Tag: France

My first…wedding anniversary

Another first of another month!

This month the husband and I will have been married for 8 whole years. Wowsers! We have a way to go to catch up with Chris and Charlotte, who I posted about yesterday, but it’s pretty good going for an unmarriable handful (me) and a previously engaged twice commitment-phobe (him!)

There are two things that stick out in my mind about our first wedding anniversary. The first is that my Dad actually said “I don’t know how you’ve made it to a year” with the reasoning that I am the afore-mentioned unmarriable handful. I mean, he had a point. But still!

The second thing is that we went to Marseille

Based in the South of France, Marseilles has an enviable climate and a very Mediterranean feel. We totally fell in love with the place. It’s small enough to get around quickly with a great public transport system, lots of pretty buildings and great architecture, harbours, beaches and we got door to door in 6 hours. We declared it our new go-to weekend break.

Unfortunately, after we got back, Ryanair ceased the Birmingham to Marseille flight route and we haven’t been back since.

My top tips for visiting Marseille:

  • Pre-plan your airport transfer. Stupidly I didn’t, thinking it would be cheap enough to grab a cab on arrival. All the drivers wanted between 60 and 70 euros; no way! So we jumped on a bus, me blagging the husband that I knew exactly where we were going, when actually I had no idea (if I’d ‘fessed up he’d have panicked and just thrown money at a taxi). Between a printed map and some pigeon English to the very French bus driver we established he was only going as far as the main bus station. So from there we jumped in a cab to our apartment; which still ended up costing us 20 euros for what would have been a 5 minute walk, had we known where we were going.
  • Jump on an open top bus tour. This is something I recommend wherever you go on a city break, as it gives you a really good feel for a city and you can then decide which bits you want to revisit. The audio guides are usually pretty interesting too for some history. If the weather’s good try and sit upstairs for the best views.
  • Do consider going for longer than a couple of days. Ours was just a flying weekend visit but there are lots of beaches with watersports and activities in Marseille, so you could easily have a mix of city and beach break.
  • Get familiar with the underground metro system. There are only 3 lines (from memory) so it’s easy to use, very cheap and very convenient with little to no crowding and comfortable air conditioned trains.

On that note, here are a few pics! I have less than I would like, because 8 years ago phone cameras were pretty naff and I didn’t blog or live my life on instagram – if I went back now I’d be snapping everything!

Have you ever been to Marseille?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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What happened to my carrier pigeon?

Lovely people, I specifically asked for a carrier pigeon to be sent to Greece if the world went tits whilst I was away.

It never arrived.

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What an awful week of political stupidity (BoJo as Foreign Secretary?? Really??) which paled into insignificance when followed by the atrocities in France and Turkey. The Nice attacks were especially close to home, as we spent a long weekend there last May soaking up the beauty of the city, the cuisine, and the people. We walked along the very Promenade des Anglais that was home to so many pointless deaths and have been talking about returning ever since. To attack innocent civilians enjoying themselves and celebrating the freedom and success of their country is the ultimate in distaste and cowardice, and almost incomprehensible. To lose your life in the pursuit of happiness is so unseemly, so unjust, and so many other “uns” I lack the articulation to, well, articulate.

Anyway. I’m back from Greece. Beautiful beautiful Greece, with it’s own economic and political problems, yet a feeling of safety and solitude. A stunning landscape, friendly welcoming people and a wonderful climate means, for me, it’s impossible not to have a total escape-from-it-all break of amazing proportions. A new corner explored and duly loved; with promises to ourselves to return and soak up more of the inimitable atmosphere.

Maybe you’ve seen some of my instagram pics, but there’ll be a blog post, obvs. I can’t express my love for the county enough; especially at a time when more and more of the world is becoming dangerous. Greece, you may be skint in the eyes of the EU, but I’m happy to continue to pump my wages into you by way of food and drink consumption!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A day trip to Annecy

One of the great things I find about French cities is how well connected they are, and how cheap the public transport is. So it made complete sense for us to take advantage of that and plan a daytrip outside of Lyon.

Annecy is a pretty town very near to the Swiss border, in the Alps. The old town has lots of coloured buildings and a river running through it. It’s sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Alps. I’ve seen pictures of it and read about it in the past and, although it’s a 2 hour train journey, the tickets only cost us about £45 return which was well worth it.

