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.

 

Maastricht – day 4

We went for another decadent breakfast and then enjoyed wandering around the Friday morning market. It exudes a buzz and is very busy. The market is clearly a successful one which has everything including, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, toiletries, flowers, clothes and copious amounts of fabric and sewing stalls. Obviously, the Dutch love to sew because the amount of fabric stalls frequented by locals was extraordinary. Quite envious of the market because you could acquire much of the weekly food shop there.

During the afternoon, we strolled into the local park, visited an old mill and sat and had a cuppa in a busy square. The sun was shining and we enjoyed bitterballen and beer too. Once we languished in the sun, we didn’t really want to move.

My overall impression of Maastricht was very good. Lovely place, with great architecture (historical and modern), bars, restaurants, parks, river and shops. Very relaxing place to visit and easy to drive to from Calais. A great holiday with plenty of food, drink and walking. One day we walked over 19,000 steps and on the quiet, easy days, we ended up walking 15,000 steps. There is hardly any traffic although you do have to watch the bikes. This makes it easy to wander and explore. Yes, a super place to visit and recommended.

Maastricht – day 2

We went to a lovely cafe for coffee and croissant for breakfast. Really enjoyed the place and they even had a glass fridge full of bottled beer. I’d love one in my home! Then headed towards the River Maas for some photos and across the bridge for even more photos. The sky was very grey and atmospheric so great for photography. We walked along the cobbled streets admiring the architecture and local life. You certainly have to watch the cyclists, some of which text as they cycle.

They have some curious shops full of funny bits which I’m sure maybe useful…somewhere. Socks with ‘i hate everyone’ on and suction tools for getting boiled eggs out of hot water. Always fun to see shops in other countries. Never buy much because cannot be bothered to cart it home. Can you?

By midday we stopped for apples and water before climbing the red tower to enjoy the view. Steep claustrophobic steps ensued. Phew. We managed it…somehow! The red tower is called Sint Janskerk and is 17th century Gothic. The red tower can be seen for miles and a wonderful, unusual sight. The limestone tower was said to originally be covered with a coat of ox blood but has been restored with normal paint. After our arduous climb we were rewarded with sweeping views of Maastricht. Quite incredible.

After this we plonked ourselves in one of the local cafes and ordered tea and bitterballen. We joked how this will become a daily 3 o’clock habit. Must say I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around and then enjoying family chatter in the cafe watching the world go by with tea and bitterballen. In the square children chased birds, bikes whizzed passed and there was a hilarious woman posing Angelina style while her hubby was trying to photo her. It did look funny watching her pose, leg out, arm on hip, holding brolly as her man was getting soaked taking the photo.

During the evening we had another jolly family meal and a wander around the narrow cobbled streets.

Visiting the Cotswolds, cake, cold weather and pubs…

Witney

 

We decided to go ahead with our visit to the Cotswolds despite the beast from the east heading our way. The weather was sunny and looked like a glorious spring day but bitterly cold. As it wasn’t grey and pouring with rain and not snowing until the following week that would be OK.

We stopped at a pretty town called Witney on the way to the Cotswolds area and enjoyed a wander around the town. Popped into a coffee shop for some quick refreshment and were duly sent upstairs because they were so busy. Amazing how coffee shops are always busy and you have to fight to find a space to sit. Anyway, we found a table and sat and admired the view of the old radio, church and common. In fact, it was so pretty, I decided to take some photos much to the fascination of the other customers.

Burford

 

Next stop was Burford, which is basically a town on a hill with far reaching views of the countryside. This place is the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ and a popular medieval wool town. Lots of stone walled buildings which are said to retain the original medieval street plan and some houses bear traces of the Middle Ages. The road runs east-west, originally past the 16th century market hall called the Tolsey which is now a local history museum. We strolled down the hill observing the views and when we came to the bottom of the hill there was a pretty stream and a house with dogs watching us through the window.

