Friday, May 29, 2020

Deconfinement in France

Yesterday it seemed that the whole of France was watching the French Prime Minister give his live press conference pertaining to the next level of deconfinement pertaining to the Coronavirus situation in the country.

Life has been slowly getting back to normal in France with a feeling of renewed optimism in the air since the first level of restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

As of Tuesday June 2nd, France is lifting restrictions nationwide reopening of bars, restaurants and cafes from June 2, albeit with restrictions, and lifted limitations on domestic travel in time for the summer holidays. 
“Freedom will be the rule and restriction the exception,” said Philippe, adding the country was “in a better place than where we expected to be” after the first two weeks post-lockdown.

Museums and monuments are to reopen to visitors nationwide from June 2, though face masks must be worn.

Holiday resorts will reopen too, from June 22, and parks and gardens from next week.

Cinemas can open from June 22 while theaters can also open from June 2, although social distancing rules will have to be observed, he said.

Phillipe urged people to continue respecting social-distancing measures and maintain a strict hand-washing regime, and said gatherings of more than 10 people in public places would remain prohibited.

It is already mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport.

As for dining out, a mainstay of French culture, Philippe specified people can meet in restaurants and cafes in groups of no more than 10, and with a minimum of one metre (3.3 feet) between tables.

In Paris, only outside tables can be occupied. 
This unfortunately does not mean that the nightclubs, bathhouses and establishments of such are able to open just yet but business owners have been working diligently with the government with word being a possibility of opening on June 21st with precautions in place. LGBT establishments with an outdoor terrace will be allowed to open as of June 2nd.

This also means that the borders to France are not yet open but word is there will be another announcement about that concern on June 15th.

Step by step things are improving for everyone to enjoy their summer in the beautiful French Riviera.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

On The Sea With Riviera Boat Tours

A big reason people love to live here and those visiting cannot get enough of the French Riviera is because we are at the edge of the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

If a memorable experience is what you are after then you have to book a trip on the sea with gay-friendly Riviera Boat Tours! I spoke with the owner, Patrick for more about his remarkable business venture...

Hello Patrick,

Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the beautiful French Riviera?

My life on the French Riviera started around 25 years ago. I came here for family vacations in St Paul de Vence, Cannes, Antibes and Mougins.

Then eventually as many others have, I moved to France and discovered Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. The views as with everywhere along the Cote d'Azur left me breathless but because St Jean is a peninsula that extends south towards the sea, I was overcome with how St Jean seemed to be more intensified in its natural beauty.

No wonder artists such as Picasso, Cocteau, authors such as Somerset Maugham, Fitzgerald and the politicians such as Churchill, the Kennedys, royal families and movie stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, David Niven to name a few flocked here.
When did you start your business, Riviera Boat Tours?

Four years ago I decided to get my yachting license in Beaulieu sur Mer. My intention was not to start a business but purely for personal pleasure, as an experience, an extension of my learning and personal growth.

After I got my license, friends with boats would ask me to skipper for day journeys, allowing them time to relax and spend time with families, or business clients, as I undertook the responsibility concerned with handling everything. Eventually boat operators would call me on recommendations from friends to collect clients, business partners from places like the Royal Yacht Club Monaco and bring them to lunches at the surrounding beaches and portside bars.

With this demand, combined with my absolute love of the area, I decided to take it a step further and fully commercialize my license, a bigger step forward than I imagined but the added training was great fun.
Can you please tell our clients about your background in the boating industry?

With my international commercialized license, I started to worked for a tour boat company. The owner of the boat was delighted as were the clients. Within 3 months I was #1 on TripAdvisor, Airbnb Experiences, Viator and most other platforms. Eventually through all of this I decided to form my own boat tour brand and expand upon what clients can do and see on such boat trips.

Where is Riviera Boat Tours based?

In the Port of St Jean Cap Ferrat France. A beautiful peninsula fishing village nestling between Nice and Monaco. So easily accessible by car and bus. 15 minutes from Monaco and 20 minutes from Nice.
Are there specific times of year you operate or is it also based on demand year-round since we have such an exceptional climate in the region?

Peak seasons are May until the end of September although we operate year round as the weather for the most part is so sensational and sunny here.

How many guests can go at one time on one of your tours?

Our boats are a maximum of 5 persons. We limit this for client comfort and ecological reasons. The boats run more fuel efficient with less capacity. It also allows me, the Captain to take special care of all on board, safety, service and to answer any questions regarding the tour. It's a very personal experience and I invest so much of myself into the guests on board.
We also have the capability to charter boats for larger numbers. At Riviera Boat Tours we have a wonderful relationship with the Marinas and local yacht agents, so we can accommodate any request for boats regardless of size. Our team is qualified in both Sailing and Motor boats up to 24 metres (80 feet).

