Apartment or Hotel? Which is best?

Which is best? Well, during our recent holiday in the South of France, we decided to try both options. Here are my thoughts…

Apartment in Antibes

AirBnB rents homes in 192 countries world wide. The business of renting rooms, apartments or whole houses has grown rapidly over recent years. We used AirBnB in Rome and enjoyed a week in a superb apartment near the railway station, shops and main tourist areas. This time we rented an apartment in Antibes, Cote d’Azur and although ok, not ideal.

This taught me a lesson to research thoroughly. Although to be fair, this has been the first time I’ve been unsuccessful in gaining an ideal holiday space. The main problem, on this occasion, was location. Antibes is a beautiful town but we weren’t within walking distance of the bars and restaurants. I learnt about the public transport but unfortunately buses stopped running at 9.30 pm. Then I had the brainwave we could walk a mile to the nearby railway station and get a train. However, they were all cancelled due to a strike. Aaaagh. So, we made the best of it and a couple of evenings we just got a taxi home, one evening we stayed in and the rest we went home early. No big deal.

The flat was ok but probably more suitable for a millennial. Rather basic, full of storage boxes, which is fair enough, and without enough towels and sheets. We arrived to be told the sheets weren’t dry and only one bath towel each (no hand towels). During the week, Hubby unblocked the sink for the owner and I watered the plants. We found the hose by accident. Instructions were written, in French, on some note paper and the owner texted me (often) during the week, for one reason or another.

From this experience, I’ve learnt if you are going to rent a place abroad, one needs to research thoroughly. I enjoyed watering the plants in the evening and there was plenty of space. Most things wrong with the flat (cooker, bed, stuff) were fine just for a week but as I’ve said, I have learnt from the experience…

Tips:

Location – If twenty minutes away from a town find out whether it is by car or not! If you want to be near bars/restaurants then make sure you are.

Check reviews – Work out whether they are valid or concocted by the owner’s mates. Are they written by the same age group, different nationalities and time periods?

Room type – Room, whole apartment or entire house? Check to see if it is the owner’s home. This makes a difference as you are likely to have their stuff all around you.

Amenities – Wifi, TV, Kitchen, towels, sheets and is the pool area actually open when you are at said residence? (Yes, you’ve guessed correctly.. it was closed.)

Host – Language and responsive? Ours host was very responsive…

Photos of residence – Check them carefully.

 

Hotel – Juan Les Pins

During our first visit to Juan Les Pins, I discovered that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there during 1925 to 1927. This became the place to stay for the wealthy during the warm summers of the ‘20s and 30s.

The Belles Rives Hotel, Juan Les Pins, Cote d’Azur

 

When I first visited the area I couldn’t believe how much I adored the place. It had a ‘20s feel about it. So I looked online and discovered that Fitzgerald had enjoyed living in Juan Les Pins, as described above. Now I’m not easily impressed but when we investigated, the now Belles Rives Hotel, I was swept away by the beauty of the place. Not normally stupefied by luxury, etc. this was different. I fell in love with the place. It helps that I’ve read all of Fitzgerald’s work and actually adore his writing. It concentrates on an underlying social commentary, rich juxtaposed with poor, but focuses more on parodying society as he explores space, the historical changes of the female and their ensuing relationships and attitudes towards men. He creates a panorama of life by moving from scene to scene, and character to character with no event or character usually standing out from the rest.

Last year, we went to lunch at the Belles Rives Hotel, and as I was shown to my seat, by the water, I felt quite emotional. The scene before me, as I sat down, was beautiful and captivating. I will never forget that moment. The meal was delicious, the waitress lovely and the food, delicious.

This year, we decided to stay for three nights and once again the whole experience was superb. Expensive, but worth every penny. We enjoyed a comprehensive breakfast and on a couple of evenings enjoyed supreme dinners. One dinner in their sister hotel, The Juan, and on our final night, a Michelin Star meal in the Belles Rives dining room. The standard of everything is extremely high and it is fun to treat yourself once in a while. The hotel visitors seem to absorb the style and beauty of the splendid house and enjoyed having a special treat. Yes, it caters for celebrity and the wealthy but so what? It manages to keep the original furniture, style and elegance as when Fitzgerald resided there.