Burford

 

We stayed in a wonderful B & B guest house in Cheltenham that night, which was simply stunning. A beautiful, immaculate French colonial style villa built in 1855, called The Battledown. It is conveniently located on the east side of Cheltenham and about a mile from the main town. When we arrived, we were given a warm welcome and offered a cup of tea. So I admired the décor of the immaculate dining room and enjoyed a cuppa with homemade cookies. The owner gave us a map and information about Cheltenham and the Cotswolds and even told us about the local pub, the Sandford Park Ale House. Wonderful service and attention to detail. We were then shown our room (where our bags had already been delivered) and left to unpack.

We then walked into Cheltenham to explore the town. Was expecting something more grand to be honest, but we did enjoy a small libation in the Sandford Park Ale House, which was rather splendid and had a superb selection of ales and craft beers. I enjoyed a small Mad Goose Pale Ale, which was rather delicious.

Sandford Park Ale House

 

After a superb full English breakfast the following morning, with homemade baked beans, marmalade and banana bread we set off to explore the Cotswolds.

First stop, was a quick look at the Pittville Pump Room, which is basically a wedding venue but interesting to view nonetheless. Majestic columns, ornate interior, impressive domed ceiling and set in extensive lawns. Pleasant enough to have a quick nose around and also had a quick look inside, but scurried off when we heard the echoing footsteps.

Pittville Pump Room

 

On the way to our first stop Winchcombe, we paused to admire the countryside of Cleeve Hill. This is an area of outstanding beauty and it shows. Also known as the Cleeve Cloud, it is the highest point of the Cotswolds hill range at 1083 feet. The whole area commands some of the most breathtaking sights. Well worth taking some time to admire the local countryside and probably, like the rest of the Cotswolds, a great place for some exacting walks.

Cleeve Hill area

 

Winchcombe was our first stop and very quiet. I feared everything would be shut, but as we sauntered through the town, many places were open and the town soon came alive. Winchcombe is a pretty ancient Anglo Saxon village with the nearby Sudeley Castle. Apparently, Winchcombe means ‘valley with a bend’ and the town still has the street which does a curve along the ‘combe’. The area was known for tobacco growing which was banned in 1619 due to the interest of industry in America and the colonies.

Winchcombe

 

Next stop was Broadway and Chipping Campden. Broadway is a little different because of the broad road area. However, it is just as picturesque with an interesting heritage and was an ancient ‘ridgeway’ and the main road from Worcester to London. The high street is lined with horse chestnut trees and has a fascinating mix of period houses with the honey coloured stone cottages that are so prevalent and world famous in the Cotswolds. We enjoyed seeing some early spring flowers and blossom too. Don’t be fooled by the sunshine, it was very cold, but little did we know how cold it was going to become!

Broadway

 

Broadway

 

Onwards to Chipping Campden, where we enjoyed a memorable chocolate cake. I say cake, it was like a thick biscuit with chunks of chocolate and it was amazingly delicious. The sedate ambience was lovely and the residents are said to be fiercely protective of the woollen boom. The place is delightful and well preserved with a magnificent 15 century church and market hall built in 1627 as a centrepiece for the town.

Chipping Campden

 

Later during the afternoon, we had a brief stop at Moreton in Marsh. My husband used to visit there as a child because his parents travelled to the town to visit friends. It is a pleasant town and historically known for its coaching station before the Oxford to Worcester railway in 1853. There is an array of pubs, inns, hotels, tea shops and an elegant eighteenth-century feel to the place.

Moreton in Marsh

 

Finally, we went on to Bourton on the Water where we had booked a B & B for the night. We stayed in a great B & B guest house, the Broadlands Guest House, and welcomed by a friendly owner. The breakfast was again, splendid with very generous portions. Great value for money too.

Bourton on the Water

 

The tranquil river is fed by springs and meanders through the village which epitomises a rural England. Quaint shops, the Old Mill and the arched stone bridges are so relaxing and attractive. The earliest bridge is said to have been built 1654 (known as Broad Bridge) and that is what is so charming about the Cotswolds; it is old and has preserved its beauty.

