This renovated monastery is enormous!
Imagine yourself living a glum existence in an 11th century monastery in Provence, bound by a vow of silence, with featureless, austere surroundings and itchy, woolen robes... Fortunately for guests, life today at Le Monastere, a former and recently renovated monastery, a large Villa to rent near Aix en Provence, is all about comfort, style, relaxation and visual treats. Remnants of its past life include an on-property 11th century chapel and a large, adjacent barn, now a renovated games room (with billiards, pinball, a sound system and sofas for relaxing). The barn is also suitable for large functions, such as weddings or special occasion parties.
Imagine yourself by the pool.
Situated on five park-like acres, the property offers plenty to the outdoor enthusiast; a large swimming pool (a covered terrace houses a fridge, changing area and toilets), tennis court, soccer goals, a children's swing, outdoor dining furniture, and a lovely garden. Inside you will find beautiful oriental antiques and carpets filtered throughout, complemented nicely by ancient, massive stone archways and stone flagged floors. Renovated with comfort in mind, Le Monastere's furnishings are not only vibrant and stylish, but inviting as well.
Within a short drive from the property are a supermarket and a shopping centre. Further afield, but still within a 20 minute drive, are the charming cities of Aix en Provence and Marseille. The caretakers, Didier and Jocelyne, live permanently on the property. Available upon request, and payable locally, are breakfast, chef or daily maid services. Please inquire at time of booking. Parking is ample and on site. With so many activities and amenities to offer, Le Monastere is perfect for large groups of adults, or several families with small children and teenagers.
Microfiber for men.
What's New In Travel Gear, Part I
I've been noticing over the last few years major improvements in the design and composition of travel clothing, luggage, and footwear. So Saturday I dropped in on Petra, owner of The Savvy Traveler. She's a veritable wealth of knowledge, and her spring shipments include leading edge surprises in the travel gear industry. She showed me beautiful garments and bags and suggested an Internet search of some of her favorite suppliers. Take a tour with me!
Introduced in 1996, Sun Protective Fabrics were introduced by Aventura in response to countless warnings from dermatologists on the dangers of prolonged unprotected sun exposure. We all know it's hard to avoid the sun, especially when traveling. Yet we know Ultraviolet rays can lead to serious health problems including sunburn, aging and skin cancer. So today we can enjoy the active outdoor lifestyle with protective clothing that rates from 15 to 50+ UPF.
The Aventura line also emphasizes "organic". For instance, each garment made from 100% organic cotton saves one-third of a pound of synthetic fertilizers and farm chemicals from polluting our soil. Organic farming means that compost, frequent crop rotations and cover crop strategies replace synthetic fertilizers to keep the soil healthy and productive. Fields must be free of synthetically derived chemicals for three years to achieve organic certification. Aventura Clothing is family owned and has been in operation since 1965. They believe that organic cotton production is vital to the long-term health of our planet.
Another brand of innovative clothing is ExOfficio. Their designs focus on comfort and in fact they were the first to come up with the "Baja Shirt" that features ventilation through a mesh climate control system. That was 20 years ago, yet they continue to be one of the leaders in innovative, comfortable design. Convertible clothing such as the pants that have a zipper to convert to shorts is one of their designs. Security pockets have both zippers and Velcro flaps. Teflon coated fabrics make them resistant to stains and water. And to encourage you to take fewer pieces of clothing on your adventures, they have produced fabrics that don't wrinkle and dry quickly. In 2003 they were the first company to introduce insect repellent clothing to the United States. The BUZZ OFF collection combines both sun protection and insect repellent treatments, resulting in the ultimate outdoor and travel protection. Another truly valuable quality to have is antimicrobial fabric. This odor protection is now available in many clothing articles, but especially appreciated in socks and underwear. There's a wide variety of styles to choose from. Because of his innovation in travel gear over the years, in 2006 Rick Hemmerling, co-founder of ExOfficio, was named a top 35 travel industry innovator in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
Then there's Tofutech Fabrics. This line of clothing is made from the plant stock of soybeans. It's naturally odor and bacteria resistant, wrinkle resistant, stronger than any other natural fiber, exhibits natural wicking performance, and of course is a renewable and completely biodegradeable resource that is naturally soft and durable.
