Paris Made for Kids

It’s never too early to start thinking about summer plans, especially when you have children to entertain all day. This can be even more difficult when you are on holiday in a location that you are not entirely familiar with.

Loving Apartments would like to lend a helping hand and recommend some great outdoor activities in Paris to keep your kids busy and to give you a breather.

Parc de la Villette

This massive park was designed by the French architect, Bernard Tschumi, as an urban redevelopment program from 1984 to 1987. During its construction Tschumi was able to transform this industrial space into a futuristic park for children, and it has even further developed into a huge cultural hub for Paris with several museums, theatres, themed  gardens and concert venues. But more importantly, the park is home to many imaginative park structures for children to play on. The most popular being The Garden of the Dragon  with a steel sculptural dragon with an 80 ft. slide and the Bamboo Garden with an enormous bamboo maze. This area will keep your kids entertained for hours, with plenty left over to do for days in the future.

Photo Credit: Christophe ALARY@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Christophe ALARY@Flickr.

Paris Plages

Photo Credit: Patrick Janicek@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Patrick Janicek@Wikipedia.

Paris got smart and decided to bring the sandy beaches to the bank of the River Seine with the Paris Plages instead of having the locals travel out of the city for the summer scene. The city literally brings in truckloads of sand during the summer to create their own urban beach. Not only do the beaches give Parisians the opportunity to soak up the sun, but they also host a festival in late July and early August that includes bouncy houses, carnival games and concerts – a perfect event for your youngsters. If you aren’t in Paris during the festival, just simply take the chance to sun bathe and build sand castles. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy a beach in the heart of a city.

 

Jardin d’Acclimatation

This is the hot spot for all the Parisian tykes. The park has a little bit of everything- puppet shows, pony rides, a river ride, an aviary with hundreds of birds, a zoo, a sprinkler park, countless pieces of playground equipment for all ages, a train and a board-walk area with games and goodies. It’s a heaven on earth for kids. Parents, you will have no trouble keeping your little ones busy here. Napoleon III is the one to thank for this family-friendly space.

Photo Credit: Sylvain Leprovost@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Sylvain Leprovost@Flickr.

Hot Air Balloon at the Parc André Citroën

Photo Credit: Aero4@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Aero4@Wikipedia.

Sure, there are plenty of buildings to climb in order to get a great city view. But a view from a hot air balloon? Now that’s extraordinary. The hot air balloon is also the largest in the world. Sounds expensive right? Well, you might be surprised to hear that the charge is €12 for adults and €6 for kids – very comparable to other admission rates. You also won’t have to fight the crowds that you’ll find at the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomph. However, it may be a good idea to call ahead to make sure that the weather conditions are fit for a ride with the kids.

Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes

This isn’t the largest zoo in Paris, but it is probably the most easily accessed in the Latin Quarter. It is also one of the oldest zoos, established in 1794. Kids will find over 1,800 animals at the zoo ranging from red pandas, snow leopards, crocodiles, turtles, snakes, orangutans and so many more. Everyone loves a good zoo, and Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes is superb. The zoo also offers special tours and encounters depending upon their calendar and season, and they are listed on their website.

Photo Credit: Rog01@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Rog01@Flickr.

> Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

 

 

A Week of Everything Italian

So if you’ve been tuning into the Loving Apartment‘s blog for the last couple of months, I, an American student studying abroad in London, have been relaying some of my travelling experiences and tips that I’ve picked up so far during my semester. Well, in late October, I had a one glorious week of fall break.

When I originally found out that we had such a lengthy break, I remember thinking: “What in the world will I do with so much free time?”

Italy! I chose to spend my Fall break touring Italy with a few close friends. Sunny, warm and romantic – it met all expectations and more. Okay, so maybe I didn’t experience too much romance while in Italy – unless you count my love affair with gelato.

Squeezing Italy into seven days is a challenge. It certainly deserves longer. However, it is possible to see most of the Italian highlights in a week with free time to spare for shopping, extra exploring or just simply basking in the sunlight.

Destination #1: Venice

Venice – a city unlike any other – a maze of winding corridors and alleyways. This is mostly due to the fact that traffic isn’t allowed into the city centre. Because of this, much of its historical integrity has remained intact over the years, creating a charming ambiance for locals and visitors alike. I must admit that the twisting, winding streets  made it easy to get lost. But quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to get a little lost among all the Venetian mask shops, pasta joints and  bakeries? Losing my way for a while was the best thing that happened to me in Venice, and I suggest the same to you. All the hidden gems are found during wandering.

But have no fear, there were plenty of signs to get us on the right path to see all the sites that we had in mind:

>The Doge’s Palace: This is a palace in the famous San Marco Square that used to be home of  the Venetian Doge (The name of the supreme ruler of Venice). The palace is now a huge museum and symbol of Venice with hundreds of massive and ornate rooms to visit including the courtyard, the Doge’s Apartments, the Institutional Chambers, the prison and the armouries.
>The Campanile di San Marco: A huge bell tower standing tall next to the Doge’s Palace on San Marco Square.
The Basilica di San MarcoThis impressive basilica is the the main cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. The cathedral is one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture and is a monument to Venice’s rich history and magnificence with its art, religious contents and stunning architecture.
>Ponte di Rialto: Or more commonly referred to as the Rialto bridge, is a famous stone arch bridge of Venice that spans the Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge in Venice and has become an icon for Venetian architecture. It’s hard to choose, but this was my top thing to see in Venice. So don’t miss it.

Now for my absolute favorite memory from Venice . . . the Gondola ride. I know, I know. Quite cliché, but it was absolutely lovely and so relaxing to glide through the serene canals after all the touring. There are gondola rides offered all along the canals and St. Mark’s Basin, so it is more than easy to snag one. If you’re really lucky, your gondolier will serenade you during the ride. I must say that ours was a real charmer.

