Eat and drink – ANTIBES (Cesar Cafe)

I had never eaten crêpes prior to visiting France.  Sure, I have eaten pancakes many times but crêpes are much lighter tasting, thinner in thickness and generally larger in radius.

Many restaurants sell crêpes and you can get one with all types of toppings – sweetened with Nutella, savoury with cheeses and meats, or the slightly naughty Crêpe Suzette drizzled with caramelised sugar, butter, citrus juice, zest and Grand Marnier liqueur, served flambé.

I opted for a ‘Citronelle’ crêpe yesterday at Cesar Cafe (5 rue Aubernon, 06600 Antibes. Telephone: +33 4 93 34 03 22), a dinner plate-sized crêpe coated in sugar and fresh lemon juice.  There is something about the combination of sticky sweet sugar and zesty lemon juice with a soft foldable crêpe base that is so delicious….I devoured my crêpe in about 2 minutes, and my companion’s crêpe ‘Londonnais’ with ham, egg and the addition of mushrooms went down a treat and was pronounced delicious also.

Cesar Cafe is small in size and the tables are close to each other but don’t be put off if you have a family and baby buggy/stroller.  There are tables outside to park your stroller.  There is one small step to the interior of the cafe, though the doorway to the toilet is narrow so unfortunately the toilet facilities are not wheelchair-accessible.  The cafe also keeps open a small window for ventilation at ground level that opens inwards in front of the bathroom door so you will find it difficult to pass if you are less mobile.

The waiter was friendly and has lived locally for 13 years so he is used to peak season tourists, and rather than rush us through our meal he bought water cups and more coffee.

The cost was 5,50€ for the citron crêpe, 8,50€ for the londannais crêpe (extra price for mushrooms) and 1,70€ for expressos (cafés).

Recommended for a quick snack or coffee break when in old town Antibes.

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NICE AIRPORT (Aeroport Nice Cote d’Azur)

Traveling with children can be stress-free with planning (and a bit of good luck that they won’t have a meltdown in a queue!).  Often, after a long journey it can be tiring to find toilet facilities that have baby changing tables, restaurants that offer child-friendly meals or a play area.   Add to that language barriers and you can feel lost and overwhelmed.

Family-friendly facilities at Nice Airport

Nice Airport is the first airport in France to hold the ‘Famille Plus’ label, guaranteeing their commitment to providing a family-friendly welcome.  In addition, assistance with passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility is provided in line with European regulations. Please read on below….

Security control points

There are now special family-friendly security control points during the French school holidays where ‘ALFA’ the blue mascot guides families through the compulsory security checks with an element of fun to entertain the kids.  Hostesses hand out colouring pencils and paper to alleviate boredom until boarding time.

Play areas

Nice Airport has 2 Terminals and both have play areas specifically for young children to play safely.  In the boarding lounges, the play areas have cartoons, early-learning games, rockers and wall games.  At Terminal 2, there is also an open-air play area outside the terminal with ride-on rockers.  ‘Quick’ burger restaurant has a small play area with ball pit.

(image: niceairport.fr)

(image: niceairport.fr)

Baby-changing facilities

Most toilet facilities have unisex baby-changing rooms with a changing table (all others have baby-changing facilities in the women’s toilets).  Toilets and washbasins for young children have also been installed.  The baby-change room locations are:

Terminal 1 – Public area

  • Toilets beyond security at P2 / T1
  • Toilets at public arrival exit Gate O / GR

Terminal 1 – Restricted area

  • Toilets in Lounges A and B
  • Toilets in baggage claim area (as at today 26 June 2012 these are under refurbishment)

Terminal 2 – Public area (in the women’s toilets)

  • Toilets located near to the Welcome Area (ground floor)
  • Opposite the information desk near the car hire companies
  • Opposite the bookshop
  • By Gate D4 (near to the regional produce shop)

Terminal 2 – Restricted area (in the women’s toilets)

  • Halls A and B
  • Opposite boarding gates A11 and A12
  • Baggage claim areas – both Schengen and International sides

Club Lounges

  • All club lounges have baby-changing facilities.

There is also a baby-changing room at Terminal 1, in the Cap Ferrat Lounge.

Restaurants

The airport’s restaurants are family-friendly and offer children’s menus, colouring sets and high chairs.

Try La Niçarda (Terminal 1) or Le Badiane (Terminal 2).

La Niçarda, Terminal 1, Nice Airport (image: niceairport.fr)

La Niçarda, Terminal 1, Nice Airport (image: niceairport.fr)

There is also Quick onsite, a burger chain who offer play areas, but no special children’s menus.

