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After a lifetime of travelling, and many wonderful holidays – some exotic, others decidedly not, I ponder if it’s coincidental that the most memorable have been those I shared with friends and family – sometimes lots of them!!

 

Many of us have fond memories of the communal holidays of our childhood – often involving the beach and a caravan park, and almost always friends, relatives, and other families, with those shared holidays creating incremental memories which circulate for many years, or even generations.

In these times of intense, and often excessive social interaction – most of it electronic – which has us reaching for our devices by the new reflexive instinct most of us have developed, I wonder if we are even capable of enjoying a solo holiday, or one with just a single companion? Not to mention sans social media!!

I have enjoyed villa vacations in both Provence and Tuscany, and whilst both are thoroughly deserving of their ubiquity, there is an endless list of alternative spots to set up a temporary country house with a bunch of mates, and enjoy a very long house weekend!  Ireland, and Croatia are growing in popularity, as are the entire countries of France and Italy which offer incredible regional diversity and no end of accommodation options. Spain and Portugal are also popular with villa seekers, and closer to home the villas of Bali, and the resort spots of Thailand offer extraordinary holiday value.

It has to be said that eating and drinking are the cornerstones of a convivial self-catering villa vacation, and many memorable moments occur whilst foraging for food, On my own European holidays, there was a common refrain: “What do you think this is?”, as we browsed local produce markets, delis and supermarkets for the makings of our next feast.  All part of the fun!

By definition, European holiday houses are generally in semi-rural areas, meaning public transport is not an option, so a car is mandatory, and depending upon the number of guests, it is desirable to have a second one on hand for separate excursions.


A typical day might begin with a foray to the nearest village to buy “the bread” for breakfast, after which there might be a short drive on a country road to a local market.  In France for example these rotate from town to town on each day of the week, and are a mix of produce, and brocante (bric a brac).  If you are close to the coast there will be vendors selling the morning’s catch, and before you know it the makings of dinner are in the bag, possibly along with a “treasure” from a brocante stall – who can resist a tarnished old silver frame complete with photo!    Lunch might be a casual bite at a village café, or even a picnic of purchased goods. After a spot of sightseeing, it’s late afternoon, and time to return to the villa to (communally of course) prepare the evening’s feast, to be washed down by cheap local wine (usually purchased in bulk from the local cellar), ready to repeat it all the following day!

Houses/villas/apartments always have a “house book” which begins as a functional “how to” for the operation of your abode, but over time morphs into a delightful chronicle of comments, hints, local knowledge and advice, and as such, is probably worth at least as much as one of the old credenzas which is likely to be a part of the furniture.

Villa rentals are typically on a weekly basis with houses available to accommodate as many as 16 guests. Why not round up some friends, or extended family, and give it a try.

 

First published April 2015.