Wednesday, 29 July 2015

5 Top Tips for a cheap trip to Nice, Cote D’Azur in the school holidays

Get budget flights & only have carry on luggage

Flights to Nice only take around two hours from most UK airports, so no need for luxury.  Based near Stafford we consider lots of regional airports.  Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Liverpool and even Coventry.

This time we got EasyJet flights from Liverpool to Nice for around £200 each. Flying out on a Thursday at 7am and back in on a Monday night at 9pm, meant we have five full days to enjoy on the Cote D’Azur.

Apparently there’s a work around to get better EasyJet prices.  Involving booking Flexifare tickets for flights a couple of weeks before you need the actual flights.  Then take advantage of being able to reschedule your flights to the ones you actually need.  A smidge risky, and you’ll have to be flexible, but possibly worthwhile if originally booking a flight outside the school holidays, then taking one inside the more expensive school break window.

The Bay of Angels from Castle Hill, Nice

Think location, and pay for *** but get **** service

We found a lovely little 3 star hotel in Nice that has a 4 star sister next door.  Hotel Gounod looks a little like a budget Wes Anderson film set, but it wasn’t.  It was a perfect little quiet boutique hotel with a well endowed neighbour.  You get to pay 3 star prices and via free access to its sister hotel next door you get 4 star facilities.

We had free wi-fi everywhere, 24 hour concierge, access to a roof top pool, jacuzzi, bar and restaurant.  Breakfast was quiet, simple, but had all we wanted to eat at that time of day.  I made four course comfortably, and could have had fruit and yoghurt if I wasn't in indulgent holiday mode!

Our standard room was a good size, had a massive comfy bed, air conditioning, modern bathroom with bath and shower as well as a fridge and wardrobe with dressing room.

It was a short and straightforward five-minute or so walk to the train station, and the same to the promenade and the Bay of Angels.

Use the airport bus

Travelling as a couple means taxis can be a little pricey, as in you aren’t splitting the cost across more people.  This time we took the airport bus at 6€ each.

Straight forward and the hotel website had helpfully advised on the stop we needed.

The return was even easier, as we realised you could pay the driver rather than queue for tickets like we did outside Terminal 2 at Nice airport.

Nice is easy to navigate, particularly if you pick up a free map from somewhere.

And if you get lost, just ask a bin man!

Bin men don't charge for directions in Nice!

Drink water with your meals, have an ice cream & take pizza to the beach

I mean, knock yourselves out with whatever you want to drink, but like in UK restaurants diners often don’t look at drinks prices and don’t realise the coke they’re drinking is near half the price of the meal on their plate.

French tap water, or l’eau de robinet, is as good if not better than what we use at home.  And like here restaurants are obliged to provide it for free when you are eating with them.  We tended to order one drink as a treat, and then rehydrate with a regularly replenished carafe of free tap water on the table.

There’s a vast selection of restaurants in Nice, and the prices are reasonable.  They are pretty easy to compare, as most restaurants do similar dishes.  Looking at the moules-frites (mussels and chips) price is a good benchmark indicator to a restaurant's price level.

Another little tip is to walk off your dinner, and find one of many ice cream parlours for your dessert. Instead of paying 8€ plus for a pudding, pay around 2€ for a ice cream in ANY flavour you like.

A deliciously delightful way to save money as you take in the evening vibe in Nice's old town.

Although we didn’t do it, some folks were getting takeaway pizzas and walking them to the promenade or beach to eat overlooking the sea.  Not waiter service, but many a pleasant spot to eat a five pound pizza.

Get the bus, or train to Monaco

A lot of visitors to Nice will make the short journey to Monte Carlo to see what all the fuss is about.

Well, there is a lot of fuss, and a lot of traffic, making taxis expensive and not entirely easy to arrange as a return.

The train costs under 8€ each for a return journey, and trains run every 25 minutes or so.  They are usually busy but air conditioned, and journeys take less than 30 minutes.

Unless you’re fluent in French I’d avoid the automated ticket machines and go to the ticket office which is well manned and serves a large queue quickly and in either French or English.

