2017 In Review: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned This Year

I sure have learned a lot this year.

From content writing to press work and juggling family life, I thought I’d share some things I’ve experienced this year – the highs, the lows, the achievements and the challenges!

Here are ’10 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2017′:

  1. Freelancers can’t work solo

It’s fantastic to have the flexibility to work when and where I want, but I have found networking is vital to maintaining my sanity.

It can be a lonely time running your own businesses so it’s helpful having a support group.

Being part of a community of people who have different success levels and opinions is great for inspiration, motivation and bouncing around ideas.   I am part of various entrepreneur and business groups and I find it energising to be around people who are entrepreneurs or have a positive mindset.

2. Stay focused

I have a vision board in my work area to stay focused with my goals and fine tune what is urgent or important.

I use content tools to manage my workload and everyone who knows me knows I don’t go anywhere without my diary!

Some tools I use regularly to stay on focus and organised are Google Keep, Dropbox, Evernote and Slack.

Evernote is one of my favourite tools for staying organised and on track

3. Always keep learning

I follow a lot of business forums for tech, aviation, travel, yachting and luxury sectors so I can start updated with trends and forecasts.  I watch a lot of webcasts and try and complete one educational course of interest yearly and this has lead to work opportunities for me.

I’m still plugging away at learning Mandarin Chinese, it’s a slow process (much slower than learning French!) but I can reflect on when I first started learning French and how progress gets easier.

4. No magic formula for blog success

People often ask me if blogging is hard work or where I find the time to write posts.   If you aren’t passionate about what you do, you won’t find time to do it.

For my own blog, I always write about things I’m interested in, unusual insights for the French Riviera or useful tips and this moulds itself into posts that my audience enjoys and shares.

If you write about things you’re interested in, you will stay motivated

5. Celebrate your achievements

No one has overnight success.  I was really happy to hit the 250,000 visitors mark for my blog this year, but it made me realise that it was even more important to not use this milestone as an excuse to just sit on my coat tails and assume my blog would stay popular.   I had to take time to reflect on why I started it, where it’s at now and where I hope to head in the future. 

I believe that success shouldn’t be purely based on page views, traffic, income or social media followers.  

I earn an income from my blog however the best rewards come in the form of lovely comments or emails from readers who I have helped.

6. Allow yourself a break

The world is not going to fall apart if you take a break or holiday.   We had our first child-free holiday this year and it was great for recharging our batteries.

It’s important to find a balance between work, your family and taking care of yourself and you will come back more productive than ever.

Some days my working day is very traditional – 9am to 4pm – and some days it is chaotic and interrupted by the daily grind, school run, sickness, sport etc.

We all need time out from work, family and life

As a working mum, I have found another level of busy that I didn’t think was possible but for me personally I need to ensure I get enough sleep, exercise regularly and have a social life.

7. Accept that things may not go to plan

You can’t solve everything and you may have to accept that your ideas won’t work or people don’t want it to work.

I have had a few media projects this year where I had to wait on other people to finish their input for the project and it delayed my deadline.  This is reality.  Accept the flow of things, adapt if necessary and refocus.

8. Give to others when you can

I’ve become much better at saying ‘No’ to people.  Especially people who contact me for ‘free’ business advice or marketing tips and then they disappear off the face of the planet and you never hear from them again until the next time they need something.

Saying ‘No’ doesn’t mean you’re selfish, rude or unhelpful – it means you are placing a conscious decision to put your time into your family, paid work, your health or your hobbies first.

It’s perfectly wonderful to help other entrepreneurs, community groups or businesses when you can, but be wary of the leeches.  It’s not cynicism, but you can get burned by people you help and expend a lot of energy, time and patience without receiving a thank you.

Saying ‘No’ can be beneficial to your work/life balance

9. Don’t be afraid to take risks

The first step in starting a business is often the most difficult but you need to crawl before you can walk.

Big adventures start when you least expect them and I would never have thought 18 months ago that I would start up five new business projects in the past year.

