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Antibes – La Vieille Ferme

We have been to the smart end of the Cote D’Azur a number of times between Cannes and Monaco, but have never really found a caravan site that we liked.  In 2014 we went and looked at a site in Antibes and liked it, so we booked a pitch for this year.  We spent a week there, and liked it very much.

It is not a large site, but it is extremely well run by the family that owns it.  The site opened 40 years ago, and now the second generation is running the site.  The daughter-in-law of the original owners runs the reception, and speaks perfect English and has a wicked sense of humour.  She can make jokes in English, but is very efficient and extremely helpful.  You can find out a lot of useful information in the office.

Antibes - A Boat Called Giorgia One of the "smaller" boats in the inner harbour

Antibes - A Boat Called Giorgia One of the "smaller" boats in the inner harbour

The site has various sizes of pitch, which are charged at different prices.  There are 3 main categories.  The biggest pitches are Category 4, and if you have a large VM, then that is the size you will need.  If you have a twin axle, then tell them when you book, and they will arrange for a pitch with easier access.  You can book this site through the Caravan Club, but we chose to book direct as we could provide more information on what we wanted.  For this area, as long as you do not go in peak season, then the price is reasonable.  [website]

The site is open all year round.  It has a swimming pool with a moving roof, which can be opened in hot weather, but which provides cover in cool or cold weather.  There is one good sized swimming pool, plus a children’s pool and a spa pool.  We used it several times, which is a bit unusual for us to use a swimming pool – prefer the sea.

The Casino at Monte Carlo

The Casino at Monte Carlo

The toilets and showers are kept very clean, the showers have been refurbished in the recent past, although the toilets are a little old.  There are two blocks and both are unisex.

A nice feature is the snack bar/takeaway.  There are quite a few tables around the snack bar, which are covered by large sunshades and you can purchase food and drink to eat there or to take back to your pitch.  The food is simple, but is ok, and includes pizzas (not sampled, but looked good).  We got in to the habit of taking a pint glass and getting a take-away of a very nice draught beer and a couple of times got some chips to go with our food.

Pitches are hard-standing and there are a lot of trees for shade.  One word of caution though.  Trees for shade are nice in the height of summer, but in the winter, you need the sun (not that this area is particularly warm in winter), but at some times of year they can drop sap.  Our pitch had only one tree, but I happened to have the front of the caravan under it, and I had a lot of difficulty getting the stains off when we got home.  However, I could have moved the caravan over, had I realised.  Our pitch was on a slope, but easy enough to level, and was an adequate size.  We were not far from the snack bar, which made it convenient for getting beer and chips!

The site takes security seriously.  Obviously, with a lot of wealthy people in the area, there are also a few criminals too.  The main gate is locked each night at 7:30.  You can come in and out with a vehicle up to 11pm using a code, and as a pedestrian all night.  They cleverly use your date of birth as the code number you use.  They think there is less chance of you forgetting it when coming back as a pedestrian!  Probably true.

Cannes - Famous Movie Hotel

Cannes - Famous Movie Hotel

The site is about half a mile (as the crow flies) from the beach.  However, there is a railway line in the way.  The railway runs right along the coast here for miles.  There is the beach road on one side of the railway and the main road on the other, but you need to go to the nearest underpass to get between the two.  In this case, it is just under half a mile.  The first time we went to go through in the car, there was a long queue.  When we got to it, the queue was being caused by a German motorhome that had failed to take notice of the height restriction signs.  It was stuck.  The owner and a tyre depot van were busy letting the tyres down to free it.  Remember not to try and take you caravan through, not that you would need to.

Antibes is amazing.  It is quite small, but a lovely old town.  There is an old market, lots of small shops, cafes and many narrow streets to explore.  The most amazing thing is the harbour.  There are three harbours, the inner, middle and outer.  The inner harbour has some working boats, but it also has a nice collection of pleasure yachts. On first arrival you think that there is a good selection of expensive boats, perhaps worth £2m or so each.  You then walk through the wall in to the middle harbour.  Wow.  Here you find 20 or so big boats.  These are perhaps up to £50m each.  The first boat this time was beautiful, called Dilbar.  They were just about to have a crew meeting, and a lot of the crew were walking towards the rear of the boat, and we counted 25 of them.  It was not clear whether this was the whole crew, as there was nobody that looked like a captain and no-one who looked like engine crew.  Next to another boat a large truck was unloading a large quantity of equipment on to the rear deck for a band to play later.  You then walk through another wall in to the outer harbour.  There was only one boat here.  It was registered in Jeddah and was the size of a small cruise ship.  Could not read its name, it was in Arabic.  Antibes has more very expensive boats than you will find in Nice, Cannes or even Monaco.