Venice Blog

St. Mark’s Basin. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #2: Florence

Ahhh, Florence. My city of exquisite views . . . and pizza. That’s right folks. I had the best pizza of my life there. The name of the little shop escapes me, and I’ve been unsuccessful in my attempts to find it online. However, it is located on the Piazza Duomo, which is a must see in Florence. So if you have a hankering for a good slice of pizza, peruse the square, and I’m sure you’ll bump into it.

Another list of all the incredible sites:

Brunelleschi’s Dome: We hiked up the 500 steps to the top of the dome of Florence’s main cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The view from up there is the highest in the city and gave us a ground-breaking view of the Tuscany countryside.
The Duomo: This is just a fancy term for the rest of the cathedral. The exterior of the cathedral was gorgeous with cream, mint, and pink hues of marble, and the interior was just as impressive with intricate mosaic tiles.
The Campanile de Giotto: While at the cathedral’s square, we also climbed up another 500 steps to the top of the clock tower right next to the cathedral. It wasn’t as high as the dome, but it gave a good view of the skyline that included the dome.
The Baptistery: This was a separate building from the cathedral and is officially called the Baptistery of Saint John. The ceiling of the Baptistery is remarkable. It is split into different painted layers, and each layer represents different Biblical stories. The baptistery’s doors, The Gates of Paradise, are another famous feature of the baptistery and depict Biblical tales as well.
The Uffizi Gallery: This is one of the most popular art galleries in both Florence and Italy itself. The gallery is home of the famous painting “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. There was also a room entirely dedicated to Michelangelo’s paintings and sculptures.
Accademia Gallery: Another art gallery that is home to the renowned sculpture,”The David,” also made by Michelangelo.
Piazzale de Michelangelo: I’ve actually blogged about this site before, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. It’s situated on top up a hill and is a hot spot for many street performers and artists. There is a nice staircase, so you can sit and watch the sun set over Florence and see the city lighted up from above at night.
Ponte Vecchio: Another world famous bridge in Italy that spans the Arno River. It’s well-known for its jewellry shops. We sat on another bridge parallel to it for quite some time, so we could admire the Medieval bridge as we soaked up the sun and ate lunch.
IMG_2277

Brunelleschi’s Dome. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #3: Pisa

I’m going to be upfront with you. There’s not many notable places of interest in Pisa other than the Leaning Tower. The folks in Pisa probably wouldn’t like me saying so. Don’t get me wrong. The little city is adorable with shops and restaurants, and the locals were extremely friendly. However, my friends and I didn’t have too much time for meandering, so we were only in Pisa for two hours. This was plenty of time to find the tower, marvel at the architectural wonder and snap some memorable photos.

I also had my first gelato in Pisa. After that cone, I knew my life would never be the same.

Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Leaning Tower of Pisa. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #4: Rome

Rome was the last city on our Italian agenda:

The Vatican City: Technically speaking, the Vatican City is its own country. So I suppose that I could say that we explored an entire country in a day! Here we saw the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartments which are suite rooms in the Vatican Palace, now referred to as the Vatican Museum. We also saw the Sistine Chapel there. My neck started to hurt from gazing up at the beautiful ceilings.
St. Peter’s Basilica: This is the cathedral located in the Vatican City and is the location from which the Pope does all of his official papal addresses to the public. It is said to be the largest church in the world, and I’m sure one of the most ornate as well. St. Peter’s is perhaps the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture. It’s also where the Apostle Peter is buried, which I hadn’t realized until I was there. Hence, St. Peter’s Dome, huh? The dots all started to connect.
Trastevere District: Famous shopping and restaurant district in Rome. You’ll find some of the best pasta there.
The Colosseum: An elliptical ampitheatre in the city centre and the  infamous home of the gladiatorial contests, executions, animals hunts and other public spectacles. This site is considered to be one of the most remarkable  examples of Roman engineering and architecture. I couldn’t help but picture Russell Crowe from The Gladiator in the middle of the Colosseum while making my way around the massive arena.
Palantine Hill and the Roman Forums: These were my most enjoyable sights in Rome. Palantine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It used to be home to many elite Roman citizens, and the remnants of these luxurious homes still stand today. Palantine Hill is right next door to the Roman Forum which was the political center of Ancient Rome. There are many temples and buildings there that were established by Julius Caesar. It was hard to fathom how long some of the structures and ruins have survived.
> The Spanish Steps: These are around 150 steps that lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church. The staircase is impressive; but what’s more impressive about this place is how it is a social center of Rome. The steps were chockfull of people just sitting and chatting.
> The Pantheon: This is one of the most well-preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. It was the most popular and influential temple in Rome during its time and remains popular today. What’s most interesting about the building is that is it circular and has an open top. I hear it is gorgeous and almost magical to see during a snowfall.
The Trevi Fountain: This was one of my most anticipated sites in Rome. Unfortunately, it was under construction. We could hardly see the fountain, and it wasn’t filled with water either. However, there was a walkway over the fountain where the water normally is, so I suppose I got the chance to walk over the fountain which not many people can claim. To make up for all the wishes that couldn’t be made by tossing coins into the famous fountain, they had set up a small well to toss coins in, so we had to make due with that. I heard that they were almost done with the preservation work, so don’t fret if you are planning to visit.
Roman Colosseum Cropped

Roman Colosseum. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen.

