Category Archives: France

What to do in France; French attractions and the best places to visit in France.

kyriad nice centre gare twin room

Review of Hotel Kyriad Nice Centre Gare

We stayed at the Hotel Kyriad Nice Centre Gare for three nights in mid April 2015. I booked on the ebookers website during a 20% off hotels promotion. The price I paid was £129 for a superior room, equivalent to £43 per night, on a room only basis. However, there was an additional City Tax of 1 Euro per night per person, which had to be paid at check-in.

I was a bit dubious about the hotel before we arrived. When I book a hotel through a third party site, I always contact the hotel by email a week or so before arrival to check that they have my booking and to request a quiet room. I didn’t receive a reply from the Kyriad.

From the exterior, the Hotel Kyriad Nice Centre Gare looked beautiful and full of character. I assumed that the hotel was a recent addition to the Kyriad hotel chain, as there was temporary Kyriad signage, and I could still see ‘Grand Hotel de Noailles’ signage under the scaffolding.

kyriad nice centre gare exterior

The reception area didn’t match the grandeur of the exterior. Our son Gary did the check-in in French to practise his language skills.

Initially, I wasn’t happy that our second floor room was right next to the lift, as I thought we might get some noise from the lift shaft. However, once in the room, we heard nothing from the lift.

I was taken aback by the multitude of stains on the carpet. At that stage, I decided to check the beds and the bathroom for cleanliness. I intended to go down to reception to ask for another room if they weren’t up to scratch. After confirming that they were clean, we decided to stay put.

The room was large, but it was dowdy and old fashioned. I wondered what on earth a standard room was like, if this was, supposedly, a superior room.

kyriad nice centre gare our room

I was surprised that only paper cups were provided with the tea and coffee making facilities, as I think that they are only appropriate for single use. Fortunately, I had taken the rather sturdy plastic tumblers provided in the bathroom of our hotel in Marseille to use for drinking fruit juice during the train journey to Nice, so they were also used for our hot drinks at the Kyriad.

I was aware that the hotel faced the railway tracks. But I’d read in reviews of the hotel, that the double glazing kept out exterior noise. Well, maybe other rooms had better double glazing than ours, but I found it almost impossible to sleep with the noise and rumble of the trains.

kyriad nice centre gare view from our room

The beds weren’t great, a bit too soft for my liking. The safe in the wardrobe was too small to fit my netbook, and you had to pay extra to use the safe.

The bathroom door was very squeaky; I wondered when it was last oiled? We soaked the bathroom floor every time we had a shower, as the shower curtain wasn’t up to the job.

kyriad nice centre gare shower

The housekeeping staff arrived mid afternoon the following day. As I’d recently arrived back at the room after a few hours of sightseeing, I said not to bother cleaning our room that day.

Exactly the same thing happened the next day. As our bathmat was drenched and our bin quite full, I thought that I’d better vacate the room so it could have a clean. Upon my return, it seemed a bit pointless. The bin had been emptied and the beds tidied, but the room hadn’t been vacuumed, we hadn’t been left a full set of towels, it didn’t look as through the sink or toilet had been cleaned and there had been no replenishment of the tea and coffee supplies or paper cups. Just as well that I’d kept those plastic tumblers for our hot drinks.

kyriad nice centre gare room

I noticed an ornate staircase at the far end of the corridor. Between every floor there was a large mural. My favourite was of a girl in a lavender field.

kyriad nice centre gare painting in stairwell

Suffice to say that, I advise that you give the Kyriad Nice Centre Gare a wide berth. I did read in some reviews that some of the rooms had been renovated. The room which we stayed in was certainly in desperate need of a makeover, including some new floor covering, double glazing up to the noise exclusion task and an effective shower screen. The housekeeping service also needs to be improved.

mucem green effect

The Striking MuCEM Building in Marseille

When planning my visit to Marseille, I’d seen quite a few photos of the rather striking, square black building approached by a long footbridge that’s home to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM). The museum, which is located on the seafront next to Fort Saint-Jean, opened in 2013, the year in which Marseille was a European Capital of Culture.

mucem footbridge

As entry to the museum was included in my Marseille City Pass, it was on my must visit list.

I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed by the displays in MuCEM. It’s like so much effort, thought and money went into the building, that there was no clear focus on the contents. I really don’t think it’s worth the 8 Euro entry fee to visit MuCEM. I suppose that’s partly because I’m used to free entry to state museums in the UK.

