5 Reasons Why You Need a Vespa when Traveling

5 Reasons Why You Need a Vespa when Traveling

While a rented car and public transport, seem to be the most frequent ways for travelers to get around, I strongly believe nothing can be better than a scooter. My personal favourite is a Vespa and here are 5 reasons why you need one when traveling abroad.

1/ Avoid Traffic

 

Anyone who’s been to the South of France knows what a nightmare it is to get around. The tiny streets are choked with a mix of  buses, bumped up little french cars and your odd Rolls Royce bearing Russian number plates. Forget trying to get anywhere around rush hour, and definitely don’t try to get into or out of Monaco at the beginning or the end of an big event weekend. On a Vepsa, however, you get to zoom past all the frustrated drivers as the wind blows in your hair. Yes, haters gonna hate.

2/ Parking

 

Another frequent problem is finding parking, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. On a Vespa, you can find parking quickly and easily. Most places have a designated parking spot for bikes. Free parking is another bonus!

3/ Access Hard-to-access Areas

 

If you like to explore places off the beaten path, you will often find cars unhelpful in getting there. The beauty of being on a bike is that you can often get much closer to your destination. It’s just as true in the cities, where popular restaurants and cafes are impossible to get to by car (because of a lack of parking), which forces you to leave your car miles away and walk. On a Vespa you can arrive at the door. In style.

4/ Arrive in Style

 

Speaking of style, nothing says chique like a red vespa. If you’re a lady, you’re going to have to learn how to hop on and off that thing gracefully (takes a few tries before you nail it), but nothing should stop you from rocking heels and a dress while riding a bike. It’s all very Vanessa Paradis.

 

5/ Save on Fuel

 

When you’re traveling on a budget every little counts. While fuelling up a small car can set you back anything from 50 to 70 Euros in Europe, a full tank on a Vespa with a good engine will cost you under 10 EUR. Wouldn’t you rather spend the difference on visiting museums, trying local cuisines and eating your body weight in ice cream? I would.

 

Experience riding a Vespa through South of France in 360º

South of France for under 100 EUR

South of France for under 100 EUR

In my previous article, I shared my tips on how to travel to South of France if you’re on a budget. Once you’re there, here is what you can do to enjoy the gorgeous french Riviera without breaking the bank.

Villefranche Bay

Day Activities

There is much to see in the South of France – from antique markets, to museums of modern art, to villas that house some of the world’s most impressive collections for visitors to admire. If you get tired of the culture and the beach, you can head up to the mountains and explore the Alpes Maritimes villages that stand defying time, paying homage to some of the greatest artists that have ever lived.

 

1. Visit the museums of Nice

The Museum of Modern Art in Nice houses an impressive collection and always has interesting exhibits. Here you can see works from the likes of Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle. The tickets cost 10 EUR and includes 24 hour entrance to other galleries and museums around town, including Galerie des Ponchettes, Espace Ferrero, Galerie de la Marine, Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image, Musée Matisse, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée d’Art Naïf, Musée Masséna, Palais Lascaris, Musée d’Archéologie, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle… Children and students go for free! Ready? Set? Go!

 

2. Explore the Markets

There are plenty of markets that can peak the interest of a bargain-hunter. There are flea markets in almost every town, some of them offer better quality than others. My personal favourite is the morning market in Cannes – there you can find beautiful antique books, posters and stamps for a reasonable price. Another gem is the Flower Market in Cours Saleya, Nice. It’s full of colour and gorgeous smells. A real treat for the senses!

Flower Market, Cours Saleya, Nice

3. Travel to Monaco and Eze

One of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken was on the corniches going from Nice to Monaco. Enjoy the incredible scenery, and visit the hillside village of Eze to get spectacular views of the torquoise sea. Head to Monaco, explore the Principality, paying a visit to the Prince’s Palace and drive around the Grand Prix circuit.

Overlooking Monaco

 

4. Discover the Alpes Maritimes

Discover the beautiful villages in the countryside like Tourettes sur Loup and Mougins. Get a feeling of bygone times, stroll trough the medieval french villages with their pretty little streets and enjoy the old facades of stones and stairs bordered with flowers. Each village offers something unique, whether it’s painters studios, artisan olive oil and tapenade production or glass blowing. It’s a great change from the beach vibes of the coast, and offers incredible photo opportunities!

