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.

DSC03541

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.

DSC03540

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.

 

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Sightseeing – JUAN LES PINS (Visiobulle)

One of the main drawcards for visitors to the Côte d’Azur 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).

Juan les Pins beachfront

Juan les Pins beachfront

Recently, it was a beautiful sunny day and we decided to spend the morning on a boat excursion, and with an active toddler I didn’t want a trip with a long duration.

The boat excursion that offered us a good option is the Visiobulle in Juan les Pins – 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.

Visiobulle, Juan les Pins

Visiobulle, Juan les Pins

The Visiobulle berths at the Ponton Courbet in Juan les Pins, and has many departures daily (departure times current as at April 2014):

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

**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.

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

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

The boat has shade covering so the seating is mostly covered for hot days. 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.

DSC03550

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 coastal walkway.

vintage postcard of Pointe de L'illette showing the mosque of Illette, then known as Villa La Sarrazine (this is where the Illette lighthouse is now)

vintage postcard of Pointe de L’illette showing the mosque of Illette, then known as Villa La Sarrazine (this is where the Illette lighthouse is now). Image copyright patrimoine-de-france

DSC03541

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.

DSC03558 DSC03540

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

Visiobulle, Ponton Courbet (avenue Amiral Courbet), Juan les Pins

Access:   Arrive to Juan les Pins by car: The nearest pay carparking is on avenue Amiral Courbet, the Ponton Courbet is at the seafront end of this road.

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 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 ‘Sun 7’.  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.

Toilets:  There is a toilet onboard, 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.

Food/drink:  No refreshments sold onboard so take your own food/drinks especially water.

Travel 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.

 

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.