In the foyer, there was an installation that looked like someone had dumped a few boxes carrying monitors.

mucem foyer installation

There were a few interesting pieces, of which there are photos below.  I liked what looked like an angel get together.

mucem angels

The merman’s top half was skeletal and  he looked as though he belonged on the set of a horror movie.

mucem merman

The’Knowledge is Power’ piece was eye-catching.

mucem knowledge is power

By comparison, I loved the architecture. It was one of the most beautiful buildings which I’ve ever visited. I thought that the building’s black cladding was ironwork. In fact it’s an ornamental skin of filigree concrete. It creates an amazing effect with the colour of the sea and the sky.

mucem green effect

An external staircase and walkway wind up between the interior glass and steel building and the exterior skin.

mucem between casing and interior building

You can see the metal supports which attach the concrete skin to the building.

mucem casing

You get some great views of the bay as you walk up the building.

mucem looking through casing

Once of the top floor it became more obvious that the skin was concrete as, unlike the sides of the building, the concrete was grey. It almost looked as though you could gingerly walk along MuCEM’s roof to Marseille Cathedral.

mucem looking toward cathedral from the roof

The Mole Cafe is located on the top floor of MuCEM.

mucem mole cafe

It’s free to get onto MuCEM’s roof. You get there along the footbridge from Fort Saint-Jean. There are some loungers and chairs you can sit on to admire the views and there are free toilets. I’d recommend that you spend some time on the roof, and forget about visiting the museum.

wind surfing at san lucianu beach resort in corsica

Review of Mark Warner Holiday at San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica

My husband and I spent one week on a press trip in late June/early July with Mark Warner Holidays at the San Lucianu Beach Resort on the French island of Corsica.

Heathrow to Bastia (Corsica)

Our BA charter flight left Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at 7.45am. Flying with BA was great, as they have a generous carry on luggage allowance. You can take one bag up to 56x45x25cm and a smaller bag up to 45x36x20cm. Plus, you’re permitted one larger case weighing up to 23kg as hold luggage.

I’ve only briefly seen Terminal 5, when a delayed flight from Edinburgh meant that I missed my connection to Venice. I was then dispatched to Gatwick for a later flight.

I was impressed by Terminal 5. There were plenty of check-in desks open for the Mark Warner BA charter to Bastia in Corsica. We didn’t have to queue for long to check in our case.

The flight to Bastia took around two hours. Complimentary hot and soft drinks and a ham and cheese croissant were served during the flight.

Transfer to Resort

There was a Mark Warner rep to greet us at the exit from baggage pick-up. Our luggage was labelled with our room number before we boarded the transfer coach. We were informed that staff would take our bags to our room and that room keys would be in the room door on arrival. We were warned that due to the short turnaround time, some rooms might not be ready.

The coach had very inefficient air-conditioning, so I was hot and bothered after the 30 minute transfer to the resort.

entrance to san luciano beach resort in corsica

Entrance to San Lucianu Beach Resort

On arrival at the San Lucianu Beach Resort, we decided to take out own bags to the room. If our room wasn’t ready, we’d go straight for lunch. Fortunately our room was ready.

Our Room at San Lucianu Beach Resort

We were allocated a superior twin room with a sea view. It looked as though the room had been recently refurbished. The room had a fridge.

The WiFi in the room was pretty bad. You had to sign in every time you wanted to get online. Often we couldn’t connect and were constantly being kicked out. It was so annoying, as I had some work to do and I prefer to upload photos and videos as I take them, to avoid a massive uploads on my return. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect to mobile broadband through Three’s Feel at Home scheme, I assume that was due to the rural location and the mountainous terrain.

twin room at san lucniau beach resort corscia

We found the twin beds to be very comfortable. There were plenty of electrical sockets in the room.

twin room san lucianu beach resort

Our balcony overlooked the restaurant terrace. It had two plastic chairs and a hanging clothes drier. It would’ve been good to have a small table in the balcony too.

view from our room at san lucianu beach resort

The spacious bathroom was lovely; I wish I had one like that at home. There was a large walk-in shower with a rain head and a hand held shower fitting.

The housekeeping service was very good. The room was cleaned every day. Sometimes I don’t bother getting my hotel room cleaned every day, but wth all the sand which we brought into the room on our shoes, a daily vacuum and mop was required.