Tilley fabrics keep you cool.
The crinkled cotton Endurables Collection from Tilley is very fashionable and in a good range of colors and styles. They offer comfortable, lightweight, sweat defying, and fast drying clothing for both men and women.
Gaiam (pronounced "guy-um"), is a fusion of the words "Gaia" and "I am". This company is located in Boulder, Colorado and produces organic clothing. Gaia, mother Earth, was honored on the Isle of Crete in ancient Greece 5,000 years ago by the Minoan civilization. This civilization valued education, art, science, recreation, and the environment and believed that the Earth was directly connected to its existence and daily life. The concept of Gaia stems from the ancient philosophy that the Earth is a living entity. At Gaiam they believe that all of the Earth's living matter, air, oceans and land form an interconnected system that can be seen as a single entity. The word Gaiam represents planetary awareness, preservation and support of the interconnectivity of all living things. By nurturing, protecting and respecting our planet, its natural resources and its inhabitants, they strive to enrich our lives and those of future generations. They not only sell organic clothing, but promote many other products and ideas for eco-living, such as solar packages for the home, water and air purification, fitness programs, relaxation techniques, and much more.
(Additional clothing ideas, shoes, security gadgets and more coming in the March issue).
Emmanuel with his brother.
Dear Travelers and Friends,
Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback on our new Villa Rental Gift Certificate! Many of you have taken this opportunity to give someone you love the chance to travel and stay in one of our wonderful villas. Congratulations!
We've been adding new properties to our ever-growing collection. Some
notable additions are in Provence, Capri, Tuscany and the Italian Lakes.
Also, we just added a new "search feature" on our site that will make it easier to find exactly what you're looking for. Our marketing team keeps striving to make it easier than ever for you to book what you love with just a few clicks.
2007 has already proven to be an exceptional traveling year! Properties are getting booked as people make plans to enjoy special times with friends and family. Call today for optimal weeks at our most popular properties!
Thanks for your continuing support and Happy Travels!
Happy New Year and we will talk soon.
Emmanuel de Ricard, President
Drawing of the Palais des Papes
Avignon is a cosmopolitan city in southern France with about 90,000 inhabitants. It is situated on the left bank of the Rhone about 400 miles southeast of Paris and 50 miles northwest of Marseille. Ideally centralized, many vacationers choose to reside nearby so they can easily visit sites in both Province and the Cote d'Azur, popularly known as the French Riviera.
Avignon is best known for being the "French Vatican", the temporary home of the Popes in the 14th century when they had to flee Rome during the violent chaos there. The grand Palais des Papes continues to delight visitors. It's one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. It's an immensely strong fortification with walls 17-18 feet thick, built on a natural spur of rock that renders it all but impregnable to attack. It's been added onto several times, so there's an old palace, a new palace, and more. The majority of the Palais is now open to the public. Visitors enjoy a vast national museum as well as a large convention center.
Avignon has a quaint medieval feel, yet its large student population and fashionable boutiques make it an intriguing blend of youthful exuberance and mature sophistication. It is a major stop between Paris and the Mediterranean, and a new TGV station now connects it with Paris in less than three hours. This is a city of beauty, full of historic, religious and architectural importance. It's a very fertile region that produces a wide variety of trade goods including flour, distillery products, oil, leather goods, soap, chemicals, licorice, and is well known for sarsanet and other fabrics.
You will see many of our Provencal properties are within easy reach of Avignon. Apt is just 40 kilometers, and Aix-en-Provence is 80 kilometers. In between you'll enjoy rolling fields of wheat, sunflowers, grapes, and lavender, with tiny, quaint hill towns interspersed.
