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Provence Travel Guide

Accommodations

Consider the kind of vacation you want to spend—going native in a country gîte (rental house), being pampered in a luxury penthouse overlooking the Mediterranean in Cannes, or getting to know the locals in a cozy B&B or a converted mas (farmhouse). Then check the Fodor's recommendations in each chapter, or contact the local tourist offices for more specific information.

The lodgings we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. Properties are assigned price categories based on a standard double room in high season (excluding holidays).

Apartment and House Rentals

The national rental network, the Fédération Nationale des Gîtes de France, rents rural homes with regional flavor, often restored farmhouses or village row houses in pretty country settings. The system grew out of a subsidized movement to salvage wonderful old houses falling to ruin. Gîtes-de-France are nearly always maintained by on-site owners, who greet you on your arrival and provide information on groceries and nearby attractions.

Individual tourist offices often publish lists of locations meublés (furnished rentals); these are often inspected by the tourist office and rated by comfort standards. Usually they are booked directly through the individual owner, which generally requires some knowledge of French. Rentals that are not classified or rated by the tourist office should be undertaken with care, and can fall well below your minimum standard of comfort.

Vacation rentals in France always book from Saturday to Saturday (with some offering weekend rates off-season). Most do not include bed linens and towels, but make them available for an additional fee. Always check on policies on pets and children, and specify if you need an enclosed garden for toddlers, a washing machine, a fireplace, and so on. If you plan to have overnight guests during your stay, let the owner know; there may be additional charges. Insurance restrictions prohibit occupation beyond the specified capacity.

The French Government Tourist Office is another source for information about vacation rentals.

Bed-and-Breakfasts

Bed-and-breakfasts, known in France as chambres d'hôtes, are common in rural Provence, but less so along the Côte d'Azur. Check local tourist offices for details or contact Gîtes de France, and organization that lists thousands of B&Bs all over the country, from rustic to more luxurious. Often table d'hôte dinners (meals cooked by and eaten with the owners) can be arranged for an extra, fairly nominal fee. Note that in B&Bs, unlike hotels, it is more likely that the owners will speak only French. Staying in one, however, may give you more of an opportunity to meet French people.

Reservation Services

Chambres Hôtes France (www.chambres-hotes-france.org.)

Gîtes (Vacation Rentals)

Gîtes de France is a nationwide organization that rents vacation housing by the week, in the countryside, by the sea, or in the mountains. Houses and apartments are classified on a scale of one to five, according to comfort. Housing is strictly supervised, with an on-site welcome center from either a representative or the owners of the gîtes themselves. Some gîtes can be quite posh, with swimming pool and all the amenities—these go quickly, so be sure to reserve well in advance if this is what you want. Gîtes de France also has a list of regional bed-and-breakfast sites, and regional farms that open their doors and their dining rooms, where amazing dinners can be arranged. Just about everything served at these tables d'hôte comes from the farm itself; these dinners are growing in popularity and run from the simple to the very high-end. Gîtes de France also organizes a variety of tours: hiking tours, canyoning with certified instructors, biking tours with all-terrain bikes, tours for the wine lover with a certified enologist. Note that if you plan on traveling in July or August, you must do as the French do and organize well in advance. Each town's tourist office usually publishes lists of independent rentals (locations meublés), many of them inspected and classified by the tourist office itself.

The region west of Nîmes, including some parts of the Camargue, lies in the département of Hérault. Gîtes de France offices for this department are based in Montpellier. Nîmes itself and environs are processed by the Gard office. For Arles and the Alpilles, contact the Bouches-du-Rhône office.

Contact Information

Gîtes de France (www.gites-de-france.com.)

Hotels

Hotels are classified by the French government from one star to four-star deluxe. Prices must, by law, be posted at the hotel entrance and should include taxes and service. Rates are always by room, not per person. Remember that in France the first floor is one floor up (what Americans call the second floor), and the higher up you go the quieter the street noise will be.

You should always check what bathroom facilities the price includes, if any. Because replumbing drains is often very expensive, if not impossible, old hotels may have added bathrooms—often with douches (showers), not baignoires (tubs)—to the guest rooms, but not toilets. If you want a private bathroom, state your preference for shower or tub—the latter always costs more. Unless otherwise noted, lodging listings in this book include a private bathroom with a shower or tub.

When making your reservation, ask for a grand lit if you want a double bed. The quality of accommodations, particularly in older properties and even in luxury hotels, can vary greatly from room to room, as hotels are often renovated floor by floor; if you don't like the room you're given, ask to see another.

If you're counting on air-conditioning, you should make sure, in advance, that your hotel room is climatisé (air-conditioned). Air-conditioning is not a given, even at hotels in inland Provence, far from sea breezes. And when you throw open the windows, don't expect screens (moustiquaires). Nowhere in Europe are they standard equipment, and the only exceptions are found occasionally in the Camargue marshlands, where mosquitoes are a problem.

Breakfast is not always included in the price, but you are sometimes expected to have it and are occasionally charged for it regardless. Make sure to inform the hotel if you are not going to be breakfasting there. In smaller rural hotels you may be expected to have your evening meal at the hotel, too.

Logis de France hotels are small and inexpensive and can be relied on for comfort, character, and regional cuisine. Look for its distinctive yellow and green sign. The Logis de France paperback guide is available from Logis de France (€5) or at the French Government Tourist Office. See below.

Relais & Châteaux, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and Leading Hotels of the World are three prestigious international groups with numerous converted châteaux and manor houses among their members. Not as luxurious, but strong on charm, is the Châteaux et Hôtels Independents group, which publishes its own catalog.

It's always a good idea to make hotel reservations as far in advance as possible, especially in late spring, summer, or fall. If you arrive without a reservation, however, the tourist office may be able to help.

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