Travel

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Nice: Slip into a cote of a different colour

Blue skies, hot sun, shimmering pool. You choose whether the holiday is Cannes-do or Nice and easy, says Aine O'Connor

Aine O'Connor

GORGEOUS AREA: The charm of the Cote d'Azur is on your doorstep when you stay at Le Mountourey Siblu
GORGEOUS AREA: The charm of the Cote d'Azur is on your doorstep when you stay at Le Mountourey Siblu

It's vital to get to sleep early the night before a dawn flight. But no one gets to sleep early the night before a dawn flight, so it was a wrecked and cranky foursome who arrived in Nice airport, dragging cases and wandering in circles looking for the car hire place where we were to collect our Twingo, or similar. Time had managed to sneak noon up on us, and the beating July sun didn't add too much to the wait, but it did bode very well for this holiday. Sun was one of our requirements.

After a few circuits of the car park we found our office and our Twingo -- somehow hire cars are never the price you thought they were going to be, then we did the obligatory few circuits of the environs of the airport before finding the right way and the motorway towards Frejus. Just over an easy hour later we started looking for our destination proper, Le Montourey Siblu village, a camping and mobile home site about 4km outside Frejus. The directions were good, the signage helpful, we got there, did a few laps of that before we found the office where we signed in and got shown to our mobile home.

Two bedrooms (one for Beloved and me, one for the kids to fight in), both ensuite (sheets can be rented), a living area, a well-equipped kitchen, a balcony and, most importantly, aircon. There was a heatwave and it would be hitting 40C many days, forcing even the locals to mutter "il fait chaud eh?" with feeling, shutters notwithstanding mobile homes let the heat in and the aircon was to prove invaluable.

Beloved, a sunworshipper, headed straight to the balcony with his first holiday beer. He arrived back four seconds later with his first holiday bite. He learned an invaluable lesson for the rest of us, from five-ish onwards insect repellent is an absolute necessity. The mosquitoes around there are voracious and slutty -- any flesh will do.

Over the next 10 days, we settled into a very agreeable routine of waking late, breakfasting in the mobile home and then going to either the beach, a 5km drive, or staying at the pool on site. The pool had two water slides, which were good fun, but there were a lot of rules around the use of the pools, and the kids, well no, Beloved, got a swift lesson in the French penchant for regulations. "It is forbidden" became the catchphrase of the holiday. There was also a toddler pool, a kids' club, which neither of our kids would go near, a playground, afternoon activities at the pool such as water polo and a bar/restaurant. There were also organised evening activities including bingo and occasional visits from a circus.

Le Montourey is in many ways self-sufficient and some residents seemed to enjoy basing most of their holiday around it. The other guests were mainly French, though there were also Irish, Northern Irish and British people there. However, because we weren't part of a bigger group and because the kids didn't make any friends, just the four of us in one place could have felt claustrophobic so we often headed to the beaches -- there are lots to choose from all along the coast, and most are nice. They also have the usual array of beach sport options, jet skis were €70 for 30 minutes and paragliding, which we tried, and highly recommend, was €35 per person.

In the evenings we'd pile into the Twingo and head to one of the many possible destinations nearby. Frejus, the history of which is represented partly by the ruins of the Roman aqueduct, is ideally located for going up and down the Cote d'Azur and for travelling inland. It's a gorgeous area with Cannes, Antibes, St Tropez, St Maxime, Grasse all worth a visit and all easily accessible. The centre of Frejus is small but pretty with some nice restaurants and bars but it's quiet and closes early. The real, strolling, holiday-town versions are on the coast -- in this case Frejus Plage which runs into St Raphael Plage.

As with all of the towns in the evenings, as dusk sets and mosquitoes emerge, street stalls set up every night selling the usual array of browsable things. Restaurant prices aren't as bad as reputation might suggest, seafront restaurants charging an average of €60 for large pizza/moules frites and one drink per person for four. It was pleasant too to eat at home then go for ice creams, either cones or ridiculous dishes, in the town afterwards.

There were also lots of nearby activities such as the giant funpark spotted from the sky by the children, and its neighbour Aqualand, the obligatory waterpark. With so much to do and a good evening buzz Frejus proved to be perfect for our needs. A really quiet site with lots of kids and quite a few owner occupiers, by midnight the only sound to be heard were grasshoppers and owls.

All in all, it was a great success, marred only at the end by a little run-in over how clean is clean. A long story and we nearly had to pay an extra €80, but we stood our ground and Siblu have since clarified that all mobile homes are professionally cleaned before/ after occupancy.

That aside, it was very much what we hoped it would be. We had flown into Nice to spend 10 days doing exactly what we did before taking the train into and through a bit of Italy to fly out of Pisa. It worked out cheaper to be able to do this midweek and Siblu will take bookings from weekday to weekday and for partial weeks. The accommodation worked out really well, the area is lovely, the weather was amazing and yes, we would do it again.

GETTING THERE

Seven nights at Le Montourey Siblu village from July 9 start from as little as €903 for a family staying in a two-bedroom holiday home with air-conditioning and terrace. For more information visit www.siblu.ie or call 0818 27 4099

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