We have found a little slice of heaven in the South of France on the Côte d'Azur!
Between the coast and the mountains there is a small ancient town called Valbonne and it's here that we have holidayed frequently over the years and we love it!
We stay on a gated residence of about 30 apartments overlooking a golf course. We don't play golf but there is something very calming about hearing the clunk of golf ball being struck whilst relaxing by the pool! The owners of many of the apartments choose not to rent them out so invariably the pool is very quiet and my kids are often the first to break the still surface.
The residence is perfectly placed for visiting the larger towns of Nice, Grasse and Cannes and a trip to Antibes is a must to see and dream about what life must be like upon a lovely yacht.
Another treat is a trip to Monaco... being Formula 1 fans (my husband more than me) we usually drive the circuit a couple of times (humming Fleetwood Mac of course), then walk the course and gaze in the windows of the posh shops that have 'bouncers' on the doors! The palace on the hill provides a great view down to the marina although it's a bit of a trek in the heat. Café de Paris is the place to sit with an extortionately priced drink to observe the people, cars and jewellery around Casino Square - and the cars are amazing!
Monaco at night is fab too - once we were lucky enough to be in the marina when the Chinese heat of the international firework competition was on. I shall never forget when the truly spectacular event came to a close and every boat, yacht and car honked their horns. I sat with a stream of tears running down my cheeks unable to speak! Happy days! Half an hour later my son saw his first Bugatti Veyron and the day was complete! One day we'd love to go back and see the Grand Prix.
Valbonne itself has a lovely nightlife with a central square full of restaurants and an lovely family atmosphere. It has a gridded structure with lots of back streets that lend themselves perfectly to the weekly market with lots to buy, eat and look at. The day isn't complete without a portion of socca - traditional street food that only seems to be available in this part of France. It's like a pancake but made with chickpea flour, cooked in a wood burning oven and served with lots of salt and pepper on a square of tin foil - delicious!
Nice is nice! The old part of the town is great with a maze of market and shops in the old quarter and there is a steep climb with the reward of fantastic views along the coast and a waterfall that obliges with a fine mist to cool you down.
Somewhere that we have discovered fairly recently is St. Tropez. We drive to St. Maxime and catch a boat into the harbour amongst the fabulous yachts - last year Sir Phillip Green's Lionheart was moored alongside Simon Cowell's charter and we watched the latter's girlfriend alight with her baby and entourage. It's a really old place with lots of history and great walks and again a great place to sit, enjoy the sunshine and watch the world go by.
The best day though had to be hiring a little pedalo to explore the Lac de Saint-Cassien - a gorgeous lake with lovely views. There is something about swimming in a lake with fishes not knowing how deep it is! The kids really enjoyed it and felt that we had really deserved the well-earned frites and coke at the lake side café.
LAC DE SAINT-CASSIEN
So batteries recharged and ready for the busy jewellery shopping lead-up to December's festival starting with C and ending with hristmas! We headed home to an uncertain crossing via ferry at Calais (we were luckily the last ferry out before they blockaded the port), a very cross cat and a mountain of washing - and a tan that I can't show off because in comparison - IT'S FREEZING!