If I had thought for one second that I wasn’t capable, someone else would have been there doing exactly what I intend to do.

10. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else

In this crazy age of social media, it is incredibly easy to be lead into a false sense of inadequacy about your worth as a business owner and/or parent, self-esteem, looks and work skills.

I see a lot of people daily who are seeking higher recognition from people who don’t matter.  I have unfollowed a lot of accounts on Instagram because they aren’t relevant to my lifestyle or career goals; people who just post selfies and have nothing else to contribute.

It is easy to think someone else has greater success in business or life than you, but don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Don’t compare yourself with others

Here are some of my most popular posts that readers loved in 2017:

The Lavender Route

Top 15 viewpoints for amazing photos

The 70th Cannes Film Festival:  The Ultimate Guide

Secret French Riviera:  Hidden spots worth visiting

How to visit Monaco on a shoestring

7 reasons NOT to visit the Cote d’Azur in winter

The Lavender Route was another popular post this year

To end this blog post, I would like to wish all my readers a fantastic New Year and a huge thank you for supporting my blog.  Every one of your comments doesn’t go unnoticed.   Roll on 2018!

 

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Joutes Provençales at Vieux Port in Cannes

Hosted at Vieux Port in Cannes, this summer families can enjoy free events that demonstrate the old tradition of provençale joutes.

Cannes : History of the Joutes Provençales

Joutes provençales originate from the Egyptian era; fishermen from the French Riviera originally set up a ladder on their boats and over time it has become a true festival with nautical combats and dives, practised in Provence.

The city of Cannes acquired two jousting boats in 1949, suitably named Le Sainte-Marguerite and Le Saint-Honorat, but with a lack of jousters the boats remained in storage from 2004.  After the election of David Lisnard to the position of Mayor, he relaunched this Cannois tradition in 2014 to support local culture and encourage visitors to Cannes.

Today, the sport is hotly contested by 16 joutes provençales companies from the Var and Côte d’Azur including Cannes, Théoule, Agay, Fréjus, La Ciotat and Saint-Raphael with the ‘rules’ being that opponents stand on a boat and try to send their opponent into the water using a wooden spear (opponents wear a wooden breastplate to protect them).

joutes provencales

The Joutes Provençales hosted at Vieux Port in Cannes

One opponent is the ‘jouster’ who stands on a raised platform called a teinteine; the other team member ensures the jouster does not catch the spear.  Contestants must place their left food forward of a white line on the platform, otherwise if their right foot crosses the line at the time of joust they are disqualified.

quai st pierre events

Come to Quai St Pierre to watch the Joutes provençales in summer

When are the ‘Joutes Provençales’ in Cannes?

Starting from tomorrow (18 June) and running until 18 August, Cannes will host 5 Joutes Provençales events on various Friday nights and all-day selected Sundays.

One of the monks from Ile Saint-Honorat joins the nautical jousting

Organized by the Mayor of Cannes David Lisnard, in collaboration with L’association des Jeunes Jouteurs suquetans and CCI Nice Côte d’Azur, all are welcome to Quai Saint Pierre to enjoy this traditional activity.  The 2017 Joutes Provençales programme is:

  • Sunday 18 June 2017 from 9am to 6pm (Round 1 of the Var-Côte d’Azur championship to qualify for the French championship staged in Istres, L’Estaque, Agay and Martigues this summer)
  • Friday 23 June 2017 from 7pm to 11pm (Challenge of the Rotary Club Cannes Pays de Lérins tournament sponsored by Rotary)
  • Sunday 23 July 2017 from 9am to 6pm (Another round of the Var-Côte d’Azur championship)
  • Friday 04 August 2017 from 7pm to 11pm (‘Tournoi de la St Sauveur’, in the presence of various teams of the region)
  • Friday 18 August 2017 from 7pm to 11pm (Challenge Le Mashou)

 

  • Watch a video of the Joutes Provençales in Cannes here (video:  CannesWebTV):

 

 

 

A Day with Heroes on the French Riviera : Saturday 10 June 2017

What is the definition of a ‘Hero’?

