04 November 2011 by Jessica Boston and Greg Poole
Meet the Owner: Villa Charmante, Provence
Greg Poole has been renting out holiday homes for 23 years. Originally from New Zealand, he moved to the UK as a teenager and attended university before starting a career in marketing. Greg’s passion for old buildings led him to begin restoring houses as a hobby; this soon evolved into a full-time business which established the portfolio of holiday lets in the UK and France that Greg now markets, manages and lets out to holidaymakers under the “Select Cottages” brand.
Greg currently owns twelve properties in all, including four charmingly restored cottages in Brittany and the stunning Villa Charmante in Provence.
Finding the perfect villa in Provence
Villa Charmante was purchased in the early 1990s. “I wanted to expand into Provence because the weather is so wonderful the letting season can last from Easter to October” said Greg “I was looking for something to do up, the other properties I have were literally in ruins when I got them and the process of faithfully restoring old property gives me such a buzz!” Nothing seemed quite right but eventually an agent took Greg to view a new property that was made with reclaimed materials for a traditional local feel. “The moment I walked in it was just ‘Wow!’” remembers Greg, “I knew instantly I had to have it, and that my customers would get that same ‘Wow!’ I did when they arrived”.
The exposed beams, local Salernes tiles, antique doors and traditional features give the property character and the idyllic setting with outdoor pool and built-in bbq is private yet convenient, only a few minutes walk from the Clavier village with its bakery, market, park, restaurants and bars. With minor adjustments including some landscaping to make the most of the wonderful views and the addition of a wood burning stove, fireplace and comfortable furniture, the house was ready for rental.
Managing holiday properties
Greg currently lives in Cheltenham with his wife and two young sons. He visits his properties to do pre and post season inspections and maintenance and for family holidays each year. Between visits he has trusted local people to manage the properties; Claude and Juliette have looked after Villa Charmante for over15 years; they are now in their 70s and have help with the practical side of things, but they are still on hand to offer friendly advice about the local area.
“Being able to visit the villa every year is one of the perks of this job” says Greg “We love the weather and the area is just beautiful, I always take a jog a mile and a half up the mountain to the Chapel of St Anne – it’s well worth a walk for the wonderful views over the three local villages of Claviers, Callas and Bergeman.” The family also enjoy trips to the sandy beach at Frejus, people watching in glamorous St Tropez and visits to the Gorge du Verdon, France’s Grand Canyon, where they hire pedalos to explore the gorge and picnic by the river – it’s a perfect family day out.
“I love hearing what a wonderful time people have had at the villa, we go the extra mile to make sure our guests are happy, it’s great to be involved in making people’s holidays really special. We often get repeat bookings and people recommending the villa to friends so we know we’re offering what people want and that’s even more important now money is tighter for everyone. You need to keep up with the trends to be successful in this business these days so we’re now offering flexible changeover days and 10 day breaks to fit in with economy air travel offers”.
Greg hopes to develop the business as the economy improves, adding to the property portfolio and employing his daughter, Natasha (22). Natasha has recently completed her studies at Oxford and is currently training as a professional tri-athlete.
Greg Poole’s top tips when visiting Var in Provence:
- Take a day trip to the Gorge du Verdon whether you canoe, pedalo or simply paddle – it’s an amazing place to visit.
- Always eat at the local restaurants. I recommend Domain la Maurette in La Motte – situated on a vineyard this restaurant serves provencal dishes made from home grown produce and is a favourite with the locals. Also try Restaurant Olivier in Claviers – lovely local food and wine and only a ten minute walk home!
- Soak up the glamour in St Tropez! See the yachts, super cars and mingle with the rich and famous – it’s a must!