When it comes to travel I’m a bit of a restless soul, more into the journey than making a base from which to explore. But if adventure’s about getting out of your comfort zone maybe it’s time I settled down somewhere else for a week or two. So for this edition of Adventure Ideas, I’ve been thinking about abandoning the tent, hostels and hotels and looking into finding a home away from home.
I’ve always thought of holidays as a chance to travel and get away from home. Yet sometimes when we’re travelling I do miss things about home. Not the washing up, cleaning or DIY, but having a space we can call our own. A place where we can do our own thing, to our own timetable. A place where we can eat what we like when we like. A place where we can get together as a family, or slope off to a quiet space for some uninterrupted personal time. You know, a place that’s like home, but is not our home, or at home: a home from home stay.
Of course home means different things to different people. For some it’s a place to hibernate and relax, for others a place to play and have fun. For me it’s a base from which to plan, get out, explore and create adventures.
HomeAway.co.uk recently ran a ‘We found a place to’ campaign looking at ‘home from home’ holiday rentals, showing the diversity of ways you can rent someone else’s place and temporarily make it your own.
As part of this ten families, couples and groups rented different properties in different parts of Europe, from cottages to farmhouses to villas. Each group was armed with a camera, given instructions to do their own thing and asked to share something of their experience on video and you can see some of the results on the HomeAway UK YouTube page.
The resulting diversity of experience is entertaining and a world away from deckchairs and windbreakers or the horror of a week spent vegetating by the pool. These people were not just looking for rest and relaxation but for a chance to sample a different way of life, or opportunities to get out and experience new things; all the ingredients of a good adventure.
And judging by their videos and comments not only did they all seem to love dive bombing into the swimming pool on camera, but valued having a base they could call home and from which they could explore. All of which highlighted a few great places in Europe where you could try a home from home break, go exploring and grab some great new experiences. So here are four places that caught my eye from those these families visited.
How about an adventure in rural France, staying in an old farmhouse near the mountains, making a base for some active adventures walking, hiking, biking in the Pyrenees. The Thomas family stayed in a large farmhouse in the village of Latoue in the Haute Garonne in South Western France. Almost in the Pyrenees yet also within reach of the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts this would be a great option for a combined active mountain and beach holiday. There’s plenty of interest around for those of a more historical or cultural bent too in historic market towns like Aurignac (famous also for its prehistoric cave and remains) and St. Gaudens. The market towns are also great places to gather local produce for that little French farmhouse cookery experiment you’ve always wanted to try.
Or if you like your holidays a little flatter and with champagne, what about setting up home for a week in a converted barn in Aube in Northwest France. It’s all rolling hills, arable land and vineyards around here. The Oddy family stayed at Ferme des Tourterelles at Les Moineaux, on borders of the Orient regional park which means peaceful forests and lakes nearby and some great possibilities for water sports. It’s also close to the medieval towns like Bar-sur-Aube and Troyes, near the champagne route and only an hour and a half from Paris for a mid week city break. What more could you ask for?
If you’re looking for relaxation rather than action how about a peaceful retreat in the heart of Tuscany? You could stay in a villa at the end of an old dirt track, set amongst vines and olive trees, overlooking rolling hills and the Appenine mountains. The Watkins family stayed at a modern villa, the Casale degli Ulivi, looking for a little isolation and immersion in a Tuscan cultural experience. Despite the remote setting, near Regello, this place is only an hour’s drive from the cultural treasures of Florence and a similar distance from the nature reserves of Vallombrosa and the Forest of San Antonio, said to be inhabited by the Appenine wolf. But don’t be put off by stories of wolves, there are also family friendly nature trails and forest shelters with fireplaces, picnic tables and water. And if everyone gets bored of the hills, well the beaches of the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts are not all that far away.
Of course mountains and modern villas don’t suit everyone, so if you’re more into sea, beaches, hilltop towns and something with a little more history and character perhaps the villa Trullo Bellissimo in Italy’s Puglia (the heel of the boot of Italy) might do it for you. This villa is in the Valle d’Itria, close to a series of stunning medieval hill towns like Ostuni, Cisternino and Martina Franca, great places to lose yourself in whitewashed alleys. Ostuni, the Città Bianca or White City is said to be one of the most stunning in all of Southern Italy. It’s also close to Alberobello, a UNESCO listed world heritage site, famous for its unusual coned trulli houses. Mind you once you see the villa you might think it should be listed. Parts of it are over 300 years old and the arches, domes and interior furnishing combine influences from all around the world; with mosaics baked from Mount Etna’s volcanic rock, Iranian marble wall tiles, Indian and Afghani wall hangings and Japanese beadwork. A great spot from which to familiarise yourself with the charms of southern Puglia and within 30 minutes of great Adriatic beaches.
Renting a house, cottage or villa is a great way to establish a home from home and to temporarily upgrade your lifestyle with that pool, games room, vineyard, terrace or location you’ve always wanted. You can live someone else’s life, in someone else’s town, village or country and have a base from which to get out and explore in whatever style suits.
If you’re looking for ideas for a home from home vacation, do check out HomeAway.co.uk, a leading UK site for holiday rentals with more than 545,000 apartments, cottages and villas worldwide on their books. Not a bad place to start looking for ideas and inspiration.
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you thanks to support from HomeAway.co.uk. The views and opinions expressed are, as ever, entirely our own.