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TRAVEL: SPLASH OUT ON A VILLA WITH POOL ON A VILLA WITH POOL.

Byline: Gill Williams

Make a splash this summer by taking over a villa with a private swimming pool. This year there are more villas on offer than ever before which means cheaper prices and a greater choice of location, from holiday favourites like Majorca to exotic Marrakesh. GILL WILLIAMS picks out the best...

MAJORCA

WHAT'S IT LIKE? With its rustic stone walls and beamed ceilings, C'an Bauca looks like one of the centuries-old manors you find dotted around the Campos countryside. Yet this four-bedroom villa with its stylish Spanish interior and swimming pool is two years old and comes with all mod cons. You'll need to hire a car to get about, but three miles away is Es Trenc, one of the best beaches on Majorca...as long as nude sunbathers don't make you blush. Pick up all you need for a barbecue by the pool at the Tuesday and Saturday markets held in Campos, which is about four miles from the villa.

BEST FOR: Mum, dad and the kids

TAKE THE PLUNGE: A week's rental in May costs pounds 570 total (pounds 71.25pp) and car hire from pounds 137 through The Villa Collection, tel 01753 853 737 or www.thevilla-collection.co.uk Flights from Coventry to Palma mid-May cost pounds 135pp return including tax through www.thomsonfly.com See the website for other departure airports.

pounds 71 per person

FRANCE

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Buy cognac direct from the producers when you spend a week at Les Peches de Vigne. This old country house in the Cognac region is surrounded by vineyards and distilleries producing France's most famous brandy. The house sleeps eight in four bedrooms decorated in Louis XVIth-style period furnishings but with all the mod cons while gardens surround its own pool. Get your groceries in the pretty village of Mouthiers four miles away, shop for porcelain in Limoges or pick up some seafood in the old port town of La Rochelle. Take the kids to the seaside along the Charente Maritime and to the La Marais aux Oiseaux bird park on the Ile d'Oleron, France's biggest island after Corsica.

BEST FOR: Foodies

TAKE THE PLUNGE: The house sleeps up to nine and costs from pounds 792 total (pounds 88pp) per week including ferry crossings for two cars and passengers via Calais. Book through Just France, tel 020 8780 4480.

pounds 88 per person

FLORIDA

WHAT'S IT LIKE? Keep watch for an alligator snoozing beside your pool when you take over a holiday home near the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Naples, Florida. Parkwood Home is just a stone's throw from one of the state's best-known wildlife parks - and just a 90-minute drive from the equally wild nightlife of Miami. Take a picnic to the beach at Delnor Wiggins State Park and watch the sun go down from Naples pier. The house is in the Park Shore quarter near the shops and restaurants of the Village on Venetian Bay. There's enough room for eight with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and, of course, that private pool.

BEST FOR: Perfect for two families who want to get away together.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: You can rent Parkwood Home for pounds 1,495 total (pounds 187pp) for a week between April 25 and December 15. Budget for around pounds 410pp for fly/drive packages - all through Florida Vacations, tel 01582 469 6661 or www.vacationsgroup.co.uk

pounds 187 per person

MOROCCO

WHAT'S IT LIKE?Live like a sultan when you splash out on a villa with its own pool, hammam spa, chef - and cinema.

Seven individually- designed double bedrooms built around a courtyard and a swimming pool the size of the kasbah make the Ezzahra near Marrakesh look more like a hotel than a villa.

The house is surrounded by 21/2 acres of grounds shaded by olive trees, orange and lemon groves and date palms. Laze by the pool where towels and sun hats are provided. Your chef - along with nine other staff - will serve dinner in the dining room after cocktails on the terrace. And Marrakesh is close by.

BEST FOR: Grown-ups who are aiming to spoil themselves rotten.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: A week's rental with all meals, flights from London Gatwick and private transfers costs pounds 1,376pp when 14 share through Prestige Holidays (call 01425 480400). The company donates pounds 1 to Macmillan Cancer Relief for every customer they book.

pounds 1,376 per person

PAXOS

WHAT'S IT LIKE?Who cares if the Ionian is a little chilly for a dip early season when you have your own private pool? Set up the picnic table for lazy lunches in the olive grove when you rent a traditional stone house with pool on the island of Paxos, Corfu's smaller and less boisterous neighbour. The two-bedroom Dorea Villa in Geromonahos has a large sun terrace with stunning views. About 80 per cent of the island is covered in olive trees claimed to produce the best virgin olive oil in Greece. So when you do have to leave, take home as many bottles as you can carry. Paxos is best in the spring or autumn when the waterside tables in the tavernas of Gaios and Lakka aren't overrun with cruising yachties and daytrippers from Corfu.

BEST FOR: Couples who want to avoid the crowds.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: A week's rental for four people from May 2 costs pounds 238pp including flights from Gatwick through Olympic Holidays. The price includes car hire, tel 0870 429 4242 or www.olympicholidays.co.uk

pounds 238 per person

CRETE

WHAT'S IT LIKE?The sea is warm enough for a dip in Crete by mid-May when early-season discounts give you the chance to take over the six-bedroom Villa Metapothia at prices that won't break the bank. French windows open on to private terraces from four of the bedrooms while the remaining two have their own entrances beside the pool. The villa has sweeping views of the White Mountains and also down to the sea. Keep fit with laps in the large pool or soak in the jacuzzi after long walks in the country, following trails to hilltop villages or down the famous Samaria Gorge. May is a good time to visit western Crete when herbs and flowers add an extra something to a walk in the country.

BEST FOR: Energetic families

TAKE THE PLUNGE: A week's rental from May 3 costs pounds 775 when eight share (pounds 96.87pp) with Gatwick to Chania flights at pounds 219pp through Freelance Holidays, tel 01789 297705 or see www.freelance- holidays.co.uk

pounds 97 per person

ALGARVE

WHAT'S IT LIKE?Escape the crowds when you take over the Casa Cahombo on a hilltop a few miles inland from Portugal's Algarve coast. The villa has seven bedrooms in the main house and two annexes. It's a contemporary villa looking out across a large terrace to the swimming pool and beyond to the mountains of Monchique and the Atlantic Ocean. Stock up on fresh sardines at the fish market in Portimao for a traditional Portuguese barbecue. Make daytrips to the beach (if you can drag yourself away from the pool) and to old Moorish towns like Silves or pretty fishing villages like Alvor. Treat the kids to a day at Zoo Marine near Albufeira or challenge them to a game of mini golf at Krazy World.

BEST FOR: Friends who, like you, have loads of children.

TAKE THE PLUNGE: The whole property is priced from pounds 1,169 in May when 14 share (pounds 83.50pp) Flights to the Algarve from Manchester start from about pounds 149pp (Gatwick pounds 129, Glasgow pounds 169) and car hire from pounds 129 for the week, all through The Villa Collection, tel 01753 853 737 or see www.thevilla-collection.co.uk

pounds 83 per person

CAPTION(S):

Villa Mustupta Amagat on Menorca is a converted farmhouse with its own pool
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 10, 2005
Words:1320
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