Another notable site to see in Avignon is the Notre Dame des Doms, a Romanesque style cathedral with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary which surmounts the western tower. There are many works of art inside, the most beautiful being the mausoleum of Pope John XXII, a masterpiece of Gothic carving.
Avignon is still surrounded by ramparts built by the 14th century popes, a fine example of medieval fortification. The walls are flanked at intervals by 39 massive towers and thanks to meticulous restoration there are several gateways still used today.
View over the Rhone
A picturesque bridge leads over the Rhone to Villeneuve-les-Avignon, and you will see the remains of a portion of a 12th century bridge called Saint Benmezet Bridge just up the river. It's the one commemorated by the French children's song "Sur le pont d'Avignon" which describes folk dancing under the bridge where it used to cross a small island. However, floodwaters over the centuries have eroded the structure until it is beyond repair. Today only 4 of the 22 original arches are still standing.
The Calvet Museum is another site you may want to put on your itinerary. Named after F. Calvet, a physician who in 1810 left his collections to the town he loved, is full of inscriptions, bronzes, glass, sculpture and paintings. The library alone has over 140,000 volumes!
Since 1947 a famous theater festival called the Avignon Festival is held in the town. The productions which are displayed both indoors and out include dance, music, cinema, and plays. This time of special festivities takes place in the summertime, and as many as 100,000 people attend.
Beautiful both outside and inside.
Villa Tordelli is truly an architectural gem nestled in the hilly countryside surrounding Lucca. This exquisite home is typical of the noble summer residences belonging to kings and princes of the north. Large and lovely, the villa comfortably sleeps 16, with all the common rooms also large and lovely to support such an entourage. The present owners recently restored the residence to preserve the hand painted frescoes, arches, and original tiled floors. They added a mix of lovely period furnishings with modern and comfortable sofas, armchairs, and the new kitchen appliances and computer desk with Internet access we've become accustomed to.
In the large and beautiful garden you'll find a surrounding stone wall, period terracotta lemon pots, a 5 X 10 meter pool, garden furniture and a barbecue. The view of the surrounding countryside is outstanding. Included in the weekly rate is 4 hours of maid service 6 days a week, all utilities except for heating, and all taxes. A cook is available upon request.
"We had a wonderful stay in Lucca at Villa Tordelli. The location and villa were perfect for the needs and plans of the two families. The property is beautifully maintained and has been tastefully restored. The property owners, Duccio and Chiara, were most pleasant, attentive and respectful of our privacy. The cook that they arranged for us prepared meals which were highlights of our trip. We actaully felt at home in this beautiful villa. We would highly recommend this property and hope to return someday."
- PC, Barrington, RI.
"What a paradise! We'll be back!"
- AG, Tampa, Florida.
"Villa Tordelli was magnificent. It was beautifully maintained with fantastic views of the countryside."
- RM, Houston, TX.
Mmmm, mmmm, good!
Pollo Al Vino Rosso (Chicken in Red Wine)
(This chicken cooked in red wine with the addition of baby onions is a popular Sunday lunch in Lucca, Italy)
1 chicken, about 4 lbs
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 oz pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1 ½ cups dry red wine
1 ¼ lb pearl onions
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Truss the chicken with kitchen string.
Pour the olive oil into a roasting pan. Add the pancetta and place the chicken in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, turning a couple of times so that it is golden all over.
Add the wine and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Cook for another 40 minutes, basting occasionally.
Add the onions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are tender, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the chicken and onions to a serving dish and keep warm. Skim the fat off the cooking juices and then strain the juice into a small saucepan. Reduce the juices over high heat until you have a fairly thick sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
For a little laugh
Happy Valentine's Day, honey!
What happens when you cross a lollipop with a rabbit?
A sucker's born every minute.
Newsletter Editor: Kathy Hayes