Friday, 31 October 2014

Adventures in Sicily

Anti pasti for one in Sicily - only 3 x 2 foot!!  

Thanks to Massimo of ScicliB&B for the use of this photo!!!

Desperately in need of a break at the end of a successful season 2014  (with thanks to all our great guests for their support over the Mercantour walking holiday season) ..........we take ourselves off to Sicily - our loins girded for a long session on Trenitalia - and the romance (?) of a private compartment overnight.........we sleep like dogs on a clattery old train, dubious rolling stock - trying to remember the joys of the process of travelling!

They really do put the train on the ferry on the short trip over the Messina Straits, which is a welcome break from the rattling, and our first "arancino" of the week....and are successfully re-gurgitated into Palermo central where we are spoilt rotten with kindness by Manuela and Manilo at the lovely Via Delle Bicicletta - the bikes make their appearance the following morning, as we stumble out to have a look at the eclectic Palermo old town - having feasted on lovely pastries and coffee.

Rather loathe to take ourselves off to pick up a hire car - as it seemed as if we hadn't really done justice to Palermo, we headed off into the thrash of Italian driving and the Madonie Park and Gangi (where you can pick up a house for a €  if you are quick!)....where the Villa Raino is an oasis of calm (note that the B&B is before Gangi to the west of the town - NOT where Google maps would take you!!!) - while the inviting pool was perhaps a bit chilly looking we have a "bring it on" supper - astringent wine - great to cut through the olive oil - listen to the trill of birds and sleep like logs!!!  Hey logs and dogs.....but sleep - it was good...........and Etna was clearly visible in the morning - as it is - a mighty hulk of nearly 3000m - around the island.  The first snow brought the slopes of the volcano into sharper relief by the end of the week.

Rather like the Mercantour here in France - it seems as if few tourists want to walk in the pretty Madonie hills (we DO need to walk however if we are offered 5K calories of delicious "bounty" a day!) - and the tourist office aghast that we would even contemplate such a mad venture.....

En route to Scicli - we pass by the Villa Romana de Casale which, aside from the shrieking Italian guides with cruise ship clients - was absolutely astonishing and worth the trip to Sicily in itself.

In Scicli, we throw ourselves on the mercy of Nino (Italian but German speaking too!) and his chestnut roasting friends who offer to take us to the Scicli B&B behind a fast moving disabilty scooter! YES!! Fun to be in a studio in the old town where we can eat wonderful tomatoes and plain rice for a couple of nights!!!

Massimo - and he knows who he is - is a cute teddy bear of a host - so keen to get over the splendour of his home town - and perhaps disappointed that we haven't even seen Montalbano on the box. A wealth of splendid churches in the village - a shame that the nearby coastline is a desert of ghastly - but we do manage a nice lunch in Pozzallo.  Ragusa and Modica not visited!

The old town of Syracusa was a treat before we headed off with much anticipation towards Taormina - where perhaps a Saturday evening - not the best time to visit - indeed a beautiful location but much better during the Grand Tour era of the twentieth century - the twenty first has left the town rather  tawdry and expensive.

However we are lucky to be staying outside the town in Lettojanni where we are well tended by Brita at the Casale Praia and, what is more, an amazing meal at the Le Pietre Restaurant in Gallodoro - where we were truly astounded by the 10 (yes 10) plates of anti pasti - having to draw a line at about 70% of the way through the meal - and then a bill of €35 for us both!!!

A drive over the hills on the following day was fun and then a wander around Cefalu provided a diversion (but do look look look at parking restrictions in Sicily's tourist towns as they are hot on parking tickets - we know!).  A shame that the churches are not always open for visitors to appreciate the wealth of history.

After a hassle rich delivery of the hire car and walk back to town, we were delighted to see Manuela and Manilo again and then enjoy a cafe style Indian snack that evening...!!

Bubbling chaos (rather Indian!)  in Palermo on the morning of our departure - but the chance to visit the magnificent cathedral - even if we miss out on the Norman splendour!

Thoughts for the wary!

Read - The Middle Sea - John Julius Norwich - to get in the swing of things
Transport - Fly there!!
Visit - historic sites - first thing in the morning or at lunchtime - check opening times for churches etc
Eat - go steady - there is always more to come
Stay - lots of good value accommodation - check out the location to avoid being in an off season backwater, overlooking a road or train line or half finished buildings
Parking - check out all the restrictions in popular towns
Travel - roads are interesting! - don't plan to thrash through the miles

Enjoy - Sicily has a huge amount to offer!  

SPACEBETWEEN -  we don't offer client trips to Sicily but we have contacts there now if anyone is interested!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

moving to france

Rustic life in France!!

Don't imagine that you will parachute into France and live happily ever after!!

