Villa Guru: The Authentic Experiences of Off-Season Travel



Villa Guru is new monthly column written one of LaCure’s travel experts, providing the kind of intel that makes the difference between a trip and a true travel experience.

Travel used to have its seasons. People would go south in the winter and early spring, or travel to Europe in late spring and summer. But now popular destinations are becoming all-season.

It’s not just that people are looking for off-season price breaks. You might get a discount going to the Caribbean in the summer, but Europe in the winter holiday season is still full price. But more and more knowledgeable travellers want to experience Christmas and New Year’s in centres of civilization, like Paris or Florence, perhaps renting one of our luxury apartments.

They can enjoy that trifecta of great food, culture and history, while staying in a pampering LivingRoom_04residence with all the amenities. They have a more intimate, authentic experience in these destinations without the usual tourist hordes. There’s no three-hour lineup to see the statue of David at the Accademia. When you go to restaurants, you are more likely to be eating beside locals than in high season.

For this last New Year, we had an extended family of 26 renting a fabulous chateau in Avignon that dates back to the 14th century and was once a stopover for Church dignitaries waiting to have an audience with the Pope. We  organized a wonderful staff, complete with chefs, butlers, waiters and concierge and put up New Year’s decorations. By day the guests explored the little towns in Provence, finding restaurants, going for wine tastings, buying at local markets. In the evenings they returned to the full comfort of the villa, with its extensive grounds. They also rented a piano so they could sing their way into the New Year.

Or last year, we had a New York family rentReadingRoom_03 our Villa Rosalba, in the country just west of Florence, for Christmas. Their family came from the region, so they wanted to return to their roots for the holiday. By the day, they might go to Florence to shop, dine, visit museums and see friends. In the evenings they had a special winter treat, going to the open-air, hot spring spas that are Tuscany’s answer to the Blue Lagoon.

Many of their meals were cooked by a ‘Tuscan Mama,’ who made authentic local dishes, with pastas, sausages and so on, served with hearty local wines. And for other meals they would either go out or have a chef come in, to do a gourmet meal in the villa, with each course paired perfectly with an exquisite wine.

Our person on the ground went above and beyond duty to make sure the group had all sorts of unexpected extras, including complete Christmas decorations and even presents under the tree for the kids.

Some travel companies over-promise and under-deliver. We strive to make sure that our guests always get more than they expect.

Jaime2_staffimage—As LaCure’s Head Concierge, Jaime Milburn is also its chief Villa Guru, crafting unique holiday experiences for the world’s most discriminating travellers.

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