When you have two young boys like myself, the concept of a ‘hero’ alludes to a superhero, typically the Marvel Avengers kind with impregnable armour, superhuman qualities or super tools such as grapple guns.

For the rest of us, a hero or heroine is someone who can be admired for their noble values, courage or outstanding achievements.  They are not always victorious, but they are often regarded highly for great acts and bravery.

A Day with Heroes on the French Riviera

On Saturday 10th June, residents on the French Riviera will have the opportunity to attend a fundraising day with a group of Heroes.

Who are these ‘Heroes’?  The Heroes are a group of 10 soldiers who have all served in active service abroad and were wounded in war zones. All have been medically discharged ; some will have visible injuries, amputations, loss of sight, some will have mental injuries, PTSD, disassociation disorders and they will share their inspirational stories of how they are moving forward in life.

The day is organised by Rachael Dickens, a public figure on the French Riviera and business owner at the English Osteopath, who is Lead Medical and a key member of the committee for the Supporting Wounded Veterans Foundation (formerly Skiing with Heroes) that supports the rehabilitation of veterans on the path to reemployment.

From 7.45pm, a hog roast dinner will be hosted in a private villa in Valbonne consisting of a welcome drink, 3-course dinner with some wine, raffle draw and entertainment.  Tickets are just €50 each (excluding Eventbrite booking fee); NOTE: Evening dinner is for ages 18+ only.  Grab your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/heroes-dinner-tickets-34217103277?aff=efbevent

About Supporting Wounded Veterans

Supporting Wounded Veterans (formerly Skiing with Heroes) is a charity that helps wounded veterans get back into civilian life and occupation. Founded in 2012 as ‘Skiing with Heroes’, their initial activity was the organisation of a rehabilitation ski week and, since the first one in Klosters in 2013, the charity has been able to increase the number of veterans taken each year; last year over 100 veterans applied for the trip and there are already 60 applicants for next year.

Because each of the veterans require differing levels of ongoing support and encouragement, SWV have created a needs-based Occupation, Training and Employment (OTE) Programme which the veterans join following the ski trip. They have also recently opened a Pain Management Clinic, specifically for wounded veterans.

Many of the veterans take up sports after their injuries and share their triumphs via the SWV Facebook page including 3 that have been selected to represent Team GB in the 2017 Invictus Games to be held in Toronto in September.

I hope you support this worthwhile charity that helps people who have given so much.  If you can’t attend the event on Saturday, you can make a donation via their website http://www.supportingwoundedveterans.com/

Image credits:  Supporting Wounded Veterans / Skiing with Heroes

 

Family-friendly cycling and walking : Villeneuve Loubet

Villeneuve Loubet is located between Nice and Antibes and for tourists it may not seem instantly appealing with less restaurants and accommodation than other French Riviera towns.

However, there is plenty to see and do with lots of free activities and paid attractions that will keep your family happy on a weekend or holiday.

Villeneuve Loubet is divided into 2 main areas:  Marina Baie des Anges on the coast, and Villeneuve Loubet Village situated 10 minutes drive inland.  The town also takes care of Parc Vaugrenier and Parc Natural Rives du Loup.

Family-friendly activites in Villeneuve Loubet

One of the best reasons to visit Villeneuve Loubet is because the town has a great network of walking and cycle paths.  You can walk beside the sea at Baie des Anges, cycle beside the river closer to the village or wander through Parc Vaugrenier or Parc Natural Rives du Loup.

We usually park at Baie des Anges and walk along the seafront boardwalk to Cagnes-sur-Mer.  The boardwalk at Villeneuve Loubet is wide enough for baby strollers and wheelchairs, and there are accessible toilets at a few stops along the length.  You can also find GPS navigation to this itinerary via GPSmyCity.

path

There is a beach volleyball court near the Fighière carpark on boulevard Eric Tabarly, and always ducks and birds at the far end of the boardwalk where the bridge for the River Loup starts.

ducks

The beach itself is large pebbles and drops off quite steeply so I don’t recommend it for swimming (in warmer weather!) for families with toddlers but for older kids who are water confident it’s fine.  There is also a sailing school where you can take sailing classes or windsurf; recommended for older kids and adults.

