Sightseeing – GRASSE (Fête du Jasmin 2013)

The Jasmine Festival (Fête du Jasmin) is held annually in the town of Grasse and marks the start of the jasmine harvest. The festival is brought to life by flower parades, colourful bands and global street performers, dancers, fireworks, food displays and a beauty pageant.

It occurs this weekend Friday 02 August – Sunday 04 August and I hope you do manage to visit as Grasse does come alive with the smell and celebration of jasmine.

Tips:

1. The full festival programme is found here http://www.grasse.fr/La-fete-du-Jasmin,1864 (in French only, however it has timings for each day).

2.  The centre of Grasse will be mostly pedestrianized for the festival so leave your car at home if you can.  The TER trains will be running from Ventimiglia to Grasse (see website www.ter-sncf.com/paca for timetables) and the Lignes Azur NocTam’bus night-buses (line N600) between Cannes and Grasse also running. Bus timetables are found here, open the link for N600 timetable http://www.cg06.fr/search/index.php?mot=n600&mid=7d06733592fb4be5940c3385e61f4916&l=fr   Bus fares are purchasable onboard from the bus driver for one euro per person per oneway journey. The train station ticket office at Grasse train station is open Monday-Saturday from 6.15am-8.55pm so if you stay late to watch the fireworks make sure you have coins for your return train fare if you didn’t pre-purchase your ticket from the office – there are 2 automated pay ticket machines at the station open 24 hours.

3. If you have never visited Grasse before and look at a map you could be forgiven for thinking Grasse is flat and walkable.  Yes it is walkable BUT Grasse is not flat and you will find many sets of stairs that offer shortcuts.  If you take the train to Grasse, don’t attempt to walk from the train station to ‘centre ville’ (Grasse town) yourself.  There is a shuttle that goes from the station to centre ville. If you walk, be warned that it’s uphill with lots of stairs,  or you take a detour along avenue Pierre Semard from the train station and walk an extra 15 minutes. The shortcut is near the train station – up Traverse de la Gare – a pathway with LOTS of steps.

Bonne fête!

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A greener alternative is coming…

I started this blog to provide information to families either visiting or living in the French Riviera of places they could go and take their baby buggy/stroller without worrying about stairs, inaccessible narrow pathways etc. It is also beneficial for wheelchair bound travellers who also encounter some of the same difficulties.

Sometimes however, I like to include random warblings in my blog about my feelings, my opinions or my experiences on things totally unrelated to travel and/or tourism. Today, it is one of those days.

A greener alternative is coming…

I have decided from 01 August I will be trying to reduce, reuse and recycle much more than I currently do and make more eco-friendly and sustainable choices about the way I live and the things I buy.

OK, I am not professing to suddenly want to become a vegan/hippy/eco-warrior but instead to make small changes to my lifestyle to impact less on the environment, our finances and our health.

Why choose to live more sustainably

What bought all this on you may be thinking? Surely I already know about taking a reusable bag to the supermarket and separating the recycling for the bins at home! BUT, is that really enough???

I was cleaning our oven yesterday and sprayed the (store bought) oven cleaner into our oven – it’s that type that you spray and your eyes immediately water, your nose runs and you run out of the kitchen for the fumes.

It was so toxic and horrible I realised this was the type of product we use regularly and expose our son to.

I looked in our kitchen cupboard and SHOCK! we have 14 different bottles of cleaning products – yes, 14! – for cleaning the oven, floors, windows, kitchen, bathroom, toilet etc.

A lot of marketing that I clearly have been sucked in by over the years, a lot of money spent on various products for ‘specialised’ jobs, and unfortunately a lot of toxins and chemicals.

August is ‘green’ month

So, 01 August begins my ‘green’ month.

I have already test-drived a homemade cleaner (1/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup distilled water, 2 drops lemon oil) and it worked brilliantly on bathroom and toilet surfaces and surprisingly didn’t leave a vinegar smell 🙂

There are already small ‘green’ things I have been doing for years which I haven’t realised:

– Recycling giftwrap for presents
– Homemade muesli instead of store-bought cereals
– White vinegar and newspaper is the best window cleaner you will ever find. Why we have store-bought window cleaner I don’t know!
– Homemade face mask: 1 tablespoon of rolled oats, 1 teaspoon honey and half a mashed avocado, mix and put onto face. It looks like an alien’s breakfast but your dry skin will love it. Leave for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water.
– Homemade hair mask (dry hair): 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon milk. Mix together and apply to hair, then wrap head in a warm towel for at least 15 minutes. Rinse until hair doesn’t feel ‘oily’.
– Cold sore remedy: Rub cold sore or tingle on lips with a cut clove of garlic. It stings a bit but you won’t buy a cold sore cream again from the pharmacy.
– Sore throat: Gargle salt mixed into warm water.
– Buying second-hand goods where possible at boot sales, charity shops
– Get crafty with your kids rather than buy new toys in plastic packaging – it’s amazing what you can make with toilet rolls, used boxes, empty milk bottles etc and the internet has so many great ideas.