4. Make a Day Trip to Villefranche and visit Villa Rotschild

Discover the french riviera by bike. Pedal through the old town of Nice towards Villefrance and marvel at the Belle Époque villas on both sides. At Villefranche, take a tour of the Old Town and discover tiny streets full of charm. Go to the 16th-century fortress, built above the sea to protect the bay from pirates and French attacks.

Later, stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the most impressive buildings on the Cote d’Azur. Its interiors are filled with artifacts and collectibles from all over the world. Its gardens are second to none (not even the Gardins Exotiques of Monaco). Arrive early or late, to be the first ones there and have the villa to yourselves. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of tarte citron at the house café.

View of Villefrance Bay

Evening Activities

1. Apèro’s or Happy Hour

There are plenty of places to enjoy aperitifs, or happy hour in the South of France without breaking the bank. In Monaco, Stars and Bars is an American Sports themed restaurant and bar, located on Port Hercule. It is a local institution that serves food around the clock and has happy hour from 5PM to 7PM. There is a big outside lounge and restaurant area that looks onto the harbor and the F1 track. Stars attracts a younger crowd, has a very cool and casual atmosphere and great music. It’s ideal for apero’s before dinner.

Other options are Cosmo Bar and Achillis in Villefranche. They have great wine lists, reasonably priced nibbles to accompany your drinks and great views. The former offers tapas for 2 EUR when you order a bottle of wine, and the latter has great music and vibes (but fills up pretty quickly so get there early!)

 

Achillis Bar, Villefrance

2. Evening Promenades

The evenings in South of France are trully magical. After the sun goes down, the air cools and the lights adorning the Alpes Maritimes and the yachts parked in the bays go on. I love taking a long walk down the Promenades des Anglais, admiring the views and eating my favourite ice cream from Fenocchio ice cream parlour.

3. Evening Picnics on the Beach

 

Beaches are public property in France, which means that you have the right to enjoy even the fanciest of beaches, without paying the notorious prices for a sunbed. Furthermore, these beaches offer incredible views and a fantastic location for an evening picnic. Grab a bottle of chilled rosé along with some snacks from a bakery, and make yourself a romantic evening pieds dans l’eau for next to nothing.

 

Remember – best things in life are for free!

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How to Travel to South of France on a Budget

How to Travel to South of France on a Budget

The South of France is probably the most popular summer destination in Europe. While it consitently attracts the rich and famous, you don’t have to be either to have a good time there! Here are my tips on how to travel South of France on a shoestring budget – when to go, where to stay, and where to eat.

 

Pick Your Time to Travel Wisely

 

The hype picks up around May, with the Grand Prix of Monaco kicking things off. You sense this when you go out – the restaurants and bars start charging “grand prix prices” – sometimes nearly double the normal price. Coffee for 25 Euros? A bottle of sparkling water for 20? Thanks, I think I’ll pass.

The key to doing France on a budget is to pick your timing wisely. Avoid big events, such as the grand prix, the jazz festival, the firework festival. Basically avoid going there in summer. The best time to travel is September to November. The weather is warm, it’s sunny and it’s nowhere near as busy. You can read more about South of France off-season here.

 

Accommodation

 

If you must visit during the luscious summer season (I don’t blame you), avoid staying at hotels. They get booked up way in advance, and sadly don’t offer much value for money. You will typically find a small hotel with the bare essentials setting you back at least 130 Euros a night. Instead, stay at an Airbnb! I’m a HUGE fan of Airbnb and cannot recommend the experience enough. We’ve tried it in France, in Amsterdam, in Sweden, and even in South Africa. Our last hosts in Nelspruit invited us to join them in an evening of wine blending for a national wine blending competition! If you haven’t already tried Airbnb, do it! Here’s a few great options you can find in the South of France under 120 EUR per night.

 

You know what I mean??? If you haven’t already joined the Airbnb community, I strongly recommend you do! And here’s a little present from me, book using the link below and get $40 off your first booking! You’re Welcome!

Dining

 

Breakfast

Once you arrive at you’re beautiful Airbnb, find out where the nearest bakery is. Each morning, you can treat yourself to freshly baked baguette, croissant or if you’re feeling très français, try a pissaladière

My personal favourite is the Banette bakery. They sell the world’s most buttery croissants for only 95 cents. Don’t forget to dunk them into your coffee for the extra delicious flavour.

