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Monday 16 December 2013

Holiday Villa Scams - be weary of booking villas via Owner's Direct sites!!!

Holiday Villa Scams on the Increase - pays to be careful and book through an established agent! Owner's Direct sites are scammed - use a reputable agent.

We have have had a few clients who came to us recently saying that they were victims of Owner's Direct Villa Scams.  This type of fraud seems to be on the increase and people literally pay thousands of pounds via bogus Owner's Direct listings only to regret it later.  Owner's Direct sites are often not accredited - they appear over night on google 'looking good' and enticing  tourist with prices for holiday villas which can look very attractive but which of course are completely fake.

Even the long-established Owner direct sites have no way of vetting or establishing if a supposed owner taking and paying for advertising is genuine! Owner's direct sites do not offer clients financial protection or in fact any guarantee that the listings are in fact authentic – the only solution when parting with quite large sums of money for something as precious as family holidays is to book via an accredited, long-established, agent offering financial bonding, accountability and who can be traceable via companies' house as a registered company.  We at south France Villas are happy to say we can offer our clients all of the above - we have been established since 2000, we are a limited company, we also offer at no extra cost to our clients, and in accordance with ''The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992'' all passengers booking with South France Villas Limited are fully insured for the initial deposit, and subsequently the balance of monies paid as detailed in your booking confirmation form when you book through us. The policy will also include repatriation if required, arising from the cancellation or curtailment of your travel arrangements due to the insolvency of South France Villas Limited.

14 December 2013 Last updated at 03:45 GMT

Online fraudsters target ski tourists

By Jon Ironmonger BBC News

Travel agencies have warned of a new internet scam targeting holidaymakers who are booking skiing accommodation online.

Some people have transferred thousands of pounds to conmen posing as the owners of luxury chalets.

Chalet operator Consensio Holidays has asked for dozens of fraudulent chalet listings to be taken down from rentals websites.

Travel association Abta said it was a "growing problem".

It is planning a campaign in the new year to raise awareness of the issue.

Consensio Holidays' managing director, Ceri Tinley, said: "Fraudsters extrapolate pictures and words from internet listings for our chalets and try to pass them off as their own.

"Often they will embed their email addresses inside the photos, encouraging people to contact them directly in order to make a booking, before transferring money into their bank accounts.

"The clearest sign of a fraudulent listing is the cost - some scammers charge only 10% of the chalet's actual market price."

'We're savvy'

Manuela Zwingmann-Wood, from Hampstead in north London, has been caught out by the scam. Her friends decided to book accommodation online, paying £13,000 to a man who had posted a listing on a holiday rentals website.

She said: "My friend Julia found a spectacular chalet in Val d'Isere for a very good price. She emailed the owner who said he would give us a 5% discount. But the thing was he asked for her to pay by bank transfer. We all thought it was too good to be true, but it was a reputable website which Julia has used for more than 10 years.

These kinds of listings are incredibly rare, but when they happen, our team works quickly to ensure they are removed”

Airbnb spokesman

"We just couldn't believe how gullible we had been. We all use the internet every day and consider ourselves to be savvy - I can't believe we would fall victim to something like this. It is shocking the lengths that these people are prepared to go to."

Some scammers have apparently made even more elaborate attempts to exploit the ski chalet market. Three weeks ago the specialist travel agents, Oxford Ski, forced the take down of a website which it says was an almost complete carbon copy of its own.

Its director, Mark Gibbins, said: "It was exactly the same except they had changed some of the property names and set up outward links to unauthorised listings in Airbnb. They hadn't even bothered to change our business address.

"The current case in point is a chalet in Klosters. A client saw a listing on Airbnb and has paid 7,000 euros to a Lloyds bank account as requested by the person that listed with Airbnb. Since setting up the payment they have been unable to contact this person."

'Incredibly rare'

Over the next few months, millions of British holidaymakers are expected to book ski holidays in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Ms Tinley says she has serious concerns about the season ahead: "What we're now coming to see, and really worrying about is that come Christmas Day we may have two clients turning up, the client who has booked with us and perhaps others who have booked with these fraudulent listings."

Abta spokesman Sean Tipton said there were some simple measures people could take when booking ski holidays online.

"Ensure the company's a member of a trade association such as Abta or Atol and when you pay them, don't pay by bank transfer, go to a company that accepts a credit card or a Visa debit card, because if something does go wrong - if it turns out there's a problem with accommodation - you'll be able to get your money back through the credit card company or bank if it's a Visa debit card," he said.