I hope that this blog will help you to plan your next adventure to Italy, or at least get you to consider paying a visit. What is even more convenient is that Loving Apartments offers accommodation in Venice, Florence and Rome. Their self-catering apartments are  the perfect place to make your home while exploring.
>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

 

First Thursdays and Slam Fridays

One of the wonderful things about London is the accessibility to art. Be it contemporary or impressionist art, London offers highly regarded artists to emerging artists. While many think of the most popular galleries and museums like the National Gallery, Tate Modern or Saatchi Gallery, there are many less known and prestigious galleries found within London. These galleries come together  and run free events, exhibitions, workshops, talks and private views during special late openings. These late openings have become affectionately referred to as First Thursdays and Slam Fridays. The name of these events refer to the days in which they are hosted. The first Thursday and last Friday of each month features over 170 galleries and museums in East and South London that are open until 9 pm. The galleries’ websites compiles their top 5 exhibitions and even offer  free art walking and bus tours with leading curators and writers.

Whitechapel Gallery has been called London’s East End home for over a century. The gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters such as Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollack to contemporary greats like Sophie Calle and Lucian Freud. Whitechapel has become a touchstone for contemporary art internationally. Whitechapel, along with its partners, has recently taken the lead in offering the public access to its collections with First Thursdays. Current exhibits include Artist’s Film International, which showcases films from around the world and select pieces from the V-A-C collection that displays some of the 20th century’s greatest artists. Past art galleries that have been featured during First Thursdays have included CANAL, Rich Mix and Raven Row.

Similarly, South London Gallery (SLG)  has a long history with Whitechapel opening its doors in Peckham in 1891. Since then, it has garnered an international reputation for its program of contemporary art exhibitions and live art events. Originally thought  of as the “gallery of the people of South London,” SLG now is a charity that receives ongoing support from the Arts Council of England, The Southwark Council, The Big Lottery and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.  SLG  offers Slam Fridays which is the late night opening of galleries in South London and is free to the public. The event also has its own publication and mobile app that optimizes the experience for visitors. Slam Fridays does not require a booking.

Loving Apartments offer a number of apartments close to these events. So the next time your in London and want to venture outside of the normal galleries, make sure to check out the First Thursdays and Slam Fridays.

 

Jonathan Redmond is an Advertising Undergraduate @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a keen interest in Fashion and exploring London Culture.

World-Class Opera: Hungarian State Opera House

A trip to Budapest would not be complete without a visit to the Hungarian State Opera House, also referred to by the locals as the Budapest Opera House. Even if you aren’t a fan of the opera, you’ll not want to miss this Neo-Renaissance masterpiece.

Photo Credit: PDXdj @ Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: PDXdj @ Wikipedia.

It goes without saying that the Hungarian State Opera House is home to exquisite operas, ballets and other rich musical programmes. There is a good reason why this opera house has gained international recognition as one of the finest opera houses in the world. However, it’s not just the music that attracts thousands of visitors, but also its architecture – inside and out.

Photo Credit: jasongerardderose@Flickr.

Photo Credit: jasongerardderose@Flickr.

Located in central Budapest, on Andrássy Avenue, the opera house was designed by the influential architect, Miklós Ybl, for the 19th century millennium celebrations. The construction of the opera house began in 1875 and was opened to the public in 1884. The outside façade of the opera house features some of the world’s greatest composers – Beethoven, Mozart and Verdi. Seated statues of Hungary’s own prominent composers, Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt, frame the main entrance along with two metal sphinxes that guard the opera house. Off to the right is the artist entrance; and to the left is the carriageway and the the Royal Staircase. The sweeping stone staircase was an important element of the building in the past for women to show off their extravagant gowns.

Once inside the opera house, the impressive foyer boasts grand marble columns supporting the arches. The floor is checkered with mosaic tiles resembling those of the ancient Greek. Awe inspiring frescoes depicting Olympus and Greek gods cover the ceiling, illuminated by a massive gilded chandelier. Every layer of the opera house features its own layout and decór, making it necessary to tour the entire building. The three-story main auditorium, capable of seating nearly 1,300 people, is half-mooned and lavished by golds and velvety reds. A vision of elegance.

Photo Credit: MarlaSinger7@Flickr.

Photo Credit: MarlaSinger7@Flickr.

You can imagine why the Hungarian State Opera House became one of the leading European cultural venues and still remains so today. Just simply seeing the opera house will be worth your time, but it would be even more special to see a performance in the magnificent space. The opera house’s main season is held from September to mid-June, offering around 50 major performances. For a schedule of the performances, visit the opera house’s official website.

Tickets range from 400 HUF to nearly 20,000 HUF, depending on the date of your chosen performance and seat location. As far as some seating tips, be cautious if you buy a ticket for the second or third rows because people sitting in the front rows may block your view. Also, if purchasing gallery tickets, you’ll want to buy seating in the middle because you’ll have an obstructed view of the stage from the sides. However, whether you have best seat in the house or the furthest one from the stage, you’ll still have a lovely evening with the phenomenal music, dancing and architecture.

Loving Apartments offers accommodation within less than a five minute walk from the opera house.

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

All About the Romance

Valentine’s Day in Paris. The iconic city of love. *Cue the swoon.*

Okay, so it might be cliché for lovers to spend time in Paris. But folks, it’s cliché for a reason. This elegant and fabulous city is the ideal place to rendezvous with your partner.

However, instead of giving you the same old activities – the love lock bridge or  kissing on the Eiffel Tower  – I’ve done my best to wrangle up some unique and romantic ideas for you to surprise your significant other.

The “I Love You” Wall

Everyone knows about the love lock bridge. But what about the “I Love You” wall? This romantic wall is found in the middle of the Abbesses Garden in Montmartre. The wall has an area of 40 square meters and is covered with thousands of different ways to say “I Love You” in over 300 languages. If you are found speechless in your lover’s presence, the wall will lend you a few tips of what to say. The wall was created by two artists, Frederic Baron and Claire Kito, to honour love and eternal adoration. Frederic Baron collected all the phrases by knocking on the doors of the embassies and asking for their unique expressions of love. So lock hands instead of padlocks, and take a stroll past this charming wall.

Photo Credit: ConstatineD@Flickr.

Photo Credit: ConstatineD@Flickr.

