French holiday homes:a direct train from St Pancras takes you straight to Van Gogh's Alpilles - or 'Little Alps'

Olive groves and pretty villages draw Londoners to the Provençal mountain range in search of a way of life that charmed Van Gogh.

South of Avignon and north of Marseille the Alpilles includes some of the most prized villages and towns in Provence. Eygalières, St Rémy-de-Provence and Maussane form a golden triangle of traditional pale stone beauty where leafy plane trees shade village squares and thriving weekly farmers’ markets wind along narrow streets.

The Alpilles — the little Alps — refers to the low-level, rugged mountain range that runs east to west and can be clearly seen throughout the region. Below the white stone peaks the countryside is peppered with olive groves, cypress trees and pine forests and flooded with an inspirational light. This is the Provence of post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh who painted his Starry Night while lodging in St Rémy.

PEACE AND SIMPLICITY AWAIT

“When visitors think of Provence they think of St Rémy and these beautiful villages,” says Corinne Allione-Jontel of Savills associates Valancogne & Partners. “Buyers come here for the peace and the great quality of life. They like to live simply, to buy fresh seasonal food at local markets and entertain at home with family and friends.”

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£1 million: 18th-century three-bedroom house in Eygalières. Through Savills

Property prices in the Alpilles are 20 to 25 per cent higher than next door in the more seasonal Luberon but far more affordable than in Provençal hotspots nearer Nice. They are about 30 per cent below Grasse, for example, and while Eygalières’ population of 1,900 triples in the summer months, it remains substantially less touristy. Property divides into village homes or rural living.

Typical Valancogne & Partners properties (through Savills) include £388,000 for a small village house in Eygalières with no pool, to £1.5 million for an extensive 8,720sq ft rural property in six acres with four separate one-bedroom gîtes.

An 18th-century village house in the heart of Eygalières with vaulted ceilings, three bedrooms, parking and a good-size pool is £1 million. It has a large, independent whitewashed artist studio with a wood-burning stove that would make a perfect Airbnb rental apartment. From the front courtyard a gate opens directly on to the Friday market, yet the home is private, quiet and delightfully quirky.

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£925,000: restored open-plan house in Eygalières with pool. Through Savills

On the edge of the village in a small community, an easy walk from the centre, Savills is also selling a four-bedroom, fully furnished, Eighties open-plan house that has been skilfully renovated and extended. At £925,000, it has lime-washed beams, typical Provençal ceilings, a huge fireplace and a manageable garden with swimming pool and views of the Alpilles.

“British and Parisian buyers are our main market,” says Allione-Jontel. “They look for traditional Provençal homes, either a typical country farmhouse or a house in a village or town. They like the understated and private charm where they can have year-round life and good transport links.”

DIRECT TRAINS TO ST PANCRAS

Marseille airport is an hour away while medieval Avignon and its modern TGV high-speed train station is within 30 minutes. Trains from Avignon connect directly to St Pancras in six hours.

Independent property search agent Sophia van Woensel-Mose, of Provence Search, says the combination of characterful villages in a small area, excellent transport links and easy access to the beautiful, culture-packed cities of Avignon and Arles sets the Alpilles apart from the rest of Provence.

“From an investment viewpoint it is better to buy a stone house with garden and small pool in a less attractive village than a village house with no outside space in a prime village,” she adds. 


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