We have a bilingual crew speaking 5 languages.

During the tour, can guests go swimming and/or snorkeling?

Swimming, snorkeling and cliff jumping too. All equipment is supplied along with towels and a fresh water hand shower for after swim rinse. I am a pro-active skipper and nearly always use our swim stops to jump in alongside our guests, if asked. We have buoyancy aids available as well for those a bit nervous of the sea.
Are you able to arrange special tours for guests seeking a memorable moment or celebration such as a birthday, engagement or anniversary?

Absolutely. At Riviera Boat Tours we have wonderful relations with hoteliers and restaurateurs, to arrive by boat to a special location with tables reserved and specially arranged. We also have the capacity to charter, skipper and crew a variety of different sail or motor boats, with full catering, for any special occasions.

This year we are arranging beach picnics as part of our tours. This idea would work particularly well in the early evenings after a day or half day on the water, to disembark and be able to sit on the beach, relaxing and sipping something cold as the sun dips low westwards as the sunsets here are spectacular.
What locations do you offer on a tour?

Riviera Boat Tours departs from the port of St Jean Cap Ferrat. On the full day tours we cruise on over to the magnificently picturesque Port of Villefranche, enroute we go around the two headlands that compose the peninsular of Cap Ferrat, stopping in the bays and small coves, with small beaches accessible only by foot or boat. A chance to swim and snorkel in the deep or shallow waters, observe marine life and on occasion see dolphins and whales.

From Villefranche we head across the wide open Mediterranean towards Cap d'Ail for our planned restaurant stop at Plage Mala. This area makes for a perfect Instagram moment as it retains its exclusivity because of how difficult it can be to access and surrounding natural environment. After lunch we head on over to the Port of Monaco, with a very special opportunity to see the Super Yachts close up, the famous Casino of Monte Carlo, and perched above it all, the old town of Monaco with its Palace and museums.

Leaving Monaco we head back towards Cap Ferrat but not before taking in the various bays surrounding Eze.
I must note that clients can choose a one way trip, perhaps stopping in Monaco or any other points along the route, to meet friends or shop as part of their experience.

Can boat tours be arranged for specific times of day, half day or full day?

Yes, we offer Morning, Full day, Afternoon and Evening Sunset cruises. On Half day morning our tours typically start at 9 to 10am and include a port side breakfast stop if the client wishes.

Afternoon Boat Tours start at 1 to 1:30 pm and can include a lunch stop at the gorgeous private bay of Cap d Ail or the Port of Villefranche Sur Mer if they wish.

Full day we take all destinations between Villefranche and Monaco which is approximately a 6-hour tour.

Sunset tours normally start from 6 until 8pm depending on the season.

We also offer Boat taxi services, collecting dropping and returning clients after a lunch or dinner, a shopping or business trip.

The boat trips during peak season is the quickest and most reliable way to get around. And one can be dropped directly into the heart of the city and town ports, refreshed and invigorated upon arrival.
Are safety requirements are met with approvals of local authorities?

All Crew and Captains are Registered and fully commercially licensed with the Royal Yachting Group.

Association with an Internationally recognized license.

All our training for safety takes place with Bluewater in Antibes. This includes fire safety, sea rescue and basic first aid and seas survival techniques and navigation.

All our boats whether it be our own or boats we charter for occasional use are equipped with Sonar and Satellite Navigation and sea to shore radios.
Where can someone find more information on your availability and rates?

Find us and contact us directly at: Riviera Boat Tours.
Instagram: @rivieraboattours
Merci Patrick!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Lifting Restrictions In The French Riviera

As years go, this is certainly a different one. With the Coronavirus pandemic all over media coverage it can make for confusing times on what safe steps to proceed with in daily life.

And usually at this time of year in France, the French Riviera is buzzing with anticipation for what would be the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix this month that would bring together an international list of people from around the world.

Fortunately though as the weeks have gone by, people here in France for the most part seem to have been abiding by the restrictions (hefty fines help) meaning our Covid-19 numbers so far keep going down.

So much so that last month President Macron announced that as of May 11th our restrictions in the country will slowly be lifted as long as the virus numbers stay manageable and consistently decrease so that we do not have a second wave.
Since March 16th everyone has had to stay within the 1 km radius of their homes unless they are an essential worker or its an emergency type situation.

