Apartment or Hotel? Which is best?

Which is best? Well, during our recent holiday in the South of France, we decided to try both options. Here are my thoughts…

Apartment in Antibes

AirBnB rents homes in 192 countries world wide. The business of renting rooms, apartments or whole houses has grown rapidly over recent years. We used AirBnB in Rome and enjoyed a week in a superb apartment near the railway station, shops and main tourist areas. This time we rented an apartment in Antibes, Cote d’Azur and although ok, not ideal.

This taught me a lesson to research thoroughly. Although to be fair, this has been the first time I’ve been unsuccessful in gaining an ideal holiday space. The main problem, on this occasion, was location. Antibes is a beautiful town but we weren’t within walking distance of the bars and restaurants. I learnt about the public transport but unfortunately buses stopped running at 9.30 pm. Then I had the brainwave we could walk a mile to the nearby railway station and get a train. However, they were all cancelled due to a strike. Aaaagh. So, we made the best of it and a couple of evenings we just got a taxi home, one evening we stayed in and the rest we went home early. No big deal.

The flat was ok but probably more suitable for a millennial. Rather basic, full of storage boxes, which is fair enough, and without enough towels and sheets. We arrived to be told the sheets weren’t dry and only one bath towel each (no hand towels). During the week, Hubby unblocked the sink for the owner and I watered the plants. We found the hose by accident. Instructions were written, in French, on some note paper and the owner texted me (often) during the week, for one reason or another.

From this experience, I’ve learnt if you are going to rent a place abroad, one needs to research thoroughly. I enjoyed watering the plants in the evening and there was plenty of space. Most things wrong with the flat (cooker, bed, stuff) were fine just for a week but as I’ve said, I have learnt from the experience…

Tips:

Location – If twenty minutes away from a town find out whether it is by car or not! If you want to be near bars/restaurants then make sure you are.

Check reviews – Work out whether they are valid or concocted by the owner’s mates. Are they written by the same age group, different nationalities and time periods?

Room type – Room, whole apartment or entire house? Check to see if it is the owner’s home. This makes a difference as you are likely to have their stuff all around you.

Amenities – Wifi, TV, Kitchen, towels, sheets and is the pool area actually open when you are at said residence? (Yes, you’ve guessed correctly.. it was closed.)

Host – Language and responsive? Ours host was very responsive…

Photos of residence – Check them carefully.

 

Hotel – Juan Les Pins

During our first visit to Juan Les Pins, I discovered that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there during 1925 to 1927. This became the place to stay for the wealthy during the warm summers of the ‘20s and 30s.

The Belles Rives Hotel, Juan Les Pins, Cote d’Azur

 

When I first visited the area I couldn’t believe how much I adored the place. It had a ‘20s feel about it. So I looked online and discovered that Fitzgerald had enjoyed living in Juan Les Pins, as described above. Now I’m not easily impressed but when we investigated, the now Belles Rives Hotel, I was swept away by the beauty of the place. Not normally stupefied by luxury, etc. this was different. I fell in love with the place. It helps that I’ve read all of Fitzgerald’s work and actually adore his writing. It concentrates on an underlying social commentary, rich juxtaposed with poor, but focuses more on parodying society as he explores space, the historical changes of the female and their ensuing relationships and attitudes towards men. He creates a panorama of life by moving from scene to scene, and character to character with no event or character usually standing out from the rest.

Last year, we went to lunch at the Belles Rives Hotel, and as I was shown to my seat, by the water, I felt quite emotional. The scene before me, as I sat down, was beautiful and captivating. I will never forget that moment. The meal was delicious, the waitress lovely and the food, delicious.

This year, we decided to stay for three nights and once again the whole experience was superb. Expensive, but worth every penny. We enjoyed a comprehensive breakfast and on a couple of evenings enjoyed supreme dinners. One dinner in their sister hotel, The Juan, and on our final night, a Michelin Star meal in the Belles Rives dining room. The standard of everything is extremely high and it is fun to treat yourself once in a while. The hotel visitors seem to absorb the style and beauty of the splendid house and enjoyed having a special treat. Yes, it caters for celebrity and the wealthy but so what? It manages to keep the original furniture, style and elegance as when Fitzgerald resided there.

Which is best and why?

I enjoyed both experiences. The apartment suits me because I like shopping in foreign supermarkets, buying food and cooking. Recently, I’ve joked about preparing artisan sandwiches for our lunch too. You can come and go as you please or just chill out and relax if you return home early.

