Activities – RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES

I love a good thunderstorm!   Today, it is raining and while the rain brings an opportunity to break from routine and spend some time indoors, it can be tricky to come up with ideas to entertain the kids without them getting cabin fever.

If you are looking for ideas to entertain your children on the French Riviera on a rainy day, please also read my previous blog post ‘Activities – RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES’ under my May 2012 archives.

One of my favourite rainy day activities to do with my son is baking.  Making muffins, biscuits or cakes can be lots of fun, and it’s educational as you can explain the various cooking ingredients and implements used.

Sometimes, we create a pretend ‘shopping list’ and ‘shopping basket’ and go ‘shopping’ filling it with items from the kitchen pantry (canned food, herbs, pasta etc).  My son is almost 2 years old, but he is learning the words for food in both French and English and I find that hands-on activities like this really help his comprehension and memory.  Plus it is fun for him to use the ingredients to then make something he can eat later!

pretend ‘grocery shopping’

Here is our fail-safe easy and delicious recipe for rainy days!  (my son is almost 2 and he helps to mash the bananas, sift the flour and mix the egg mixture so don’t be put off that your child may be too young to understand or will make a mess.  Any spillages can be cleaned up afterwards.)

BANANA MUFFINS (makes 12)

200 g (7 ozs) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3 large bananas, mashed

150 g (5 ozs) caster sugar

1 egg

75 g ( 2 1/2 ozs) butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Place baking cases into a muffin tin.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.  Set aside.

3. Combine mashed bananas, caster sugar, egg and melted butter into another large bowl.  Fold in the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

4. Spoon into muffin tins.

5.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when lightly tapped.

Bon appetit!

Activities – OPIO (Urban day)

Growing up my brother was obsessed with his skateboard and his BMX.  He always wanted to have the latest deck, frame, trucks, wheels – anything that increased his speed, and coolness with the other kids at school.   None of this came cheaply and I’m more than certain that the skateboard retailers today still do a roaring trade.

This weekend on Sunday 23 September, the Opio mairie is holding a free ‘Urban Day’ from 10am-8pm at place de la Font Neuve.  So, even if your own children don’t have the latest skate or bike accessories they can still come along and enjoy the action.

The ‘Urban Day’ will have BMX and skateboard competitions, graffiti artists, breakdancing, martial arts displays, free running displays (for those unaware what ‘free running’ is, participants use the landscape and obstacles to perform vaults, acrobatics and street tricks as seen on this YouTube video (© 3runTube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsaBXFGMfAw

There will be a food kiosk onsite for hungry kids to have a snack break.  Also, you can take the kids to the free Parc de Loisirs in Opio (Carrefour du Piol on Route de Cannes D3 road) with playground and picnic tables. It is flat so accessible for families with baby strollers, or those with mobility issues and there is plenty of room to kick a ball around.

Opio can be reached via bus from Antibes, Cannes, Grasse, Valbonne, Nice, and Villeneuve-Loubet.

Sightseeing – MONACO (Monaco Yacht Show, and Monaco for families)

It’s that time of the year when another yacht show arrives on the French Riviera.  Last week it was Cannes, this week from today until Saturday 22 September you can visit the Monaco Yacht Show, one of the most prestigious of the shows in the yachting industry.

Superyachts, megayachts and all types of other yachts (!) will be berthed at the port with exhibitor stands, brokers for yacht charters, food outlets and designer yachting goods.  Strolling the quays is a great activity for families – ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ at the jetskis and latest water toys parked in the aft tender bays, or helicopters nestled on the landing platforms on the top decks.

If you have children, after visiting the Monaco Yacht Show you can stop at Parc Princesse Antoinette (Princess Antoinette Gardens), La Condamine, 54 bis boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco – a free park with go-karts and a playground.  Older children can be entertained there by mini golf, badminton, ping-pong, a football pitch and basketball courts.

There are carousels near the Stade Nautique, and on the Larvotto Esplanade.  In the Fontvielle area, there is a playground by the Princess Grace Rose Garden and a carousel near the Fontvielle Big Top. Kids can wander around the Trocadéro Gardens, or after some lunch the family can enjoy time out at the children’s playground area at the end of the pedestrianised rue Princesse Caroline.

Another great spot to take the kids and escape the bustle of Monaco, is the free Japanese Garden on avenue Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo – a real oasis of serenity with   waterfalls, stone bridges and Zen gardens.

Monaco is a small country and perfectly walkable though there are many slopes and hilly parts so I would recommend using the local bus service – there are 5 bus lines which criss-cross Monaco so you are sure one that passes your destination.  Tickets are 5€ for unlimited travel for one day (under 7 years old are free).  Bus timetables and routes can be found at this link here http://www.cam.mc/plan-reseau.php Taxis are expensive; carparking and traffic jams can be horrendous at peak season.  If you travel via car, park in one of the numerous public carparks where there’s free parking for the first hour. Here is a guide to the public carparks that offer ‘first-hour free’ parking https://www.monaco-parkings.mc/establishment   Traffic infringements are taken seriously, even with foreign plates so be aware of parking rules.