Starting Monday, May 11th we will now be able to travel up to 100 km radius of our home with the only option to move further if you have an emergency or special permission with your attestation forms.
The 100 km distance alone seems to have made people feel more relieved. And with the borders still being closed for some time yet it sounds like everyone here will just be making the most of it as things progress hopefully for the better.

In the meanwhile in the French Riviera, local mayors have been either adding to their local restrictions or lifting even more with permission from the Government of France.

At this moment when you go outside you can see small businesses preparing to open for tomorrow with city workers busy maintaining the parks and beaches for when the public are allowed to use them again in the following days.
This is great news as with the beautiful sunny weather here in the French Riviera, not having access to those public areas, especially the beaches seemed unfathomable.

Public transit will still not be available to the full extent it previously was but train and buses will be running but only allowing a certain amount of people at a time with social distancing at stations, on platforms and within transit itself. Plus you must always wear a mask when traveling or you can get a fine or not be allowed to travel.
For now bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs will still be closed until June 5th and that can change by week depending on the virus situation and even then the type of service might be different meaning a limited amount of people and more social distancing.
As it also will stand starting May 11th, the current number of social groups can only be up to 10 people with distancing in affect.

You can tell those of us in the LGBTQ community are very much looking forward to full on social events again like at the bars, private dinner parties and nightclubs.

Owners of local gay establishments have been watching the government news closely and keeping people up to date with information on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram with any fresh news they may get with many keeping a positive outlook to it all.

The feeling right now is as long as things keep safe and relatively normal, these establishments may open again by July. Fingers crossed.

 There has been a good patriotic spirit to this whole virus situation with many offering more support online and an overall optimistic viewpoint while restrictions gradually get lifted.

When the final news comes in that the border are open to visitors from around the world again, you can be certain everyone here will be letting the world know.

Stay strong, stay safe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Life During The Coronavirus

Well, it's basically the middle of April, the restrictions in place because of the Coronavirus started to slowly take place on the early evening of March 14, 2020 here in the beautiful French Riviera and the rest of France. Which at the time meant all the bars, restaurants and nightclubs were at first to limit the number of people inside but within hours had to close all together.

As soon as the new life rules came into play it made for interesting times, life then started to change more and more as the restrictions continued to come in and yet there was still a feeling of being able to move on to an extent with freedoms not totally abolished and for the better good.

After that first evening, every day businesses were told to close to the public and if you could manage to work from home that was the best option.

One of the main attractions the Cote d'Azur is known for is our stunning surrounding landscapes with the precious blue Mediterranean sea lapping against the long coastline. People were just getting used to the closures and overall limitations, so naturally they headed towards the beaches.

You could sense there were people nervous about what was happening and already worried about their future while others decided to treat the invisible Covid-19 like a bit of a reason to holiday.

Which at the time meant too many people were gathering at the various beaches and not staying inside so soon after those in authority barred everyone from going near any of the beaches but depending on where you live one could still see, smell and hear the waves hitting the shore. There still was life even if the blue waters were so close but yet so far away. 

For weeks now people have gotten used to filling out the (previously hand written or printed off) online attestation form on their smartphone before leaving their residence so that if stopped by the police they can scan the code it produces. Some of the current restrictions are: limited exercise to an hour outside every day and within a 1km radius of your home and only within certain hours.

Essential workers can go their jobs, while doing this you may be checked for such reasons before getting on trains, buses and in your car at checkpoints. One can go for quick trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor appointments.

And some cities quickly enacted curfews anywhere from 7pm to 6am. Wear a mask if possible, social distance and staying home are the main rules.

President Macron gave a very strong, all encompassing and encouraging speech this past Monday night.

Basically now we will continue to be under confinement until May 11th as what we are doing as citizens is working which means we also currently will not have any new restrictions. After that date, a very small select number of schools and businesses will be allowed to re-open.

Further to that Macron said,"May 11 will be the start of a new phase. It will be progressive and the rules can be adapted according to our results."

So again, it's a day by day issue but easily handled.

One thing that seems to have stood out for us in the luxury industry, this is the time of year businesses are really ramping up for high season with the adrenaline going. Even the so called luxury lifestyle gurus would be making plans to head this way, getting in contact, trying to make their mark, grab a piece of the pie so to speak and attempt to make some quick cash in the region. You can see them coming from a mile away.

Many things during this time period have been remarkable. The sense of strength of communities coming together, people are being more helpful with each other, little things are no longer taken for granted and one of the best times is at 8pm every night when everyone stops what they are doing at home and go out on their terraces or front yards to clap and cheer for all the honorable health care workers and front line industry staff doing the best job possible in such a horrendous time.

Although life may never be the same again, hopefully this virus will be over soon and we can carry on with some valuable life lessons.