An apartment in Provence

By Marvin Silverman
This article appears on page 32 of the May 2016 issue.
The living room of “my” Provence apartment.

As part of a 3-week holiday in France that I took in September 2015, I decided to return to Provence, where I have spent time in the past. I have rented apartments in Provence on previous trips, in the towns of Arles and Mougins, so I decided to rent an apartment for the one week I allotted to this visit to the area.

Reasons for renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel include lower cost and more comfort and convenience plus the opportunity to spend time with local merchants and residents. 

For a week’s stay, it is, in my view, much more convenient to have a kitchen, living room, ample closet space and a washer and dryer, comforts a hotel generally would not offer. 

Starting the search

To begin, I Googled “apartments, Provence” and was presented with myriad choices on my computer screen. After narrowing down the many websites found, I settled on Trip
, which showed me many different towns, villages and cities where apartments were available. 

There were so many decisions to be made. Small town or large? Apartment in someone’s home or in an apartment building? Does the apartment have air-conditioning, washer/dryer, Wi-Fi, walking proximity to shopping and areas of interest?

I finally decided to focus my search on St. Paul de Vence, a walled hilltop town known for its art galleries and the famous restaurant La Colombe d’Or, not to mention the fact that the artist Marc Chagall had lived and worked in St. Paul for the last 20 or so years of his life. 

I had visited St. Paul several times in the past but only for one day at a time. This visit would give me a chance to explore, in depth, not only St. Paul but the surrounding area.

I quickly eliminated apartments that were too far from town or did not have the amenities that I required. I checked weather forecasts for September and learned that it would be hot (and it was, reaching the 80s each day I was there), so air-conditioning was a necessity. 

A number of apartments were too far outside of town to make walking into town easy, and, although I would have a rental car, I knew from the past that parking in town was very difficult, so I didn’t want to stay in the center.

Book it!

Eventually, I came across an apartment that met my needs. (Look for the listing titled “Award winning apartment, St. Paul de Vence.”) It had one bedroom, two baths, A/C, TV and Wi-Fi. The photos on the website looked positive. (Yes, I know that photos can be edited, but at some point one must have trust.) 

From the balcony of my apartment, I could see the town up on the hill, with the ramparts glowing golden in the setting sun.

This would be the one… if the price was right and the apartment was available for my dates. 

The first point, the price, was right, $160 a day for a 6-day stay. But was it available?

The procedure with TripAdvisor is that you contact them and tell them the apartment you want and the dates you want it. The company then contacts the owner to see if the dates requested will work. My dates did work after I agreed to stay for six days instead of the seven days I had planned. 

I received notification from TripAdvisor that the apartment was mine if I made a down payment of several hundred dollars within a few days, with the balance due by a date that was about a month before I was to arrive.

After I made both payments, I received an email from the owner, welcoming me and giving me the time of day the apartment would be ready for occupancy. 

We exchanged a number of emails wherein I received directions to the apartment and answers to a few questions I had. The owner was very cooperative and made me feel as if the experience would be a good one. And it was!

A pleasant experience

The owner lived just a couple of doors from the apartment, and after I arrived in St. Paul and knocked on his door, he went with me to the apartment, gave me the keys and showed me how to operate the A/C, the washer/dryer and the other appliances. He was very helpful and made my occupancy very pleasant.

The apartment was just as advertised (and photographed) — a large living room/kitchen, a very large bedroom, a modern bathroom and appliances and very good Wi-Fi! And it was just a 10-minute walk into the heart of town.

A pretty fountain in the town of St. Paul de Vence.

St. Paul de Vence featured winding, narrow cobblestone streets and walkways. The buildings were made of stone, and many were hundreds of years old. Geraniums hung from windows, and there was a pétanque (boules or bocce) court in the town square. A number of fine restaurants and dozens of art galleries waited to be discovered. 

The word “charming” doesn’t give St. Paul enough credit. 

And I did have lunch at La Colombe d’Or (phone +33 [0] 4 93 32 80 02,! They told me they were sold out for the entire month of September for lunch and dinner, but I called every day and got lucky the day before I left. The cost of the meal for a friend and me, including dessert and coffee, came to about $65 per person. It was elegant and worth every euro!