Nice Airport is undergoing major renovations so I will update this post as I trial the restaurants.

Baggage

Baggage trolleys at Nice Airport are coin-accessible – you will need a 1€ coin to unlock them (refundable when you return them).

Please note:  There are change machines at the baggage claim area of Terminal 1, and at the arrivals and departures level at Terminal 2 HOWEVER there is no money change machine for notes in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 so you will need a 1€ coin!

A porter service with Azur Porters is available (you can request a luggage porter at the Information desk, or find one in the check-in or baggage claim zones).  They charge 3€ per piece of luggage.

Information for passengers with reduced mobility

To ensure you receive the assistance you need, inform your travel agent or airline your requirements at least 48 hours before departure.  When you are at Nice Airport, go to an Information desk at the terminal, or call for assistance from the blue kiosks outside.  Note: You must arrive at least 2 hours early if you require assistance from the kiosks outside to inside the terminal.

  • Reserved carparking spaces are in the carpark areas, with elevator access to the terminals.
  • The free shuttles operating between terminals have automated ramps to allow wheelchair access.
  • Almost all of the toilet facilities at Nice Airport are wheelchair accessible.
  • In Terminal 1, low-level telephones are located in the arrivals and departures areas, and international boarding lounge.  In Terminal 2, these phone booths are at the arrival hall, departure hall, international boarding lounge and check-in area.

Activities – ANTIBES (Les Nuits Carrées 2012)

Experiencing music in another country is a must-do for me.  Music conveys many emotions and creates memories.   I have heard the passionate beat from Cook Island drummers in Rarotonga, trekked through rice fields to listen to traditional Indonesian folk songs in Bali, camped at a 3-day music festival in a vineyard as the sun comes up in New Zealand and been chilled by a solo Irish harpist playing on a deserted riverbank in the United Kingdom.

Living in France exposes you to a wide range of music and whether your tastes range from huge stadium concerts, to intimate jazz bars, I highly recommend everyone enjoys a concert or musical event whilst living or visiting here.

My pick for this week is ‘Les Nuits Carrées’ held over 2 nights, Friday 29 June and Saturday 30 June – a relatively young festival held at the amphitheatre beside Fort Carré in Antibes.   Les Nuits Carrées is an eco-festival of sorts; you purchase a reusable ‘happy cup’ when you arrive and refill it through the evening to recycle at the end.  No discarded styrofoam cups or aluminium cans littering the ground here.

Les Nuits Carrées 2009 – eco-festival, Antibes

Even the toilets are eco-friendly; instead of those horrible smelly Portaloos with chemicals that are regular features at music festivals the toilets are constructed of chip-board and there are buckets of sawdust – yes, sawdust – to tip into the bowl afterwards.  No smell and much more pleasant.  There is always a wheelchair-accessible toilet with ramp.  My tip:  Take a small torch for later in the evening, the toilets have no lighting.

The festival billing showcases hip-hop, reggae, jazz, electro, funk and the setting is magic at the amphitheatre as the sun sets.  The ground is flat (though can be stony) so the venue, refreshment areas and toilets are wheelchair accessible, though the amphitheatre obviously has graduated steps.

amphitheatre at Les Nuits Carrées 2010

Tickets are a bargain at 10€ per night or just 15€ for both nights.  Visit the festival website for details on where to purchase tickets and the line-up for both nights www.nuitscarrees.com

Enjoy!

Sightseeing – ANTIBES (Fête de la Saint-Pierre)

One of the benefits of living in France is the regular occurrence of free traditional festivals.  You can absorb as little or as much as you like of the heritage and culture of religions, local customs, food and community spirit.

Next week over 3 days (29 June-01 July) – I am hoping to attend the ‘Fête de la Saint-Pierre’ held in Antibes old town.

Saint-Peter (Pierre) is the Patron Saint of fishermen, and he is honoured every year with processions through the streets, dualling competitions on boats, games, water skiiing displays, parades with paper lanterns, regattas and music.

Held this year from Friday 29 June-Sunday 01 July at Plage de la Gravette on Antibes port (accessible for baby buggies and wheelchairs)

For the programme itinerary click on the following link http://www.antibes-juanlespins.com/agenda-culturel/autres-manifestations/icalrepeat.detail/2012/06/29/462/150/fete-de-la-saint-pierre

Activities – FÊTE DE LA MUSIQUE

Today is the 30th anniversary of one of my favourite events in France – ‘Fête de la Musique’.

