Published on August 1st, 2015 | by Ann Rickard0
Provence Tour Success
Using this new house in Uzes as a base for our two-week Provence tour this year was an experiment.
Every year we have used houses in villages in the nearby countryside, surrounded by apricot and cherry orchards and the never-ending rows of green vines.
While that was delightful and we loved it, we found most of our guests wanted to go into Uzes during their free time.
Everyone loved the medieval town 10 minutes away with its leafy green plane trees and pretty arcaded square (Place aux Herbs) and its gorgeous boutiques selling typical Provence fashion.
Uzes really is one of the prettiest towns in France.
Every year for the past 9 years of our tours Geoffrey the sommelier, baggage handler, driver and DJ (multi-skilled, he has to be) has spent a lot of time driving guests back and forth to Uzes from our village base.
He didn’t mind at all but it was always a kerfuffle to round everyone up to get them back again. Some wanted to stay longer than others…you know the drill.
So we decided this year to base ourselves right in the heart of Uzes, to let our guests step out the front door and have all the gorgeous Frenchness right before them.
Finding a 7 bedroom 5 bathroom property to hold eight guests, two of us and our helper (the calm and graceful and irreplaceable Hester) was a challenge. And the house had to have a pool. An even bigger challenge.
The man Geoffrey spent hours on the internet every night. There were many properties available, but most didn’t have an adequate number of bathrooms, and the ones that did, didn’t have a pool. A pool is essential in the summer in Provence. It can get hot.
And so it did this year. We had many 38 degree days.
So after his eyes were red and glazed with fatigue, Geoffrey finally found the perfect place. Plenty of bedrooms, modern refurbished bathrooms, a good sized swimming pool and …voila!…right in the heart of town.
We were happy.
The only problem was we couldn’t get into the house until 5pm on the Saturday we were due to pick up the guests.
That meant we had no idea which bedroom would suit which person (or couple), who would go where, what the rooms were actually like (photos can often lie) or how the kitchen would work. It meant we would arrive at the house the same minute the guests would. Not good. We like to have a few days in the house to get to know it, work everything out, before we pick up our guests.
The kind house manager, Martin, had made a walk-through video of the property for us before we arrived, a huge help so we had a bit of an idea.
However, it was quite scary arriving at the house with a van load of 8 expectant guests at 5.05pm and me with dinner to prepare by 7.30pm and no idea how the kitchen worked.
Thank God for the calm and beautiful Hester. She was there before us on the dot of 5pm, had opened up the house, put the champagne out in a big ice-bucket by the pool beneath a lovely plane tree and generally made it look welcoming and as gorgeous as you can imagine a beautifully restored French house to be.
Well, didn’t the house turn out to be just delightful and guest-friendly and workable on every level.
It was elevated so we had views over tiled rooftops to green vegetable plots.
It was in the Rue de la Perine, a narrow alley posing as a street.
To drive the mini van down there we had to inch along with only a centimetre or two to spare on each side.
How Geoffrey didn’t scrape the sides of the mini van is a small miracle.
The ‘street’ came to T-Junction not far from the house where we fought every day for a car space and usually encountered an old local bloke furious with us for coming up (or maybe it was down) the wrong way in his street, and muttered angrily at us in French which we could only respond to with shrugs of shoulders and expressions of bafflement.
The house was a triumph as was being in the heart of Uzes.
We’ll go back again.