Which is best and why?

I enjoyed both experiences. The apartment suits me because I like shopping in foreign supermarkets, buying food and cooking. Recently, I’ve joked about preparing artisan sandwiches for our lunch too. You can come and go as you please or just chill out and relax if you return home early.

The hotel is fun too and although ridiculously lavish, great fun to be spoilt rotten. Probably, if you work long hours and want a relaxing break, this may be the best option. However, if you are out and about, then a pack lunch, hire car and your own space, is rather splendid too.

Margate – Small hotels, posh food, micro pubs and a sunset…

I recently had a couple of days in Thanet to enjoy some sea air and sunshine. The weather was ok, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting first Margate (overnight), and then Broadstairs. Although I prefer Broadstairs, I wanted to see how Margate was looking these days. I’d heard about the resurgence of micropubs, the cafe culture, the art gallery showcasing new and funky pieces juxtaposed with Turner’s seascapes, the retro shops and vibrant vibe of the Old Town. I was, therefore, fascinated to view the cultural renaissance for myself.

Unfortunately, The Sands Hotel was booked so stayed in a grand looking ‘boutique hotel’ on the sea front. The bedrooms online looked glorious. However, when I arrived, I quickly realized that ‘boutique hotel’ meant small, with smaller bedrooms and ridiculously small sinks and bathrooms to match. It looked so flipping splendid online and I was a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. They always make everything look amazing and glamorous online, don’t they?

Anyway, I enjoyed the micropubs and thought Margate Old Town was rather nice with a selection of cafes, pubs and obligatory gift shops. Enjoyed a couple of beers in the Life Boat micropub after a jolly good breakfast in the corner café. Looked in the gift shops (didn’t buy anything) and wandered to the harbour/beach area to enjoy a small libation in the Harbour Arms and enjoyed the views in the sunshine.


Margate has a very pleasant ambience, but could still do with some improving. Why can’t business owners pick up the litter in front of their premises? Particularly important if they are eateries! However, it has certainly retained some charm and the people are very friendly. The Turner Contemporary was fun to visit, although taking only a few minutes to see everything. The art wasn’t particularly impressive, but it was amusing and free admission is always welcome.

Unfortunately, many of the restaurants closed at 5pm and it was difficult to find somewhere interesting to eat. Eventually, a table was reserved for 7.15pm in The Sands Hotel which is a glamorous and luxurious residence. Why not treat oneself to a posh meal? When the waiter asked for an email address my husband told him, if you wanted to contact us, we will be next door in Fez, another micropub. He laughed and agreed it was a great place to go to.

Fez is amazing and by far my favourite pub. It is quirky, friendly, has delicious beers and quirky décor. We walked in and it was packed with people drinking, laughing, singing, and dancing to the blues band located in the corner. A lady asked me if I would like to sit down as there was a seat free. Later on she told me she had properties in Margate and there are a lot of investors coming to the area. She bought her first property when only twenty three years old while working “in the City”. We chatted for some time and it was great fun and interesting to find out about what was going on in the area.

As we talked, she confirmed what I had suspected about Margate. It is slowly relinquishing its reputation as a rundown seaside town and gaining credentials as an arty destination. If you want to visit you can catch a train from St. Pancras and the journey takes about 90 minutes. Also, once there, they have a fab bus service called the Thanet Loop so you can visit Broadstairs and Ramsgate too.
The meal in The Sands Hotel was delicious and we had a beautiful view of the evening’s sunset. I had salmon, guinea fowl a superb lemon pudding. Oh, how spoilt I felt.
After the meal, I went back to the pub next door to Fez, where they were playing 50s records on an ancient gramophone player. People were dancing and having a roaring time. Fantastic.

The next day we succumbed to our under cooked eggs for breakfast ‘scrape the snotty bit off’ and headed off to Broadstairs. We experienced more micro pubs, a lovely lunch and then a slow drive home. A great mini break.

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