I will be making a big effort on the following from 01 August:

– No more bottled water. My son drinks out of his sippy bottle, so I may as well reuse mine too.
– More home baking. We bake regularly now, however I would like to eliminate buying snack items that are separately packaged (e.g. biscuits, cereal bars, fruit compotes)
– Keep putting lunches/snacks in lunch boxes. Can’t remember the last time I used plastic wrap.

There are lots of resources on the internet to give guidance on how to live a more sustainable life – I found www.diynatural.com and greenlivingideas.com were great sources of inspiration.

Wish me luck! It won’t be easy but small steps lead to big changes.

Eat and drink – ANTIBES (La Caravane Passe)

My mother always told me ‘Trust your instincts’ and when I walked into La Caravane Passe I knew this was one of those places I was happy to find.

My blog is aimed at families who travel with baby buggies/strollers (and also wheelchair bound travellers) who need accessible restaurants however for this review I am going against the grain and reviewing a nice cafeteria that is not wholly accessible as it is a great find.

You could quite easily miss La Caravane Passe if you visit Antibes as it is not on the tourist track – it is however only a few minutes walk from the centre of the old town and is situated on rue Vauban, a through road between the La Famiglia restaurant and Don Camillos pizza restaurant.

At first glance you think you have entered an Aladdin’s cave – a wonderful array of items are displayed in the front of the shop such as exotic silks, woven fabrics, fragrant candles, crockery, cushions, distressed wooden furniture and lamps.

Photo reprinted courtesy of LaCaravanePasse.net

Photo reprinted courtesy of LaCaravanePasse.net

But my review is based on what is found at the back of this treasure trove – a secret garden, or salon de thé to be precise.  What a lovely little spot to enjoy a range of coffees (un café for €1,50), specialty teas (they have a ‘house’ specialty tea with 5-spice, cloves, ginger and cinnamon) or artisanal icecream.  It is also very quiet noise-wise and was shaded on the day I visited which offered relief from a hot day in Antibes old town heaving with summertime tourists.

Photo reprinted courtesy of LaCaravanePasse.net

Photo reprinted courtesy of LaCaravanePasse.net

The garden is reached via a set of steps (4 or 5 steps, I forgot to count!) so this is why it is not accessible with wheels – though the shop itself is.  Families with children at walking age, or travellers with reduced mobility who can manage a few steps will be fine. There is a toilet onsite that is accessed through the small workshop by the salon de thé counter; the door is a single-frame and not very wide so you can’t fit a baby buggy in but you can park it outside in the shop.

I will be returning to La Caravane Passe – I’m glad I found it and trusted my instincts to wander inside. My mum would be proud and I’ll bring her here next time she visits us.

La Caravane Passe, 37 rue Vauban, 06600 Antibes

Opening hours:  All day Tuesday-Saturday  (closed during lunch time)

 

 

Sightseeing – ANTIBES (Traditional festivals 20 and 21 July)

This coming weekend there are two local traditional festivals to attend. One is held in a small commune in Antibes old town; the other in a local suburb of greater Antibes so they will both be community-based but have different feels. My pick is to visit the Fontonne festival on the Saturday as it is more family-friendy, then for a more adult-orientated event wander past the grand ball in Safranier on Saturday night. Sunday event programme as per below.

FÊTE DE LA SAINTE MARIE-MADELEINE

This free annual festival was reignited after the end of the first world war when local gardeners felt there was peace and they should have a reason to celebrate and share in a day of feasting. They chose Marie-Madeleine as the patron of gardeners, and the statue lies in the local church all year until the time of festivities (the actual date is 22 July but it is celebrated on the preceding weekend) when it is displayed in front of the church as a boat where local gardeners give flowers as offerings.
Here is the programme for this weekend, festivities take place at place Jean Aude in quarter Fontonne, Antibes:
Saturday 20 July
9am: Treasure hunt by teams from the local area.
10am: Competition of the best ‘pan bagnat’ on the coast. Display of old motorbikes and tours of the square in sidecar or on Harley motorbikes. Pony rides for children. I have been trying to find out if the sidecar/Harley/ponyrides are at cost to no avail so expect that you have to pay a small fee.
2pm: Pétanque competition
4pm: Jimmys Band from Nice
6pm: Prizegiving for the treasure hunt, aperitif, folk dances and music from a Portugese folk group, dinner and dance.
Sunday 21 July
10am: Mass at St-Joseph church
11am: Distribution of roses from Antibes growers
11.15am: Procession through the local streets with folk group
12pm: A shared drink with festival goers

