22 July, 2012

Mini Travel Guide: Marseille & Nice


For my big 3-0 back in May, my other half Robert surprised me with a birthday present of a four day trip to the South of France in July. We've recently returned and I thought I would share with you a few tips for those who may be interested in hearing about it or perhaps might be planning a similar trip sometime in the future!

Firstly we had the mini task of travelling from Limerick to Dublin for out flight. To extend our holidays just a teeny bit we decided to stay in Dublin the night before in a near by airport hotel as our flight was at 06:15am! We made the mistake last year of getting a bus at 01:00am to travel from Limerick to Dublin when going to Greece and after that experience (people having loud phonecalls, snoring or opening tinfoil wrapped sandwiches), we said "never again!".

Once I finished work on Friday evening, we finished packing and off we went. The trip to Dublin was pretty smooth and we decided to splash out later that evening by having a nice meal and some wine in the hotels swanky restaurant....however it anything but swanky! The prices may have suggested that decent food was available but it.was.terrible! So terrible that I complained. Being someone who dislikes confrontation I have never complained in a restaurant nor have I ever , ever sent back food but the pasta muck (which cost a staggering €16.50...thats about $20!) was reheated awfulness and the sirlon steak (again, an expensive €22) which Robert ordered was bland, tasteless and quite honestly I'm surprised he ate as much of it as he did.

After a few bites, I stopped eating my mains and declared I was sending it back. Robert looked surprised and when I eventually did get the attention of a waitress and politley informed her that I could not eat it and did not want to pay for it, he said well done to me - He too was surprised at my random act of ball-si-ness. We did not let it ruin our evening and decided to polish off the wine and get some rest before our 4am start to the airport.

The flight to Marseille was quick, around 2 hours and the sun and heat immeditaly hit our pale skin as soon as we stepped off our flight. Robert is awesome when it comes to maps, directions and subways so after we collected our...ahem...my luggage (I dont understand the meaning of travelling light!), I followed him like a lost puppy to the train we had to catch in order to get to our hotel.

Robert selected the Music Hotel for our stay. It was clean, quirky, arty and the staff were friendly and helpful. Its also good to note that we arrived on Bastille Day (French Independence Day) and that staff were happy to tell us where to go to get the best view of the fireworks. Prior to this though, we arrived early to our hotel so we left our luggage in their care and went exploring to see what Marseille had to offer. As our trip was short in duration we had planned on cramming in as much as possible and toyed with the idea of hiring a car but decided that we would get a train to Nice and spend a day there at some stage.

Marseille is a lovely city, however it has been selected as the european city of culture for 2013 and as a result there are alot of renovations going on. They're quite literally digging up the place so there's alot of traffic diversions and with that, some crazy, impatient drivers. However, the only distraction this gives at the moment is that instead of having some light and lovely lunch along the quay, your view is builders and rubble as opposed to boats and sea.


Our first stop was some food, having not eaten much the night before we were starving and we found a lovely little restaurant which offered some shade and fresh fish. I promptly ordered it, gobbled up and declared it was the best meal I ever had. We then started a leisurely stroll and came across the 'petit train' (small train) which offered a trip around Marseille culminating in a stunning view from the top of the city where a church is placed. I joked with Robert that somehow, even though we are not remotely religious we some how also end up looking at or being inside churches while on holidays. We spent a nice bit of time up there and took in the views and people watched, one of my favourite things to do.




Afterwards we hopped on a boat to one of the near by islands, we thought we were going to the island where inspiration was found for the book 'The Count of Monte Christo', but erm....we kinda got on the wrong boat! Oops! However, the island of Frial (I think that's how it's spelt offered pretty views and yummy ice cream). We then headed back to our hotel and officially checked in. As mentioned our room was clean and spacious with lovely air conditioning! We relaxed, unpacked and made plans to get ourselves to the beach to see the fireworks for the Bastille celebrations. Before the fireworks we watched an amazing sunset   and watched as those on the beach enjoyed the last of the sunshine for the evening.




The fireworks were fantastic and we ate some vendor treats while the sky lite up, however I did manage to lose my beloved iPhone. Long story short, there was some commotion on the beach and I had to leave my spot and my phone simply slipped off my skirt. Luckily it was insured and a new one is on its merry way to me!




We decided that on the third day we would travel to Nice for the day and so organised train tickets. We also booked a second boat trip to view Les Calanques, however (I think luck was not on our side on this trip) it was too windy to allow swimming. Robert was gutted, I'm pretty sure this guy was a fish in a former life, he loves the sea and checking out what oceanlife has to offer. I was sad for him. Apart from that it was a lovely, relaxing 3 hour boat trip. I stayed mostly in the shade, being so pale I can never risk getting burned, its too painful.


On the third day we boarded trains and was Nice bound. A two and a half hour trip each way, we were there in no time. Nice is beautiful and the quay side is filled with thee most luxurious boats. You can almost smell the wealth! The strip of beach is stunning and not overcrowded like most popular tourist destinations. We decided on an open bus tour which was a great idea. It took us all over the city and to the most amazing views. When I become a grown up I want a villa / apartment in Nice overlooking the sea, simply stunning! 


After our bus trip, we hit the antique markets - with the strong heat I didn't purchase anything and then later that day we went to a restaurant on the beach. It was crazy pricey, a whopping €40 for two bagels and two cokes, but hey that's Nice and when we looked around us we say many a rich couple drinking €130 bottles of champagne as they sunbathed!

We returned back to Marseille and decided on our last day that we would take it easy as our flight wasnt until later that night....or so Robert thought! Later that day, were returned to the airport and our selected terminal. I turned to Robert and said "I cant see our flight on the screen..actually there are no flights to Ireland tonight!" - Robert pulled out our information and kept saying "It's 10:15, defo....10:15" - He stared at the piece of paper and then started to panic to which he said.."It was 10:15 this morning!!!". I quickly turned into fix it now mode and the short version is that we had no choice but to fly to London that night, sleep in Gatwick airport and then get an early flight back to Dublin. I missed a day off work and when we eventually got home, after being awake for 30 hours straight, we collapased into a deep sleep. I wont event begin to tell you the huge expense it cost us to get those two extra flights! I might cry!

Apart from the nasty hotel meal, losing of the phone and the missing the flight episode, we did have a lovely time and vowed to return to the area for a longer road trip! Although after the flight mix up, Robert stated "I'm never going foreign again!"

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