineyards. Richard and I are both oenophiles and love to cook."
Rental Agency "I found countless Web sites devoted to rentals, but my inquiries were rarely answered. Ultimately, I landed on the extremely efficient Rentvillas.com site, and secured a four-bedroom mas—a Provençal stone house—with a pool and within walking distance of the medieval hill town of Gordes: $2,140 for a week in early July."
Arrival "There was a four-acre olive and cherry orchard (with ripe fruit!) in our yard, and views of vineyards and sunflower fields, a well-equipped kitchen, and a good outdoor grill. We were thrilled—and the town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, with its famous food-and-antiques market, was only a few miles away."
A Great Day "We saw families canoeing down the tree-lined Sorgue River and decided to try it. The water was extraordinarily clear and infused with an unforgettable pale green light. The paddling was easy."
What I Loved "Mornings spent driving to nearby towns—Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape—where we tasted wine while the kids explored on their own and had ice cream. Afternoons spent making cherry pies, cherry clafoutis, and duck with cherry sauce—all from our own fruit."
What the Kids Loved "The Roman ruins, the museum, and the hilltop fortress in Vaison-la-Romaine."
Downside "A chemical in our pool made the kids' eyes sting. We splurged on a place with a pool and then didn't use it much."
Best Souvenirs "A tablecloth, of course, and also little bottles of truffle oil, old brass candlesticks, and vintage fashion ads, all from the market."
Motherly Wisdom "You go to Provence to appreciate the cuisine, the antiquity, the scenery—things that blow past a nine-year-old boy. Our teenage daughter, on the other hand, adored it all, and made it her mission to sample every crème caramel along the way."
—Susan Jamison, San Francisco

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