Travel tip: Monaco also has pedestrian elevators and street-lifts which can help immensely when navigating around Monaco. Use them if you see one, and save yourself walking up hills.  There is an eighth (little-known) street lift if you intend to visit the Monaco Oceanarium or Palace walk to the end of the old port, to the Quai des Pêcheurs car-park. Enter and, at the back, there’s a lift and then an escalator which exits right in front of the museum.

You can take the kids to the Prince’s Palace for the Changing of the Guards every day at 11.55am sharp ( I love a free family activity!). Held in front of the royal entrance on the Palace Square, this tradition is performed in full dress uniform, black in the winter and white in the summer, and has not changed for more than 100 years.

Sightseeing – VENCE (Traditional festival 22-23 September)

Vence is a pretty walled town with lovely churches, market squares and art galleries.  The Office de Tourisme has a map available with a walking tour of the old town – the numbered panels throughout the village (in both French and English) explain the history behind the medieval gates, fountains, houses and other points of interest.  The panels are a pale grey to blend into the landmarks but you can see them marked in red on the map. Note: The Office de Tourisme is open on the Saturday only from 9am-5pm.  If you take a guided tour arranged through the Office de Tourisme, it is worth noting that the tour is accessible for those with mobility issues (i.e. wheelchair users).

If you are visiting Vence this coming weekend there is a free traditional festival – Fête du Moyen et Haut Pays.  The festival is open from 10am-7pm on both Saturday 22 September and Sunday 23 September and is held at place du Grand Jardin.

There will be demonstrations from artisans of wool dying and glass-blowing, gourmet food products, traditional costumes and music.  For children, there will be a mini-farm, mini-carousel, wooden games and pony rides.

There are public playgrounds in Vence located at Avenue des Poilus, place Maréchal Juin and Chemin du Calvaire.

Activities – MOUGINS (Les Étoiles de Mougins)

Food, glorious food.  France is well known globally for culinary creativity and my own photos of markets bursting with vibrant fruits, tasty vegetables, tables laden heavy with cheeses and meats and delicious pastries and cakes sets off food envy amongst friends.

I have had my first-ever taste experiences here in France of wild boar stew, escargots, truffle ravioli and all kinds of sweet treats.  France has shown me the pleasure of eating socca on a paper napkin sold out of the back of a caravan in a busy town, and savouring a 5-course degustation menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant in a ski resort.

If food is one of your interests (and not just seen as one of the means to life), then take your tastebuds along to ‘Les Étoiles de Mougins’ this week, held Friday 14 September to Sunday 16 September.

Top chefs will be holding cooking demonstrations (including Frédéric Anton of Le Pré Catalan in Paris who some may recognise as a judge from the French version of Masterchef), there will be food and wine tasting, gourmet products for sale and music in the evenings.

The programme for this event is here http://www.lesetoilesdemougins.com/fr/edition2012/programmation

Travel tips: If you are traveling via train, take a local train to Mouans-Sartoux and you then take bus Ligne 650 to Mougins but be aware the buses are irregular off-peak.  If you are driving, the streets for ‘Vieux’ (old) Mougins are narrow and you will need to park your car at the carpark at the entrance to the village and walk up steps (therefore, not ideal for less mobile travellers).  If the gastronomy festival gets boring for the kids, head to the free Valmasque park near Mougins (via car) with forest trails, a playground and a 5-hectare lake with lotus flowers and water birds.  If you are child-free, stop by ‘Le Cave de Mougins’ at the entrance to Vieux Mougins for some tapas and wine tasting.

Sightseeing – CANNES (Cannes Boat Show and family-friendly activities)

The French Riviera welcomes many yacht shows annually including the Antibes Yacht Show, Monaco Yacht Show and of course the Festival de la Plaissance Cannes (the Cannes Boat Show) which is being held this week from 11-16 September.

The Cannes Boat Show is held at the old port next to the Palais des Festivals and also at Port Pierre Canto at the far end of the Croisette.   Superyachts are on display for sale, and visitors can browse stands of boat-related services and products such as clothing, yacht charters and yacht parts. Tickets are 18€ for adults, and free entrance for children under 12.

If all the yachting sightseeing tires out you and/or your family take a break for an icecream at one of the buvettes (snack kiosks) on the Croisette.  Afterwards, you can jump onto the ‘Petit Train’, the little white tourist train that leaves adjacent to the carousel on the Croissette.  They have a combined History and Croisette tour for 10€ for adults, 5€ for kids or free for under 3 years.  The duration is around 1 hour, you can choose commentary in 7 languages and it travels along the Croisette, down the main shopping street rue d’Antibes and up to the old town of Le Suquet with good views across Cannes.  It is a good option to keep the kids entertained, or if you have mobility issues as Le Suquet and the cathedral at the top are accessed via steep roads and some stairs.  They have baskets on the back of the trains to hold baby buggies/strollers.

