Just for a moment I hesitate. I realise there’s still about another 200 people behind me eager to get off the ‘plane too, but for that millisecond I let the warm, humid air wrap itself around me and whisper in my ear, “Mon Cher, bienvenue.”
“If the UK basked in a +20° heat all year round you’d never need to travel again.” This sentence, uttered by a Prosecco swilling ignoramus at a recent party (barbecue turned house party due to inclement weather) then led to quite a heated conversation amongst party goers, myself included. Now, don’t get me wrong, the thought of our glorious nation bathed in sunlight for 12 months of the year is a delightful prospect but I doubt that it would look so green and lush without its 33.7 inches of annual rainfall. Falling on deaf ears my argument of culture, adventure, the unknown, language, new foods etc. just didn’t wash with some, however the majority sided with me and, eventually, Miss Prosecco told us we were not very patriotic and we should be ashamed of ourselves. Erm, ok.
My family and I had arrived at Nice airport, on the C’ote d’azur, at the end of July, this was to be our home for the next two weeks. As well as spending numerous days lounging by the pool we also intended to make the most of our time here by hiring a car to explore what is known as the French Riviera.
After a bit of a trek to find our rental company we were, eventually, given the keys to a, yep you guessed it, Renault. It was ample for our needs but the boot wasn’t big enough for all our luggage. We couldn’t be bothered arguing the toss so the kids got a case between them instead. Most, if not all, car rental companies are the same. We were asked the “Would you like to take out the extra insurance just in case?” questions. This is personal preference, of course, but we actually booked our car rental through Easycar and they already had the excess covered. We were specifically told to NOT take the extra cover when we got to FIREFLY as we were TOTALLY covered for everything. As with most things, make sure to read the T&C’s.
In just over an hour we had traversed the coastal road from Nice, ooed and ahhed at beach after beach, palm tree after palm tree, and had arrived at our destination, Esterel Caravaning, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Esterel mountains. The name is a bit misleading as Esterel isn’t just for caravans, there are pitches for tents and numerous mobile homes too. Upon arrival, we found the reception very easily, a warm welcome was given along with a map of the area, an Esterel car window shade, two pairs of Esterel slippers and a list of activities we might like to participate in. We paid a deposit for our key (20 euros) and then our Canvas rep Tony appeared out of thin air to escort us to our Moda. We followed Tony in our car to a very modern, and tucked away, 3 bedroomed mobile home. Perfectly clean with everything we could possibly need for our stay and a bottle of red wine waiting for us on the table, nice touch Canvas, nice touch. There’s not much that Tony didn’t know about the area and we utilised his expertise on many occasions, without that knowledge you can expect to waste 3 days ‘finding your feet’. The site had an entertainment hub in the middle which contained the restaurants, take away, shops, bar and pools and was never more than a few minutes walk from wherever you were staying. The roads within the complex were clean, litter free and, at random points, adorned with large Buddha statues. On our particular route we had tennis courts and and a table tennis area.
We intended, and budgeted, to eat out every night but one of our first jobs was to navigate to the nearest supermarket and stock up our fridge with drinks and nibbles. There is a shop on site for all your basics which we used every day, well, the kids did. We sent them both to buy bread every morning. It took them exactly 22 minutes. It’s funny because Scarlett mentioned how many kids did the same thing every morning. E.Leclerc supermarket is less than a couple of miles away and has EVERYTHING you could possibly need for your stay and more. Naturally we bought way more than we should have done but this was instantly justified by a chorus of, “We’re on our jollies!”
The facilities at Esterel were second to none. The pool area was exceptional and we never had a problem getting sunbeds regardless of the time of day we arrived. There were plenty of lifeguards on duty and plenty of people enjoying their time in the sunshine. The hardest decision was which of the pools to choose? Did we want to take a leisurely swim or spend some time in the waterpark area? Tough decisions which were eventually made. The kids literally spent 8 hours each day in these pools, when the kids are happy, we’re happy!