FÊTE DU SAFRANIER
I have been trying to source the history behind this festival but have not had much luck. Perhaps it is just a party for the sake of it! anyhow, if I do find out the background for these celebrations and the significance of the date I will blog it. Anyhow, here is the programme, all festivities held in the square by the tavern in Safranier:
Saturday 20 July
10pm: Grand ball – music, dancing, drinking (free for music and dancing but buy your own drinks from the tavern – I also recall locals bought their own wine along and no one seemed to care)
Sunday 21 July
12pm: Apéritif for all attendees
7pm: Degustation of the famous pesto soup
Note: Sunday is at cost and tickets can be purchased at the time of event

Bonne fêtes!

Sightseeing – FÊTE NATIONALE (14 July)

One of the biggest days on the French calendar of events is 14 July, Fête Nationale (or Bastille Day as it is often known as to non-French people).

This day commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress was seen as symbolic of the uprising of France, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution.

Festivities, dances, concerts, ceremonies (and parties) are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris.

If you are visiting the French Riviera at this time, or live here and are looking for some family-friendly events to attend here are some suggestions for Sunday 14 July:

ANTIBES:

10am – Square boules in the commune Safranier (free for spectators).  I had no idea square boules even existed until I stumbled across this annual competition one morning on Fête Nationale a few years ago.  Safranier is a free commune in Antibes old town with two of the prettiest streets in the area (rue du Bas Castelet and rue du Haut Castelet), and a lively local restaurant/tavern (Taverne du Safranier).  Pop along to watch, it is definitely interesting to watch instead of the more common round boules. In the evening on Fête Nationale, the commune often has a free live band and people dance in the square by the tavern.

boules carrées (image courtesy of jzebus via wordpress)

boules carrées (image courtesy of jzebus via

wordpress)

CANNES:

10pm – Fireworks in the bay, any location along the Croisette should ensure a good view (free display)

JUAN LES PINS:

8.30pm – Jazz à Juan festival – soul, brass band (admission applies)

10.30pm – Fireworks in the bay (free display)

NICE:

8.30pm – Prom’ Party (free entry). Situated on the Promenade des Anglais on the waterfront, the area is divided into 7 musical stages with acts ranging from pop rock, latino music, a DJ, orchestral music and roaming musicians.  Bands start at 9.30pm, followed by a fireworks display.

Prom' Party 2013

Prom’ Party 2013

SAINT-TROPEZ:

10pm – Roaming musicians in the town with a fireworks display in the harbour at 10.45pm (free display).

Bonne fête!

Activities – NICE (Children’s theatre show – 13 July)

A bonus of living in this region is the great weather to enjoy the outdoors, however occasionally it is nice to sample indoor activities and there is a Saturday show for children occurring this Saturday 13 July at Théâtre Athena (Compagnie Athena) in Nice.

This small theatre is located close to the main Nice train station, and stages comedy, drama, theatre for all ages.  However, while the school holidays are on they are having a theatre show for children aged 4 and upwards.

The summary of the show is a pirate floats on his raft and while fishing he catches a mermaid, who is ill because of all the plastic bags that are dumped in the ocean.  Bobby Joe, the king of the sea, must try to save all the sea creatures in the ocean and defeat the evil wizard Purula who pollutes the ocean.  Perhaps his good deeds will win the heart of the beautiful mermaid, Julie?

theatre-athena[1]

Théâtre Athena – Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

Where:  Théâtre Athena, 21 rue d’Alsace Lorraine

When:  Saturday 13 July at 5pm

Suited for ages 4 years and upwards

Tickets:  8,94 euros including taxes – contact the theatre via email reservation@theatreathena.com or online via the theatre’s website www.theatre-athena.com

Sightseeing – MANDELIEU-LA NAPOULE FIREWORKS (Summer 2013)

The first free fireworks display this summer in Mandelieu-La Napoule is being held the day following Fête Nationale so I’m not entirely sure those who celebrate in a big way on 14 July (i.e. too many drinks!) will appreciate booming fireworks the next day.  Anyway, with a lovely setting right by the château on the waterfront there truly can’t be a better location for a fireworks display.

Here are the dates and times for the summer 2013 fireworks in Mandelieu-La Napoule**:

15 July – 1opm at Plage du Château

26 July – 10pm at Plage Robinson

09 August – 10.30pm at Plage Robinson

23 August – 10.30pm at Plage du Château

**NOTE:  Some displays commence at 10pm and others at 10.30pm, it is recommend to err the side of caution and arrive early