If you follow me on instagram you’ll have already seen a lot of these photos, as I was very taken with the place!

Lake Annecy is the biggest lake in Europe, and surrounded by pretty lakeside towns and mountains. We went on a boat trip.

There are flowers everywhere in the town and on the bridges across the river.

This is tartiflette – a speciality of the region. A gratin of potatoes, onions and bacon lardons smothered in baked reblochon cheese. It was pretty spectacular!

Tartiflette

We had a beautiful day in the sunshine, breathing in the mountain air and enjoying life, before getting the train back to Lyon in time for dinner!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

 

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Our trip to Lyon – what we did

Lyon is the third biggest city in France, after Paris and Marseilles, according to the commentary on our bus tour of the city. The open top bus, where everyone was crammed downstairs because the weather was so bloody awful…

Thank goodness for overpacking. As I mentioned in my previous post the weather forecast for the first two days was cold and rainy, followed by warmer temperatures and sunshine for the next two. There’s always the hope that the forecasters have got it wrong, and in fact they had, it was colder than suggested!

Our first stop was the Basilica de Notre Dame, situated high on Fourviere Hill on the old town side of the River Saone. We took the (impressively clean and organised) Metro and then the funicular railway to the top of the hill. The Basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 and is one of the most breathtaking churches I’ve ever been in – from sheer scale through to attention to detail.

Inside was mind blowing.

I spent so long looking at the mosaics – each one must have been 3 metres long and was made entirely out of tiny half centimetre squares. The dedication and attention to detail is hard to comprehend.

Mosaic fresco at Basilica de Notre Dame Lyon

On a good day you can see Mont Blanc from Fourviere Hill. On a cold, rainy, windy, 6 degree day, you can’t!

Vieux Lyon, old town, is a maze of cobbled streets and little squares with restaurants and traditional Lyonnais bouchons – tiny eateries serving rustic cuisine from the region. It was very pretty, but hampered by the weather even though we struggled on in the face of adversity!

You can get a perspective of how high the Basilica rises above the city from this picture.

Vieux Lyon with view of Basilica

Parc de la Tête d’Or covers 290 acres. It’s huge! I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a multi faceted park in my life, and we spent 2 hours just wandering around.

It has a lake where people can boat in summertime, a beautiful fountain surrounded by flowers, and there’s a big velodrome in the grounds too!

There’s a small deer park, which randomly also has some ostriches?!

A zoo with flamingos, a giraffe (who we didn’t see, unfortunately), lions (who wouldn’t stand up for a photo!), a variety of monkies who I couldn’t photograph through glass, buffalo, toucans and tortoises! An eclectic mix!

The park is famous for it’s rose gardens, although we were slightly too early as they weren’t fully in flower. I can only imagine what a riot of colour there is in high season.

And the Botanical Gardens which, although not my thing (too claustrophobic) were  very impressive.

There you have it, an overview of our time in Lyon! We didn’t mange to see everything we’d have liked because of the weather, the fact that 1st May is Labour Day and there is no public transport running (WHAT???!!! I didn’t know that when I booked!) and also my Mother-in-Law, who was our travelling companion, isn’t at 100% health right now so we were tourist dawdlers rather than striding out all over the place and walking miles like we usually do.

Special mention, before I finish, to my first time of eating snails! Which I enjoyed so much I had them a second time too! They’re fiddly to get out of the shells and not very filling, but they were so tasty and enjoyable. A similar texture to mussels, they were cooked in garlic butter and I loved them.

Tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from our daytrip to Annecy, in the Alps.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Pray for Paris

I’m too sad to post as planned today. I’m shocked, saddened, horrified, appalled, disgusted and scared. Yes, scared. I know we shouldn’t say that, I know we’re supposed to be strong and say that we wont be beaten. That our lives won’t change. That we’ll live our lives as normal, and not in fear.

Pray for Paris peace sign eiffel tower

But you know what? I am scared. Scared for the world. Where are we going? What is our future? If we fight terrorism with bombs, retaliation will happen. If we don’t, terrorism will advance.

