Virtual Business Systems Travels in France Email Me


I'm developing these pages as a diary of our various travels in France after which I'll add our trips through the rest of Europe and Australia.

Hopefully, someone may find some useful information or ideas for their own trips here. Please free free to e-mail me for more information or for example itineraries.

Good Travelling!

Mike Whitfield

Pages on this site:
The Maritime Alps and the Riviera

Alpine Walks
Cherbourg to Aix En Provence: A two week tour through Brittany, the Loire, the Dordogne and Languedoc


Places: The Maritime Alps and the Riviera
Road from Lauzet-Ubay to Barcelonnette Barcelonnette (January 2002):
The layout of this valley town is more open than it's mountain conterparts, but it's still a pleasant place to amble around although it was cold - far colder in the town (-20C) than above, in the Surrounding mountains. We stayed in the Azteca Hotel, very close to the town centre. We'd also stayed here in August 1997, and it hasn't changed - a nice place to stay and very cozy in winter.
Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in the town were closed, but managed to find a couple of ok restaurants, both very quiet. There was a Crepe cafe open all afternoon - good crepes but slow service.

Castellane (January 2002)
Stopped as it was getting dark at about 5pm. Nearly all hotels closed, but found the Roc d'Or in the square that was supposed to open at 5
. Staff arrived within a few minutes and by 5.30 the hotel was pretty well full. As the only restaurant open that night was in the hotel, we all ate there, and it was a pretty good atmosphere.
This was by far the cheapest place we stayed. The room was small, but clean and warm. Although it had double glazing, there was virtually no internal sound proofing. The mattress was on its last legs, sagging somewhat in the middle. Dinner and breakfast were good value (this was the only place on our travels that served real orange juice)

Eze (December 2001)
Touristy to the point of Disneyfication, Eze is an very pictureque hill top village that fits into the landscape so well that it's difficult to to tell where the rock ends and the stonework of the buildings start
That said, I don't think there's anything in Eze that can't be found in many other mountain villages and the less touristy ones are normally much more interesting to explore.

Gorbio and St Agnes (December 2001)
Both villages typical of those in the hills, but neither is very touristy. Gorbio, although only a couple of kilometres inland from Menton, appears to belong to a different world to that of the coast. The bar we stopped in for coffee was a hunters local by the look of the cartoons on the wall and the people inside.

Had a cheap and cheerful lunch at a restaurant just below the castle in St Agnes (a large square of potatoe pie, pate, steak and vast amounts of chips, plus lemon tart for about 12 Euros each). Appeared very popular with locals from the the coast.

Guillestre from the south Guillestre (January 2002):
Old town still pretty genuine, good for an hour's wandering. Great meal at the Le Chalet Alpin (looked as if the accommodation would have been good as well).
We stayed in Les Barnieres, a large mock ski chalet slightly above the town. 74 rooms, 2 occupied that night.

The old town from the hotel Menton (December 2001):
Above Menton old town
Unspoilt old town, with a fair amount of tourist development along the sea front back towards Monaco and to the Italian border. The old town is large enough to get lost in for an hour or so, and to get away from the promenading masses on the sea front.
Promenading seemed to be the main activity of the older, fur coated, lap dog carrying toruists from Italy.

Stayed in the Hotel Napoleon, just east of the old town. From the outside, looks like a slightly faded standard tourist hotel, but inside the public rooms are a homage to Napoleon. The sea view rooms are good value, but the "mountain view" rooms at the back are over priced, a bit run-down and had more of a view of a school than any montains. Breakfast was not impressive; pricey but, unfortunately a mandatory add-on to the room charge. Why do they serve orange squash masqarading as orange juice when there are oranges growing outside?

Ate a couple of times in a good restaurant in the old town (A Braijade Meridiounale), specialising in local recipes including flaming seafood and meat kebabs. Small, good service and full both times we went. Other than that, we stuck with the standard pizzas and crepes.

Monaco from Roquebrune Monaco (December 2001):
We lived in Monaco for four months in 1997, so went back for a brief look. It's still as toy town as it was and as in 1997, it made a special effort for Christmas. In 1997, this took the form of a fantastically over-lit pyramid of a Christmas tree which unfortunately exploded and burnt down just before Christmas. This year the Chistmas special consisted of dozens of Nativity scenes filling the entire harbour area and played out by hundreds of life size robotic shepeards, wise men, camels, cattle (highland by the look of them), donkeys and sheep. Unfortunately, the weather had taken it's toll on many of the robots and there was much metallic squeaking from the characters.

The Hotel West End, Nice Nice (Christmas Day and News Years Eve 2001):
New years morning
Our guide book is pretty rude about Nice, but as a place to spend Christmas and New Year, it wasn't bad. Over Christmas we stayed at the Hotel West End, an older hotel on the Promenade Anglais. The rooms were newly refurbished, comfortable and quiet, but a little small. Thinking that Nice may be like the UK on Christmas day (ie nothing open), we'd booked Christmas lunch at the hotel and were pleasantly suprised. A good quality six course meal (appetizers, fried foie gras, scallops, lamb, warm goats cheese and a caramel/biscuit dessert). The restarurant was full and all the other customers were locals.
As all the hotels near the centre of Nice were full for the New Year, we stayed at the Radison on the Promenade des Anglais, but about 3 kms from the town centre. Obviously, it doesn't have the character of the older hotels, but the rooms were cheaper and better quality, and it had the best choice at breakfast of any place we stayed. Also had a balcony to enjoy the new years day sun.

Menton from RoqueBrune

Roquebrune (December 2001): .
A walled town with castle, way above (but almost a suburb of) Menton. Slightly less touristy than Eze. The newer buildings outside the walls very much in character with narrow tracks between them, so no traffic.
Stayed in Les Deux Freres in the Square below the castle. Fantastic view from the very small but interestingly furnished room. The food was reasonably good, but we seemed to be paying more for the look of the dining room.