We had to keep the air-conditioning on most of the time. At night, we set it to around 25 degrees.

Activities at the San Lucianu Beach Resort

One of the big attractions of a Mark Warner holiday is that many of the activities are included in the price.

There’s a variety of water sports on offer including sailing, wind surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. There’s free group tuition and clinics for sailing and wind surfing.

wind surfing at san lucianu beach resort in corsica

My husband went kayaking. As an experienced kayaker, it was rather frustrating that that he had to stay within a fairly restricted area, but he understood that this was for safety reasons.

sea kayaking at san lucianu baach resort corsica

He also went for a few cycles, and was impressed by the quality of the Cannondale bicycles.

san lucianu beach resort bicycles

He was disappointed that he couldn’t get access to a bicycle or kayak before 9am, or after 5.30pm. He would’ve preferred to be able to do sport either in the early morning or in the evening, when it was cooler. Perhaps the total opening hours could be maintained by a lunch time closure?

I had intended to play a bit of tennis. But I have to hold up my hand and admit that I didn’t take part in any of the activities on offer.

This was for a mixture of reasons. It was very hot, well in the 30s, so there was no way I was going to go cycling, play tennis or do daytime aerobics on a sunny wooden platform. I don’t have good co-ordination, so I was nervous about doing water sports. The press trip was at short notice, so I had quite a bit of work to do, which took ages to get through due to the poor WiFi. I did go swmming in the sea three time a day most days. I really enjoyed this, as it was good exercise and refreshing.

However, for a couple, or a family where at least one enjoys sport, a Mark Warner holiday is perfect. My husband was able to do activities on site and meet up with me for meals and swimming.

Lobby at the San Lucianu Beach Resort

The lobby was nicely furnished and has some sockets for charging devices. It didn’t feel as though the lobby was air-conditioned, as it was too warm there most of the time.

lobby at san lucianu beach resort in corscia

I spent quite a bit of time in the lobby. I had hoped to watch some of the tennis at Wimbledon through iPlayer in the hotel lobby, but the poor WiFi signal made this very frustrating. I’d hoped that the WiFi in the lobby would be decent, as is often the case in hotels, but it was as bad as in the room.

lobby in san luciano beach resort corsica

Food at San Lucianu Beach Resort

We were on full board. A standard holiday included half board, but we paid £49 per person to upgrade to full board.

It was sometimes hard to find shade in the restaurant terrace.

restaurant terrace at san lucianu beach resort corsica

Breakfast was a buffet, served from 7.30 – 10am. I most enjoyed the plain Greek style yoghurt and the fresh fruit selection of three types of melon. The croissants were some of the best I’ve ever eaten. There was a selection of cooked items including bacon, sausage, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. Eggs were cooked freshly to order.

Lunch as also a buffet, served from 12.30 – 2pm. I wished that lunch was served until at least 2.30pm, as it seemed to soon after breakfast. Staff started clearing the lunch buffet at 2pm one day. so if you wanted a leisurely lunch you had to go to eat at 1pm.

There was a good selection of salads, cheeses and cold meats. You could help yourself to cold water, tea or coffee to drink.

lunch buffet at san lucianu beach resort corsica

There was a pizzeria which usually offered three types of pizza.

lunch pizzeria at san lucianu beach resort corsica

There was delicious vegetable lasange one day.

There was a fresh fruit and one dessert choice. I was surprised that ice cream wasn’t available.

Dinner was called ‘a la carte’, but with a choice of three starters, three main courses and three desserts, I’d call it a set menu. You were requested to book a time for dinner.

Tap water was brought to the table. You could order soft or alcoholic drinks if you wished.

The food quality was variable. My favourite starter was goat’s cheese and duck, pictured below. The Thai fishcakes starter didn’t appear to have been cooked right through.

goats cheese and duck starter at san luncianu beach resort

The lack of proper cooking was a common theme at dinner. My husband had to send his partially raw tuna steak back to the kitchen. Another evening his chicken was just about cooked. I had a similar issue with the salmon one evening.

I enjoyed the beef, pictured below.

beef dinner main course at san lucianu beach resort corsica

Most evenings, I had the three dessert selection (assiette). My favourite was the strawberry trio.

strawberry dessert selection at san lucianu beach resort corsica

There was self service tea or coffee available.

Personally I’d have preferred to have a buffet in the evening too. I found it quite annoying if, WiFi permitting, I had to abandon a match at Wimbledon to go to dinner. Plus, when on holiday I’d rather not be tied to a specific meal time.