I’m scared because I think Britain will be next. We’ve been instrumental in fighting terror with attack. So we’re an obvious target.

I’m scared because I go to gigs; I spend weekends in venues that could easily be targeted to attack large numbers of people. That’s what makes it close to home to me. It could have been me. It could have been the husband. It could have been any of my friends. We love life. We dedicate time to gigs and the pursuit of enjoyment. And we don’t expect these pursuits of happiness to limit or end our lives.

I’m scared because I live near a city. The second city. A target.

I’m scared because the Frankfurt Christmas market has just opened in Birmingham and welcomes 5 million visitors over the festive season. And I love it. I visit it.

So yes, maybe terrorists are winning.

This frame of mind won’t last. Even the Facebook profile update, which puts a French flag wash over your image, gives you the option to make it temporary. So how long until we all go back to normal life? 1 day? 3 days? A week?

Until then? I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s shit. So very very awfully soul destroyingly shit.

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Hotel review – Kyriad Gare Nice (one last French related post)

It’s important when booking a hotel to have done your research so you know what to expect and aren’t disappointed. I knew, therefore, that many of the rooms in this hotel are overlooking the railway lines.

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Was it a problem? Not at all! We used our room purely for getting ready and sleeping. The windows are extremely efficient in keeping out the traffic noise and the trains don’t run through the night anyway. The room itself was ideal for our needs – spacious enough for a two night stay, clean, with an incredibly comfortable bed and pillows. The walls are covered in fabric rather than standard wallpaper, which gives a nice touch, and the dark wooden furniture and black out curtains make the room feel comfortable and higher end than a basic chain hotel. The bathroom is bright and well equipped with a strong shower which always had plenty of warm water. Small things like plug sockets near to the dressing table, a full length mirror and a powerful hairdryer made our stay ideal for a city break.

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The staff, without exception, were very helpful. All spoke excellent English. On arrival and departure our bags were stored away securely so we could enjoy our day before and after check in without having to lug them around with us. When I asked for extra teabags they were brought to our room within minutes.

Location, for us, was ideal. Just 20 minutes from the airport in a pre-booked transfer, 5 minutes walk from Nice Ville train station so we could quickly and easily get about (we went to Cannes and Antibes) and literally right at the beginning of a Metro line (although we didn’t use it). There’s a good size cheap supermarket next door and it’s around a 10-15 minute walk down the main shopping street and down to Place Massena and Jardin Albert 1er.

The only slight blight on the stay was the fact that the hotel doesn’t switch the air conditioning on until mid May, so both our bedroom and the hallways were very warm. However, the French windows open on to a Juliet balcony so we were able to get some air circulating.

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I’d have no hesitation in staying there again.

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Final day in Nice – time to soak up everything about the city

Our last day in Nice was all about seeing every last bit of the city – revisiting parts we’d already seen and enjoyed as well as discovering more nooks and crannies. We hadn’t been to Castle Hill, and the steps looked steeper than ever after 2 days of walking, so we went touristy and got the little train from the seafront.

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It covered a fair bit of the Old Town that we were already familiar with, before going back out to the port and ascending the hill up to get views across the city roofs and the coast line.

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Back at sea level, the gardens run through the middle of the city. The Jardin Albert 1er – the oldest gardens in Nice are a green oasis and very well used by residents and tourists alike. Fountains, mist coming through the floor, a sculpture and beautiful flowers and trees combine to make a perfect escape space.

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On the Promenade du Paillon sit the fountains – I was rather taken with this as shown by the number of photos (and this is the cut down version!)

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After all that that walking it was time for an ice cream! Pamplemousse (grapefruit) and menthe (mint). The grapefruit was refreshingly sorbet like.

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Look at the colours and flavours!

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After the hard work of an ice cream, it was time for a cocktail – frozen daiquiri for me and an old fashioned for husband.

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Quite a pleasant view!

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Some more piccies of the stunning architecture before we left

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Place Massena underwent a 13 million euro refurbishment in 2007. The buddhas on the lampposts light up at night. There are 7 of them, each representing one of the continents,

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The windows and balconies on the side of tis building are painted on – not real. The attention to detail is fantastic.

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Some last minute pics of the coast, taken from the pebbly beach

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And so it was Au Revoir to Nice!