Lunch

What I love about France is that you can eat well, no matter what your budget is! For example, check out Chez Pipo in Nice – which has been serving the best socca in town since 1923! Check out Les Perles de Monte Carlo for a reasobably priced sea-food platters and fresh oysters! If you’re feeling lazy, just grab a pan bagnat from the nearest bakery (it’s basically a Niçoise Salad in a sandwich). What could be better for a quick bite to eat, or a picnic on the beach?

 

Dinner

One of my most favourite places to have dinner in Nice is Du Gesu on 1 Place du Jesus, in old town. It’s not pretentious, the food is great, the service is fast and friendly! Definitely try their beignets de fleur de courgette (stuffed courgette flowers) and the lasagna. Make sure to get there for 7 pm on the dot, as the place fills up in minutes!

Restaurant Du Gesu

Desert

When in the South of France, one MUST try the Fenocchio ice cream. Another old-timer in Nice, the ice-cream parlour first opened in 1966 on Place Rossetti in Nice’s old town. They serve a collection of 94 flavours – 59 ices-cream and 35 sorbets ranging from the great classics to exciting innovations! Still run by the Fenocchio family, this is a real institution.

Fenocchio Ice Cream Parlour

Tip from a local: when ordering wine, go for the pichet of the house wine. These vary from a quarter liter, to half to a whole and are more often good than not.

Pesto Gnocchi, Lasagna accompanied by chilled house Rosè

What's your favourite flavour? Mine is always lemon! 💛#cotedazurnow #icecreamheaven

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I hope you found these tips useful! If you have, why not share it with a friend who would appreciate it? In my next post, I’ll cover what you can do and see in the South of France if you’re traveling on a budget!

Stay tuned. À bientôt!

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Skiing in Sunny Avoriaz

Skiing in Sunny Avoriaz

When the snow started falling in November, we were sure that we would get a white Christmas in the mountains. However, when we arrived at our Chalet in the sleepy village of La Côte-d’Arbroz, just a 10 minute drive from Morzine, we discovered that barely any slopes were open. Les Portes du Soleil was basking in the sun and no snow was promised any time soon!

And so began our search for snow, leading us up the windy, mountain roads, to Avoriaz.

Avoriaz

Avoriaz is a purpose-built ski resort perched over a dramatic cliff a few kilometres above the well-known resort of Morzine. Its architectural style is peculiar. Wooden 1960’s-multi-story-blocks sprout from the mountain. It sort of reminds me of Monaco, but with alpine textures.

On the bright side, it is entirely free of car traffic. Horse-drawn carriages serve as taxis to get ski-clad visitors from one location to another. The coolest thing about Avoriaz is that if you stay in the village, you can clip on your skis and hop out onto a slope straight our of the hotel lobby.

Skiing in Avoriaz

 

We bought our ski passes online and hired our skies through Alpineresorts.com having them ready for pick up on the same day. They do great offers, where you can get a pass for the entire weekend for 55 EUR! A bargain for the quality of the resort.

Wet get up early, have a rich breakfast and drive up to the ski lifts. At the top, the snow is the same electric-blue as the sky. The pistes are empty. Besides a group of kids who dash down the mountain after their instructor like wild ducklings, there are very few people around.

My skis follow the curve of the mountain and I come out onto a golden plane, where the snow-covered slope gleams like caramel in the rising sun. The crunch of the snow under my skis and the wind singing in my ears are the only sounds I hear as I make my way down the piste. It’s around 9 in the morning and I am skiing on the doorstep of the sun.

Given that there is barely any snow, only 21 out of the 52 pistes are open. You really feel it around 11 a.m. when the families, ski students and hungover groups of friends hit the slopes.  It feels less like skiing and more like running to catch a train in the London underground.

I do believe, with a glimmer of hope to return, that this place is a gem when the snow falls. The lift system is world-class and you can explore several valleys with their wide runs, mostly blues and reds, before skiing back to the village for a long lunch and après-ski.

Eating in Avoriaz

La Brasserie

Head to La Brasserie for comfortable seating in the sun, a buzzing atmosphere and their hearty daily special. The day we went, they served the duck parmentier. My heart sank when the waiter told us that there is a chance they have run out! Thankfully, we got the last two, which we thoroughly enjoyed with a carafe of house red. In no rush to get anywhere, we lunched for two hours, enjoying the sunshine and people-watching, as the sounds of hoofs and bells and clinking glasses rang through the crisp air.

