I have a confession to make. I’ve been to the South of France every summer on and off for the last thirty years. And I’m kind of over it. I still adore the location, but the sometimes unbearable heat and packed tourist towns make me want to stay in the cocoon of my rented villa the whole time. So my thinking is, winter in the South of France is where it’s at. Imagine meandering around all those lovely historical towns and feeling like you’re the only one there. And taking a dip in a heated swimming pool when it’s nice and crisp outside.
And it turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way. According to Airbnb’s winter trends data, renters are as much looking for winter sun as they are for city breaks and snow holidays.
Where to stay
I love a home with character, and that’s why I gravitated towards this converted 18th Century farmhouse in Goult, just a 20-minute drive from Gordes, one of France’s most beautiful villages and the hilltop setting for Emily and Gabriel’s romantic lunch in the latest season of Emily in Paris. Nestled in lavender fields (which granted don’t flower until the spring), it offered the peaceful haven I’ve been craving. Not to mention the gorgeous rustic yet modern interiors, all set to the backdrop of the region’s trademark natural stone. Each room was decorated differently, staying true to the house’s history thanks to tasteful antiques dotted here and there. Make no mistake, there were mod cons aplenty, including the industrial kitchen and heated swimming pool overlooking the lavender fields.
This is one of many rentals which are part of the newly launched Historical Homes category on Airbnb, which features characterful homes including converted chapels and castles all over the South of France (and the world).
What to do
If you aren’t keen on the hustle and bustle of the Riviera, I highly recommend the Luberon region in Provence. Tucked away in the hills, it’s close to some of France’s most gorgeous natural beauty spots such as the Fontaine du Vaucluse and the red quarry of Rustrel (France’s answer to the Grand Canyon), as well as some typical historical Provencal villages like the aforementioned Gordes and l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. You’re close to bigger towns as well, such as Aix-En-Provence and Avignon. If you do fancy the seaside, don’t worry, you’re still only an hour and a half away from Marseille, plenty of time for a day trip or overnighter.
If you know all the Airbnb hacks, you’ll find the most amazing holidays at the best prices. For example, if you are flexible on where, when, and even for how long your holiday will be, you can unlock even more stays over busy travel seasons. An easy way to find affordable listings is to check the ‘New’ category, which highlights homes added to the platform within the last 10 weeks. When joining Airbnb, Hosts often set an attractive price to highlight their homes, allowing travellers to access fantastic accommodation at affordable prices. Another great way to save £££ is to travel to lesser known destinations.
Looking just outside of the more expensive tourist hotspots and avoiding peak moments of the year can lead to savings, and it’s exactly how I found our South of France rental.
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Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.
Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).
Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.
However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.
Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.
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