Renting in Europe

St-Andre accommodations view from terrace to the Pyrenees

The essence of my previous post is – if you want to have twice the vacation for half the cost, travel with friends.  We have shared six rentals in Europe and there were no surprises – our lodgings were exactly as pictured and described.

I know many are leery of doing business on-line and you only do what you feel comfortable with but we had no problems or hiccups working with either site I mentioned in my last post. These sites offer a wealth of choices in all locations, in all price ranges but your enquiries go directly to the individual hosts and all arrangements and discussions are directly with them.

Some hosts accepted international bank drafts, others preferred pay pal; most requested a 30% deposit on booking.  Check on their refund policy – usually if you give enough notice the deposit will be refunded in case of cancellation.  We did have to cancel one of our bookings and because we only gave less than two weeks notice he was unable to refund.   However, he did provide a letter to submit to our travel insurance, which did reimburse us.

The sites don’t usually give specific addresses so you need to check things out with the host – on one trip we were undecided whether to rent a car or not but in speaking with our host found out that our village was somewhat remote and a car was a necessity.  At another, there was only parking for a mid-sized car, nothing larger.  There was good reason for this as it turned out:  

This is our mid-sized car using the entry/exit into the parking lot. And another location, not quite as tight:

In cities you would want to know what area the rental is in and then research it – don’t want to be surprised and find yourself on the edge of the red light district.   Some rentals are not suitable if you have a disability – e.g stairs. Our rental in Venice required lugging our suitcases up three flights of stairs that got narrower and steeper as we approached the third floor.  As in all travelling, it’s good policy to only take what you can carry yourself.  We all managed and were better for it.

Many of the places that have two bedrooms are set up for families with children – one bedroom with a double bed – some offer queen beds, but it’s often a double, and the second ‘twin’ bedroom often has bunk-sized beds which are narrower than a single.  I have learned to ask the size of those ‘twin’ beds.

Linens are not always included in the price so check to see if these are charged as extras, and there is usually a damage deposit of $200 – $300; this has always been refunded to us in cash at our time of departure.

Before leaving home make sure you know the arrangements for the keys.  One place we were told “the key will be under a plant pot on the steps outside the front door”.   At another we arrived to find a key pad … and us without the key code – this was my fault.  Happily I did have our host’s telephone number and he lived in the same village.  A quick call solved the problem.

The four of us like funky over posh, welcoming rather than sterile, personality over bland, so the chance to live in an old converted winery got thumbs up from all of us.

Our entrance was the 2nd door from left – we arrived a lot later than planned … our rule of ‘arrive before dark’ was already broken.
Kitchen dining area, spiral staircase to rooftop terrace. Doorway on left led to 2nd bedroom.

Our first rental experience was in St-Andre in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France – a few miles south of Perpignan, about 20 miles north of the Spanish border, three miles from charming villages on the Mediterranean coast, and nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Our hosts, Michael and Maria, had beautifully refurbished and reconfigured the space to provide a home for themselves as well as our completely private two bedroom apartment and still managed to retain the building’s original character.  A spiral staircase led to a rooftop terrace where there was a built-in barbecue, wisteria draping over the railings and a stunning view of the Pyrenees.  All for $17 a night per person.

Living room and entrance with French doors to a small balcony.

We were a little disappointed in the village of St-Andre itself only because it didn’t fit the picture we had of a small French village.  We were situated on the main thoroughfare which, as it turned out, was busier than usual due to detours directing all traffic under our window.

However the boys enjoyed watching the huge trucks manoeuvring their way along the narrow road … ‘main thoroughfare’ does not necessarily equate with “multi-laned”. More than once large open trucks towing a pup trailer rumbled by loaded with just empty wine bottles – we thought this was interesting … everyone to his own sense of “sites to see”.  I guess we’re pretty simple folk.

However, St-Andre is situated really well for day-tripping to a wealth of interesting villages, hill towns, walled cities, and ancient fortresses; caves, gorges, beaches, vineyards, and seaside villages.

Terrace time, where we would sit with a glass of wine and contemplate our next day’s adventures   –     to be continued …

14 thoughts on “Renting in Europe

  1. We always rent homes and skip the hotels. It is such a terrific way to meet local people, it’s much more authentic than a cookie cutter hotel room, and I often find that it is cheaper as well. Thanks for the great post.

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  2. Even as a single traveller, renting a studio or whatever is cheaper and way more fun than staying in hotels. And as Madhu says, researching is so much part of the experience! I’d also add that finding the right place to rent makes you very familiar with the area so you feel almost like a ‘local’ when you finally arrive:)

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  3. This series is giving me itchy feet and twitchy toes. I’m ready to hit the road! I love the pictures. The one that gave me chills was of the car just scraping through the gate.

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    1. It did indeed scrape … but we got away with a minor charge for it. Exiting was trickerier than entering because you couldn’t line the car up straight to come out. It required one of us in the middle of the road… on a hill … on a bend…directing the the driver inches this way or inches that way.

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