Launched in 1982 by the French Ministry for Culture, this free public event takes place on 21 June each year and is a great community and family-friendly event.  Singers, bands and street performers take to town squares, beaches, street corners, churches and parks to celebrate summer and music.  Locals and tourists alike can wander the streets listening to different types of music ranging from rock, pop, jazz, reggae and more.

If you are interested in whetting your appetite for music today, here are some picks for events for today’s Fête de la Musique on the French Riviera:

Antibes / Juan les Pins

3pm – Boulevard Gustave Chancel for jazz rock

Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance: 6.30pm Bagdad (rock), 7.25pm Totem (pop rock), 8.20pm Rouge violence (pop rock), 9.15pm Bis (variety), 10.10pm Darcan (pop rock), 11.05 pm Blurred Horizons (pop rock).

7.30pm – Latinos Bar in Antibes for rock music with ‘Blah Blah’

Biot

From 6pm – Place de Gaulle, Swedish, Littoral, The Kitchies.

Valbonne-Sophia Antipolis

From 7pm:  Village at Place des Arcades, various bands

Cannes

5pm – Allees de la Liberte for an orchestra and soloists

8.30pm – Alles de la Liberte for a diverse mix of folk and local music

9pm – Palais des Festivals & Congress, reggae with Mystic Man

Menton

10am – Place Koenig to listen to schoolchildren sing traditional French songs

5.30pm – Place de l’Europe for classical music

9pm – Saint Michel Basilic for baroque sounds

Monaco

9pm – Port Hercule with Michel Fugain and Sergent Garcia

Nice

6pm – Place Garibaldi for some salsa music and dancing

7pm – MAMAC with Nice Jazz Orchestra

8pm – Cours Saleya for reggae and dubstep tunes

9pm-10pm – Rue de la Prefecture for rock music

10pm – Wayne’s Bar with David Zincke followed by the Brightlights

11pm – Ma Nolan’s Nice Port with Syl duo

12am – 4am – Pompei with Four Kicks

Saint Tropez 

6pm – Rue Gambetta for traditional music by the Fifre et les Tambour of Saint Tropez

9pm – Place Celli for jazz, electro, rock and DJ sets

Eat and drink – JUAN LES PINS (Le Pousse Pousse)

Juan les Pins is perfect for al fresco dining for families – it has a nice combination of warm temperatures, sunny skies and lots to watch as you dine (people and traffic).  Whilst there are numerous eateries situated right on the beach and waterfront promenade, you can find a decent restaurant to eat down a side street, or away from the main hub.

This week we ate dinner at Le Pousse Pousse (12 rue Dautheville, 06160 Juan les Pins. Telephone:  04 93 61 41 99), a restaurant specialising in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.  The decor is understated Asian fusion of buddha statues and a handful of black and white photos.  There are plenty of tables inside which were mostly full with diners, and more tables situated outdoors on the terrace with awnings on the pedestrian street.

Our waitress spoke English, and the staff speak French, Dutch and Spanish also.  All of the staff we encountered were pleasant and courteous.  There was a high chair available for our son.  We chose to sit outside and the menus were promptly given to us and drinks orders taken.  We all decided on the 20€ menu each (3-courses), and a serving of steamed dim sums for our son.  Two of us had glasses of rosé, and two of us had beers (they offer Heineken, Tsing-Tao and Singha).  I appreciated that they brought the dim sums out first for our son.  Meals were delivered to our table quickly (and cleared quickly), however they forgot to bring my partner’s main course and we had to request it again – they were apologetic and swiftly bought it out to the table and reduced our bill slightly at the end.

My entree was a cold chicken salad which was tasty and fresh with crunchy bean sprouts, grated carrot, fresh mint and a delicious light sauce which I stupidly forgot to ask them what it was.  My main course was a mild Vietnamese chicken curry which was also really  delicious and I had opted for a serving of perfumed white rice.  I think this was a better option to accompany this curry than the fried rice so as not to compete with the flavours in the curry.  For dessert, I chose the sorbet and received a scoop of passionfruit sorbet which was very refreshing, and a scoop of coconut-flavoured sorbet which was creamy and rich.  My dinner companions had dessert-envy but enjoyed their chosen selection of nougat.

The bill was just over 100€ for four 3-course menus including rice, two bottled beers, two large glasses of rosé and a serving of dim sums.

A good option if you desire an Asian-inspired meal in Juan les Pins.  To view their menu and prices visit their website www.lepoussepousse.com

Note:  I am unsure if the toilets for this restaurant are accessible as we sat outside on the terrace and did not enter the restaurant; I will find out and update this posting.

Sightseeing in SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE

The weather has been warm and sunny while my brother is here so we decided to visit Saint-Paul de Vence.