A Night Out to a Blues Club

Photo Credit: evoo73@Flickr.

Photo Credit: evoo73@Flickr.

Blues and jazz music is full of soul with its soothing saxophone, harmonica and heart-felt lyrics. Its mood is contagious. You’ll find yourself sweetly seduced by the end of the evening at Le Caveau des Oubliettes, the oldest jazz club in Paris. There’s a bar in the upstairs of the club, but the place that you’ll want to be is in the 12th century underground wine cellar where the music is performed. The perfect space to get cosy and relax with a glass of wine.

Take a Row Near the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a bustling tourist destination, but you may find the grand canal next to the palace less crowded. Why not enjoy your time together on the water and rent a small row boat built for two for a romantic float down the river? Then you could gaze longingly into one another’s eyes without interruption, admire the palace from a new vantage point and say hello to all the ducks.

Photo Credit: jasonb42882@Flickr.

Photo Credit: jasonb42882@Flickr.

Prepare a Picnic in Parc des Buttes Chaumont

Pack a blanket, some pastries and a bottle of wine, and make your way to Parc des Buttes Chaumont – the fifth largest park in Paris and arguably the most gorgeous. Once there. you and your partner can marvel at the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta. Then make sure to venture through the rest of the Parisian park to enjoy the green landscape with cliffs, grottos and waterfalls. The views are breath-taking and off the beaten tourist path, so there will most likely be privacy for a head-spinning kiss with your love.

Photo Credit: Lombana@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Lombana@Wikipedia.

Get Lost in the Winding Street of Paris

Photo Credit: Panoramas@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Panoramas@Flickr.

Rent a bicycle with your special someone and just wander the winding, unexplored streets of Paris to find those hidden gems that you’ll cherish forever – an aromatic bakery, a quirky boutique or a quaint book shop. Stroll through gardens and courtyards. Sit on a secluded bench and simply spend time together people watching, chatting or showing a little affection. The French won’t even bat an eyelash; after all, it is the city of love. In the end, just enjoy the moment with your love because that is all that matters.

To ensure that you take advantage of each hour during your romantic Valentine’s Day in Paris, you’ll want to find a place to spend the night or even an entire weekend. Loving Apartments offers over 300 apartments throughout the city, giving you and your significant other a place to relax after a lovely day that you’ll be sure to cherish for years to come.

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

Europe’s Best Film Festivals

Film festivals have become all the rage across the globe to celebrate the art of cinema and the talents of those working within that field. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of film festivals hosted across the European continent featuring independent films, students films, LGBT films, fantasy and horror films, documentaries and any other sort of genre that you can imagine. Loving Apartments wants to narrow down the search for you and present some of the top European film festivals that take place in major cities we offer accommodation so you’ll have convenient lodging as you enjoy the festival.

London

Photo Credit: spiritquest@Flickr.

Photo Credit: spiritquest@Flickr.

The BFI Film Festival, also referred to as the London Film Festival, is the largest public film festival in both London and the United Kingdom under the supervision of the British Film Institute. The festival originally began in 1953 with the intention of making the festival accessible to the general public, screening films that people would not normally have the opportunity to see in the United Kingdom; it has been living up to that goal ever since and continues to grow each year. While still being a festival geared towards the public, it has also started to be attended by film professionals and movie stars from across the globe. So if you plan on attending the festival, be sure to bring your camera to snap a photo of your favourite movie star. Today’s festival screens around 250 films over 12 days, mostly taking place in cinemas in Leicester Square and South Bank. The festival is opened and closed with galas with premières, workshops, short films and Q&A’s in between. The BFI Festival will take place in mid-October. Official dates have not yet been announced for 2015.

Sitges

Photo Credit: Baggio@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Baggio@Wikipedia.

The Sitges‘ annual film festival, officially referred to as the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, is the most recognized fantasy film festival in the world. The week dedicated to fantasy and horror films began in 1968 and was the first one of its type, starting an international trend. Thousands of people come together to celebrate the imagination, art and technological advances that fantasy and horror film genre makes with each year. Popular film stars such as Quentin Tarantino, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Paul Verhoeven and many, many more have graced the red carpets of the festival. The 2015 Sitges’ Film Festival will be hosted from 3 October to 12 October , and accommodation is usually booked up months in advance so be sure to book your accommodation with us early to ensure your spot.

Berlin

Berlin has a long-standing reputation of being a cultural hub attracting artist and admirers with its diversity cultural scene. Berlin has proved to be one an influential city in the film industry with the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, each February. The 2015 festival will be held from 5 February to 15 February. The festival usually sells around 300,000 tickets sold with 20,000 professional visitor from 124 countries. Films of any genre, length and format are welcomed and will certainly find an award category to compete in. Not only does the festival feature all new films, but they also screen restorations of old classics as well. So if your feeling nostalgic, you are in luck. The Berlinale in a source of both entertainment and inspiration for the film industry with panel discussions, film programmes, workshops and joint projects. It has become a great collaboration between film professionals, actors, actresses and fans.

Photo Credit: bigamex@Flickr.

Photo Credit: bigamex@Flickr.

Paris

Photo Credit: SparkABC@Flickr.

Photo Credit: SparkABC@Flickr.

In case you are more interested in non-fiction films and documentaries, the International Documentary Film Festival in Paris is the place for you. This Parisian film festival, also called Cinéma du Réel, has been screening ethnographic and sociological films since 1979 at the Centre Pompidou. Each year this film festival increases awareness and creates on open dialogue concerning human rights, political issues and current events. Cinéma du Réel spends ten days broadening horizons and educating while still entertaining with over 200 films from 32 countries, which can be a difficult feat. The film festival is operated on a smaller scale than most in Europe, but it has just as much influence on the film industry and perhaps even more influence on the daily lives of the public. The next festival will be hosted from March 19 to March 29 in 2015.

