Explore the beaches of Nice

The beaches of Nice stretch about 10km from the airport in the West right round to Mont Boron to the East, with views to the Esterel hills one way and Villefranche the other.  Above most of this coastline is the famous Promenade des Anglais, an attractive long corniche along which locals and visitors like to stroll, jog, rollerblade and sometimes show off.  Most of Nice’s public beaches don’t offer the smartest or most expensive beach life (for that,  try places like St Tropez) but it is a charming and relaxing scene and it is of its place: this is a

Pic: Pascua Theus

town where the locals love their almost unique and very beautiful setting.  Even if you are staying at a villa that is not in the town it is probably worth a visit to take in some very French beach life.  The beaches are not sandy but pebbly (the pebbles known as galets, one of the trademarks of Nice, nice enough but bring sandals!).

Along the coast are a number of private and public beaches.  The public beaches are generally clean and safe and have adequate facilities (toilets, showers etc) but you bring your own towels, mats and so on; private beaches are not an obvious choice, especially if coming from the UK where private beaches don’t really exist, but you get every comfort from sunbeds and umbrellas to towels and mats starting at about €15, which is reasonable compared with what you spend if you have to buy those things separately.

Along the beaches are a number of restaurants and while you do pay extra for eating on the beach it is not much different from what you pay on the Promenade des Anglais and the food is often better.  The style here is casual and relaxed; bathing costumes are OK at lunchtime (perhaps less so in the evening).

There are about 40 beaches to choose from, but the following may be particular interest: Opera Plage is a private beach where chair, umbrella and changing room cost about €15.  The restaurant is good with main dishes from about the same.  The Ruhl Plage has a supervised children’s pool and child-friendly restaurant.  The Coco Beach to the east has a restaurant (expensive, good) with the best views along the coast, and Centenaire and Carras have full disabled access.

Nice may be crowded and towny and less exclusive than Cannes or St Tropez, but if quiet living in your villa gets too quiet then put Nice on the list of things to explore.

Tastes of the Algarve

With some of the best fish available anywhere and other superb ingredients, the Algarve offers a gastronomic feast for the senses.  If you are planning a special night out during your holiday, there are superb restaurants everywhere.  In the first part of an occasional series, we outline some of the most famous as well as some personal favourites.

Vila Joya: At Praia da Gale, a few miles east of Albufeira.  For many years this was the Algarve’s only restaurant with 2 Michelin stars (more recently joined by Vila Vita Parc) but still the only restaurant to make it onto the San Pellegrino list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.  Tasting menus are the speciality of the Austrian chef whose influences are central European but also draw on the best of Portugal’s traditions of fresh and eye-catching cuisine. (our Villa Linucia is within walking distance)

Vila Vita Parc: At Alporchinhos, near Porches, Central Algarve.  The Ocean Restaurant won its second star in 2011. Chef Hans Neuner has a reputation for the best ingredients from the best sources: a special relationship with the Algarve’s fishing community guarantees some of the best fish available anywhere cooked to perfection, and tomatoes and vegetables are carefully and locally sourced to ensure best quality.  Tasting menus again a speciality with exceptional attention to detail.

Casa Velha overlooking the lake in Quinta do Lago, Casa Velha is a superb French and Portuguese restaurant in a converted centuries-old farmhouse that has functioned as a restaurant for something like 50 years.  Charming and intimate atmosphere; dining indoors or out, choose from the view of the lake or the courtyard with fountain.  Perfect for a special night out when staying in the resort of Quinta do Lago, very good fish, meat and poultry, tasting menus available.

Vistas Restaurant, Monte Rei Golf and Country Club.  Situated just east of Faro, Monte Rei offers not just some of the best golf in Europe (voted best in Portugal, top 100 in Europe) but superb dining in the Vistas restaurant.  The chef, Jaime Perez, is a former protégé of the world famous Ferran Adria and worked with him at the legendary 3 star El Bulli restaurant in the Costa Brava.  His signature is a combination of Catalonian, Andalusian and Basque influences emphasising the use of superb ingredients and flavours.

(Disclaimer: these are just personal opinions and things can get out of date very quickly.  Check with restaurants before confirming your holiday as reservations are essential at most times.  Things get better and things get worse – let us know your experiences.)