For sure if you are lucky enough to have a tasty pension you can settle in reasonably well and even more easily if you wish to settle into ex pat ghettos....your choice.....

If you want to work here for yourself and break into "entrepreneurial'ship", do make sure that your heart rules your head when it comes to buying any sort of property here in France, that you have excellent advice and a business plan that you have worked to death - as if you were seeing the ghastly ****s who might wish to terrorise you on Dragons' Den......

Be prepared for several years of worrying about the white envelopes which arrive on your door mat demanding monies about which you have no idea - and the not even veiled threat - that if you don't pay they will add a penalty, and be sure that you can survive without any income at all for at least five years.

Accept that you will be working long hours for a small income, but more than likely in a beautiful if crumbling place with land which is awash with brambles (who who who did invent these things?) and open your mind to the great people who live around you, and then yes, sure, you can dress up your horse and take him to the 40th anniversary party of good friends......

Nothing in life is easy - unless you had the silver spoon treatment or a lot of talent - which we have seen today can have terrible consequences.

Go for it.............

Wanting to get it from the horse's mouth - try accommodation in France or walking holidays in France - spacebetween ......where you can have a great holiday with real people, and eat and drink well.  Vegetarians who despair of eating well in France are very welcome - plus wolves at Alpha on tap!

Christmas snow shoeing in France

Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of commerce overload over the festive season?

It's fun to be with like-minded people on holiday - good walking - good eating - good company - sounds the perfect break.

The obvious snow holiday is of course to slap on the planks or the surf board and zip down hill in your pretty resort.

What your hosts - spacebetween are very pleased to offer are snow holidays, just a stone's throw from the French Riviera, where you can pad around in the wilds on snow shoes, and enjoy both views down to the Med, and up to the massif of the Mercantour.

These holidays start over the Christmas and New Year period and then continue until the end of March.  However with mountains up to over 3000m there is snow (even now as I type) on high level walks until the summer.

Snow shoeing is quite strenuous as an exercise but does not require any great skill - with a bit of "oomph" in your thighs - it takes a tiny amount of time to master your "tennis rackets! - no they are not really like that these days!! - and be proficient. 

What is then a delight is to put your "heels" on to help you up hill, and then "yay" attach the back of your shoes for some downhill "pfloofing" - a spacebetween  trademark word - if not registered!

For the inexperienced, this is running down hill in powder like a maniac and then diving over!

What could be more fun!!!

 Fly to Nice and let spacebetween take the strain!!

snow shoeing holidays in France
snow shoeing holidays over the festive season
Christmas holidays in the snow
New Year in the snow
Vegetarian holidays over Christmas
Vegetarian holidays New Year

Vegetarian holidays in France

Ever been on the prowl for vegetarian food in France in Nice or wherever?

Everyone to a man (or woman) these days does stress just how important food is to the holiday experience.....and quite rightly so......

SO - want to come and have a great hiking holiday in France in an unspoilt national park but just an hour north of Nice?.......already sounding too good to be true...,,,,,

..............AND YES then - what's more - come to France for a walking holiday with spacebetween in the Mercantour and if you stay with your hosts in Berthemont les Bains - you can also have a good say in what you want to eat, and if you are a veggie, gluten free, organic, vegan, allergic to all manner of things - you can be safe and sure that you will have something tasty to eat wtihout endangering your health!!  and there will be no omelettes!!!  If you choose the chambre d'hote option for your holiday you can also be sure that Luc and Christine in the Grand Chalet will look after you extremely well.

It's quite strange that many of the classic food dishes here on the Med either are, or could be, vegetarian with a tiny bit of flare.....thinking socca, salade nicoise, pissaladiere, tarte aux blettes (savoury or sweet), pizza, polenta, courgette fritters, tapenade....never mind the gorgeous selection of fresh vegetables which strain at the edges of local potagers!!

It's often much easier to pop over the border to Liguria, Italy where at least you can be sure of a plate of home made pasta, with, if you are really lucky a good spicy tomato sauce.

Come and stay in the Alpes-Maritimes and play - ask for info from spacebetween for ideas on the coast and in Italy where your hosts have great friends who cook up a storm - such as Marla and Fab at Bella Baita. ....

There's much happening here for the rest of the year - and then there is always the huge filip of the Nice Carnaval and Menton Lemon Festival in February 2015 to get us all going again after the winter.

Photo - thanks to Paramo

vegetarian holidays in France
vegan holidays in France
foodie holidays in France
walking and good food holidays in France

Monday, 2 June 2014

Holidays in Nice for foodies!

The city that never sleeps - well - certainly doesn't go hungry!!!

For the tenth year running during the last weekend in May - Nice Prom has just hosted a fabulous exhibition of Italian food - L'Italie a Table!