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

A Villa Holiday

Sure, you could always take the usual holiday where you go to the city or even just decide to stay home. You could tell your friends and colleagues about your predictable plans and watch their eyes glaze over as they nod in disinterest. These plans aren’t anything new. They’ve been done over and over again.

Or you could avoid all the dullness and just plan an out-of-the-ordinary holiday right from the start? Loving Apartments‘ suggestion for you – a villa holiday.

We’ve got loads of villas to offer you. We actually offer around 35 villas in Provence, 30 villas in Tuscany and 5 villas in Côte d’Azur. All of these locations allow you to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside, and some of villas are even located near cities – so you can have the best of both worlds. Another huge advantage of taking a holiday in a villa is the space that you are afforded. You can take your entire family and more with you. Take your friends or your extended family.

I’ve chosen some of my favourite villas from Loving Apartments’ portfolio to feature. Take a look and just image the holiday that is waiting for you there.

Provence

Mas le Cailletier:

This five bedroom villa is located within 50 hectares of land. The home is surrounded by orchards, creating a wonderful landscape to admire. Not only does the villa hold the appeal of the beautiful surrounding countryside, but the villa is also outside of a larger resort so it includes access to a garden and a children’s playground. Guests also have a private access to the lawn, swimming pool, pool house and table tennis. The villa itself offers air conditioning, wifi, a TV and a DVD player. It can sleep up to 9 people, so start thinking of your invite list. Here are some photos to get a peek into the countryside haven:

Mas le Cailletier I                 Mas le Cailletier II

Mas le Cailletier III                 Mas le Cailletier IV

Col de l’Ange:

Col de l’Ange is a charming, 3 bedroom villa located in Draguignan, Provence. The villa includes a large lawn with flowers, trees and a private swimming pool. It’s only a short drive away from the beach and also several lakes. Not to mention the villa also has a high definition flat screen TV, wifi, air conditioning, a dishwasher and all the other necessary kitchen appliances. It also has a terrace with a BBQ, mosquito net and a beautiful view of the French countryside. It has everything you need for a memorable summer holiday with your friends and family.

Col de l'Ange I               Col de l'Ange II

Col de l'Ange III              Col de l'Ange IV

Tuscany

Villa ll Salicone

This bright and spacious villa in the Italian counrtyside sleeps up to 16 people. That’s a number of guests that you probably won’t be able to accommodate in your home, just another good reason to stay in a villa for your summer holiday. The villa is located near an observation tower of the Montalbano Hills where you are rewarded with a exquisite view of the countryside, olive groves, vineyards and the stronghold tower of Serravalle. The accommodation also includes a swimming pool, a private garden, wifi and room cleaning weekly. For added convenience and interest, it is also situated near a pretty Tuscan town.

Salicone I                 Salicone II

Salicone III                 Salicone IV

 La Veduta

This charming villa is a slice of heaven. Its home is on an organic farm that produces wine and oil. La Veduta is situated upon a hill surrounded by vineyards and olive groves with a view of Siena. You can’t get more Tuscan than that. It will be a haven of peace and quiet. If you desire, the owner can arrange tennis matches, tasting tours of local produce, cooking courses or wine  tasting. The villa has 8 bedrooms that can sleep up to 16 people – plenty of room for all your guests. The accommodation also includes a large swimming pool and a 12-person jacuzzi with exquisite views of the Siena hills. You’ll never want to leave.

Veduta I              Veduta II

Veduta III              Veduta IV

Côte d’Azur

 Terrasse Croix Gardes

This modern french villa, located near Cannes, includes a swimming pool, private garden and BBQ. It’s also conveniently located only 2.5 km from the beach for a sunny afternoon with your family or friends. The villa also comes with air conditioning, wifi, TV, DVD player, a terrace and a balcony – all the ingredients for a relaxing summer holiday. Terrasse Croiz Gardes can sleep up to 8 people in 4 bedrooms, and it has 3 bathrooms. It’s the perfect size for a family.

Villa              Villa II

Villa III            Villa IV

 

Soakin’ Up Sicily

Sicily has so much to explore – from Greek temples to seaside havens. If you’re planning to visit, you’ll want to set aside plenty of time to take in all glorious sites and Sicilian culture. Loving Apartments has just recently added Sicilian accommodation to our portfolio, so we wanted to take the time to show you just a few of many highlights.

Agrigento

Sights

Valle dei Templi

Valle dei Templi (Valley of Temples) is an archaeological site, one of Italy’s national monuments and a UNESCO Heritage Site. The site is composed of seven ancient temples to Juno, Concordia, Heracles, Olympian Zeus, Castor and Pollux, Vulcan and Asclepius. This valley is considered one of the greatest examples of Greater Greece architecture and art.

Photo Credit: Jos Dielis

Photo Credit: Jos Dielis@Flickr.

Scala dei Turchi

Photo Credit: Lahiri Cappello@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Lahiri Cappello@Flickr.

Scala deit Turchi (Stair of Turks) is a rocky cliff on the coast of Realmonte near Porto Empedocle in southern Sicily, and it is a UNESCO Heritage Site too. The cliff is well-known because of its unique white colour. The beaches of Scala dei Turchi has some of the best beaches in Sicily. Luckily, they are usually not crowded.

Food

Kalòs

This classic Sicilian restaurant allows you to watch the sunset as you dine on the balcony. The restaurant is known for preparing local and fresh food. Their home-made pasta has a good reputation, particularly their spaghetti all’agrigentina. That dish goes especially well with their spada gratinata – baked fish covered in bread crumbs. Then round your meal off perfectly with white wine and an almond semifreddo.

Address:

Salita Filino, 1
92100 Agrigento

Leon d’Oro

Leon d’Oro is claimed to be one of the local’s favourite restaurants known for their fish and fowl. The plate that you’ll want to try is the baccalà – salted cod with potatoes – and the calamari su agrumi – cuttlefish served with fruits. The restaurant also has an excellent wine selection.