The hotel is fun too and although ridiculously lavish, great fun to be spoilt rotten. Probably, if you work long hours and want a relaxing break, this may be the best option. However, if you are out and about, then a pack lunch, hire car and your own space, is rather splendid too.

Cap d’Antibes – Coastal Walk

This walk captures the beauty of the Cote d’Azur and is a superb way of ingratiating yourself into the natural environment of this area. Plus the simple fact that your can park for free at the Plage de la Garoupe beach and then feed your soul with the magnificent 5k walk. It only takes about a couple of hours and is well worth doing. The walk can be rocky in places so do wear trainers or sensible footwear.

Cote d’Azur is known for magnificent properties, manicured gardens and superfluous wealth but this walk is surprisingly simple and enjoys a wild natural landscape. Also, you have the Mercantour National Park and the Estérel mountains to savour as you scramble carefully over the rocks.

On one occasion, I nearly fell because I was so busy looking at the clear blue sea, mountains, flowers and resplendent landscape. Parts of the path are properly built pathways but then dissipate into rocks, beach, and steep steps so can be precarious.

The limestone cliffs are very pretty because they are covered in glorious vivid flora, olive trees, exotic cacti and the cumbersome agaves. The blend of crystal clear blue water, rocky coves and mother nature is spectacular.

The final part of the walk is along a road called Avenue de Beaumont and then along Avenue de la Tour Gandolphe. Make time to enjoy the gardens and general serene landscape of this gorgeous vicinity, and then when you locate the beach, you can then enjoy some refreshment at the beach café and languish some more. Great fun.

Margate, England

Feel compelled to write about my wonderful day out at Margate because it is such a fabulous place, these days. Visited yesterday, so decided to write this impromptu blog post about my adventures…

I started off with a visit to the Turner Contemporary and viewed an exhibition called Animals and Us. All about the examination of humans and animals and concentrating on modern and historical art works and installations. An unusual exhibition which displays our distance and closeness with animals using symbolism, cultural and experimental views.

Next stop was lunch at the Sands Hotels. I sat next to the large window with the most spectacular view of Margate beach. Had goats cheese mousse, beef and Etonian mess. Fantastic, not expensive and once again, I felt quite spoilt.

Then I wandered around the beach area, had a few soft drinks, enjoyed the views and realised, as I was relaxing, that I should frequent Margate more often. Going to the beach for a day is like having a mini holiday because it is so much fun and very relaxing.

Then I had a look around the Shell Grotto which was discovered during 1835. Nobody knows why it was built and who was responsible for this incredible tunnel full of shells. Ornate and quite a surreal structure. Apparently, the folks of Margate have argued about the grotto’s origins ever since it was discovered. Rather a perplexing matter. Maybe an ancient pagan temple or meeting place? Very odd.

Popped in a burger place then the, what must be, the world’s most quirkiest micro pub, Fez. Really fun place, full of quirky artefacts, vinyl music and a warm welcome. What a day!

Fez

Margate has a fantastic selection of micro pubs, cafes, galleries and of course, a wonderful beach. Can highly recommend. I left Margate walking along the promenade whilst viewing this amazing sunset!

Thanks for reading my blogs. Don’t forget to follow…

Source: http://shellgrotto.co.uk

Nice, France

During our most recent visit to Nice, during April of this year, we explored the historical Old Town. The previous visit was August 2017 and rather hot. I’ve included some photos from the August 2017 visit, to show the superb Nice park and how much the French children enjoy it. Well, not just the children, but adults too. Note the two chaps doing handstands; they weren’t young!

Nice has a long, pebble beach with the bluest sea I’ve had the pleasure to see. In fact, the first time I visited Nice (about 5 years ago), I remember an overwhelming joyous feeling upon viewing the vivid azure water and felt like I’d come home. (Still feel like that, but really adore Juan Les Pins, as the place to stay.) The coastal area of Nice, is called Promenade des Anglais (Promenade of the English). This is because the wealthy English aristocracy spent time in Nice because of the fine weather and panorama along the curving coast. You will see palm trees, pergolas, walkers and lots of French people with small dogs. They seem to love their little dogs and quite right too.

During a bad English winter in 1820, the Rev. Lewis employed workmen to build a promenade and it became France’s first piece of tourism infrastructure. It derives much of an Italian influence because it was the Kingdom of Sardinia. Not until the Treaty of Turin in 1860, did Nice become integrated with France. It was also part of the Grand Tour, which wealthy people enjoyed during the 18th century. This was a long holiday and they enjoyed extensive travelling through France and Italy whilst taking in the cultural sights. When I studied literature, I remember reading about Wordsworth and Coleridge undertaking such a journey.