Protected from the elements by stylish pavilions a myriad of stalls offer an absolute wealth of the best of Italian food.....come hungry and with your wallet - sparkling wine, artisanal beer, ice cream, wonderful olives, pasta, jarred anchovies, rustic bread, sausage, cheese (including our favourite a round with truffles - yum!).

Carnivores can thrill at hog roast - for a carnivore who lives with a vegetarian this was heaven!!

It's also nice as it doesn't bust your budget - there's copious amounts of food being offered for free to taste, and for example, the mighty slab of pig in bread above is just €3.50 or €5 with a glass of red wine.

The event runs about 100m along the Prom in the area of the Theatre de Verdure.  The pavillions are due to stay in place for other outdoor events throughout the summer months.

What's not to like??  And WHO said that French cuisine is the best in the world - not me for sure.

Either stay in Nice - there's plenty of good value hotels - or get up to the mountains just an hour north of Nice for self catering accommodation in the Mercantour National Park- or enjoy a mini break with spacebetween.

Photo - courtesy of Lindsey Sinclair

Friday, 23 May 2014

Nice airport - the most beautiful approach in the world - the Med - the Mercantour!!

Nice airport has just been awarded the accolade of being the top aerial approach in the world.

The poll was undertaken by Private Fly, who specialise in reservations for private jets.  Over 200 airports were taken into consideration - including London, LA and Rio!!

Apparently voters just loved the sublime beauty, richness of colours and great panorama afforded as they head down into Nice from the west and Saint Tropez or the east over Monaco.

Get to see the best of the Alpes-Maritimes - get out to the back country and the Mercantour - with spacebetween, your resident experts in the "field"!!!

Photo - Mercantour view down to the sea!!! - Nice Matin are really not too keen if you use their images without permission - and permission is like drawing teeth!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wilder wildlife holidays in the South of France!


A new partnership between the Mercantour's Alpha Wolf Park in Le Boreon and the
Biological Reserve of the Monts d' Azur has just been forged. 

Alpha - as readers will know - houses wolves from Europe and most recently has taken delivery of three Canadian wolves (pictured above).   

The Monts d' Azur Reserve is just 30 minutes from Grasse, near to Thorenc.  

It is a huge reserve where guests can explore on foot or in a horse drawn carriage, and get up close and personal to European bison, Przewalski horses, deer, chamois and other species.  It's also possible to stay on site and enjoy various "packages" offered by the reserve.

In the first instance, visitors presenting a proof of purchase from one site will be able to gain a discount off their entry to the other site!!

A great day out for families.

Accommodation in the Mercantour - spacebetween in Berthemont les Bains

Image - courtesy of Alpha wolf park

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Better bus services from Nice to the Mercantour

Public transport in Nice

DISRUPTION on the bus

More bus services in the Vesubie – from MAY 15TH 2014…
1)      730 line
Additional buses
Tuesdays and Fridays  at 8:30 am and 3:20 p.m. from St Martin Vésubie
11:55 and 4:20 p.m. from Plan du Var (Catch the 59 service from Nice)
Tuesdays and Fridays: 6:40 from Venanson and 19.00 from Saint-Martin.
 June 14 to September 14, 2014), on Saturdays and Sundays for the months of June and September, and Fridays,  Saturdays, Sundays and holidays for the months of July and August.

Monday, 7 April 2014

WOLVES - and wildlife holidays in France

WHO is afraid of the big bad wolf????

From April 2014, for the new spring season, there are three new residents in Alpha, the wolf park near to Saint-Martin-Vésubie, in the Mercantour National Park, France.

Hoona, Healy and Galena arrived at Alpha last Tuesday - long legged, short eared and granite eyed they are a very different "kettle of fish" to the current incumbents of the wolf park.  They are easily distinguishable - Hoona, with fur black enough strike fear into the heart of anyone who enjoys the myth of the wolf, Galena with a small white "goatee" under her chin, and Healy with a white patch on her chest.

This handsome trio of Canadian wolves, brought in from Mulhouse in Eastern France are about a year old, and have been introduced as part of the continuous development of Alpha, according to Sophie Barberis, Deputy Director of the Alpha Park.  A facility such as this certainly has "teeth", being based on the perimeter of the Mercantour National Park in larch forest at about 1500m, where despite the current warm temperatures - there is still snow to mess around in.

Official opening this weekend - April 12th - and apparently if you say CANADA to reception on arrival - you may get a surprise!!

