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Category Archives: Marseille, Cannes, Nice, St. Tropez and Monaco

Lazy summer days in Marseille

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Five outrageously expensive things to do in Monte Carlo

If you ever decide to visit Monte Carlo in Monaco, come well prepared. And we are not talking about passport, toothbrush and other obvious items. You have to be prepared money-wise. And we mean seriously well-heeled. Here is one example: breakfast at a cafe, including coffee, juice (sure, it was fresh) and croissant (not so fresh) for two persons can easily leave you 70 dollars shorter. If this doesn’t scare the h*ll out of you, go ahead and read how you can have an absolutely fabulous time in Monte Carlo.

1. Have a leisurely breakfast (until you see the bill) at Cafe de Paris. This is a trademark place for people-watching outside the casino. It is supposedly a venue where the rich and famous discuss the latest fashion trends and decide when and where to go for dinner but we call it tourist a trap.

The beach

2. Have a swim and enjoy the sunny weather at the Monte Carlo Beach. However, nothing is for free (at least not in Monte Carlo) and as the title suggests, we remind you to keep plenty of cash handy if you want refreshments, watermelon, wine and other goodies served to you. The entrance fee to the beach is 120 Euros. After a few laps in the sea, we suggest you venture off to the nearby restaurant La Vigie for a nice and relaxing buffet lunch while enjoying the view of the sea and the surrounding mountains from the terrace.

A real catch

3. In the afternoon, visit the Monaco Oceanographic Museum, which, by the way, for 30 years was directed by explorer Jacques Cousteau. Enjoy the aquarium with some incredible species and take photos of the sharks (remember flash is not allowed). Sounds like only for kids? Then you should have seen us running around with big smiles on our faces (as if we just finished second grade).

4. Continue enjoying “Joix de vivre” (if you still have money left on your account) and have dinner  at Louis XV – Alain Ducasse restaurant inside Hotel de Paris. A 3 star Michelin establishment that will make the most high maintenance celebrity speechless. A true delight (of course)!

5. Cap off the night by visiting the classic Monte Carlo Casino for some one-armed bandit antics, black jack or roulette. It is one of the best known casinos in the world, however, be warned. Don’t go here to try winning back all the money you spent on the beach, cafes and restaurants during the day. Decide your limit beforehand or just walk around and suck in the atmosphere. It may not look as romantic as you might have imagined (at least we didn’t see any James Bond or George Clooney look-a-likes dressed in tuxedos). The place is instead packed with tourists and the lights are on full blast. Not exactly cozy, but on the other hand, since when do high-rollers ask for cozy?

Bottom line, if you feel like partying with the rich and famous, in exchange for some serious money, don’t miss Monte Carlo – the place to see and be seen!

Where to lodge in Monte Carlo? Read our review: Hotel de Paris. 

Sam eats gourmet – without spilling on his collar

Sam’s favorite spot in Cannes

We haven’t published many stories about Sam recently and there is a very good reason for that. He just had surgery on his eyes. He is fine now but unfortunately he has to walk with a terribly ugly plastic collar around his neck in 40 degrees heat (in fashionable Cannes of all the places!). No wonder he irritably wanders off as soon as we pick up the camera. But there is one thing that always puts him in a good mood again – food. And he has already found his favorite restaurant, centrally located on La Croisette in Cannes. After his daily morning walks, this is the place you can be sure to  find him, washing down a Sausage a la Naturelle with a bit of still water.

Hotel Benkirai – a charming place in glamorous St. Tropez

Hotel Benkirai in St. Tropez is advertised on several travel websites as a five star establishment, which it is not. It is in fact a nice four star hotel to spend a few days enjoying life on the French Riviera. It’s located only a five minute drive from St. Tropez with all its beaches and jet-set life this former fishing village, turned glamour capital, has to offer. The hotel has an excellent taxi service free-of-charge until midnight, so you can easily go to town or enjoy the beach whenever you feel like it.

The hotel itself is very pleasant with a lovely restaurant/bar area, a nice pool and plenty of comfortable sun beds (in the morning you are not stressed looking for a place to put down your old bones to get some tan). The rooms are small, that is a fact, but rather well designed in light blue and white colors. You have either a nice terrace or a balcony. You may feel a bit claustrophobic, but then again, who comes to St. Tropez to hang around in the hotel room?