Saint-Paul de Vence is a stunning little village that is a popular tourist spot and was frequented in the past by famous artists, actors, film directors and more.

St Paul de Vence (image spdv.com)

St Paul de Vence (image spdv.com)

The village has been greatly restored, however the remparts and streets are authentic.  You will find cobbled alleyways, art galleries, jewellery makers, shops selling olive oils, baskets of dried herbs, fragrant soaps.

My advice is to visit in the morning before midday if possible as the afternoon sees the arrival of organised tour groups and the village becomes busier.

local transport, St Paul de Vence

local transport, St Paul de Vence

How to get to St Paul de Vence:

By car: Take the A8 motorway and get off at exit 47 (Villeneuve Loubet/Cagnes sur Mer/Vence from Marseille) or exit 48 (Cagnes sur Mer/Vence) from Nice or Italy. Follow the signs on the RD436 road to ‘La Colle sur Loup/Vence’.  Saint-Paul is located between La Colle sur Loup and Vence, and only 15 minutes from the motorway.  If you drive to Saint-Paul, park your car at the Espace Sainte-Claire multi-storey carpark.  There are elevators to the street level; you must pay for your parking at the machines there before you return to your car.  At the street level, there are public toilets opposite Chapelle Sainte Claire (including accessible toilets for wheelchair users), the charge is 0,20€ (20 centimes).

By train: The nearest train station is Cagnes sur Mer and then you need to take Bus number 400 which travels from Cagnes sur Mer to Saint-Paul in around 15 minutes.

By bus: You can also take Bus number 400 from the Nice bus station (Gare Routiere) to Saint-Paul, the journey takes around 1 hour. The bus stop at the village is across from Chapelle Sainte Claire.

Now, you are ready to begin exploring this historic village.

MY TOUR 1:  Suggested walking tour in St Paul de Vence for families with baby buggies/strollers (this walking tour includes some small manageable stairs but is mostly flat and good quality paved surfaces)

Walking tour for families

1. Begin at the Espace Sainte-Claire carpark.  Across the road you will notice the small Chapelle Sainte Claire which marks the entrance to the village, from there walk left towards the main remparts and you will pass by the famous hotel/restaurant on your left, La Colombe d’Or.  La Colombe d’Or is decorated with artworks from Picasso, Leger, Matisse and other struggling artists who settled their bills with paintings.  You can’t just wander in and look around, but you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner in the courtyard terrace, or drink an apéritif in the bar and enjoy the artful surroundings.

Colombe d'Or (image Access Riviera)

Colombe d’Or (image Access Riviera)

2. Continue walking towards the village and you see Café de la Place on your right-hand side, a nice spot to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace or under the plane trees and watch the locals play boules (petanque).

3. From there, straight ahead is the Gate of Vence (Porte Royale), the stone tunnel entrance to the village.  However, take the lower path on the right that hugs the stone walls past Le Petite Chapelle restaurant – just around the corner is an open area where there is a small children’s playground and you can look out over the local villas and a vineyard.  The path does continue onwards from the playground but it is not paved, you are best to return to the Gate of Vence.

4. Back at the Gate of Vence, notice the arched portico, the 14th-century cannons and the fortified tower and you begin to sense the history of this hilltop village as one of the first examples in France of a bastioned enclosure.  Most tourists walk uphill on the main street – rue Grande – but just inside the gate take the first street on the right, rue de la Tour, and this leads you along the western remparts and provides great views over the landscape.

5. Walk along to the other end of the remparts until you reach another gate, the Gate of Nice, and the cemetery (cimetière).  The cemetery is the resting place of the famous painter Marc Chagall, his simple white tomb often topped with pebbles as tributes (a Russian and Jewish tradition).  Exiting the cemetery, there are steps to the right up to a lookout area for a panoramic view of the valley, mountains and sea.

6. Next, walk up rue Grande with it’s houses with doors bearing coats-of-arms.  The pathways have stone flowers and mosaics.  Look for hidden nooks in the stone walls with lanterns, religious santons and clay figurines.  You will pass via La Placette, a small square with a fountain and see the old arched doorway of an ancient stable which is now the ground-floor of the Galerie Jean Carré.  Just ahead on rue Grande, le Pontis is a small bridge over the road built in the 15th century which allowed passage between two houses situated on opposite sides of the road.

cobblestones and archways, St Paul de Vence

cobblestones and archways, St Paul de Vence

7. Turn right into rue du Pontis, then right again onto rue du Plus Bas Four.  From there you can walk left along the eastern remparts until rue de Derrière l’Eglise. Admire the cobbled streets and the view from the remparts with olive, fig and cyprus trees.