In the pool area there was a small snack bar for ice creams now snacks but at 10 Euros for a cocktail, which I thought was extortionate, i dutifully waited for Happy Hour instead. The main bar on the site however, overlooked the pool and every day at 6pm it was happy hour! We were so happy. Adult Slushie anyone? Super cheap for one hour and then it was time to head back to our Moda and get ready to go out for dinner.
Three miles away was the seaside town of Agay, a large, natural bay, a beautiful beach with a sprinkling of perfect restaurants and cafes. A great place for water sports and being at one with the ocean. The cuisine was as you’d expert, lots of seafood, steaks, pizza, pretty much anything we desired really and all eaten outside with the gentle sea breeze, slowly but surely, making sure we never wanted to go home.
We tried to make the most of our holiday by alternating a day by the pool with a day exploring the area. Next on our list was St. Raphael, in contrast with Agay, it was much bigger and far busier and also, my favourite. Beaches as far as the eye could see, a harbour filled with fishing boats, tourist boats and yachts. Souvenir shops a plenty, hundreds of restaurants and a fantastic night market.
Cannes. Wow. For people watching, this is the place to be. We ventured here and wandered around for a while before it became evident that we were NEVER going to be able to afford anything in the shops (GUCCI, Harry Winston etc. etc.) The beach was free however, so we found a spot on the narrow, rocky beach and made camp for a few hours. The sea was as warm as a bath and just a complete pleasure to sit in the surf and let the water wash over us. Dave and the kids had snorkels and went off exploring the seabed whilst I just soaked up the sun and the atmosphere. This is a must-see town but, for the sake of your wallet, stay elsewhere!
Somewhere we wouldn’t go back to is St Tropez. Instead of driving we took a boat, Les Bateaux, which took about an hour. A very pleasant journey with the jetset playing on their jet skis in our wake. Once the initial awe of being in St Tropez subsided, the realisation soon dawned on us that it was highly overrated. Maybe it was the 35° heat that was making us grumpy, or perhaps the nearly 25 Euros for FOUR Cokes, but with two kids we couldn’t really just sit in a bar (not at those prices anyway) for 5 hours until it was time to take the boat back to St Raphael. We had a look at the market which was insanely crowded, drooled over the yachts in the harbour, drooled over food which was stupidly overpriced and basically just grumped our way around until it was time to head back to St Raphael harbour. If you’re a couple maybe this would be a decent day out but for a family we wouldn’t recommend it.
Slap bang in the middle of St Tropez and Cannes lies the old military port of Frejus, a beautiful town filled with everything a tourist could wish for but also a place of great historic interest. Filled with old Roman ruins, Julius Cesar himself apparently founded Frejus is 49 B.C. We wandered into Frejus a couple of times and had breakfast at the restaurants with free wi-fi! (I know, I know but we all check our emails when away right? Right?)
On our final day, with an early evening flight we decided to spend the day in Nice. What a beautiful town! Stunning architecture, fabulous markets, a long promenade, a beautiful, albeit extremely, rocky beach, shops aplenty and the piece de resistance for us all was the Promenade du Paillon, a park complete with many water fountains and what seems like hundreds of children and adults getting soaking wet via water jet, a welcome relief in the 30+ heat. Take a change of clothes if you can!
Obviously there is plenty to do along the French Riviera and, apart from our fantastic base at Esterel, we really didn’t even venture inland where we had the whole of Provence to explore. I guess that means we’ll have to return someday soon.
Book your 2018 holiday to Europe with Canvas Holidays before October 31st 2017 and receive up to 30% off!
Who did we book our holiday through? CANVAS HOLIDAYS
Who did we fly with? EASYJET
Where did we stay? ESTEREL CARAVANING
Would we go back? In a heartbeat.
Read about our other Canvas Holidays break to La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Riviere
We were guests of Canvas Holidays, who kindly covered costs of the holiday, flights and car hire.