Live like locals in Provence, France
Enjoy touches of the past and of the present-day local lifestyle in the region
This “Rooms to Explore” feature focuses upon places throughout the country and the world where I have stayed that became part of the experience of visiting a destination. Accommodations that provide an immersion in the local history, culture and lifestyle in a very meaningful way – where the sightseeing and travel experience begin in the lodging itself. When I’m lucky enough to come across such places, I take pleasure in sharing my fortunate encounters with others.
At one time, the second floor of the building was used to store feed for animals. Touches of the past, and of the present-day local lifestyle in the region, adorn the walls. Outside, a grape arbor, festooned with vines, serves as a reminder of when other fruit was grown there.
As usual, during a recent visit to Provence, France with Untours, my wife and I never saw the inside of a hotel room. During previous trips with that company, we stayed on a working farm and in apartments at a winery and overlooking the canals of Venice.
These accommodations fit the Untours slogan, and goal, to “Live like the locals.” Doing so can provide an introduction to a destination that greatly enhances the enjoyment and education, both of which we believe travel should provide.
A home-away-from-home in Provence
The beautifully renovated, century-old house which served as our home-away-from-home in Provence once was located on a farm. Since then, the picturesque town of Pernes-Les-Fontaines has evolved around it.
Remnants of stone ramparts, similar to those found throughout the area, are among vestiges of the fortified Medieval town. Its name refers to 41 ornate public fountains that began furnishing water to its inhabitants in the 17th century, but that today are not operational in order to preserve that precious resource.
The grandparents of Estelle Alcaraz, our landlady who lives next door, owned the house and surrounding land when it was an operating farm. The stone walls which enclose the yard are typical of those that proliferate throughout Provence and have done so for centuries.
Pick grapes from your own arbor
A grape arbor, which shades an outdoor dining area, bears fruit that visitors may pick and enjoy. The owners harvest the olives that grow on two trees and have them milled into oil, which also is available for house guests. That’s a special treat because the local olive oil is among the best in the world, and shows up in numerous Provencial recipes.
The house interior is a treasure trove of implements and reminders of its history and that of Pernes-Les-Fontaines. The grape arbor and an antique farmer’s hat hung from the ceiling hark back to the time when the land produced crops.
Walls and furniture display figures of women in traditional dress. The dining room ceiling and some interior stone walls date back to the original house.
The traditional home is surrounded by a town that seems to be in a time travel warp
The town that now surrounds the old home also gets its due. Among scenes depicted in renderings that serve as decorations are one of the original outdoor fountains, a typical street scene, and an ancient bell tower that looks over the setting.
The result produces a time-travel experience into the past which is combined with the comforts of modern-day life.
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After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does, and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.