The holiday accommodation website, Airbnb, which hosts listings for more than 500,000 properties, acknowledged that in some instances people had been able to post fraudulent listings for luxury chalets.

A spokesman said: "These kinds of listings are incredibly rare, but when they happen, our team works quickly to ensure they are removed from our community and we're always developing new tools to fight fraud.

"We also protect host and guests by handling transactions. When you use Airbnb, your money is protected and can be refunded if anything goes wrong."

Friday 13 December 2013

Things to do in pre-run to Christmas in the South of France - French Christmas Markets

Spend Christmas in the South of France
Montpellier - really decked out with Christmas lights and it has one of the best Christmas Markets in the South 


Strands of lights, brightly decorated wooden stalls and the smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts – the makings of not only the perfect French Christmas market, but the perfect winter getaway to the South of France.  Either as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season or an unforgettable way to spend Christmas with the family, a holiday to the sunny South of France will make your Christmas even merrier.

Villas in Nice for Christmas

Although not the bikini weather for which the South of France is known, winters in this region are generally mild with sunny days and crisp nights – ideal for exploring Christmas markets (marchés de Noël).  Christmas markets range from big and more permanent in the larger cities, to smaller weekend markets in the villages.  The offers and wares of each market vary, but you’re sure to find artisanal treats, breads and chocolates, decorative and wearable artistic pieces and Christmas decorations to brighten your home.  You will also get a good feel for the regional taste and style as most vendors are local, selling locally produced, handmade products.  Make sure to enjoy a cup of mulled wine (vin chaud) or hot chocolate (chocolat chaud) while browsing the stalls.  Travelling with the kids?  Many markets have appearances by jolly old Saint Nick, and some even have small ice rinks or winter wonderland play areas attached.

Christmas markets usually begin at the end of November or beginning of December, and end on Christmas Eve or the beginning of January. 
Villa Rental in Cannes for Christmas
Cannes - Outside the Carlton - Christmas lights around the 20 meter palm trees are so quintessentially 'South of France'
Ready isit www.southfrancevillas.com, call +44 (0)207 060 5414 from the UK, +33 (0)467 360 554 from France or enquire by email at info@southfrancevillas.com

 Blog post - Ellen May.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Holidays in the South of France - Canal du Midi Boat Race in the Languedoc

Holidays in the South of France - the Canal du Midi Boat Race in the Languedoc.

Did you know that a less known sporting event takes place in August on the Canal du Midi in the Languedoc? Each year since 1982 the “Canal du Midi Boat Race”, has been attracting intrepid rowers.

Canal du Midi is of course the artificial “river” that links Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea built in the second half of the 17th century by Pierre Paul de Riquet – plane trees are planted along sections of the Canal providing much needed shade and beautiful speckled light over the water. The Canal du Midi, links the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, and makes its way past Béziers, which is only just, as the engineering genius who built the canal was born here. A few hundred yards from the town, he had to build a series of seven locks to enable the canal to climb the Fonséranes hill. Today this is one of the major sites in Languedoc-Roussillon. Not far away, an ingenious bridge was built to take the Canal over the Orb River. It is now classed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.


The competition gathers more than 200 rowing enthusiasts from all over the world. This year a great team from New Zealand competed in the race, and then came to stay in Domaine de l’Ise ref HE007A for a much needed rest after their arduous week!


The event, organized by the “Toulouse Pierre Paul de Riquet” Association lasts 6 days during which time the teams row their way on the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to the Naurouze to Béziers where the canal meets the Mediterranean sea – covering around a 200 km distance and crossing 48 locks.

Large-Group-Accommodation-with-Pool-LanguedocAnyone signing up for next year? There is perfect Holiday Villa for 16 people in Beziers to relax in and spend time together indulging in more leisurely pursuits; cooking delicious food, having long lunches with rose sitting by the pool, going to the local beaches to catch some sun, and relaxing tired muscles by the pool.


Thursday 5 September 2013

Top 10 Languedoc Holiday Homes - Roquebrun: A Client's Review

This is a client review of a fantastic river-front holiday home ideal for a large family group or several families sharing a house.  

See where this client stayed: Maison Mimosa in Roquebrun

'Our one week stay at Maison Mimosa, Roquebrun in July was absolutely fantastic.  We were a two-family party of 9,  with offspring ranging in age from 14 to 23,  and parents of appropriate ages!  Everybody had a wonderful time. 

We are all very keen wild swimmers and with children who would want some or lots of independence, we had deliberately chosen a house right on a river and right in a village.  Good decision.