Address:

Viale Emporium, 102
92100 San Leone Agrigento

Accommodation Top-Pick

Albert 3-Bedroom House:

Agrigento I       Agrigento III

Cefalú

Sights

La Rocca

La Rocca of Cefalú is a massive crag with an altitude of 270 metres. The rock is famous for its Greek mythological history with the legend of the shepherd Daphnis who was blinded by the goddess Hera. He was then tranformed by the god Hermes into a huge crag. If you brave a climb up La Rocca, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the coastline, the remains of the Cefalú castle and the ruins of the Temple Diana.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The Cathedral

Photo Credit: Dzhingarova@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Dzhingarova@Flickr.

The Cathedral of Cefalú is one of Sicily’s major Norman monuments that was built in 1131. The cathedral exemplifies Norman architecture and also serves as an ode to Arab, Byzantine, Latin and Nordic art as well. The most striking features of the Cathedral are its two majestic towers, its large portico and its intricate mosaic designs. Definitely worth a stop to admire the unique architecture and beauty.

Food

Ti Vitti

Ti Vitti, managed by the talented chef Vincenzo Collaro, only prepares its dishes with the freshest of ingredients from local sources, including local treats like basilisco mushrooms from the Monte Madonie. If you decide to dine at Ti Vitti, consider ordering the delicious pasta, fresh-from-the-market fish dishes or the much-recommended cannoli.

Address:

Via Umberto I, 34
90015 Cefalù

Ostaria del Duomo

This is the perfect restaurant to visit if you want to soak up the Cefalú sights because the eatery gives you full-on views of La Rocca and the Cathedral. As you enjoy the views, try out the house speciality of carpaccio de pesce – raw, thinly sliced fish – with your wine of choice from an extensive selection.

Address:

Via Seminario 5
90015 Cefalù PA

Accommodation Top-Pick

Patio 2-Bedroom Apartment:

Cefalu II       Cefalu I

Palermo

Sights

Palermo’s Markets

The winding medieval streets of Palermo are full of stands and shops offering fresh produce and artisan crafts -a plethora of fresh vegetables, fruit and speciality breads and cheese. If you’re lucky, you might even receive some free tastings. The main street markets are Vucciria, Ballarò, il Capo and Borgo Vecchio.

Photo Credit: zak mc@Flickr.

Photo Credit: zak mc@Flickr.

Teatro Massimo

The Teatro Massimo, a neoclassical opera house, is an iconic landmark of Palermo. You can either admire it’s lovely architecture and decor, attend a performance or make time for both. Fun fact: the closing scene of The Godfather: Part III was filmed here. Guided 25-minute tours are offered in English, Spanish, French and Italian daily – except on Monday.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Food

Trattoria Ai Cascinari

This restaurant is particularly known for its quaint ambiance and its friendly service. You’ll find the place packed with locals with the wait staff constantly serving dishes of scrumptious antipasta and main dishes. Make sure to save room for the restaurant’s homemade ice cream and exquisite desserts.

Address:

Via D’Ossuna, 43
90138 Palermo

Ferro di Cavallo

Ferro di Cavallo is one of the most affordable places to dine in Sicily with nothing on the menu that costs more than €7. Tables line the side walks, colored walls and art brighten up the eatery and the menu is full of classic, Sicilian dishes.

Address:

Via Venezia, 20
90133 Palermo

Accommodation Top-Pick

Giardino delle Palme Apartment:

Palermo I        Palermo II

Siracusa

Sights

The Archaeological Site

Photo Credit: HBarrison@Flickr.

Photo Credit: HBarrison@Flickr.

The archaeological site is home to a vast amount of well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins. The main attraction at the park that you won’t want to miss is the Greek theatre that dates back at least until the 5th Century BC. The theatre is still used during the annual Greek Theatre Festival from the middle of May to the end of June. Other things to see while at the site are the old stone quarries, the Roman ampitheatre and the archaeological museum.

Fontana Aretusa

This ancient spring still bubbles forth fresh water as it did during during ancients eras as the city’s main water supply. According to legend, the goddess Artemis transformed her beautiful handmaiden Aretusa into the spring to protect her from the unwelcome attention of the river god Alpheus. The fountain has now become a lovely place to spend a summer evening.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

 Food

Le Vin De L’Assasin Bistrot

Le Vin De L’Assasin Bistrot has earned a reputation of being a stylish and refreshing restaurant by adding a French twist to traditional Sicilian dishes. The most sought after dishes at this restaurant are the tuna steak with hazelnuts and honey, quiche lorraine, croque-monsieur and Breton oysters. You must save room for dessert after your main dish so that you can savour their home-made, creamy and chocolatey desserts. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekends.

Address:

Via Roma, 15
96100 Siracus

Don Camillo

Don Camillo is elegant with an impressive kitchen, excellent service and sophisticated décor. The most recommended dishes at the restaurant are the ‘black’ king prawns in a thick almond cream soup, the tagliata di pesce spada – grilled and sliced swordfish in a tomato sauce – or the red snapper with fig and lemon. Top off your meal with blood-orange ice cream.

Address:

Via della Maestranza, 96
96100 Siracusa

Accommodation Top-Pick

La Rosa Apartment:

Syracuse I      Syracuse II

Loving Apartments’ Luxury Collection

Loving Apartments knows how to do luxury – rooftop terraces, grand views, stylish furniture, spas and sophistication. Because when you’re on holiday, you deserve the best.

Many of our incredible locations have stunning luxury collections ranging from chic modernity to classically posh.  I could keep telling you how remarkable these apartments are . . . or I could just show you. The photos speak for themselves.