There are a handful of beach restaurants – most are only open in holiday season or summertime.  Yesterday, the beach restaurant beside the port at Marina Baie des Anges was open and they serve hot and cold drinks, crêpes, ice creams, paninis etc and have a big outdoor deck with tables and chairs.  The view reaches across to Nice and is a great location if you have kids who love watching planes because you can see Nice Airport runways so lots of take-off and landing action!   This restaurant is accessed across the stones; it’s manageable with a baby stroller but not possible if you are immobile or in a wheelchair.

The beach restaurants are good if you have kids who like beach combing for stones and driftwood, plus you get a view of the planes landing at Nice Airport

The beach restaurants are good if you have kids who like beach combing for stones and driftwood, plus you get a view of the planes landing at Nice Airport

At the carpark, La Fighière is a cute beach restaurant with funky tables and chairs and is accessible via a small ramp.  They have a big outdoor deck area with seating inside also, and have transparent awnings so you can even sit there in bad weather and enjoy your meal or coffee. The menu includes salads, burgers, foie gras, snacks, hot and cold drinks and cocktails.  I couldn’t take a photo yesterday as they were fixing the awnings but here is one from TripAdvisor:

la-fighiere

If you have bikes, you can cycle from Marina Baie des Anges to Villeneuve Loubet village via a well-marked cycle path named ‘La Villeneuvoise’.  It is 10 kilometres return and recommended for children 6 years upwards.

Or, the cycle pathway extends all the way to Nice from Marina Baie des Ange; the distance is 15 kilometres.

Walking & Cycling Tips

  1. There is a free booklet with clues to solve along the ‘La Villeneuvoise’ pathway; it is called ‘Rallye Vélo Famille’ and you can download it here (in French):   http://villeneuve-tourisme.com/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/roadbook_rallye_velo.pdf

2. For a general map of the walking routes and cycle pathways in Villeneuve Loubet, click on this link:  http://villeneuve-tourisme.com/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/plan_velo_2014.pdf

3. I highly recommend all of the family-friendly walks along the River Loup, download a map here:  http://villeneuve-tourisme.com/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/fiche_balade_loup_2016.pdf

sign

4. For bike rental, Holiday Bikes at Marina Baie des Anges offers a 20% discount on day rental between April and October if you tell them you are doing the Family Cycle Pathway to the village, called ‘Rallye Vélo Famille’.

Other Things to Do in Villeneuve Loubet:

  • Visit Parc Vaugrenier for nature walks, playgrounds and picnics
  • Visit the Château at the village; they have guided tours regularly that can be booked via the Office du Tourisme
  • Take the kids to the fun parks in the Rive du Loup (entry fee applies):  Les Bois du Lutins, Village des Fous, Canyon Forest.  All of them have play equipment, climbing activities, inflatable structures and in summer they turn on water jets and water play zones.  Click on each link above to see opening hours and admission prices.
  • Visit the cultural and artistic sites of Villeneuve Loubet including Musée Escoffier de l’Art Culinaire (entry fee applies), Espace Cultural André Malraux (Free entry), Musée d’Histoire et d’Art (free entry) and La Maïoun des Granouïe

csm_forteresse_medievale_-_villeneuve-loubet_8fec7c3305

If you enjoyed this blog post, it is published on iTunes and can now be downloaded via the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can read the downloaded article offline and upgrade it to obtain GPS navigation to the sights described in the article.  To access it, you can download it here at GPSmyCity  – Villeneuve Loubet.  (Disclaimer:  I appreciate you reading my blog post and I will receive a small commission if you upgrade to the GPS navigation option on the app).

Please share this post on Twitter or Facebook!  thank you.