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A day out by train, because we Cannes! (and Antibes, too)

While researching Nice and all the nice things to do, I read that it was easy to get out and about for the day by train. Blessed with almost 3 full days and being located about 5 minutes walk from the train station, we set off for Cannes.

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Just half an hour along the coast, we arrived there at around 10.45 and found our way to the seafront. It’s evidently an area with money, noticeable by the proliferation of designer shops. Designer collage

Luckily, with it being Sunday, everything was closed, or I’d have gone on a shopping spree (ha, ha, RIGHT!!! £1500 for a bag? Never! Although the window display at D&G was very pretty.

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Unlike Nice, the beach in Cannes is soft white sand, and there were lots of people sunbathing and children playing. The sea is just as blue as in Nice, and the waves lapped gently at the shore as we meandered along.

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I’m very partial to Birds of Paradise flowers – I had them in my wedding bouquet.

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The most imposing hotel we saw was the Carlton – a drinks menu showed 11 euros for a Coke!

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The town is gearing up for the film festival, and there was evidence of staging being built in preparation for the town coming to life. I’m sure there’ll be more and more yachts arriving this week, but those that were already in the harbour were pretty impressive.

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Not being overly enamoured with Cannes (I know it has an old town but we had already walked miles) and wanting to squeeze in Antibes on the way back, we headed back to the station for the 3 short stops to our next destination, where we had promised ourselves lunch. The graffitied trains were something to behold!

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Antibes is much prettier, more French and less touristy, but still with the same blue sea and another well stocked port.

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A small and pretty cathedral is at the centre.

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I couldn’t resist a picture of this well lived in decorated van at the street market

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After a lunch of chorizo and ratatouille crepe with copious amounts of rose wine it was time to catch the train back to Nice. Double decker trains – such a novelty!

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Nice Ville station is very ornate.

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We walked around 10 miles over the course of the day, but everything was so pretty we hadn’t even noticed. My feet certainly felt it once I took my sandals off though.

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Nice is more than just nice…it’s bloomin’ beautiful

A 4 o’clock alarm is a wicked wicked thing. Although it is slightly easier to get out of bed when you know you have a flight to catch!

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It’s been an age since we flew from Birmingham airport. Considering Birmingham is the UK’s second city (supposedly) we seem to get less choice, higher costs, and general short changed-ness when it comes to air travel.

Unusually, Nice was an exception. A 7.45am Saturday morning departure and an 8pm Monday night return meant making the most of pretty much every moment of the long awaited bank holiday weekend.

The day started (of course) with a holiday breakfast (yes, a 2 night break counts as a holiday)…a sausage, egg and bacon bagel and a glass of rose. Tea drinkers were definitely in the minority, even at 6.30am.

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Uneventful check in, boarding, flight, arrival and transfer meant that we arrived in Nice Ville (town) feeling stress free and ready to go by 11am. 5 hours door to door (accounting for the 1 hour time difference) is pretty good going, especially when you consider the contrast between home and away.

Too early to check into our hotel room, we stored our bags in the lobby and set off on foot to explore. Our driver from the airport had told us that Nice was an easy city to get your bearings in and get around, and he was right. It’s large enough to feel cosmopolitan and spread out, but not so much that you fear never finding your hotel again. There’s a good vibe about it.

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France after Paris, Marseilles, Lyon and Toulouse.

Heree come the photographs…

Stunning architecture, fountains and wide open squares

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Churches

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A bright, clean and spacious promenade

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Boutique shops, along with some UK high street flashbacks

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Wonder why the region is called the Cote D’Azur? Wonder no more! These are the views from the Promenade de Anglais. The sea is bluer than a camera can capture. It’s definitely one for the most developed lens in the world – the human eye.

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As planned we decided to get our bearings by taking an open top bus tour. At 22 euros each and lasting 90 minutes, the tour started on the seafront and meandered along the coast, out to the port and then back up into the hills. Fabulous buildings were everywhere – from neoclassical styles and colours through to the modern art museum and the very quirky blockhead; La Tête Carrée (the first habitable sculpture in the world).

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Considering we had such an early start, at an ungodly hour, we more than did justice to the city on our first day. We were left tired, but looking forward to more…

 

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