Grounds and Beach at San Lucianu Beach Resort

The fact that the resort was right on the beach encouraged me to go swimming in the sea frequently. I didn’t go in the pool at all. This was because the sea was so accessible and I was afraid that the chlorinated water in the pool might aggravate my eczema.

I liked that there was a lot of grass in the resort grounds. You could always find some shade under the eucalyptus trees. There were plenty of well spaced sun loungers. As ever, you should exercise caution with sun loungers, as my husband had his finger squashed when one collapsed. We reported this to reception, and later saw a member of maintenance staff inspecting the sun lounger.

pool at san lucianu beach resort

We saw some beautiful dusks. One evening there was an orange moon.

orange moon rising by beach bar at san lucianu beach resort

On the first evening there was free Corsican wine tasting at the Beach Bar (pictured below) Another evening, the entertainment was some kind of music quiz, not my cup of tea.

beach bar at san lucianu beach resort in corsica

Journey back to Heathrow

The transfer from the San Lucianu Beach Resort to Bastia Airport was well organised. This time our coach was much newer and had working-air-conditioning.

On arrival at Bastia Airport, it wasn’t obvious which queue was for the BA charter to Heathrow. I asked a member of airport staff and was told that the check-in would open in five minutes. By the time I queued up to go to the (none too great) toilet, we ended up second last in the check-in queue. There were far fewer check-in desks open for our flight than at Heathrow for the outbound flight.

Bastia gets my vote for the airport with the longest queues. Out of the more than 90 minutes at the airport, I sat down for around three minutes before joining the final queue to board the plane. As an adult, I could tolerate this, but it was an ordeal for families with young kids.

The flight to Heathrow went smoothly. It took a while to get out of Terminal 5. We had to take a shuttle train to pick up our luggage.

My Verdict on the Mark Warner San Lucianu Beach Resort

I enjoyed my week the Mark Warner San Lucianu Beach Resort. The atmosphere was very relaxing, our superior sea view room was comfortable and the location scenic. The staff were very friendly, hard-working and helpful.

In my opinion,  the Mark Warner package starting at £450 per adult at the San Lucianu Beach Resort, offers excellent value for money. I’d recommend that you enquire about the supplement for a superior sea view room.

It’s great that childcare for 2-12 year olds and a variety of activities/sports are included in the price.  One Mum told me that her son, who had Down’s Syndrome, received one-to-one care, at no additional cost. It was ideal for us that my husband had access to activities, while I worked or attempted to watch Wimbledon. It’s the sort of set up that would also work well for a family holiday with our grown up twin sons.

I think that earlier opening and later closing times for the watersports and bicycle hire, would allow guests to enjoy the activities more in the lower temperatures.

The WiFi was awful. This had an exaggerated impact on my stay, as I had work to do, but other guests were getting frustrated too.

On the whole, I enjoyed the food, but I’d prefer the evening meal to be buffet style. The kitchen should ensure that meat and fish is cooked right through.

Read our article on five of the best attractions in Corsica.

l'esquinade restaurant tuna steak

Review of L’Esquinade Restaurant in Marseille

On our first evening in Marseille, we were starting to feel hungry after a walk around Vieux Port. In order to escape the traffic on the southern side of the port, we walked up a block. We spotted the L’Esquinade restaurant in the pretty Place Thiers. We were attracted by the 15 Euro three course menu which also included a glass of wine per person.

It was getting a bit cool to sit outside, so we decided to eat indoors.

l'esquinade restaurant marseille interiror

Our son Gary started off with Fruits de Mer, a selection of seafood.

l'esquinade restaurant fruits de mer starter

I had the Mussels starter.

l'esquinade restaurant mussels

Gary had Bouillabaisse, a traditional Provencal fish stew which originated in Marseille, for his main course. The Bouillabaisse  was served with toasted bread, garlic on which to rub the toasted bread and rouille (a mayonnaise made with olive oil, saffron, garlic and cayenne pepper).

L'Esquinade restaurant marseille bouillabaisse

My main course of tuna was delicious.

l'esquinade restaurant tuna steak

I was glad that I asked what Opera was, as it turned out to be a yummy chocolate and coffee gateau.

l'esquinade restaurant opera gateau

Gary had a surprise when he ate his profiterole, as it was filled with ice cream.

l'esquinade restaurant ice cream filled profiterole

All in all, paying 15 Euro each for a meal of this quality was an absolute bargain, especially with the excellent service and ambience.

pool at san lucianu beach resort

£50 per Person Discount on Mark Warner Summer Holidays

Mark Warner is offering Europe a la Carte readers a discount of £50 per person for Summer 2015 and 2016 holidays.