 

FREE family-friendly events – 12-13 September

Things aren’t quietening down on the French Riviera yet just because the temperature has dropped a few degrees.  If you’re like me and aren’t keen to welcome autumn yet, then join in on one (or more) of my family-friendly suggestions – all with free entry – this coming weekend:

Carros

12 and 13 Sep: Festival Roulez Carros! will have dancers, musicians, acrobats, jugglers, mime artists, clowns and marionette shows. The weekend’s schedule (in French) is here: Festival Roulez Carros! 2015 schedule

(images: Forum Carros)

(images: Forum Carros)

La Colle-sur-Loup

13 Sep: 10am-7pm – La Colle Autrefois is a traditional festival that will plunge visitors back in time to the 1900’s with demonstrations and market stalls by craftspeople, folk music, dance, theatre, traditional games, a photo booth for costumes from yesteryear and more. Recommended if your kids enjoy history and discovery.  www.lacollesurloup-tourisme.com

Le Broc

12 Sep: 10am-6pm – Festi-Lujeu is a fun day with lots of free activities – wooden games, traditional games, balloon sculptors, sumo, face painting, inflatable castles, dedicated play area especially for little ones with ball pit, see saws, playhouse, colouring in station and Playdoh. Schedule (in French) at this link: http://www.mairie-lebroc.fr/festi-lujeu-7eme-edition/

Saint Paul de Vence

12 and 13 Sep: Various times – 2nd Festival de la Montagne takes visitors on an outdoor adventure with films about mountaineering, demonstrations of zip lining, rappelling, highline (with the French longline and World highline champion, Nathan Paulin), an abseiling wall, mountain rescue demonstration, raffle draw at 6pm and a suspended acrobatic dance performance at 7pm.  Schedule download is here: Festival de la Montagne flyer

(images: St Paul de Vence Tourism)

(images: St Paul de Vence Tourism)

Théoule sur Mer

13 Sep:  10am onwards – Tournament of Provençal jousting. A fun display at the port of jousting on purpose built boats.

Villeneuve Loubet

13 Sep: 11am-6pm – Nothing else this coming weekend will get a look-in (from my 4-year old’s perspective who is car mad!) except the Classic Auto Moto Retro Show held at place du Gaulle in the village followed by a car parade to the Marina Baie des Anges. More information at www.villeneuveloubet.fr

 

How to survive summer on the French Riviera with kids

Say what you will about the French Riviera in the summer. Sure, there are traffic jams, crowded public transport, longer queues at attractions, sweatier tourists, and pricier airfares, but there’s also ice-cream on the seafront, dining al fresco in village squares, open-air concerts and firework displays in the warm evenings, and most important, no school for eight weeks.

If you are visiting the French Riviera with children, it’s a great time to bond as a family and experience first-hand history, art, traditional festivals and nature; and develop a real appreciation for French culture.

However, travelling with children is a whole different ballgame to travelling solo or as a couple and it’s vital to plan ahead so your Riviera trip is more incroyable than catastrophe.

How to survive summer on the French Riviera with kids

How to survive summer on the French Riviera with kids

Here are Access Riviera’s tips for how to survive summer on the French Riviera with kids:

Make the journey fun

For flights, I print out a map of the world and put stickers on from the origin to destination and little ones can follow the flight path and circle each ‘stopover’ when you arrive – it builds anticipation and if they have their own ‘map’ they feel involved in the process.

Keep any train or bus tickets for their ‘travel bag’ so you can invent games later on.

iSpy sheets are good for killing time – here are few free downloads I made for my eldest son when he was aged around 2 years and they helped keep him occupied when we had to travel, visit busy supermarkets etc.  They are customised for things you are likely to see while travelling in France and FREE!  You can download them here: iSpy  iSpysupermarket  iSpynature

A great family-friendly destination

The French Riviera is an excellent family-friendly destination, and while it’s easy to blow your budget at theme parks and attractions, it is also a viable destination on a small budget.