We had dreamy mornings and evenings cooling off and swimming in the crystal clear water of the River Orb against the gentle current right outside the house and also really enjoyed being in the really spacious at atmospheric house looking at the fantastic views of the bridge and mountains beyond and also of life on the other side of the river where happy people and their dogs spend the day mucking about in the river from the large natural river beach.   

The river is safe and you can happily let children from 12 years and up paddle and swim on their own.                    


In the house there is an indoor pool and sauna plus games room with table tennis table and bar in the cellar and the children enjoyed the swimming pool as a novelty a couple of times but the weather was so good and the river so beautiful that it was very under used.  However, I can imagine that these facilities might be wonderful to have mid-winter or when the weather isn’t great. 

Roquebrun is as charming as any tourist website tells you but it feels properly lived-in and real and there is obviously a lot going on.  

The Mediterranean Garden right above the village is beautiful and testament to a lively community as it is run mainly by volunteers and there was a really well attended village party on our last night.  We had a couple of great meals out in Roquebrun; Le Petit Nice does really good pizzas and  the relatively new, I think,  Cave de St Martin tapas bar (tapas bar as a description doesn’t really do the place justice I don’t think) was really superb and is making my mouth water just thinking about the meal we had there.

  Everything fresh, everything melt-in-the-mouth delicious, every ingredient top quality and everything seasonal – plus great wine.   

We came back to England enthused with the peach, tomato and basil salad we had there and  I  have served what I hope is a not-too-bad imitation of it four times since being home!  Both Le Petit Nice and the Cave St Martin have fantastically friendly and helpful staff and wonderful views and it was such a treat being able to walk to both restaurants in less than 5 minutes.    

Out of Roquebrun we spent a great day jumping into and swimming in the beautiful deep clear-water pools in the Gorge d’Heric and another day kayaking 10 and 15km back to Roquebrun, where some of our party saw an otter and all of us loved the scenery and peace and quiet (except when negotiating a rapid!).  Also spent a day at the Lac de Salagou, an amazingly atmospheric damn lake surrounded by martian-like red sand and some really interesting villages and natural rock formations.  The journey cross country to Salagou was beautiful too and a reminder of just how unpopulated and unspoilt this part of France is. 

Shopping was easy, with a village shop and a basic but comprehensive selection of fresh bread plus tinned and fresh food  and drinks in Roquebrun plus a fairly basic twice-weekly market,  and if you needed to do a big shop, the big street market (weekly?  twice-weekly?) and supermarket in St Chinian were a pleasant 15 minute drive away.   And of course there’s a vineyard round every corner……..    

We had to do an airport run to Montpelier near the end of the week and it was extremely hot so we combined it with a trip to the beach on La Corniche, just outside Sete.  We had a good swim in some great waves and it was perfect for a quick cool-off and to dip into the Med quickly.  Easy parking and a nice freshwater shower was available.  But I know there are better beaches in Languedoc and, given a choice, I wouldn’t have moved from the river Orb!

The South France Villas team were wonderful.  Helped with travel arrangements, gave great advice and were generally as helpful as they could possibly have been.  The fact that all their staff have lived in the area for a very long combined time really shows as they have brilliant local contacts and can answer almost any question you put to them.   Thankyou all very much for a wonderful holiday.

Phyllida Barnes
20-27 July 2013

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Best Languedoc Restaurant in the Summer - L’Auberge du Presbytère

L’Auberge du Presbytère is a gourmet French restaurant not far from the village of Vailhan, at the centre of the Herault department. The restaurant overlooks the lower lake of the Barrage (dam) des Olivettes and from the terrace you have a spectacular panoramic view of the Massif Viel Castel.

The produce is always fresh and mostly local, and the chef Baptiste uses seasonal produce in imaginative and delicate ways. Saffron, basil, red quinoa, green beans, celeriac and courgette feature alongside delicious meats and fish.

They offer a selection of fine goats cheese from the Mas Rolland farm very close by in Montesquieu as well as a seasonal cheese selection; both accompanied by sucrine lettuce and hazelnut oil. Wild peach, blueberries, redcurrants and prunes are used in a range of inventive desserts and they serve an extensive list of regional wines.

Baptiste and Marine manage to maintain simplicity whilst introducing many different flavours to their dishes. It works; the salmon Carpaccio was perfectly cut and served fresh without seasoning, allowing the anchovy and parmesan sauce (served artistically beside the fish) to complement but not overpower it. The saffron sauce was full of flavour and the light, succulent courgette added refreshment to the dish. The end result was a truly flavoursome and fresh.