To claim your £50 off, click here to go to the Mark Warner site and enter the discount code KarenByBlog50 on the booking form. The code is entered towards the end of the booking process, on the summary page, before you proceed to payment. The quote will then be recalculated once the system has recognised a valid code.

You must book by 30 July 2015 to redeem this discount. It’s not valid for free child places or infants and can’t be offered in retrospect.

san lucianu beach resort San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica

I recently returned from a one week press trip at the Mark Warner San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica. The holidays are good value for money, as the price includes childcare, a teenager club, the hire of water sports and tennis equipment, bicycles, fitness classes and various activities.

san lucianu beach resort water sports

Water sports at San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica

Why not take a look at the Mark Warner website and book your Summer holiday.

You could win a Mark Warner holiday in the #mwmoment competition. All you need to do share photos. videos, blog posts and/or comments about your favourites moments on a Mark Warner holiday.

Review of Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

We stayed at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for four nights in mid April 2105. I booked the accommodation on ebookers during a 20% off hotel promotion, at a cost £183, equivalent to just under £46 a night. However it stated on the ebookers confirmation that there was an additional City Tax of 1 Euro per night per person, which had to be paid at check-in.

I selected the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for its central location, good price and self catering facilities. The hotel isn’t right by Vieux Port, it takes at least ten minutes to walk there. It takes around 15 minutes to walk from the main railway station to the hotel.

aparthotel adagio marseille vieux port exterior

Entrance to Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

We arrived around one hour before the official check-in time of 3pm. There was some confusion over whether we could check-in early, so we decided to go to buy some supplies at the nearby supermarket.

When we did finally check-in, I was charged 1.5 Euro per person per day City Tax, when it’d said that it would be 1 Euro in the booking confirmation. By that time, I was too hot and bothered to argue over a few Euro.

A few days before arrival, I’d contacted the hotel by email to request a quiet room. My request had been granted as the room faced an internal courtyard.

aparthotel adagio marseille vieux port studio

Twin room at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

I was extremely happy with the room. It had two large windows, a spacious bathroom and a well equipped small kitchen. The beds were firm and comfy.

The WiFi had a very good signal and you didn’t need to sign in. I would’ve liked another double electrical socket at the desk. We had to charge our mobile phones in the kitchen; it wasn’t ideal having electronic devices near water and the cooker rings.

Cleaning isn’t included in the price if you stay for 4 nights or more; there’s an additional charge of 18 Euro per clean for a studio. Whereas, if you stay for 1-3 nights, daily cleaning is included in the price. The hotel says that rates for stays of 4+ nights are lower to account for this.

I didn’t mind doing a bit of cleaning myself. The other advantage of DIY cleaning is that you don’t get disturbed. I often find that the housekeeping staff appear in the early afternoon, just when I’ve arrived back at the room after a morning’s sightseeing.

Breakfast cost 11 Euro a day. I had a quick look at what was on offer, and decided that I could prepare a similar spread in the apartment at a much lower cost. Plus,  we could have a late breakfast with no need to rush down during breakfast serving hours.

The official check-out time is 11am. As our train to Nice departed at 1pm, I requested a late check-out at noon, which was granted.

I’d recommend the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for the quality of the accommodation. Paying for daily cleaning and breakfast would bump up the price per night quite a bit. If your stay if for 4+ nights and you are willing to shop for and prepare your own breakfast and spend a few minutes per day cleaning the room, it offers very good value for money.

Click here to check availability and price at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port.

chateau d'if views

Visiting Chateau d’If in Marseille

One of things which I was most looking forward to when visiting Marseille was a  trip out to the Chateau d’If.  It was built in 1529 as a naval fortress on the island of If, the smallest of the Frioul Islands, which lie a couple of miles west of Vieux Port in Marseille.

chateau d'if ferry arrives

The Frioul Islands ferry arrives in If

The Chateau later become a prison. The French author, Alexander Dumas, used it as the setting for the imprisonment of the main character of his novel, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.

If you buy a Marseille City Card, the ferry and entrance fee to the Chateau are included in the price of the card.