Paris

Georges I        Georges IV

Geroges V        Georges II

The Georges V luxury apartment in Paris is fit for royalty with its crystal chandeliers, French Savonnerie carpets, antique furniture and white marble fireplace.

 

Loft I       Loft II

Loft III       Loft IV

The Montorgueil Luxe Loft is spacious, light and sleek. Even though the Parisian loft is modern, it has a fascinating history as a renovated printing housed used by the Resistance for printing publications in the 1870’s.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam I       Amsterdam II

 Amsterdam III    Amsterdam IV

The Leidseplein Royal Penthouse is urban chic with high gabled ceilings with exposed beams, parquet floors and elegant decor. The luxurious accommodation also includes a deck jacuzzi with a remarkable view of the Leidseplein.

London

 London I

 London II   London IV

This attractive apartment gives a marvellous view of the London skyline and the iconic Tower Bridge. You won’t be able to top the accommodation’s central city location.

Zermatt

Zermatt I    Zermatt II

Zermatt III   Zermat V

This trendy apartment is open and luminous, providing you a breathtaking view of the landscape. The high ceilings, mod furnishings and glass walls are the very definition of luxury.

 

Zermatt II     Zermatt III

Zermatt I

This spectacular chalet is all about leisure and relaxation with its sauna and cosy corners to enjoy the striking Swiss back drop.

Barcelona

Barcelona I     Barcelona II

Barcelona III     Barcelona IV

This classically luxurious apartment has ornate trimmings, elegant draperies and handsome wood floors. Complete opulence and Barcelona at its finest.

Discovering Valais

Valais lies in the South-west of Switzerland, stretching 150 km along the Rhone Valley between the Rhone Glacier and Lake Geneva. Valais has an impressive range of landscapes. Within just a few kilometres, some of the highest peaks of the Alps are bumping elbows with almost subtropical areas where almonds and pomegranates are found.

The Rhone Valley dominates the region, but the main skiing resorts and other small villages are in side valleys to the north and south. Some of these resorts include Zermatt, Verbier, Crans-Montana, Saas-Fee and Nendaz. Loving Apartments offers accommodation at each, giving their guests convenience and comfort after a day of winter sports and activities.

Zermatt

Zermatt Final Photo

Zermatt is the most glamorous ski resort you’ll find in the Swiss Alps. The village lies at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn and offers a glorious view of the surrounding peaks. Nestled in a deep valley near the Italian border, Zermatt has become a cosy destination with its romantic cobbled streets, horse-drawn sleighs and quiet corners. You won’t be bothered by the hustle and bustle of traffic because combustion engine transport is not allowed in order to prevent pollution. The atmosphere is instantly welcoming with the fresh Alpine air, one-of-a-kind shops, quality restaurants and traditional chalets. The area’s beauty is simply unsurpassed.

Zermatt Blog Photo

Zermatt is the heart of Swiss winter sports with the highest mountains in Europe. The three main ski areas – the Sunnegga, the Gornergrat and the Klein Matterhorn – soar to altitudes over 3,100 metres with fabulous snow conditions and long runs. The longest, and most recommended, run is from the Klein Matterhorn to Zermatt. The trail covers 13 km of varied terrain. On the way down, skiers will be awed by the white glacial world with sweeping views of Switzerland, Italy and even distant France. These three areas offer skiers of all levels over 250 kilometers of trails. That is a lot of ground to cover, so it’s a good thing that Zermatt has the longest winter ski season in the Alps from late November to the start of May. If slope skiing doesn’t take your interest as much as cross country skiing, there are also cross country skiing routes with the Täsch and Randa trails.

And this is only skiing. We haven’t even begun to scrape the surface of all the other winter sports opportunities.

Photo Credit: dsearls@Flickr.

Photo Credit: dsearls@Flickr.

Snowboarders can find good terrain and a half pipe near Riffelberg and a snowboarding park on the Klein Matterhorn. Winter hiking, snowshoeing and sledding trails are scattered throughout the Zermatt region, and you’ll find hockey, skating and curling in the village.

But Zermatt is more than just winter sports. During the summer season, almost every sport imaginable is offered from mountain biking, to hiking, to golf and tennis.

Since Zermatt is car-free, the most sensible way to travel there is by train. The trip is beautiful because it takes you through the deepest cleft in Switzerland with the highest mountains on either side of you.

Here is some additional information about Zermatt to help in your holiday planning.

Featured Accommodation in Zermatt

Heinz Julen Penthouse Chalet:

This light and chic apartment has 4 bedrooms, sleeping up to 8 people. It has stylish furnishings, a terrace, sauna and gorgeous views of the Swiss landscape.

Zermatt I      Zermatt II

Zermatt III      Zermatt IV

Verbier

Verbier Final Photo

Verbier is the main ski resort in the four valleys – Switzerland’s largest ski area. It is reputed as being Europe’s premiere off-piste resort with ranging slopes for all skill levels. The resort is popular with weekenders from London and Geneva, giving it a buzzing energy and exciting atmosphere. The village is full of ski and fashion shops, award-winning restaurants and lively bars and nightclubs. The mix of breathtaking scenery, sporting terrain, and nightlife attracts youthful and athletic visitors from all over the world.

Verbie Blog Photo

Now let’s get down to business. Skiing. Verbier is one of the largest lift-linked ski regions in Switzerland with 412 km of well-maintained pistes – 39% for beginners, 44% for intermediates and 17% for advanced skiers. The entire lift system links the resorts of Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Bruson, Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon. If your looking for a thrill off the beaten skiing path, try the daunting vertical drop of 2,000 metres of off-piste skiing from Mont Glacier.

The off-piste opportunities and competitions like the Verbier Ride and O’Neill Xtreme set the skiing standard high, so Verbier attracts top skiers and boarders from all over the world. Don’t let that phase you though. Verbier is suited for all sorts of skiers. Take a look at Verbier’s official website to read additional information on the skiing region.

