Have Kitchen, Will Travel – to Europe
France – I love Paris for its great museums, cathedrals and food, but France also has many villas in its outstanding countryside. We’ve taken three villa trips to France and my favorite area is the less touristy southwest region. In the countryside, you will see a more relaxed France than you experience in Paris.
On our first vacation to France, we took a short trip to a small town nearby to see a 300-year-old fort. We stopped to ask some locals, who were playing pétanque (a popular form of lawn bowling), where the fort was. They invited us to join their game instead, suggesting it was much more interesting. We spent a lovely afternoon, and it’s hard to imagine getting the same invitation in Paris.
Spain – Spain is my favorite European country for beach villas. The sea is warm, the people friendly and there is a large selection of villas with pools. We’re fortunate that one of our friends who often travels with us is fluent in Spanish, and therefore a great help on allergy questions. We have rented two villas in Spain, and the better area was the southeast corner around the town of Mojacar, which is hotter, drier and less touristy than the Costa del Sol. But it is still close enough to do a day trip to Granada, which should not be missed.
Italy – What’s not to love about fabulous architecture and great food everywhere you go? Near the Tuscany and Umbria border, a group of 16 of us rented a 400-year-old farmhouse with a pool (www.euholidaynet.com/Rental/property.aspx?property=1010). The villa was at the end of a long narrow road in the middle of nowhere with gorgeous views of the rolling hills in the surrounding countryside.
One of our friends spoke Italian, which was a big help when we took day trips to the small towns around the villa, and allowed us to ask questions about the few packaged foods we bought. There was a hospital less than 30 minutes away which we had to use when our older daughter spiked a fever on the first night. Now we always check where the nearest hospital is, but this was the only time we have ever had to use one.
Portugal – Our first-ever villa trip was with four other couples to Portugal before we had kids. The villa looked OK in the photos the owner sent us, and my research suggested this area of the Algarve was not too built up. Still, we were a bit apprehensive when we first got there. But the pictures had not even done the place justice: it was six bedrooms with gorgeous marble floors, huge bathrooms, a beautiful pool and an ocean view (www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/Portugal/Algarve/holiday-house-Burgau/p392.htm). We had such a great time with our friends on that trip that we have done a villa trip almost every year since.
Go Small, but Try It!
If you’re intrigued by travel but still nervous about the food allergies, make your first trip for one week only, and stay in a single place that has a direct flight connection. Take some time to find the villa that’s right for you and ensure you bring your allergy-free foods with you.
Your children will get a sense of history and see things that they can’t see at home. When your children are asleep and you are enjoying a glass of sulphite-free wine while gazing at the sunset over the European countryside, it will have all been worth it.
Next: Scott’s Tips on Sharing a Villa