Tag: French Riviera

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

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.

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!

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.

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…

 

The French Coast – a look back and a peek forward

2 weeks today I’ll be on a plane to France, hurrah! Invariably it will be wet and dull in the UK, in true bank holiday style, so I’m making the most of it by jetting off for 3 days in Nice, on the French Riviera.

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Living in land locked Birmingham, it’s always good to get to the coast, especially when it’s as stunning as this. The Cote d’Azur has a micro climate and 200-250 days of sunshine each year, so I’m hopeful that early May will be warm and pleasant, and I might even get to dip my toes in that stunning blue sea.

As well as a stunning coastline, Nice has beautiful architecture, lots of greenery and a colourful Old Town that I’m looking forward to wandering around.

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It’s 5 and a half years since I was last on the French Coast. We went to Marseille for a our first wedding anniversary, and totally fell in love with it. Just 6 hours door to door, from home via Birmingham airport, it’s a gem of a place and we immediately declared it our weekend bolthole when we fancied getting away. Unfortunately Ryanair had other ideas and cancelled the route soon afterwards so we haven’t been back since, but I would definitely return.

Here are some snaps.

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