Monday, May 30, 2016

Travelling in a tent

When we decided to work our way through Italy, it was a pretty rash decision full of ‘so do you fancy it?’ ‘Well, when are you free?’ ‘Sounds good, shall we just book it?’ Flights were booked in a mere twenty minutes, trains a week or so later and there we were, a country at the end of our fingertips but nowhere to lay our heads at night.

Accommodation always increases the budget, which is why night-time travel on planes and trains is always a great idea. Hotels were extortionate (it was summer) and when you’re staying for no more than two nights it gets even pricier. Then we found a campsite where no camping equipment was required. You turn up, they hand you a tent (with a bed and some sheets) and you pay before you leave. It cost us an average of £8 per night and despite the extremely close proximity to your camping buddies, it was pretty fun.

N.B. I am a somewhat comfortable without household luxuries. I once spent a night in a hut opposite a lake full of alligators and thought it was magical.

Most people I know hate camping, but when you’re on a budget, it’s a question of staying longer in less luxurious conditions, or cutting your adventure short for a nicer place to rest.

The truth is, after a few nights of sleeping in a tent, you start to forget what a house is even like. Any type of brick structure will become a luxury, you stop and stand still at shop entrances when you feel air conditioning hit your body and thunderstorms will become more exciting than ever before. Within time, mosquito’s will even become your friends. I joke, mosquito’s don’t have friends.

So, if you’re contemplating an adventure in a tent, here’s my top tips:
  • Don’t forget flip flops, going bare foot in communal showers is a health hazard.
  • Attach something colourful to the front of your tent, I can imagine it would be slightly awkward if you walked into the wrong one and got into bed with a stranger.
  • In the event of a thunderstorm, pull everything off the floor in an efficient military manner. 
  • Remember if you’re using your phone as a flashlight, to turn it off before you get changed.
  • Take ear plugs, most campers will be young and fun, but they also like a good party.
  • If you ignore all else, remember this. Take copious amounts of mosquito spray and throw it over yourself like confetti. Also take bite cream and anti-histamine (take enough for twice as long as you’ll be gone). Mosquito’s take no prisoners and they like camping too.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

From Cannes to Monaco

I imagined Cannes to be the vibrant and classy city that I see black and white photos of every year during the film festival.

The truth is, in my cousins’ words, ‘I don’t understand the hype.’

Cannes without the film festival is like a jacket potato without butter, inoffensive but not interesting enough to excite your palate. 

The quaint architecture was pretty and the Starbucks located right next to the station certainly earned the place brownie points in my book, but the moment I started wandering I could feel myself itching to get back to Nice.

We grabbed a pizza in a pretty lavish pizza parlour, with babies in Burberry jackets and dogs having their dinner at the table which kept me fairly entertained for a couple of hours.

Most of our time was spent wandering down the harbour and pretending to shop for a new boat… considering the size of some of those yachts it was definitely us living in dreamland.

If you have time to kill and some money to spend, Cannes wouldn’t be a bad shout. Although you could probably find most of the shops in Nice, where there’s more to do and a prettier coastline to take Instagram shots of.

Cannes sadly just didn’t excite me as much as Nice did… Then again, I wouldn’t turn down a ticket to the Cannes Film Festival next year!

Our last stop on the South of France tour was Monaco… oh my dear Monaco! It was love at first sight the second my feet left the train, the country made my face light up and my heart skip a beat. I don’t think I’ve had an instant love like it since I stepped off the train in Venice two years ago.
The city-state was surprisingly tiny, much smaller than I had imagined, but filled with more magic than Dynamo.
I walked out of the station and was immediately surrounded by cliffs either side, passing a small quaint church I was led straight out onto the formula one track. As you can imagine, it was an extremely difficult task to contain my excitement.
The track is free for anybody to walk along, run along and skip along to their hearts content. Cruising alongside the harbour, I was praying for a race to start - the noise must make the mountains rumble.
I walked up the steps to Monaco-Ville, the capital of the country – which is pretty mind-blowing considering I walked the entirety of it in about 20 minutes. The old town is quaint and medieval, like going back in time it wouldn’t have surprised me if horse drawn carts were still being used.
Monaco-Ville is home to the church where Grace Kelly got married, which scarily reminded me of the Vatican (tourists being herded around like cattle), so much so that I lasted 5 minutes before I had to leave. My cousin stayed though and seemed pretty impressed with the place when she came out.
We caught the tail end of the guards changing at the Prince’s Palace, which drew a nicely sized crowd. Before my cousin ran off with a particularly handsome guard, we explored a bit of Monte Carlo and headed back to the station.
I would imagine there is so much more to see and do in Monaco than can be accomplished in a day, but nothing beat the panoramic views from Monaco-Ville.
I would be wholeheartedly content to move there tomorrow, but considering the cheapest place to live is a few million it may take me a while.


Monday, May 09, 2016

Nice | France

The South of France holds a certain allure of luxury travel, partly because the coast is filled to the brim with grand yachts, and also because the only things to occupy your time while there is food, wine and Lous Vuitton. Now I’m not much of a shopper but I definitely have the eating and drinking part perfectly refined.

We stayed in Nice, a few minutes’ walk from the beach, in a local studio apartment with a balcony that hosted an abundance of glorious morning sunshine. We were also blessed with a supermarket on the corner and a patisserie down the street, I highly doubt the location could have been better (minus being on a yacht).

The constant sunshine made the city glow, although the locals were in autumn jackets, it was warm enough for us Londoners to have a beach day.

Despite the lack of sand, the promenade was the hotspot of the city, perfect for people watching and afternoon tanning. Filled with joggers, roller skaters and kids braving the ocean, it was by far my favourite part of Nice.

Wandering through the streets, you can’t help but notice the ever-present Italian vibe (which of course made my heart pang). Small side streets, old quaint houses with windows full of flowers and ice cream parlours on every corner. My only complaint is that you have to watch your step; residents of Nice love to have dogs, much to my delight there were puppies everywhere… but they tend not to pick up after them so you have to constantly be mindful of where you put your feet.
It wasn’t long before we stumbled upon the ‘Oxford Street’ of Nice, at least that’s what the owner of our apartment called it. I’d prefer to call it a pretty decent high street, perfect for last minute jumper shopping when you’re out and it suddenly gets cold. It’s also host to the most incredible ice cream parlour I’ve ever visited (and I’ve travelled Italy). The place goes by the name of Cesar Gelato, it's located opposite H&M on Avenue Jean Medecin, and it's now the proud owner of my highest recommendation (I could spend the rest of my days eating scoops of their house special... pistachio and chocolate!)

Another recommendation would be Restaurant Tchitchou, situated on Avenue Georges Clemenceau. They serve the best Italian food outside of Italy, for a reasonable price, not to mention a decent bottle of Chardonnay and the nicest staff on the planet. We must have asked for the bill three times, and each time we got given another drink instead. Shots on the house will always get a restaurant five stars in my book. You’ll need to book a table in advance, the place is TINY and we grabbed the only unreserved seats at 7pm. It’s also right next to the train station, which makes it the perfect stop if you’re on your way out of town for the evening.
In fact, moving around the city on the whole is simple. As well as moving to and from neighbouring cities. One bus picked us up from outside the airport and dropped us off outside our apartment. Most of Nice is in walking distance and the multiple train stations mean you could pretty much go anywhere in Europe. Not to mention, there is Uber. We made use of the easily accessible transport links during our stay, and checked out as much of southern France as we could in five days…. details to follow. Until then, here’s Nice in photo format:

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