I wasn’t expecting the beaches in the French city of Marseille to be so beautiful. In fact the main reason that we went there was that our son Gary wanted to see the Bowl skate park, located at Plage Vieille Chapelle, which was featured in some skateboarding games he’d played when he was younger. As often happens, real life didn’t quite match fantasy, as the skate park looked much better and bigger in the game.
Heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon. The darkening skies made for some dramatic photos of Plage Vielle Chapelle in Marseille.
If you’re visiting Marseille, I recommend a visit to the beaches.
The region of Picardy lies in the north of France. It stretches from the Channel coastline, on the estuary of the River Somme and west to the border with southern Belgium.
Its location, a one hour drive from Calais, makes it an ideal location for a short break from the UK. The new Esprit de Picardie (the French spelling of Picardy) enables you to personalise and book a trip based on your own preferences.
There are various themes from which to choose, including visiting remembrance sites from WW1, stopovers, romantic and family breaks
On the homepage of Esprit de Picardie, you can select a theme and then browse the various options. Further down on the homepage you can search for local experts, all fluent English speakers, by area of expertise, e.g. nature outings or heritage. The results appear on a map. If you click on the experts photo, you can see their specific knowledge. If that’s of interest to you, you can click through to their full profile. You can get in touch with the experts directly.
I decided to look more closely at the ‘Romantic Escapades a la Francais’.
I thought that ‘A Romantic Weekend in a Medieval Village on France’s Coast’, based in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, looked lovely.
This area is renowned for its fresh seafood.
Accommodation is at the Hotel Les Pilotes, which has some water view rooms.
I also liked the idea of staying in a castle on the ‘French Romance in a Chateau with Champagne and Spa’, staying at the five star Chateau de Fere.
There are the ruins of an ancient viaduct in the grounds of the hotel.
If you’re interested in wine, you can take the Champagne Tourist Trail.
I loved the rustic style of the rooms at in a renovated farmhouse in Cauvigny, on the ‘Just the Two of Us….. In a French B&B with Beaucoup de Charme’ break.
There’s a pond where you can fish in the grounds. If you feel like a day trip, Compiegne and Chantilly are close.
Once you have put together your perfect trip to Picardy, you can make an instant online booking on the Esprit de Picardie website.
When we came out of the Nice Ville railway station, after our train journey from Marseille, we spotted the Leopard Asian Buffet Restaurant across the road. We decided that we’d eat there that evening, as we didn’t fancy wandering around trying to find another restaurant.
After three unsuccessful attempts to eat at a buffet restaurant in Marseille, which claimed it was open at lunch time and in the evening, but was never open when we went there to eat, it was great that the Leopard displayed their opening hours.
When we arrived just after the 7pm opening time, the Leopard Asian Buffet Restaurant was very quiet. The tables were fairly well spaced, especially compared to most restaurants in France.
I was impressed by the variety of seafood. Usually, you’re lucky if there is one seafood option on offer at an Asian buffet.
The mussels and sushi which I had as a starter were very good.
I also enjoyed the fried prawns and shrimps.
You could choose the vegetable, meat and fish ingredients to be freshly cooked at the wok kitchen.
I stuck with seafood, which I requested to be grilled.
The dessert selection was extensive and included several flavours of ice cream.
The food was so good, that we ate there another evening.
At a price of 19 Euro per adult on a weekday evening,, I thought that the Leopard Asian Buffet Restaurant offered excellent value for money for very tasty food. The weekday lunch buffet cost 13 Euro per adult. I’d recommend that you eat at the Leopard Asian Buffet Restaurant when you’re in Nice.
There are two trip options on the Marseille tourist train, a visit to Notre Dame de Garde or a tour around the Old Town. One ride on one of the routes is included in the price of a Marseille City Pass which we’d purchased.
As we felt that we could easily walk around the Old Town, which lay fairly close to our accommodation at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port, we opted for the uphill trip to Notre Dame de la Garde.
Both tourist train trips start on the northern side of Vieux Port. Initially, we tried to take the trip mid-morning, but there was such a long queue, that we decided to try in the late afternoon, when we judged that it would be quieter.
There’s a stretch of seaside drive before the tourist train begins it ascent to Notre Dame de la Garde. The church was built on the hilltop site of an ancient fort.
Everyone has to get off the tourist train the Notre Dame de la Garde car park. There’s a train every 20 minutes, so we decided to spend 20 minutes at the church.
You get some great views over Marseille, as you walk up to Notre Dame de la Garde.
On top of the 40 foot bell tower, there’s a huge golden statue of the Virgin Mary, often referred to as ‘la bonne mere’ (the good mother) of Marseille.
The architect of the current Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, Henri-Jacques Esperandieu, started work on the building in the 1850s, when he was only 24 years old. His vision of a colourful Romano-Byzantine design was realised.
I’d recommend taking the trip in the late afternoon, when it appears to be less popular. The last departure is at 18.20 from April to October. It’s a pity that it doesn’t run until later in the evening, especially in Summer.
As the tourist train ride to Notre Dame de la Garde costs 8 Euro, I think that it’s only worth taking it if you have purchased a Marseille City Pass. Otherwise, you can probably find a much cheaper ticket to reach the church by public transport.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were a few interesting pieces, of which there are photos below. I liked what looked like an angel get together.
The merman’s top half was skeletal and he looked as though he belonged on the set of a horror movie.
The’Knowledge is Power’ piece was eye-catching.
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.
An external staircase and walkway wind up between the interior glass and steel building and the exterior skin.
You can see the metal supports which attach the concrete skin to the building.
You get some great views of the bay as you walk up the building.
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.
The Mole Cafe is located on the top floor of MuCEM.
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.
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 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.
We found the twin beds to be very comfortable. There were plenty of electrical sockets in the room.
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.
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.
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.
He also went for a few cycles, and was impressed by the quality of the Cannondale 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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a pizzeria which usually offered three types of pizza.
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.
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.
Most evenings, I had the three dessert selection (assiette). My favourite was the strawberry trio.
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.
We saw some beautiful dusks. One evening there was an orange moon.
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.
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.
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.
Our son Gary started off with Fruits de Mer, a selection of seafood.
I had the Mussels starter.
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).
My main course of tuna was delicious.
I was glad that I asked what Opera was, as it turned out to be a yummy chocolate and coffee gateau.
Gary had a surprise when he ate his profiterole, as it was filled with ice cream.
All in all, paying 15 Euro each for a meal of this quality was an absolute bargain, especially with the excellent service and ambience.
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 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.
Water sports at San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica
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.
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.
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.