Bourton on the Water

 

If you go to the Cotswolds, do not miss this place as it is, in my opinion, the jewel in the crown. One thing though, make sure you frequent the pub just outside of the village centre called The Mousetrap Inn. It is the pub to relax and eat in. You will enjoy a well stocked bar offering ales, lagers and ciders and has been included in the CAMRA ‘Good Beer Guide’ over several years. We enjoyed a scrumptious roast lamb and chocolate brownie. The place was busy even on a fiercely cold Monday evening so is probably heaving with people, in the summer.

Mousetrap pub

 

So for a last full day we visited Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter. The cold weather was really taking the Micky out of the glorious sunshine now, as temperatures plummeted to –2c. Most of my photography shows warm, sunny spring days, but in reality, it was so cold on this day, we could barely stay out of the car for too long!

Lower Slaughter

 

Lower Slaughter is tiny and very picturesque, although there is not a lot there the countryside and mill views are joyful and I felt this is where my photography really captured the Cotswolds. The Old Mill which was last used commercially in 1958, and the shop full of curious and unusual gifts. This place was voted Most Romantic Street in Britain (2011) and this title is probably well deserved. I wonder how many men have proposed marriage here? The name comes from the Old English name of a wetland ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’ which is Old English for muddy place.

Lower Slaugher

The ‘Most Romantic Road’ at Lower Slaughter

 

Upper Slaughter is another super place for photography and wandering aimlessly. The village is known as a Double Thankful Village because all of their members of the armed forces survived both World War I and World War II.

Upper Slaughter

 

Onwards, to Yanworth where I enjoyed some landscape photography while hubby waited patiently in the car. Can’t tell you how cold the weather was. Oh, I already have haha! Not been so cold for years and years and even wore tights under trousers! Haven’t done that since I was a young girl.

Yanworth

 

On the way home, we stopped at Cirencester which was so cold (minus 2c) and with the wind factor felt like minus 10c. We had a quick look around and enjoyed a teacake and cuppa and set off home knowing we were facing several inches of snow in Kent. We got home OK, although they shut the A21 due to a serious accident so we did a risky cross country tour and arrived home to a freezing house because the heating had inadvertently turned off.

Cirencester

 

To sum up, I can highly recommend the Cotswolds area and thoroughly recommend you take the above route through the beautiful stone villages and enjoy visiting…

Witney

Burford

Cheltenham

Cleeve Hill

Winchcombe

Broadway

Chipping Campden

Moreton in Marsh

Bourton on the Water

Lower Slaughter

Upper Slaughter

Yanworth

Cirencester

 

Hopefully, it will be sunny but not quite as cold. Thank you for reading this rather long epistle on the Cotswolds. A truly wonderful, outstanding area of natural beauty.

On the way home, we visited Chipping Norton and saw this amazing building which fascinated us so much we stopped the car and went for a walk towards it so I could take some photos. I’ve since discovered it is called Bliss Tweed Mill, which manufactured tweed and became a listed building around 1980 (Grade II). The Mill was built in 1872 for cloth manufacturer William Bliss and designed by George Woodhouse of Bolton. The chimney stack is styled as a tall Tuscan column and supported by cast iron columns. The mill prospered in the First World War after a large order for khaki cloth for the British Army, was received. The mill closed in 1980 and was converted to residential apartments during the end of the ‘80s.

Bliss Tweed Mill

 

 

Links and sources:

http://www.thebattledown.co.uk/home/4583623248

http://www.broadlandsguesthouse.com/

http://www.spalehouse.co.uk/

http://www.cotswolds.info/places/winchcombe.shtml

https://www.broadway-cotswolds.co.uk/

http://www.themousetrapinn.co.uk/

http://www.cotswolds.info/places/upper-slaughter.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_Tweed_Mill