We had two day Marseille City Cards valid for the Saturday and Sunday. As Sunday was forecast to be wet, we decided to visit the Chateau d’If on the Saturday.  We arrived at the ferry ticket office around 40 minutes prior to the 11.05 departure. It appeared that everyone wanted to make the most of the sunny day, as the queue was so long, that when we arrived at the ticket window just before 11am, the next available tickets were for the 13.15 ferry.

That left us with the dilemma of what to do for the next couple of hours. We decided to take a ride on the road train to Notre Dame de la Garde. However, when we arrived at the starting point, there was a massive queue there too. To avoid standing in the queue later that day, we asked if we could pre-book tickets on a train for early evening, but were told that wasn’t possible. We then decided to have a quick look around the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).

It was a bit of a rush to get back to embark onto the 13.05 ferry.

You get some great views as you as you head out of Vieux Port on the ferry.

chateau d'if leaving vieux port

Vieux Port from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if looking towards marseille cathedral

Marseille Cathedral from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if mucem and fort saint jean

MuCEM (black building) and Fort Saint-Jean from the ferry

chateau d'if ferry at sea

The Frioul islands ferry heads toward the island of If

I was glad that the 20 minute crossing was fairly smooth, although there was some heave as you left the shelter of the harbour.

chateau d'if ferry arrvies on the island

The ferry docked at If island

There are toilets, which are rather smelly, and a cafe, which we didn’t visit, on the island.

There’s a courtyard with a well when you enter Chateau d’If. There were some benches in the shade there.

chateau d'if well

Central courtyard at Chateau d’If

There are plenty of prison cells to explore.

chateau d'if door

Cell door at Chateau d’If

The best thing about visiting the Chateau are the views from the top.

chateau d'if looking towards lighthouse

Looking towards the lighthouse on the island of If

chateau d'if roof

The roof of Chateau d’If

chateau d'if view

View of the hills on the mainland from Chateau d’If

I’d recommend a trip out Chateau d’If if you’re visiting Marseille.

museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot seats

Photo Tour of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille

I had planned to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille prior to our trip to the city. My interest was further piqued by posters and flyers dotted around the city of the ‘Pop Art Design’ exhibition by Hubert Le Gall at the Museum of Decorative Arts, which runs until 6 September 2015.

museum of decorative arts marseille at chateau borely

The museum, which is housed in Chateau Borely, was renovated for Marseille’s 2013 stint as a European Capital of Culture. The adjacent park is beautiful, but we weren’t able to explore it, as it was raining heavily.

museum of decorative arts marseille - view over parc borely

I loved the hare’s ears seat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - hare's ear chair

There appeared to be a bit of a hare theme, as I spotted another in the dining room, sculpted as a candelabra, balanced on a top hat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - dining room

The bedroom contained some of Hubert Le Gall’s trademark flower patterns. Daisies were emblazoned on a sideboard.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom

There was a black multi flower rug sculpture on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom floor sculpture

The black and gold table on the first floor landing had what looked like a giraffe refection on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - shadow table

Another of my favourite exhibits was the fish dress.

museum of decorative arts marseille - fish dress

There were some lovely glass pieces.

museum of decorative arts marseille - glass display

The Art Nouveau stained glass was beautiful.

museum of decorative arts marseille - art nouveau glass

The  sun and cloud shelf was pretty.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sun and clouds wall shelf

There was a golden teddy bear style sculpture base for a reading light above a table in the drawing room.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture under table

And another similar sculpture in the fireplace.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture in fireplace

I wasn’t quite sure which animal heads decorated the mirror frame, I thought maybe antelopes.

museum of decorative arts marseille - unusually shaped mirror

The spaghetti style chandelier was different to the more standard reflective crystal prism style.

museum of decorative arts marseille - spaghetti chandelier

The red and green flower pot chairs were fun.

museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot chairs

I’d highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille. If you buy a Marseille City Pass the 5 Euro entry fee is waived.

verteuil charente

A Touring Holiday from Poitiers to Bordeaux in France

I’ve been thinking about visiting the Bordeaux area in France for ages.

As Ryanair have direct flights from Edinburgh to Bordeaux and Poitiers (which lies around 160 miles north of Bordeaux), I thought that a 7 day leisurely self-drive touring holiday between the two cities sounded good.