Central Antibes is only a couple of miles from the site, and parking is plentiful off-peak, and if you are prepared to walk a little way, there is a large free car park near the castle.  There are also cycle lanes.  It is just as easy to drive to Villeneuve-Loubet.  This is actually the commune that the site is in, and has a small but pleasant harbour, and a nice boardwalk behind the beach, which like all beaches round here is shingle.  However, we decided that it was easier to go almost everywhere else by public transport.  We went to Nice by bus, which is about 10 miles to the centre.  There is a frequent service on the main road, every 20 minutes off-peak, more frequent in the peak hours, that runs between Cannes and Nice, so you can take it either way (no 200).  We used the train to go to Monaco and Cannes.  Works well.   It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the site to the bus stops and 10 minutes to the railway station (Biot).  You pay on the bus, but you need to buy a ticket for the train before boarding, usually from the machine (we never found the ticket office open).  The machine takes cash or credit cards.  There is no facility to pay on the train, if you are caught without a ticket, there is a penalty fare.  Also remember to “compost” you ticket in the little yellow machines at the entrance to the platform, as you have to do everywhere in France.

Nice is the largest city around here and is very pleasant.  Make sure to visit the old town and the area around the flower market and the views from the castle are superb.  There is a lift to the top of the castle hill from the promenade, which is free, if you do not want to walk up the steep hill or the steps.  There is very long promenade that is very attractive, and it stretches over 5 miles from the harbour, around the castle point and then all the way out to the airport.  It has a cycle track the whole way, and is good for walking and better for cycling (because it is more than 5 miles).

A Day Trip to Nice

A Day Trip to Nice

Monaco would take much longer to describe.  It is crowded, but fascinating.  It is worth taking the Petite Train tour to get an overview of the place.  If you are confused by the names, Monaco or Monte Carlo, then the country (the second smallest in the world after the Vatican) is called Monaco, and it has 6 districts, one of which is in the centre, and includes the harbour and the casino and is called Monte Carlo.  The old town, is well worth exploring around the palace and is in the Le Rocher District.  There is a lot to see here.

Cannes is the smaller of the cities.  Its big claim to fame have been the Film Festival, and much is made of that, but it also has the best shopping, and some very attractive buildings.  Again, it is best to take the Petite Train tour as it is easy to only see a very small part of the town, as we have done in the past.

We loved this site and this area.  There is no doubt that we would not like it here in July, August or even early September, but here in later September it is still very busy, not too easy to drive around with the traffic and even more difficult to park, but it has a great atmosphere and there is much to see, so there is also no doubt we will be back here again in the near future.

The site is in part of a natural park, and you can walk through the park with plenty of trails.  We never found time in our week to do that, but will next time.

The only real downsides to the site are that the main road is very busy (the old N7).  You cannot hear the traffic from the site, but getting out with a car on to the main road can be tricky.  If the traffic is bad, then if you want to turn left, it can be quicker to turn right and go right round the next roundabout, especially with the caravan.  The road from the site is quite quiet, but where it joins the main road it has the entrance to the Natural Park and a small car park on one side, but sadly on the other seem to be permanently parked some trucks and even a couple of caravans for the FunFair which is along the main road a short distance and forms part of the Marineland complex.  The vehicles were not a problem, but they made the place look a bit scruffy.  The railway does get in the way when you want to walk to the beach road, and the nearest underpass is under Biot station, some 10 mins walk from the site.  The beach road itself is attractive, but the beach is shingle, so for me this is not really a beach location, I like sand.  Nice airport is only 5 miles away, so there is a little aircraft noise, but it is not a problem.

Overall, if you plan to come to this area, this site is well worth a visit and as it has very good public transport, it is easy to get around.

Sadly, 5 days after we left here, the area was struck my massive storms.  This site was not flooded, but another caravan site half a mile away was badly flooded and one person died.

Article written in September 2015

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