Featured Accommodation in Verbier

La Toura Apartment:

This 3 bedroom apartment sleeps up to 6 people and has a balcony that gives guests an incredible view of the mountains and valley.

Verbier I      Verbier II

Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana Final Photo

Crans-Montana is composed of two neighbouring resorts situated on a sun-drenched plateau above the Rhone Valley at 1,500 metres altitude. The twin towns have much to offer visitors all year round. They have a remarkable view of all the mountain peaks from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc. Crans-Montana offers some of the most extensive Alpine shopping around and is also home to a renowned culture and congress centre. The towns have  been a popular venue for sporting events, especially because of their reputation as a golfing Mecca. The resort also gives visitors the chance to enjoy nature with five swimming lakes and footpaths through the mountain forests. There is literally something for all tastes.

Crans-Montana Blog Photo

Crans-Montana offers skiing at 1,500 metres on the resort’s altitude level and then skiing at 3,000 metres off Plaine-Morte Glacier.  There are 140 km of marked pistes: 17 blue, 20 red and 4 black. The valley descent down the Piste National is particularly popular as the longest run in the region, and advanced skiers can take to the chairlift to La Toule to find a challenge. Crans-Montana is known for having broad carving pistes which means that skiers and snowboarders can use them safely side-by-side. You can enjoy night skiing on some of the pistes, and if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can organize a torch-lit descent.

In winter, all the golf courses are transformed into havens for cross country skiers and hikers. Mountain bikers will also find a place for themselves with 117 km of marked pistes, two downhill runs and the Kona Bikepark.

If you decide to plan a holiday to Crans-Montana, this additional link may come in handy.

Featured Accommodation in Crans-Montana

Tsaumiau Apartment:

This 6 room accommodation can sleep up to 10 people, so it’s a great location to bring a group of friends for a winter holiday.

Crans-Montana I       Crans-Montana II

Saas-Fee

Saas-Fee Final Photo

Until the 14th century, Saas was the only community in the Saas Valley. However since then, Saas has grown and transformed into four different villages. One of them became Saas-Fee –  “The Pearl of the Alps.” The village is situated on a plateau above the other three communities – Saas-Grund, Saas Almagell and Saas Balen. Saas-Fee has been declared a “miniature Zermatt” and is a charming Alpine village with its streets lined with chalets. Similar to other mountain villages, it is car free, so you can figure on a peaceful community for your winter holiday. Not to mention, Saas-Fee is encompassed by 13 mountain peaks, so you’ll constantly be surrounded by the dazzling Alpine scenery.

Saas-Fee Blog Photo

Saas-Fee offers several lofty pistes. Some reaching up to 3,600 metres, so you can also be certain of snow. Slopes are also serviced by 95 snow cannons to ensure that you have plenty of the white fluff to make a successful descent. The resort provides 150 km of slopes for skiers of all levels and 4 different snow parks. Getting around the slopes in Saas-Fee is convenient with 22 railways leading to the pistes, including the Metro Alpine that takes people to the world’s highest revolving restaurant.

Saas Fee is also known for favouring winter hikers. The area has 20 km of trails for winter hiking in order for adventurers to admire the beautiful landscape. There are also various toboggan runs in the valley as another alternative to skiing. The longest run is 11 km from Kreuzboden to Saas-Grund and has become a favorite run of the locals.

Take a look at this link for some more information about Saas-Fee.

Featured Accommodation in Saas-Fee

Allegra:

This apartment is modern, chic, and the perfect place to relax after a day out on the slopes.

Allegra I      Allegra II

Allegra III      Allegra IV

Nendaz

Nendaz Final Photo

Nendaz is located on a mountainside overlooking the Rhone Valley. The village originally started as a farming community, but over time it transformed into a winter holiday destination and ski resort area. However, that farming tradition is still evident in remaining cow sheds, barns, grain stores, fruit orchards and the annual alphorn festival. Nendaz is known as being an affordable and family-friendly ski resort. The village is fairly large and is full of chalets and apartments, shops and a variety of bars and restaurants.

Photo Credit: vasile23@Flickr.

Photo Credit: vasile23@Flickr.

Nendaz is situated in the four valleys ski region in Switzerland – along with Verbier, Veysonnaz, La Tsoumaz and Thyon. However, Nendaz is the best for children and beginners with their exceptional nursery slopes and the wide blues on Tracouet. Intermediate skiers will be thrilled with good carving runs from the top of the Alpage, and expert skiers can try their luck on off-pistes routes that the four valleys is known for. There are also back country skiing options that advanced skiers can try, starting with Siviez-Chassoure route and building up to the Tortin Wall, which has been listed as one of the “scariest ski runs in the world.”

Boards may not appreciate the gradient-lacking tracks from one valley to the next, but they will be sure to love the two snowparks that Nendaz offers. There is the Nendaz Snowpark for beginners, and the Burton Progression Park which is geared more towards advanced boarders. Visitors to Nendaz can find alternative winter activities on 12 km of cross-country ski trails, 100 km of winter hiking trails and 40 km of snowshoe routes.

If you would like to plan a holiday in Nendaz, here is some additional information to help.

Featured Accommodation in Nendaz

Les Roches Apartment:

This beautiful and luxurious apartment sleeps up to eight people in 4 bedrooms. The accommodation also includes a sauna, hot tub, children’s play equipment, and a storage room for ski equipment.

Les Roches I      Les Roches II

Les Roches III      Les Roches IV

In case you would like to plan your winter holiday for somewhere else, check out the other regions in Switzerland that Loving Apartments offers accommodation:

Alpes Vaudoises                                                       Bernese Mittelland

Central Switzerland                                                Eastern Switzerland

Freiburg                                                                        Jura

Lake Geneva                                                               Lake Zurich

Mittelbunden                                                             Surselva

Ticino                                                                              Bernese Oberland