Plan outings at the beach, evening strolls around hilltop villages when many of the historical buildings are lit up and look spectacular, and mix up the transport you use if you can – trains, buses, ferries, petit train (the little tourist trains) may seem boring to you but kids love transport!.

Le petit train can be great for kids (image: trainstouristiquedenice)

Le petit train can be great for kids (image: trainstouristiquedenice)

There are some excellent national parks in the region that are perfect for biking and hiking, and you can find an overview of many of the Riviera’s playgrounds here Playgrounds on the French Riviera.

Bear in mind the length of guided tours especially in summer as little ones can get hot and bored quickly.

Visit websites such as http://www.cotedazur-en-fetes.com/ for information and dates of local events.

Don’t cram too much into one day

Consider your child/children’s normal routine and try to stick to similar times for meals, naps, bedtime.

It can be hard with many summer events on the French Riviera starting late in the evening so choose one or two events where you can stretch to a late night, but don’t try to cram too much into one day or you’ll find you’re left with overtired and grumpy kids which will quickly make your holiday stressful.

Research family discounts

Tourist offices are a wealth of knowledge and can advise about entry discounts for groups or families.

Search on the internet and social media for family passes, ‘2-for-1’ deals or last-minute specials.

Here are 5 useful links for French Riviera family discounts:

  1. Family discounts for TER trains: http://www.sncf.com/en/discounts/family-children and http://www.ter.sncf.com/paca/loisirs/promos-bons-plans
  2. Regional discounts with Lignes D’Azur buses where you can use your bus ticket to get discounts across the French Riviera http://www.lignesdazur.com/presentation/?rub_code=1010
  3. Cote d’Azur Card – includes sightseeing, activities, shopping discounts. Available in 3 or 6-day validities. Generally, you will get value out of this card if you use it at least once a day. https://www.cotedazur-card.com/
(image: cotedazurcard)

(image: cotedazurcard)

  4. Groupon – web-based discount site for accommodation and activities. Site is in French; you will need to search ‘France’ then ‘Sud-Est & Corse’ to find discounts applicable for the French Riviera. www.groupon.fr

5.  La Fourchette – Dining discounts; site is in French. Search by town/city, e.g. Nice, Cannes, Antibes. They often have specials such as ‘20% off your total bill’, ‘Buy 1 main meal, get one free’ or ‘Kids dine free’ so it pays to have a quick look before you eat out on the French Riviera. www.lafourchette.com

Teach your kids basic French

Kids learn languages much easier than adults. Teach your child a few basic French phrases – it’s amazing how responsive wait staff or shop assistants are to a small child saying ‘Merci’.

We love the free French lessons at Monde des Titounis in our house as they are short duration and fun (it’s aimed at preschool kids with animated vocabulary lessons).

Make use of Google Translate and apps such as Duolingo.

Be flexible about meal choices

France is not particularly well known for specific children’s menus – you will see A LOT of frites (French fries), basic pasta and chicken nuggets on kids menus here.

Many restaurants will however split menu costs from the a la carte menu for a smaller portion size so don’t hesitate to ask, and it pays to take along a few snacks to restaurants in case your child completely turns their nose up at what is on offer.

Also, a trip to the French Riviera is an opportunity to try new foods that they may not be familiar with – I know 3-year olds who love escargot cooked in butter and garlic, marinated artichokes and steak tartare so try to be flexible about what is on offer and what they are used to at home.

Escargot anyone?

Escargot anyone?

For vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free travellers and people with food allergies or intolerances you may find dining in France is a bit trickier but do some research online first and you’ll find plenty of other travellers who have ‘been done and done that’ so are more than happy to recommend restaurants.

Consider your accommodation carefully

Holiday rentals are ideal for families travelling with small children, because you can cook some of your own meals and unpack and spread out. Most holiday rentals on the French Riviera have excellent proximity to beaches or towns so you are never far away from supermarkets and essential shops.

French campsites are generally in scenic locations and have good facilities such as swimming pools, games rooms, restaurants though try to book ahead especially in peak season.