The region has a splendid mix of beach life, shops, restaurants, hotels, history, architecture and a useful tram going through the centre of Nice. The Place Massena and surrounding area, is a spectacular city square full of bustling life and so impressive because of the Italian red ochre architecture. The lack of traffic, is an inspiring ideal and endorses a thriving Mediterranean square which is quite stunning.

The historical area is lovely with the colourful houses, winding streets, old traditional shops and markets. We ended up, eventually, at the harbour and decided to have a spot of lunch. We sat down at a busy café. They were all busy, but this one supplied a good menu so we ordered, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Obviously, the French don’t mind the interminable wait for their food. Listening uselessly to the incessant, loud chatter, I became obsessed with watching food leaving the kitchen. Well, I was just beginning to die of boredom, when the long awaited food arrived and it was, I must declare, delicious. After which, when trying to pay, the card machine wouldn’t work, and the owner started to laugh hysterically whilst pulling and pushing at the wires of the credit card machine. By this time, I strolled towards the bobbing boats thinking I may throw myself in (not really) and my husband came out joyfully saying he has now, finally, paid for our meal. Incidentally, I do prefer to pay for my drink, as in the British pub, and sit down then… well… just leave the building. Find it annoying to drink your beverage and sit there and wait and wait and then have to beg a server for the bill.

Anyway, I can certainly recommend Nice for a long weekend away or holiday. It has an abundance of history, culture, coastal and culinary delights. It is the fifth largest city in France and is exciting and interesting. The people are friendly and welcoming. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels and of course, Easy Jet flies to Nice, which is a short flight from Gatwick, London.

Source and loads of information here: https://about-france.com/cities/nice-city-guide.htm

 

Next blog postHotel or Apartment?

Is about whether it is best to stay in an apartment or a hotel plus some tips about what to look out for when choosing holiday accommodation.

 

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence

 

Once again, I was lucky enough to enjoy a ten day holiday on the Côte d’Azur. We stayed in Antibes for a week and then went to my favourite place, Juan Les Pins for the last three days. During this exquisite holiday we did visit the Provence area and one of the places we explored is the beautiful Saint Paul de Vence.

We parked on the hill near the actual village. It is bizarre how the village looks miles away, but is, in fact, a short stroll from the car park. We passed the chaps playing boules and I wondered (out loud) why all the players are male? We assume this is how some of the retired French chaps spend their retirement.

The rocky outcrop of this omnipresent village, St Paul de Vence, is certainly one of the most fascinating villages to visit. As you drive towards the village, it appears to be both floating and protruding amongst the surrounding landscape of the Provence. No wonder it attracted artists such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse,  James Baldwin, Jean-Paul Satre, Picasso and the Rolling Stones bassist, Bill Wyman is said to have a home in this area.

The walls of this historic village are from the mid-15th century and astonishingly have not changed since they were built. St Paul de Vence itself is serene and compelling, especially if you like contemporary art and beautiful views. The winding paths are enveloped by beautiful scenery and copious art galleries. To be honest, this is my idea of bliss; an array of paintings, sculptures, drawing you into the artistic spaces.

Love this window display…

It is also fun to lose yourself in the maze of ancient paths, curious street sculptors, ceramics, fountains, flowers and spectacular landscape. If you wander away from the crowds, as we did, you enjoy the quiet back streets and views of the superlative Côte d’Azur. Such a haven for dripping plants, arty discoveries and inspiring views, particularly if you are creative.

Whilst visiting a quiet area, we heard a car coming and rapidly stepped to one side. A large gleaming Bentley, shimmering in the sun, stopped abruptly at large gates. The driver waved to thank us for jumping out of the way. The man in the back had a rugged look about him and wore a floppy hat. Wondered who that was? Beautiful, old car. Oh, that’s the other thing about this region of the world, you see some glorious, classic cars.

This magnificent village is a great place to wander and enjoy some ice cream, cuisine, art, sculpture, historical architecture and scenery. Great to see how well this village has been preserved among the citrus trees, flowers and vineyards. We visited at the end of April and it was fairly busy, so it is probably packed during July and August. This ubiquitous place is truly wonderful, insightful and uplifting, so I’m not really surprised.

It is 7km from Cagnes sur Mer and between Nice and Antibes. Do visit and more travel posts coming up.

