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Smart Traveler: Le Bon Rental

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Outside magazine, March 1996


Smart Traveler: Le Bon Rental

How to save money the Euro way
By Everett Potter


If you’re planning to hike in the English Lake District or
bike in Provence or Tuscany, renting a farmhouse, cottage, or villa
can reduce the cost of your trip by as much as
35 percent over staying in a hotel. It’s how Europeans make
their own vacations affordable. They know that most rentals come with
at least two bedrooms, making it easy to travel with kids
or split the rent with friends. Divide an $800 weekly rental
among four people and it comes to $28 per person, per
day, which is what some European hotels charge for breakfast.

The minimum rental period in Europe is one week. In dealing
with rental agencies, be as specific as possible about what you
want, ask a lot of questions, and demand to see photographs.
Many Europeans book houses every summer, so if you’re traveling to
a prime spot like Tuscany, book in February for July. And
note that prices in shoulder season (May-
early June, and mid-September-October) can
be 20 to 30 percent lower.

The British Isles. Let unsuspecting hikers converge upon Windermere’s overpriced
bed-and-breakfasts. You’ve sidestepped the mob in the English Lake District by
renting a house from Country Cottages (800-674-8883), such as their nineteenth-century
two-bedroom stone cottage in the village of Santon Bridge, which costs
$868-$925 a week. From your door, it’s a six-mile stretch of
the legs to the Irish Sea and a three-mile warmup hike
to the base of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3,210
feet. Be sure to pack a rod, because this cottage comes
with fishing rights on 100 yards of a local trout stream.
And if you want a seaside bungalow in Scotland, a thatched
cottage in Ireland, or an old farm in Yorkshire, this company
has thousands of properties to choose from. Or call Castles, Cottages
& Flats (800-742-6030), which offers a similar range of properties, such
as a rustic two-bedroom cottage in Berwickshire, on Scotland’s east coast,
for $578 a week.

France. If you like the idea of biking and hiking
through the Luberon region of Provence, that rugged bit of southern
France made famous by Peter Mayle, think about renting a gite,
the holiday home of France. There are thousands across the country,
and those who book early get the best ones. You may
luck out with a charming gite of local stone, or you
may end up in a new stucco box. But for putting
up with modern French design, you get a two-bedroom home of
your own for $300-
$500 per week in shoulder season, $800 in
summer. The French Experience (212-986-1115) acts as an American agent for
French gites. Take one outside the Provenal town of Isle sur
la Sorgue, rent a bike in the nearby city of Avignon,
and visit medieval hilltop towns such as Les Beaux or climb
6,263-foot Mont Ventoux. Or try Interhome (800-882-6864), which has a huge
catalog of homes and villas throughout France, such as a two-bedroom
vacation house near the coast of Brittany starting at $600 per
week in July.

Italy. The only way to improve Italy is to make
it cheaper. You do that by renting a place of your
own, where you can sip Chianti under an olive tree after
burning up your thighs on the Tuscan hills. Since Tuscany is
in high demand from vacationing Brits, you’ll pay more here. At
Home Abroad (212-421-9165) can set you up in a 200-year-old restored
farmhouse outside Siena, with two bedrooms and two baths, for $1,500-$1,650
per week. (The company charges a $25 registration fee, which is
applied to your rental.) Just bring your appetite and your racing
shorts, rent a bike in Siena, and take day trips through
fields of sunflowers to the abbey at Monte Oliveto Maggiore or
the hill town of Asciano. At Home Abroad can also find
you a villa with a pool in Umbria or a village
house within driving distance of Florence. So can Villas International (800-221-2260),
which offers one-bedroom Tuscan homes starting at $750 per week in
high season.

Copyright 1996, Outside Magazine


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