French campsites usually have good facilities (image: Camping Green Park, Cagnes sur Mer)

French campsites usually have good facilities (image: Camping Green Park, Cagnes sur Mer)

Also, explore the idea of staying in themed accommodation that will intrigue little ones – you can stay in a yurt (Mongolian tent), treehouse, tepee, castle, restored chapel or old mill so think outside the box if your budget and patience for research allows it.

Stay safe

Sometimes travel can make you complacent about basic safety. Ensure your holiday accommodation is safe for your family (e.g. cleaning chemicals locked away, electrical cables out of reach of little fingers, smoke alarms installed etc) and don’t hesitate to ask the landlord in advance what safety precautions they have in place for families.

It can be extremely tempting to leave doors and windows open all night at your hotel/B&B/apartment/villa but exercise caution as burglars do prey on the fact there is warm weather and they are experts and can be in and out before you blink (and sometimes even striking when you are on site!).

The French Riviera climate can be scorching in summer, so drink plenty of water and always wear sun cream and a hat. Occasionally, jellyfish are present on the beaches here and it takes 2-minutes to check local jellyfish reports, more details can be found here Jellyfish on the French Riviera

I morally ummed and ahhed about including this next piece of advice, and while I think every tourist office along the Riviera coast (and certainly every town mayor) would state otherwise, I believe it’s important to honestly inform tourists of potential hazards or dangers.

As with every destination, there are some undesirable people you’ll come across on your travels and the French Riviera is no exception. Don’t be surprised to see homeless people, tramps and gypsies especially at areas of high pedestrian traffic and where money is transacted frequently (they sit outside supermarkets, beside ATM machines, outside banks, at bus terminals etc).

I’ll put it out there and state that 9 out of 10 times homeless people and drunks here on the Riviera are harmless – unlike experiences in other countries, here in France they usually do not verbally abuse you if you don’t give them money or follow you down the street. However, exercise caution in all circumstances.

Families should be cautious around gypsies as they are renown for pickpocketing people with baby strollers and/or lots of luggage – be extra alert if you travel on the train or bus as families often stand in the doorways (as it’s convenient for getting your stroller on/off) and this is when many pickpocketing incidents happen at the stops when the change of people getting on and off the train/bus creates a diversion.

Encourage your child to collect souvenirs

Finding inexpensive souvenirs can be fun when you’re travelling – encourage your child to find souvenirs when you’re visiting towns and cities. Some popular souvenirs for the French Riviera are postcards, pretty soaps, keyrings, santons.

Visiting a vide grenier (car boot sale/flea market) or local antiques market can unearth some fantastic retro toys such as tin cars, comic books or vintage airplanes.

French markets are great for finding vintage toys

French markets are great for finding vintage toys

Diaries and photographs

Older children may enjoy keeping a travel diary and writing about highlights of their day, and you can always buy them a disposable camera or two so they can take their own pictures of the trip.

Allow your kids to enjoy the simple pleasures

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of having a full itinerary and seeing everything in a tourist hotspot, but you’ll find some of the best experiences will be when you slow down and go with the flow.

Stop for an ice cream or gelato. Grab some take-out pizza and sit on the beach watching the sunset. Let your kids play at the park, interacting with local children. Stroll along the harbourside quays and chat to the fishermen. Pause for a while to watch locals play petanque.

Stop to watch the locals play petanque (boules)

Stop to watch the locals play petanque (boules)

Most of all, enjoy your summer holiday on the French Riviera and spending time together.

Do you have other  family travel tips to share?  I’d love your feedback. Please share this post on Facebook or Twitter.

Visiobulle – A family-friendly boat trip

One of the main drawcards for visitors to the French Riviera is the proximity to the sea and beaches.

There are sheltered sandy beaches (Garoupe beach on the Cap d’Antibes), pebble beaches (Nice seafront) and wild, rugged coves for swimming (the Esterel coastline and Sentier Littoral walkways).

If you’re looking for a quick boat excursion and you’re visiting the French Riviera with children, I can recommend Visiobulle in Juan les Pins.

