From Germany, Belgium, France, England, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Argentina — even Romania and the Ukraine — they’ve come. To spend a week, two weeks, or sometimes longer in the guest studio apartment (known as a “gite” in French) on the first floor of our home, Les Rosiers, that we rent to tourists in summer.
It’s been fun and fascinating to meet and talk to our tenants. And, an experience.
Our first guests several years ago were a German couple, he a baker, who came for a week’s get away from their three young children. It was the end of February, but the Provence sun shone. They bundled up in blankets and lounged by the pool, which was all closed up, soaking up the rays.
We’ve found that Belgians and French, all from the north, especially like lounging by the pool in the summer. No doubt they already know the region, so they are content to chill out, relax, and hang out. Not so for most of our other guests who often set out for day-long excursions to sights – near and not-so-near.
“We have really enjoyed our relaxing stay in your lovely gite, we loved this area of the Luberon and having this comfortable, quiet little home to come back to at the end of a day’s sightseeing just made the holiday.” – Pauline and John, N. Ireland, July 2010.
Last summer was the season of cyclists, starting with a couple from North Carolina who had top quality rental bikes delivered from a bike shop in Isle sur la Sorge – about an hour away. They rode every day. Then came a couple from Brugge, also dedicated riders. They brought their own bikes, and after a day’s outing, were happy to come back and cool off in the pool. Francis, a physical therapist, loved to practice his English, which was excellent.
Aled, a Welshman, who came with his wife, Bethan, took the pedal prize. They come to Provence every year, and every year he pedals up Mount Ventoux. Last summer was his fifth ascent. He also intrigued us with his photography.
Aled is a professional who shoots with an Ebony (google it), an incredible large format camera. After their arrival, we heard them speaking and were intrigued. It was not English. They are among the 562,000 of a population of about three million who speak Welsh.
Close behind Aled for pedal prowess was Jakob from Prague. He did Ventoux for the third time. But, more amazing than his skill, was the family bicycle entourage. Jakob, wife Katarina, daughter Laura, 6, and baby Lukas, 1 ½, arrived with five bicycles (two for Jakob), plus a baby trailer, a baby bed and a baby carriage.
And, they pedaled – often all day, the entire family. After Laura got tired, her bike could be attached to Jakob’s. Katarina towed Lukas in the baby trailer. As the terrain here is anything but Holland flat — lots of long and often steep climbs — their stamina and fitness were mind-boggling.
We’re looking forward to our most dedicated guests in June – Klaus and Eva from Graz, Austria. This will be their fourth summer with us, and they stay for a month. Klaus comes first, his car loaded down with plenty of food supplies and Austrian beer. He always brings us generous gifts of delicacies one can’t find here.
Klaus is a gourmet cook and often shares his creations with us. The first summer he gave me a list of supplies needed in the apartment kitchen, including a knife sharpener, kitchen timer, vegetable peeler. Other guests have also made special kitchen requests. The Brits wanted a tea kettle (we boil water in a regular pan). One French couple wanted espresso coffee cups, yet another requested bowls for their morning coffee. All items now in place.
Our apartment has two double beds. German couples always occupy both beds. Not so with French, Belgians and most other nationalities who prefer togetherness and cuddle together in one bed.
“Thank you for sharing your bit of paradise with us…. Your apartment is wonderfully equipped, definitely a home away from home. This was my seventh trip to Provence, but it was by far the most relaxing and satisfying.” Lynne, Columbia, MO, April, 2011.
We’ve been surprised to find how many of our guests comment on the peace and quiet of our surroundings. Many must live in or near big cities. They love the tranquility of Les Rosiers. But, last summer that quiet was scathed one dreadful night. The house across the street is also sometimes rented to vacationers. Last August there was an entire wedding party and a wedding celebration with loud, blasting rock music that went on until 5 a.m. I finally called the police, and the noise stopped soon after.
Our tenants at the time, Jean Luc and Anne from Brussels, were most understanding. We felt dreadful – mainly because that was not the only disaster to mar their stay. They were without television the first week – a problem that required a repairman who, because it was a holiday week, could not come immediately. Then the gas ran out in the kitchen, but we did remedy that in a timely fashion.
We went off to the states in September, leaving our dear and trusty German friends Klaus and Marianne to house sit and mind Les Rosiers where a German couple, Detlef and Susanne from Hamburg, were staying. They became friends, and all was well until the pool turned green. It’s happened before – algae attack. Klaus, with the help of our friend Alan, got things back in order and our guests, again fortunately, were more than tolerant.
“The whole set up here is warm, welcoming and comfortable…Loved the bright garden and rural setting. ..So much to see and do in this area of Provence, and Les Rosiers is an ideal base.” — Janeen and Jon, Australia, May, 2012.
The pool is a Les Rosiers highlight. But never has anyone enjoyed it as much as a German family with two young children who visited several years ago. They were in the water every minute they were not out visiting sights. Playing “fussball” — water soccer. Every time someone scored, the father, louder than the kids, yelled “Tor.” Children, we’ve found, seem to need to scream with delight when they are in the pool. We’re happy to see them have fun, but life is more peaceful with adults.
We love to invite our tenants for an apero, an evening drink and snacks, and a chance to get to know them. We’ve had stimulating and educational conversations with Belgians on the divisive politics in their country, a first-hand account of life behind the Iron Curtain from East Germans, and a lesson in political history from N. Irelanders. We also like to hear about their adventures in the area, the places they have visited, what they especially like. Our guests enjoy the lovely view of the Luberon hills from our balcony.
As one guest wrote in our guestbook: “Leben wie Gott in Frankreich (live like God in France)..We experienced this here. We’ve found Eden with God as our neighbor.”
For more about Les Rosiers, see www.les-rosiers.com
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Bake a delicious cake. See recipe in column at right for Lemon Ginger Pound Cake.