For more details 
Alpha Wolf Park - Le Boreon - Saint Martin Vesubie.  Facebook

Accommodation and holidays

spacebetween - self catering accommodation in Berthemont les Bains (25 minutes away), walking holidays and adventure holidays in the Mercantour, France.
Wolf watching holiday with late availability on April 22nd and May 15th. Facebook


Good eating near by at "O a la Bouche" - open all day but not in the evenings


Chalet accommodation in Le Boreon - L'Arberc
Chambre d'hote accommodation - Grand Chalet - in Valdeblore (20 minutes away)
Gite d'etape - Gite du Boreon in Le Boreon


Horse riding with Denis Longfellow from the middle of June to end September
Fishing - season just started, snow shoeing at altitude, fantastic walking and climbing!

Images courtesy of Alpha

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Activity holidays in France.....

..........just got easier with the forthcoming launch - on April 12th of the Cote D'Azur Card for 2014. 

If you are planning on taking a family holiday in France this year why not also take advantage of the new actvities card which is being launched in the next couple of weeks.

If your loved one/family and friends and your good self are interested in taking in the best of what the Cote D'Azur has to offer check out what you might want to do over the course of a few or even six days - and see how you might be able to max out the use of this card.....

110 activities - €39 for 3 days - €54 for 6 days and less for kids.......

With spacebetween in the Mercantour now offering flexible activity holidays which allow you to enjoy their comfortable accommodation in Berthemont les Bains - plus choose to add on transport and food - and then select what you want to do - this card is another great bonus.

Your hosts spacebetween currently checkin' out how they might be able to have some cards available for their guests too - so zero hassle!!!

Some availability for the Easter and summer term half term, and summer school holidays.

The site isn't currently in English but you can check out the attraction sites which often are - and see what super savings you could be making.

spacebetween - berthemont les bains - just an hour north of Nice.

Tel - 00 33 4 93 03 48 57

Photo - Timandra Harkness - journalist - on the Via Ferrata at La Colmiane - one of the venues for the card

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

New promenade in Nice and a statue of liberty!!!

This is the new promenade du Paillon in Nice - a wonderful green lung in the heart of Nice - (runs parallel to the sea two or three blocks inland.  Lovely for strolling on a Sunday morning with the kids - there are also some superbly designed childrens' playgrounds en route - or - play at being a big kid yourself by dodging in and out of the rythmic fountains!!!

A short video here to give you a good flavour for it.

While you are taking a turn before a welcome coffee and croissant break, or socca and a rose (with an accent!) - also head to the Quai des Etats-Unis where a (smallish!) replica of the Statue of Liberty now graces the quai, looking hopefully out to sea.

 No time like the present to enjoy the lovely spring weather down here in the Alpes-Maritimes - a perfect holiday break in France - use the knowledge of your resident experts in the Mercantour - Liz and Mel of space-between - and watch out for their new website just after Valentine's Day!!!  Enjoy some time on the coast enjoying the Nice Carnaval or Menton Lemon Festival (both from mid February), or even the Mimosa festival in Cannes-Mandelieu before taking some time out in the snow in the Mercantour - a National Park just an hour north where there is an abundance of the white stuff currently and plenty of wolves and other beasties getting ready to awaken from their winter slumbers.

Liz Lord and Mel Jones - spacebetween - self catering accommodation plus walking and adventure holidays in the Mercantour - France.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Furry/feathered fauna in the Mercantour

It is excellent to see the cross border collaboration between the French and the Italians striving to achieve UNESCO world heritage site status for the National Parks and for other areas in the Alpes-Maritimes and Liguria/Piedmont.

In addition to the French Mercantour National Park web site there is also a site for the combined Parks,
with some English.

Even here in “sunny” – I wish – Berthemont - it has been very interesting recently to see a whole host of tracks left in the snow – badger, fox, deer, roe deer, wild boar and all manner of birdies…..owls a hooting too of course…..and currently all fed up of the Ark weather that the United Kingdom and Europe have been having….

Further afield in the Park itself, there is the equivalent of the Big 5 in Africa – if not quite so prestigious – but hey I’m happy to see ibex, chamois, wolves, golden eagles and lammageias – not bad for starters.  

The diversity extends to the micro too, with the presence of many hundreds of insect/invertebrate species which have been lurking around since the Ice Age and many of which are threatened.

Fun to spot a ptarmigan in the Northern stretches of the Park, as well as green lizards on its Southern boundaries…..

For anyone particularly keen on learning more – look here for a page in English about various topics relating to both National Parks – from where you can download pdf files – currently in French  and Italian only – am sure that Google translate would give a not bad version if your language skills are not tip top.

Want to get to grips with the Mercantour – contact the only British holiday company to be based here in the Mercantour – in the fine Vésubie valley.

Accommodation only or self guided/guided  walking holidays in France  - plus adventure holidays for the adrenaline orientated!!

Liz Lord & Mel Jones

Berthemont les Bains