The Visiobulle is a glass-bottomed boat that cruises to the nearby Cap d’Antibes.  The cruise is just one-hour long so it was perfect for a short trip, especially if you have an active toddler (like I did at the time I boarded!).

Visiobulle, Juan les Pins

The Visiobulle berths at the Ponton Courbet on the seafront in Juan les Pins, and has many departures daily throughout warm months (departure times current as at June 2015):

April, May, June, September:  11am, 1.30pm, 3pm, 4.30pm

July and August:  9.25am **, 10.40am, 11.55am, 2.15pm, 3.30pm, 4.45pm, 6pm

Prices:  Adults €14, Children 2-11 years €7

**TIP: There is a reduced price for this 9.25am departure: Adults €12, Kids 2-11 years €6

Look for this ticket office (see photo below), you show up to the ticket office 15 minutes before each departure to purchase your tickets.  The boat operates every day except in bad weather and takes 58 passengers (and 2 crew) but it is very popular in high season especially the first departures each day.

Visiobulle ticket office (on the right-hand side), Ponton Courbet

The boat has shade covering so the seating is mostly covered for hot days.  There is plenty of seating.  There were families with baby strollers, and also a few passengers who were elderly or with restricted mobility and the crew were very helpful assisting them onboard.

The commentary is in French and English, but even though the crewmember had a microphone it was difficult to hear over the sounds of the engines so sit near the front of the boat if you really want to listen to the commentary.

The boat cruises to the nearby Cap d’Antibes past Port Gallice, plage des Ondes, Hotel du Cap Eden Roc and Pointe de l’Illette with the small lighthouse.  You will cruise past private villas unreachable to the public, and see the rocky landscape of the Cap d’Antibes coastal walkway.

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The boat spends approximately 20-25 minutes in the Baie des Milliardaires, at which time they allow passengers to head downstairs to the glass-bottomed viewing windows.

The descent is via approximately 10 (steep) stairs with handrails. Wait a few minutes for the sand that is stirred up to settle.  It is not as extensive as a glass-bottom boat excursion in the tropics, but we saw various schools of fish, sea urchins, starfish, sea algaes and rock formations.  There are display posters in the viewing area alluding to what may be seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a clear photo of the viewing area as there were too many passengers onboard.

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I noticed many families on board and my impressions were that children from toddler age to around 10-12 years were happily entertained, but teenagers were bored!

Access:   Arrive to Juan les Pins by car: The nearest pay carparking is a few minutes walk from the ferry on avenue l’Esterel.

Arrive to Juan les Pins by train:  Exit the train station, turn right and walk along avenue l’Esterel, then turn left onto avenue Amiral Courbet. Follow this road directly ahead to the seafront (about 400 metres), you will see a restaurant ‘La Terrasse’ and a kiosk selling fast food directly across the intersection. Ponton Courbet is located just to the right of these.

Arrive to Juan les Pins by bus:  Bus numbers 1 or 30 (Envibus) from Antibes, alight at stop ‘Ruban Bleu’ in Juan les Pins, cross the road and Ponton Courbet is 50 metres past the restaurant ‘La Jetee′.  Bus number 200, alight at stop ‘Regence’ and walk down avenue Amiral Courbet to the seafront.  Ponton Courbet is the jetty opposite the small roundabout.

Other Tips:

  • Don’t forget sunscreen, and also a warm top. We were on the boat on a hot sunny day, but once it was moving there was a strong breeze which was quite chilly.
  • For best viewing opportunities, sit on the left-hand side of the boat (as the boat is facing forward) to see the Juan les Pins coastline, then when the glass-bottom viewing area opens downstairs stay on the right-hand side of the boat as this is the side closest to the rocks that they cruise beside.
  • There is a toilet on board, but I would recommend using the automated accessible public toilet at the entrance of the Ponton Courbet prior to boarding.  The pay toilet is located in the silver cubicle by the motorbike stand, cost 50 centimes.
  • There are no refreshments sold on board so take your own food/drinks especially water.