The restaurant serves traditional Mediterranean food in a tranquil setting and is an excellent choice if you don’t have the energy to take the taxi downtown. Being rather picky travelers, we were not able to fault the service even one small bit, everything was top notch. And most importantly, Sam (our dog) was very much welcomed. So if you are planning a visit to St. Tropez and don’t want to stay in the town itself, don’t hesitate to book Hotel Benkirai, it’s an absolutely beautiful place with plenty of charm.

Rating: 4/5

Pool area

Visiting St. Tropez – the playground for the rich and famous

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A Sofitel heaven in Marseille

Hotel Sofitel Vieux Port in Marseille is nicely located in the center, overlooking the old port. The view from the upper floors is outstanding and gives the visitor an immediate feeling of what this historical city has to offer. This hotel is definitely among the best the samandthedunes-team has ever reviewed.

Our room were tastefully and contemporarily decorated, if a bit smallish, but otherwise it provided all the amenities that one can wish for. The pool downstairs is big enough to keep guests happy and the sun-beds are plentiful. There is also a nice cafe outside the pool area where you can enjoy a gourmet lunch with some excellent wine or champagne. If it gets really hot during the day (which is often the case in the summer) try the sophisticated hotel bar inside, with a wide selection of snacks and drinks. In the evening, book a table at the hotel top floor restaurant Les Trois Forts. It is considered one of the best in the city and here you can enjoy mouthwatering dishes from the sea (the lobster was especially good) while gazing at the old port and the passing by cruise ships – an experience not to miss.

The service at Sofitel Vieux Port is beyond praise, attentive multi-lingual staff ensure that your stay is as pleasant as possible. If you are in Marseille for business, pleasure or just for a couple of days before starting off on a trip to Cote d’Azur, don’t miss this Sofitel experience. It’s a place of tranquility and luxury that will make you smile with appreciation.

A taste of the sea at restaurant Les Trois Forts

 

Sam, the art collector

Being the frequent traveller that he is, Sam has suddenly decided to start collecting souvenirs from all over the world. Although he is not earning any money (the plan to contact a circus and make him famous hasn’t worked out yet), he promised that he has a special nose for fine art and that a temporary loan would give him the chance to show off his investment skills. Anyway, after a short discussion (and lot’s of loud barking) Sam managed to assure us that this type of collection can be worth a fortune in a couple of years. Even though we were not fully convinced, we decided to lend him the money to start his unique collection of…tada…miniature dogs.

Purchased on 16 July, 2012 in Marseille. (Price: 6 euros).

Purchased on 21 July, 2012 in Cannes flea market. (Price: 25 euros!!!)

 

Enjoying Bouillabaisse in Marseille

Restaurant L’Annexe

Arriving hungry and tired in Marseille, the world capital of Bouillabaisse, it was never really up for discussion what to eat. We just had to try this traditional Provencal fish stew dating back to 600 BC, when the Greeks founded the city. Near the old port, next to a small fountain, we found a cool looking restaurant called L’ Annexe, which served this classic meal. But don’t worry if you cannot find this particular place, almost every eatery in Marseille has Bouillabaisse, a fish soup popular for centuries with the local fishermen and made out of class B fish (every chef insists on having the “right” recipe but you won’t find salmon or tuna in a traditional Bouillabaisse). To make it more filling, it is spiced up with potatoes, tomatoes, onions and garlic.

THE Bouillabaisse

In addition, you get a plate of croutons with saffron and garlic mayonnaise. Over the years Bouillabaisse became internationally fashionable offered in many of the fanciest restaurants in the world. However, eating the traditional one, in the old port in Marseille, is an experience hard to beat.

Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

Welcome to a joint French-Italian production!

Stunning view from our hotel – Marseille old port

As you might have noticed, the Sam and the dunes team has been very, very lazy lately. In fact, we haven’t done many postings for the past two months. We are accusing each other for this but the one that is easiest to blame is…Sam. In the end, no matter who’s fault it is, we understand this has to be rectified. So we decided to start our dream vacation and update our travel blog regularly. The trip begins in Marseille and will end in Rome. In between we are planning to see St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monaco and whatever gems we find along the way. Bon Voyage and stay tuned!

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