La Crêperie

While skiing, we discovered a Crêperie mid-way down the highest peak. It is owned by a sweet middle-aged man, who generously pours mulled wine as his wife makes fresh crêpes and their daughter runs the till. It is the perfect place for a pit-stop to fill up and liven up after a few hours of skiing.

Les Fontaines Blanches

On the 31st December, we tried the annual festive buffet at Les Fontaines Blanches. The spread complete with oysters, foie gras, a salad bar, a hot-out-the-oven beef wellington and a delicious selection of deserts was a stunner! Another long lunch, accompanied by a bottle of white Alsace. It was an absolute feast!

Fondue At Home

Obviously, no stay in the mountains is complete without a fondue session.

We decided to make the fondue ourselves, in the comfort of our warm chalet. For an easy way to make fondue, try this recipe. Accompany by a side of young potatoes boiled with the garlic clove that you rub the fondue pot with, and pair with a bottle of rich white wine.

Bon apps!

Have you been to Avoriaz? What was your experience?

What are your favourite ski resorts?

Leave a comment below!

South of France Off-Duty

South of France Off-Duty

People travel to the south of France for the sight of the super-yachts, super-cars and super-stars. While it is definitely fun to experience the glamour of Cote D’Azur during high-season, it is without a doubt an overpriced and over-hyped affair.

I personally prefer to visit the south of France off-season. During autumn and spring, the weather is still warm but the tourists are gone and no one will think to charge you 20 EUR for a bottle of sparkling water.

This time we went for a long weekend in mid-November and enjoyed 26 degrees, cool rose and a backdrop of cloudless skies. And not a greasy body turning like a roasting chicken in sight.

A Perfect Day Off-Season

We would start our day with a quick dash to Banette – a bakery in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer that makes the best croissants in the world.

Nearby a farmers market is bustling and across the road old men sit in a café sipping on their morning espressos.

After a few minutes inside the bakery, I walk out with two big bags filled with croissants, pains au chocolat, pissaladières and warm baguettes, already chomping at the end of one.

Lunch in Villefranche

Later in the day, we drive to Villefrache for lunch. We park the Vespa at the end of the bay and stroll the harbour, studying the menus hanging outside. Eventually, we settle down in Oursin Bleu.  The tables stand lining the pavement, about half a meter from the water. Fresh sea bass and turbot are the catch of the day.

Around us, families and couples are occupying the few busy tables. A lady comes with her dog and the waiter brings them a little bowl with water. A fisherman is slowly rowing towards his fishing boat, while the waiter gallantly pours rose into our glasses. The sun is warm and I can smell the sea. No super-yachts, no revving engines, no smell of boat fuel. Just the way God intended.

Monaco To Ourselves

We spend the following day at the Monaco Yacht Club. We get there just after brunch, order a bottle of rose and lay absorbing the November sun amidst white leather and sun-kissed decking.

The afternoon stretches out. The pool area empties completely and I get the sense that we have the whole of Monaco to ourselves. Occasionally, I hear laughter and screams from the funfair down at Port Hercule. Inside, someone is playing the piano and singing opera. “What is the occasion?” I ask. “It’s a beautiful day,” I am told whimsically. On the surface of the pool, sunlight shimmers in agreement.

 

South of France to Italy

On Sunday, we venture out to Ventimiglia, a little coastal town just across the border of Italy, in search of pasta and pizza.

I love going to the family-run La Vecchia Napoli. They serve mouth-watering pasta (my absolute favourite is the seafood and sepia ink linguini). Their pizza dough is so perfectly thin, that the cheese drapes down deliciously as you lift a piece off the plate.

They also grill fresh seafood and offer house wine at 7 EUR for the litre. The service is friendly, if not entirely professional, but there is something homely about the familiarity.

It may not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, if you speak any Italian and feel like some real nopoletana pizza, it is a good one to try.

Dolce Francia

Anyone who says that South of France is pretentious probably has not seen it off-duty. My South of France, my sweet, sweet, South of France is more Bridget Bardot in a loose shirt and slacks than Paris Hilton in a bikini and bling. So don’t be throwing shade at my baby if you haven’t met her.

Every time I come back to the South of France, I know that I could live here. With any luck, I would have a nice house to rent out to the sheiks and oligarchs during high-season. Then, I could retreat into the sleepy villages of les Alpes-Maritimes that keep vigil over the overwhelmed coastline during the summer months.

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