Their presentation is smart and simple, yet not too refined (portion sizes are spot on). Spiralled metal chairs and a simple green and white colour scheme fit effortlessly with the historical beauty of the church and the abundance of greenery surrounding it.

We arrived as the sun was beginning to set behind the mountain, casting a low, warm light on the whole restaurant. It was so tranquil to sit facing the stunning valley from the terrace. What’s more, the service was quick and friendly and Baptiste served the amuse bouche to each table, beautifully describing what we were about to savour.


Our conclusion: for locally-sourced, imaginative cuisine in a beautiful, serene setting with service the way it should be, the price is good.

Don’t forget to walk around Vailhan before or after your meal; see the Dam and lake des Olivettes and take the winding road between the mountains- past vegetable gardens, churches and flower-lined pathways from the village to the restaurant.

Stay in the nearby Chateau St Marthe - it is only 15 minutes drive from the Auberge de Presbytere and has it's own private tennis court, large pool and a beautiful nature park as well as fantastic views over the surrounding vineyards - pictures below:

Friday 19 July 2013

What to do in the South of France? - Wine tasting!

There is a reason the South of France is renowned for its wine…

Vineyards cover a vast area of land in the South of France. The Languedoc Roussillon region makes up 40% of France’s total vineyard area, which is evident when walking, cycling or driving around the region. Long hours of summer sun create a hot, dry climate which is perfect for grapes to ripen well and quickly.

Almost anything can be grown in the Languedoc region, and is. Provence is well known for its very pale, light and refreshing rosés. The Southwest is extremely diverse and venerable in wine-making and there are many grape varieties which can only grow here.

Certified organic “bio” wines (meaning organically produced from A to Z, from the vineyards to the processing) are now produced in the South. The Domains listed below all worked hard to offer lines of fully organic wine.

 Know the lingo:

  • Domaine- an estate which produces wine
  • Vigne- vine or vineyard
  • Cave/caveau- storage cellar for wine

Sylva Plana- 04 67 93 43 55

Sylva Plana is a welcoming and modern Domaine in Laurens. There work a small team of ambitious individuals who, despite their success are very happy to talk to you and show you around. Régisse orchestrates the wine production in all its stages and can tell you about the different processes and grapes.

Wine-inspired modern artwork is displayed and sold around the Caveau and in the shop (look out for Jane Appleton’s work).  The shop also stocks a wide range of other produce, including foie gras at only €5, confit de volaille, terrine au piment d’espelette and confit d’ognions.

Sylva Plana also have a café and restaurant on site with a large outside seating area. You might find yourself eating vegetables and fruits from the chef’s very own potage (vegetable allotment)!

Our pick: under the recommendation of Régisse, the ‘Songe de l’Abbeye’ (made up primarily of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mouvèdre grapes) is a dark, fruity and full-bodied red wine that he buys. Perfect with red meat, chocolate and mature cheeses.

Château de La Liquière -  04 67 90 29 20

Château de La Liquière also has a modern feel when you step into the caveau, with bottles beautifully displayed on curved racks complementing the spiralling stairs. However, if you turn your attention to the detail of the foundations of the building, you will notice authentic stone floors beneath you, and around a corner the original caves with old, damp walls which smell of nothing but a wine cellar! Large shelves also display a variety of local products for sale including honey, tapenade, fleur de sel, fine olive oils and vinegars and even aubergine caviar!
The Vidals are a family of winemakers, the business started in 1960 and still run by them today. They strive to “remain faithful to our terroir and our country origins” whilst making better and better wines each year. They use organic manure and aim for perfectionism, handpicking harvest with great care.

Our pick: try their light, white flower and citrus white wine, Les Amandiers, or even Les Amandiers rosé with raspberry, redcurrant and crème caramel aromas.

Don’t miss: 

Cave de Roquebrun - 04 67 89 64 35

This is a great cave for wine tasting and gourmet local products! It sells some of the best wines known to the region.

Check out our article on Le Chameau Ivre - Where to Drink for a taste of what this is all about!

Our video featuring all of these wine Domains and more!

Did you know?

In the late 19th century, the French government commissioned Louis Pasteur to study the French wine industry in order to decipher what was plaguing the wine. Understanding the role oxygen played, as well as the processes of yeast and fermentation was indispensable, and those same techniques are still used today, although aided by modern machinery. 

Leftover impure sediment can be used as a raw material in products such as lipstick.