For the next post in my Best and Worst Holidays Series I have the pleasure of welcoming Laura who blogs at Adventures with J. She is sharing with us both her best and worst holidays to date. Over to Laura.
Best Holiday – Adventures with J
My best holiday ever was in 2013 when my husband and I got in the car and headed to the Channel Tunnel ready to embark on a French road trip. We had by now several European road trips under our belt and I love the feeling of driving out of the Tunnel and into main land Europe. The freedom and the opportunities that this gives is very liberating and exciting. In 2013 we were heading to one of our dream destinations – the French Riviera.
En route to our main stay in Nice we stopped for 2 nights in Castellan by the Gorge du Verdon. Here we camped by a smaller lake where we spent the first day kayaking, stopping at little islands and enjoying the spectacular scenery of the area. We had a picnic on the beach and enjoyed getting straight into holiday mode. In the evening, we enjoyed wondering the little town and found a lovely pizzeria where we sat outside and ate delicious food and drank wine enjoying the holiday buzz. On day two we drove around the Gorge du Verdon stopping regularly to enjoy the views, spot eagles and white water rafters and stretch our legs with some gentle hikes. We could have stayed longer in the area, but we were very excited about heading into Nice. However, this is definitely somewhere we would like to take J when he is older.
Driving to Nice was a beautiful drive, with stunning views all the way down to the coast. We stayed in an apartment only two roads back from the beach and a ten-minute walk into the main hub of restaurants which was an ideal location, however, we used this as a base and spent most of our time exploring the local area. Nice itself is a friendly town with a pretty old town of winding cobbled streets with little boutiques and restaurants mixed with a more modern hub nearer where we stayed. The atmosphere in the evening was fabulous and we felt very safe walking around the town and along the beach surrounded by holiday makers, families and locals.
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to regal Monoco where we walked along the race track, through the cobbled palace squares, visited the aquarium and strolled past the supercars outside the Casino. I hadn’t been sure if Monoco would be a wasted trip but I had a great day there and would love to go back. The areas we visited didn’t feel overly pretentious as I had expected them to, instead it felt welcoming and accepting that tourists walk side by side with the very wealthy. I would highly recommend the aquarium if you have children. We spent a couple of hours wondering around looking at the fish and I know J would love it there. A word of warning though, there is a park near to the aquarium, but at the time we visited there were a lot of signs asking people to keep off the grass. Some children had ignored the sign and they were very quickly told off and escorted out of the park by an official.
Another trip highlight was our day trip exploring the Riviera. We spent the morning in the village of Eze where we fell in love with the spectacular views and the beautiful gardens. It was more touristy than I would have liked but those views were worth a bit of commercialism. In the afternoon we wound down to sea level and stumbled upon a little cove where we swam in the sea and sunbathed and ate ice cream. Once we had cooled down we continued on the road and headed for the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. The beautiful house is nestled in amongst the spacious villas and has a garden with stunning views. If I had unlimited money then this is where I would move to. It is well worth a visit and children will love playing hide and seek in the garden. We then drove to a small coastal village called Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat. I loved this village for its beautiful beaches, gorgeous views and low key atmosphere. Everyone was in flip flops and shorts and, as we enjoyed eating fish and chips from the local takeaway on the sea wall, the locals meandered past stopping to say hello to each other.
We then decided that we weren’t ready to head home yet as we were having too much fun so we drove down to Saint Maxime via fabulous coastal roads with red cliffs. Saint Maxime is a resort very popular with the French but we were very welcomed and we loved wondering around the shops and restaurants in the warn evenings before heading back to our campsite.
On the other side of the bay is St Tropez and behind that we discovered one of my favourite places in the world. Here nestled in the hillsides was a fabulous little Medieval village called Ramatuelle surrounded by vineyards with tourists cycling lazily through them. Nearby is a beautiful bay and the Plage de Pampelone. This magical world is so laid back and relaxed that I could see myself sitting in a villa in the hills writing a novel in my future years.
The feelings of freedom and adventure that I felt during this holiday bring back happiness and memories of the sun on my back and a world free of worries. I can’t wait to head back there once J is old enough to cope with the drive.
Worst Holiday – Adventures with J
My worst holiday ever was to the Belgium capital of Brussels in 2014 when I was pregnant with J. Brussels had always been on my travel bucket list and so we took the opportunity of visiting for a few days before heading to a week in the Alps. I thought Brussels was going to be the perfect stopover city. I imagined it would have chocolate for me and beer for hubby. I envisaged us spending the days wondering around the EU and historical palaces and the evenings meandering cobbled streets eating chocolate and drinking beer – what’s not to love? Well it turns out quite a lot actually as my little fantasy was not matched by the reality.
I have been lucky enough to visit quite a lot of western European cities and Brussels in my opinion had very little of interest compared to most others. Yes, there was chocolate but it was extortionately priced and not that tasty. Give me Cadburys any day! Yes, there was beer but I couldn’t sit outside in the sunshine while hubby enjoyed his beer because it was cold and raining, and my teeny tiny orange juice was so over priced that I refused to get more than one.
I’m pretty sure that being pregnant played a part to this being my worst holiday ever as my ankles and feet were swollen and I suffered painful leg cramps and indigestion at night. I was also tired quite quickly and the attractions were rather spaced out. Also, it wasn’t all bad as we did enjoy our visit to the Royal Palace and we had fun walking around the gardens and parkland near the EU. There was also a cool street market and mini festival on every evening and we went to the Belgium Comic Strip Centre which was really interesting, but there wasn’t anything else we wanted to do.
I had a pleasant time there because hubby and I always have a good time but it was the place that disappointed me so much. There was nothing to really see or do. There was an ornate square which was pretty but packed full of people and I was very aware of keeping people away from my bump. We did quite a lot of walking trying to get a good feel for the city but spent the whole time wondering where the good bits were. All this walking made my pregnant feet swell up and they had to be rested on pillows in the evening. The weather was wet and muggy so I was constantly having to change layers because my pregnant hormones couldn’t decide if I was hot or cold and once I even insisted on getting the bus back to the hotel as I couldn’t cope in the clothes I was wearing. Clearly I was not really in the zone for a Brussels city break at 20 something weeks pregnant!
The best thing about the holiday was the hotel. The bed was really comfy, I slept like a log and woke feeling refreshed and the breakfast had unlimited amounts of Danone natural yogurt, of which I ate about 3 bowlfuls each morning (and that was just the yogurt!) My pregnant self adored the hotel… maybe a spa break would have been more suitable!
Thanks so much to Laura for sharing her best and worst holidays with us. BattleDad and I visited Nice pre-BattleKid and loved it, and I would love to return one day. And funnily enough, Brussels has never been high on my to-do list. After reading this we may just give it a miss.
Laura blogs about family travel, parenting and lifestyle over at Adventures with J. She has lots of fun with her 3 year old son, J . They live in Dorset and love to spend their days exploring the beaches, forests and rivers nearby. As a family they love to travel and explore new places, although she says “we also need to renovate our new house which will be an entirely different kind of adventure”. J loves to play and as an ex teacher, Laura likes to create new and exciting ways to help him learn and develop. You can find Laura on her blog, Adventures with J, and she is also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.