8.  Follow rue de Derrière l’Eglise onto rue Saint-Esprit and turning right you lead to the Église Collégiale, the  Collegiate church with a strong Baroque influence. Across from the church entrance, buy a mouth-watering gelato from La Dolce Italia, a small Italian gelateria.  As you savour your gelato in the church square, you will find the old keep of the Chateau which now houses the Town Hall and the White Penitents Chapel (entry for the chapel can be purchased at the adjacent local history museum).

9.  Past the White Penitents Chapel, turn right onto rue Cassette and then right onto rue du Haut Four.  This will lead you back down to the Grande Fontaine at the heart of the village, where you can admire the old fountain from 1850 with it’s wash house.

10. From there, meander down rue Grande and explore it’s art galleries and artisan stores.  Saint-Paul de Vence has a reputation as one of the ‘must-see’ towns on the Cote d’Azur, and whilst it can be agreed that it is very tourist-orientated it also has a relaxed feel.

MY TOUR 2:  Suggested discovery tour for wheelchair users, or those travelers with reduced mobility (this tour avoids the numerous staircases in the village and sticks to flat ground)

Discovery tour for wheelchair users

1. Begin at the Espace Sainte-Claire carpark.  Across the road you will notice the small Chapelle Sainte Claire which marks the entrance to the village.  There are wheelchair accessible toilets at road level here before you head to the village (the cost is 0,20€ which is 20 centimes). From here follow left towards the main remparts and you will pass by the famous hotel/restaurant on your left, La Colombe d’Or.  La Colombe d’Or is decorated with artworks from Picasso, Leger, Matisse and other struggling artists who settled their bills with paintings.  You can’t just wander in and look around, but you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner in the courtyard terrace, or drink an apéritif in the bar and enjoy the artful surroundings.

2. Continue towards the village and you see Café de la Place on your right-hand side, a nice spot to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace or under the plane trees and watch the locals play boules (petanque).  From there, straight ahead is the Gate of Vence (Porte Royale), the stone tunnel entrance to the village. See the arched portico, the 14th-century cannons and the fortified tower and you begin to sense the history of this hilltop village as one of the first examples in France of a bastioned enclosure.

3. It is quite a steep uphill tunnel, but it is paved and once you are through it you can turn right onto a flat section and avoid the uphill route.  Just inside the gate take the first street on the right, rue de la Tour, and this leads you along the flat western remparts. Travel along to the other end of the remparts until you reach another gate, the Gate of Nice.  This is at the southern end of the village where the cemetery and lookout point are located, however these two sites are not accessible due to stairs (no ramps).

4. Next, follow rue Grande with it’s houses with doors bearing coats-of-arms.  Once again, it is uphill so will require some effort but it is paved. The pathways have stone flowers and mosaics.  Look for hidden nooks in the stone walls with lanterns, religious santons and clay figurines.  You will pass via La Placette, a small square with a fountain and see the old arched doorway of an ancient stable which is now the ground-floor of the Galerie Jean Carré.  Just ahead on rue Grande, le Pontis is a small bridge over the road built in the 15th century which allowed passage between two houses situated on opposite sides of the road.

village street, St Paul de Vence

village street, St Paul de Vence

5. Turn right into rue du Pontis, then right again onto rue du Plus Bas Four.  From there you can head left along the eastern remparts until rue de Derrière l’Eglise.  Admire the cobbled streets and the view from the remparts with olive, fig and cyprus trees.

6. Follow rue de Derrière l’Eglise, turn left onto rue Saint-Esprit and turning right you join onto rue Cassette.  Follow rue Cassette until you reach the White Penitents Chapel on your right-hand side (entry for the chapel can be purchased at the adjacent local history museum). In the church square you will also see the Chateau of the old keep which is now the site of the Town Hall.  To the right is the Église Collégiale, the  Collegiate church with a strong Baroque influence (though there are steps to enter the church).  Across from this church entrance, buy a mouth-watering gelato from La Dolce Italia, a small Italian gelateria.

7. From here, head left down the rue du Haut Four, turn right at rue de l’Allee and rue de l’Etoile.   This will lead you back down to the Grande Fontaine at the heart of the village, where you can admire the old fountain from 1850 with it’s wash house.

8. From here, it is a downhill route on rue Grande where you can see art galleries and artisan stores.  Saint-Paul de Vence has a reputation as one of the ‘must-see’ towns on the Cote d’Azur, and whilst it can be agreed that it is very tourist-orientated it also has a relaxed feel.

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