Apart from the Le Suquet area, Cannes is flat and well-paved so it’s easy to walk around.  It’s doesn’t cover a particularly large area so you can walk easily within a few hours minimum.  Some of the sights you should include on a walking tour are:

  • the Croisette – see where they hold the world-famous Cannes Film Festival, admire the beautiful hotels and beach restaurants
  • rue du Marché Forville – for the local market selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses
  • rue Meynadier – souvenir shops, food shops, boutiques
  • rue Hoche – stop for a coffee at one of the many caféterias with outdoor tables
  • rue d’Antibes – the main shopping street

Other family-friendly activities for Cannes:

Îsle St Marguerite is a small island situated just off the Cannes coastline and accessible via boat that is suitable for stroller or wheelchair access.  Please note that while the ferry boats and island are suitable for wheel access, many paths are not paved so there is occasionally uneven ground.  Disabled toilet facilities on the island are located up the hill from the boat jetty. There are stairs to the Fort on the island.  The ferry leaves from the far side of the port (see map below).  Ticket and timetable information is at http://www.trans-cote-azur.co.uk/cannes-ile-sainte-marguerite.php

Cannes ferry to Isle St-Marguerite

Boules:  There is a local boules (petanque) court adjacent to McDonalds on rue Félix Fauré.  Grab a sandwich from the adjacent snack kiosks and sit at the tables under the plane trees watching a few games of boules.

Playgrounds:  There is a free children’s playground close to the Palais des Festivals area on the boulevard de Croisette (near to the public beach where the Petit Train departs from). This playground includes small climbing equipment, carousel, funfair stalls, snack kiosks. Public toilets are nearby on the beachside of the Croisette.  Further along boulevard de Croisette in the direction of Port Pierre Canto, there is another public playground at the end of the beach with playground equipment.

FunCity, 47 avenue Maurice Chevalier, 06150 Cannes la Bocca:  Indoor playground facility with designated playareas for different ages, large climbing frames with tunnels, nets, slides, trampolines, soft toys, ball pits, inflatables, mini-karts, onsite restaurant for snacks and gift boutique.  Entrance fee payable http://cannes.fun-city.fr

Bowling at Cannes Loisirs, 189 ave Frances Tonner, Cannes La Bocca.

Laser shooting individually or in teams at Laser Quest Cannes, 28 avenue des Arlucs, 06150 Cannes La Bocca.  Venue also has snack vending machines and air hockey table.  www.lqcannes.com

Kids cooking classes are available at Ecole Lenôtre Cannes, 63 rue d’Antibes, 06400 Cannes.  Choose from ‘Cuisine’ or ‘Patisserie’.  Ages 8 years and older.  www.lenotre.com

Enjoy your time in Cannes!

 

Who’s on Location?

My primary aim for this blog is to provide travel information (in English) for families and wheelchair users for activities, sightseeing and dining options on the French Riviera.  In other words, local knowledge of accessible areas whereby travelers can visit with their baby stroller without second-guessing if there are 200 stairs to get into the restaurant, or a wheelchair user or person with restricted mobility can dine out and know a restaurant has a ground-floor accessible toilet.

Sometimes, I do blog about items totally unrelated to living here!   The other day I was collecting some keys from guests staying at a holiday rental apartment and they advised me there had been a fire at a neighbouring building in the middle of the night but thankfully they knew the fire procedure for the building and were not evacuated etc…It brought back memories of fire safety drills for companies I worked for in New Zealand.

Health and Safety, and Fire safety regulations in New Zealand are very regulated and followed.  France does of course have regulations but it seems to be much more relaxed regarding company policy and actual procedure.  I have experienced buildings here without evacuation plans for residents, or fire extinguishers on each floor.  Shock horror!  no, not quite.

I digress.  I have recently heard about a great Kiwi product – Who’s on Location – which would have benefited some of the NZ companies where I was a past employee.  I have previously worked for 2 large wholesale travel companies, and a smaller software company each with large numbers of employees onsite and regular visitors onsite.  How did we manage the visitors?  ‘Signing in and out’ at a visitor book at reception.  How did we manage fire evacuation drills?  Having designated fire wardens and back-up wardens.  BUT these systems were flawed because the wardens would check the physical building to the best of their ability under time pressure before verbally reporting to the fire department.

This is where I believe Who’s on Location is genius – it offers a web based visitor management so companies know who is onsite, due onsite or left the site.  And crucially, they offer mobiEvac via mobile phone for real-time information of who is onsite.  Wardens can receive SMS messages of who is safe outside or needs help evacuating.  I would assume most people would take their belongings including mobile phone in the event of an evacuation ( I do ). This can only be valuable to a company to ensure their employees are safe.

I think this product would be an asset for some of the companies based here especially in our local business and technology hub of Sophia Antipolis (Air France, Amadeus, Bouyges, Samsung from October, France Telecom etc).

Check out Who’s on Location at http://www.whosonlocation.com or @WhosonLocation via Twitter

(I have no affiliation or sales connection to Who’s on Location whatsover and any opinions are my own)