Sightseeing – NICE (Fête de la San Bertoumiéu – Saturday 28 September 2013)

In the old days of Nice, the region held a grand market to bring together all the people to stock up on their supplies.  Townspeople bought their farm produce, arts, pottery, textiles and wooden crafts for sale.

In the current day (!), these traditions are continued at the Fête de la San Bertoumiéu where tourists and locals alike can wander the grand market buying oils, olives, fruit, vegetables, honey, arts, crafts.  Stall holders will be selling local food such as socca, pissaladiere and pan bagnat.  Traditional games are also played such as Morra (hand game) and Vitou (card game).

It is a great opportunity for tourists to the region to glimpse traditional life in Nice. The free festivities will be held at place du Palais de Justice, and place Pierre Gautier in vieux Nice (old town Nice) from 10am-7pm.

MARKET – Place du Palais de Justice

Nice Buffet at 11a.m

Oil and olives • Socca • Farm produce • Bread, honey and jams • Local associations • Apéritifs of Nice • Pottery, santons and handmade crafts

ENTERTAINMENT – Place Pierre Gautier

• Demonstrations and tournament of Pilou • Mini farm • Pony and horse and cart rides (some cost may apply) • Regional Niçoise music

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Activities – NICE (Madagascar photography exhibition – until 29 Sept)

One of our favourite spaces on the French Riviera for families is Parc Phoenix in Nice.  Even in the height of summer it is seldom as busy as the region’s theme parks or beaches.

Parc Phoenix is a 17-acre park located on the edge of Nice city complete with huge tropical greenhouse with fern, orchids, tropical plants and animals.  The park is 99% flat paved paths (there are some stairs inside the greenhouse), and there are accessible toilets.

There is a small aquarium onsite, a musical fountain display and various animal enclosures with birds, reptiles, prairie dogs, and turtles.  Parc Phoenix has a snack shop onsite selling sandwiches, drinks and ice-creams, and there is a fenced children’s playground with picnic area.

They often have exhibitions included as part of the entrance fee (which is just 2 Euros – a bargain for what you get – plus the entrance fee also includes entry to The Museum of Asiatic Arts next door; the modern looking building overlooking the lake at the park entrance).

One such current exhibition is by Nicolas Cegalerba, displaying photos of his travels to Madagascar and the biodiversity of the flora and fauna. It runs until 29 September 2013 in the Salle Cassini at Parc Phoenix.

There is also another exhibition on bats that runs until 05 December 2013 in the room under the ‘Pyramid’ hill just before the snack kiosk.  We sometimes see bats fly over our house at dusk here in Juan les Pins, and it was interesting to learn that of the 35 species in France, 31 of those have been identified as being present here in this region.

Recommended as a place to visit for families, anyone interested in plants and animals, travellers with reduced mobility.

Parc Phoenix, 405 Promenade des Anglais, NICE (Telephone: 04 92 29 77 00)

For opening hours go to http://www.parc-phoenix.org/

Activities – MOUGINS (Retro Automobile show 21-22 September 2013)

Eco’Parc Mougins has one of our favourite free outdoor playgrounds in the region – recycled car tyre cushioning that offers a safe surface in the event of falls from play equipment, climbing frames, rope courses, swings, balance platforms. And a cafeteria nearby and accessible toilets onsite.

Over the weekend of Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd September they are holding a free entry retro car show at Eco’Parc – there will be car displays, tombolas (raffles), road safety demonstrations for children aged 4-13 years, trials of electric cars and a photography exhibition. The car show can be combined with a visit to their great playground. The entire site is on flat ground, though the playground area whilst it does have accessible toilets has recycled car tyre surfacing (similar to sawdust/wood chip in texture) so may pose minor problems for wheelchair users.

Where: Eco’Parc Mougins, 772 chemin de Font de Curranlt, 06250 MOUGINS
When: Saturday 21 September and Sunday 22 September from 10am-6pm both days
Cost: Free entry

Eat and drink – JUAN LES PINS (Sweet Caffe)

A nice cafeteria situated on a corner site opposite the Pinede Gould park and hotel adjoined to the casino.

Outdoor terrace is partially shaded so good for small children that you don’t want in direct sunlight, plus they have water misters which is nice for the hot days. The cafeteria has lovely street appeal with flower baskets around the perimeter.

Selection of coffees, cold drinks, breakfast menus (they offer an ‘English’ breakfast but it is not the full sausages, eggs, bacon that you may expect in the UK), icecream and crepes including banana/chocolate/whipped cream, and various jams.

Carparking limited to what is in the area around the park, or underground at the hotel across the road. Staff give friendly and prompt service.

The toilet is spacious and accessible as the entire restaurant is located at street level.

Recommended for coffee, cold drinks and snacks.

Eat and drink – JUAN LES PINS (Londinium)

We chose this restaurant for a couples dinner and after looking at the menu’s along the seafront the prices here seemed reasonable.

They had 4 formule menus on offer, though most had fish or shellfish options so if you don’t eat seafood like me you are better to choose something a la carte (off the menu by dish).

We both chose the €17,50 menu which consisted of a main and dessert. The main options were lamb chops, or magret de canard (duck) or dorade (fish). The lamb and fish were served with rice, grilled tomatoes and basil which sounded nice. Duck was served with julienne vegetables and paysanne potatoes. We ordered duck and the dessert was fruit salad with a scoop of strawberry icecream.

The duck itself was cooked perfectly in the middle, but the edges of the duck were overcooked and it resembled steak as it seemed to be flame-grilled.  This was saved however by a lovely honey sauce accompanying the duck. The julienne vegetables was a tasty stir-fry assortment,  and the potatoes were light and fluffy inside and lightly roasted on the outside – really delicious.  Portion sizes were OK – I did end up feeling slightly hungry so nibbled on some bread.

The dessert was disappointing.  Fruit salad with watermelon, rockmelon and pineapple topped by strawberry icecream.  The watermelon was overripe therefore it was soggy and soft.  We ordered café noisettes which were over-extracted.

The wine list had a reasonable selection, and many drink prices were lower than neighbouring restaurants. (€18 for an AOC bottle of white wine which is fair for this area, and many liqueurs and spirits were cheaper than bars only 200 metres away, some had a variation of being cheaper by €4 a drink for a Kir. Bottled water was also cheaper than neighbouring restaurants).

Service was prompt on arrival, with a nice greeting from the owner and the waiter explained the specials.  Our waiter was friendly and polite, though he was overworked as he was the only server for outside tables until another waitress arrived.  The barman was also friendly.

There are numerous tables outside on a terrace that can be covered from the sun, and it is a big restaurant inside also so good for a group booking.  There were 2 baby high chairs for patrons to use and the staff were friendly towards the families dining.  There were accessible toilets with no stairs.  Good selection of English music playing Top 40 hits.

Would recommend, their prices for set menus are very reasonable compared to restaurants right on the beach.  We paid just over €60 euros for 2 main courses, 2 desserts, a bottle of wine,  a 500ml bottle of Badoit sparkling water and 2 coffees.