Poiters and Bordeaux are both in the Pitou-Charentes region of west central France. As I’ve previously visited the coastal area of this region, I was keen to explore the interior.

I used the itinerary planner on the website to look at various route options. It’s a really helpful, simple tool;  you use sliders to indicate your interests such as culture, nature, architecture and well-being, the pace of your itinerary and factors such as budget and if you’re travelling with kids or pets.

After looking at various options, I went for the auto-selected trip, travelling at a leisurely pace. I chose an emphasis on architecture, culture and nature. I was willing to travel to see the most beautiful sites, and wanted a trip on a low budget.

You can manually select the route from the travel guide list. However, as I don’t know that area, I was happy to go with the auto select. if something which doesn’t take your fancy appears, you can easily remove it from your itinerary.

As you read through the itinerary, you can do virtual visits of the destination and click through for more information about specific attractions, accommodation options and restaurants in the area.

You can then export the itinerary as a pdf, allowing you to print a mini guide book.

I was impressed by the itinerary generated for me, which you can see on the map below.

route map

My France-Voyage itinerary from Poitiers to Bordeaux 


Explore Poitiers, one of the highlights would be Notre-Dame-la-Grande church, dating from the 11th century. In Summer and during the Christmas holidays, the Polychromies light show is projected onto the facade of the church.


Start with a visit to the village of Nouaille-Aaupertuis, dominated by an Abbey which was established in the 7th century.

nouaille maupertuis abbey

Nouaille-Aaupertuis Abbey

Then a stop for lunch in Civray, located on the banks of the River Charente.



Next a stop in Ruffec, on the River Lien. By the river bank, there’s an old communal laundry, mill and castle ruins.



The final stop of the day is Verteuil-sur-Charente.


After a stop in Tusson, spend the rest of the day in Angouleme, the French capital of the Comic Strip.




A stop to visit the natural springs in Touvre.



Then a visit to the medieval fortress of Villebois-Lavalette.

villebois lavalette



Begin with a visit to Maine-Giraud Manor House, former home of the poet Alfred de Vigny.

maine giraud manor house

Maine-Giraud Manor House

A stop at Bassac in the Charente Vailley, which could include kayaking in the river.

charente valley

Charente Valley

Next a trip to Barbezieux, with its 15th century castle.




After visiting Saint Emilion and buying some of the local wine,  some time to explore Libourne, where the Dordogne and Isle rivers meet.



End the day in Bourg.




A visit to Blaye Citadel, which overlooks the Gironde Estuary.

blaye citadel

Blaye Citadel

End the day in the city of Bordeaux, which has been a world heritage site since 2007. In the evening, I’d head for the Jardin des Lumieres, with its water mirror and illuminated walkways.



I think that the France-Voyage website is a really useful resource for planning your holiday in France. It’s free to use and has half a million pages of information in five languages. The travel itinerary tool is excellent, as it allows you to tailor your trip to your own interests and budget, since it shows accommodation options ranging from camp sites to luxury hotels.

the eclair diaires by le meridien

The Côte d’Azur Éclair: One of the Stars of Le Méridien Éclair Diaries

Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini took a motorcycle tour around the Côte d’Azur in the south of France as part of the Le Méridien‘s ‘Éclair Diaries‘. Johnny was looking for inspiration for a new éclair that would embody the flavours of the region and bring a new twist to this traditional Parisian pastry.

Johnny visited a candy maker, a baker, a Farmer’s Market, a citrus orchard and a patisserie shop at which he used to work, taking notes in his diary as he went along. He also chatted with the Executive Chef of Le Méridien Beach Plaza in nearby Monaco.

Johnny was keen to devise an éclair with a fusion of sweet and savoury, containing herbal, citrus and floral ingredients. His creation, pictured below, was the ‘Côte d’Azur Éclair.’

lemon verbena + herbes de provence eclair

The herbs are used in the choux pastry. Leaves from the Lemon Verbena shrub are mixed with eggs, sugar, butter and lemons for the creamy filling.  The ‘Côte d’Azur Éclair’ is glazed with orange blossom, vanilla and jasmine, then garnished with candied mandarin and crystallised flowers.

Click here to download Johnny’s recipe.

I also liked the look of the Pistachio Éclair from Le Méridien Budapest. It’s filled with hard pistachio mousse with flaky marzipan and crushed pistachio on top.

le meridien budapest eclair

Brought to you in partnership with Le Méridien hotels.

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