The bus, number 100, is even cheaper at €1.50 each per journey.  And while a little slower at around 45 minutes, it takes a much more picturesque route.  It also drops and collects right by the bigger port of Monaco, so you don’t even have to encounter the steps back up to the train station.

Can you do it better?

We thought we got a relative bargain city break to Nice.  Five full days in Nice, including eating out twice a day in very good, at least mid-range restaurants, costing us less than £1,400 for two in peak season and over a weekend.

That price included all flights, hotels, transfer, food, drink, snacks, a trip to Monaco, and a 1 hour boat tour around to Villefranche from Nice harbour.


However, do you think we could have done it even better?


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Wanted: An epic holiday (and a normal bilirubin level)

Anyone got one going spare?

We are 72 hours or so from the end of the school year, which means both of the most important people in my life will be on holiday.

The boy and the wife are both excited to get their feet up, go off on adventures and spend some quality time together.

They’ve both worked so hard in 2015.

Complications with gallbladder removal, and obstructive jaundice, have left me a literal shadow of my former self.  I’ve lost 4 stone, or put a more dramatic way, 30% of my total body weight.

I’ve literally been off my feet from the start of May, so they’ve picked up most of my jobs as well as taken incredibly good care of me.

Max has matured so much, becoming the man of the house, taking on tasks like putting the bins out and helping Helen, my wife, with all sorts of tasks.


Finally it feels like the NHS has finally got their act together, and I am now making steady progress towards a full recovery.

Perfect timing for the holidays to come and aid my recuperation, mind I am currently grimacing anytime I consider looking at my bank balance.  And I’ve only managed to do that with one eye open, and for a second or two.

At the same time that a break and quality time together as a family unit is quite literally what any doctor would order, I could really do with getting back to work too.

We have several UK short-breaks planned, which luckily were largely paid for prior to my enforced extended break from self-employment.


To be frank 2015 has taught me many things, with its overriding force-fed-repetitively-rammed-down-your-throat-by-endoscopy theme that you have nothing without your health.

Don’t know why 2015 didn’t get the memo from previous years, but I didn’t really need the reminder.

I’m more grateful for my existence than ever before, and long may that continue.

Albeit hopefully one a little less yellow, and perhaps spent on a sun lounger somewhere beautiful.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Win some fabulous sports equipment for your kids

We are a relatively sporty household here.

I’ve played amateur sport since childhood.  I was a member of a cricket club, a hockey club, played football for my school and a local boys team as well as playing golf, badminton, tennis, volleyball and trying other things like horse riding and skateboarding.

We had a giant sports cupboard in our home, it had huge double doors, and if you opened them without thought you were likely to get buried under an avalanche of sporting equipment.

I was regularly extolled the costs of all these things, and how expensive children getting into sport is, especially as they grow so quickly and regularly need replacement kit.

One other problem is sports shops tend to do kids equipment as an addition to their core activity, rather than as a speciality.

Meaning parents are often bereft of any quality advice in sports shops, and can end up buying ill-fitting equipment or gear that doesn’t last very long.  All of which makes the process even more expensive.

Which is where Little Big Sports comes in.

Little Big Sports was set up by Katie, a mother of two, who was fed up of getting duff or no advice on where to buy the right size cricket bat for her young son.

The aim of the company is simple, to enable parents to find equipment specifically designed for children under 12 years of age.

Sports covered include: cricket, hockey, athletics, badminton, tennis, swimming, golf, cycling, basketball, netball, rounders, rugby and softball.

They've also recently expanded the product range into outdoor play equipment and trampolines.

The site is easily navigated, organised by sport as well as having a search facility across all of its items.

Everything can be sorted by size and age, but you can get in contact with Little Big Sports for free in order to get specific advice for your child.

Which is what they are all about.

They also want to make the process of buying sporting equipment even cheaper for one family by giving away £50 worth of equipment here, on this blog.

All you have to do to enter is complete the simple rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Little Big Sports sent Max some rather snazzy cricket equipment, to kit him up for the 2015 season.