Source and loads of info here: saint-pauldevence.com

Chilham, Bluebells and Whitstable

Chilham Castle in the distance…

 

We decided to venture out for a day in Chilham for a bluebell walk which was organised by the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry). Luckily, we were blessed with a warm, sunny day and arrived an hour early due to my husband’s keenness for punctuality! The village is small with a medieval square overlooked by the impressive and imposing Chilham Castle. We wandered around hoping to find a tea shop open for a quick cuppa, but nothing opened until ten o’clock. They maybe missing a business trick here. It didn’t matter, it is wonderful to stroll around and take photos including the Tudor houses and St. Mary’s Church.

Chilham

Everyone arrived and met at Shelly’s tea shop, which was also irritatingly shut, and we introduced ourselves and ventured forth towards King’s Wood. The landscape and woodland around Chilham is truly exquisite and the bluebells just seem to become more impressive as the walk continued.

The walking folks were very friendly and I discussed my interest in health and fitness with a lady called Kate who was into fitness and yoga, and a possible hope to do a charity 10k run in the Autumn. Everyone, was very encouraging, but I’m still considering the challenge because trust me, it will be a massive task for me.

Some scientific conversations did ensue and we heard an interesting story about how nerve gas doesn’t dissipate into the atmosphere and could be doing the rounds on our currency! Then we were told a tale about when currency is scientifically examined, all sorts of drug traces are found…

The walk was fun and it is always interesting to chat to new people and hear their take on life. The views are incredible around Chilham and I’m sure the castle is well worth a visit too.

Whitstable…

 

After we had our lunch, we drove to Whitstable and after eventually parking the car, we wandered along the sea front. My goodness, it was busy. Apparently, this is where London people go to at the weekend. In other words, it has become the trendy place to visit. It shows too. All the old huts and houses have been painted and refurbished and of course, the property prices have, no doubt, shot up.

To be fair, it is a great place to visit with the selection of arty galleries, shops, (micro) pubs, restaurants, etc. We have decided to come back on a week day to explore properly and hopefully it won’t be quite so busy.

All in all a fabulous day out and I can’t wait to go back to Chilham and Whitstable.

Oyster stall..

 

 

Gardening, BBQs, beer and a funny story…

Can’t believe I’m revealing this, but think the gardening thing is coming back to me, a bit. During my younger days, the garden would be an escape. Hubby came home from work and enjoyed bathing and reading the children a bedtime story.

I used to sow seeds in the greenhouse and then plant them out in May and continue to tend the flowers, weed, prune and so on. During their teen years, I succumbed to study, because of my love of all thing literature and I guess that took over. Now they descend on us for Sunday roasts and summer bbqs and we have a fabulous time, putting the world to rights and enjoying a glass 🥃 of something…or two.

This year, I was dreading the gardening season (don’t succumb to soil activities in the winter) because it looked so overgrown. However, it has now been weeded and I somehow found the strength to mow the annoyingly long grass.

In the UK, the weather has suddenly improved. The everlasting grey clouds have been replaced by some white clouds and sun. It won’t last, but it is lovely while here. This has motivated me into a flurry of cleaning and gardening. What is surprising, is this year, I’m actually embracing the glorious weather and garden. We’ve even been to the garden centre to buy a supply of gardening acrutriments and plants. This includes copious amounts of gardening gloves, for our precious hands, garden forks and bbq tools, so the hubster doesn’t burn himself whilst turning the flaming meat over. Yes, we have a new bbq, bought by the kiddies. The previous one was disintegrating before our eyes.

Everybody visited on Sunday, for a bbq: “The weather is looking good for the weekend, so shall we try out the new bbq?” Son asks, with a cheeky smirk on his face.
I agreed, because I’m determined to enjoy, or endure, more bbqs this summer. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it rained. Luckily, we changed the time and cooked and entertained at lunch time, eat inside and then chilled out in my summerhouse. Beer was involved. Well you need to keep warm somehow, don’t you? We watched the rain pour down, but being typically British stayed huddled in the summer house.

My son-in-law, arrived during this time and after some painful deliberation, my hubby, bravely ventured out into the pouring rain, to unlock the garden gate. He arrived at the summerhouse, for some reason, declaring “You are all mad!” The summerhouse is not large. We huddled some more, I was introduced to a beer called ‘Elvis Juice’ and a funny tale (more later), the chaps then escaped and lit the chimnea. Then we huddled around that instead.

What a splendid day.

Oh, the strange tale… Apparently, the Elvis Estate, in their wisdom, decided to object to BrewDog naming the beer Elvis Juice. So, the BrewDog owners/brewers, in their wisdom, apparently, changed their names to Elvis! Well, two of the brewers (owners) did. They won their case and it is still called ELVIS JUICE and is the third best selling beer in the UK!

https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/elvis-juice-here-to-stay