Sunday, July 19, 2020

Les Garcons in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Wondering through the historic and colorful pedestrian streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer, you are certain to come across a fantastic restaurant by the name of Les Garcons.

Situated in what appears to be its very own charming courtyard in front of the establishment, this is where you will find many of the patrons enjoying a meal and drinking wine with friends.

The atmosphere is casual and fun with an aura of romance as the sunset changes the hues of the building colors until you are basking in candlelight at your table. 
If you want an authentic feeling of France and Europe overall...this is the place to be.

As any of my friends will tell you, I’m not a foodie by any means but when you find something right, you tend to go back again and again.

Such as the case with Les Garcons, most recently in early July when business partners from London were in the area and without even a second thought we decided to meet where we have many times before at the restaurant. 

Each time we are here the experience is familiar yet different if you know what I mean. Les Garcons is one of those places that feels like family, friends and home...comfortable. Yet the ever-changing menu and remarkable selection of food and wine choices offers you something new every time.

The handsome staff are always attentive and fun to joke around with along with being very hardworking and knowledgeable about not only the food but what is happening locally.
The menu choices are very much in line with the season and local food sources, with only the best in fresh seafood and overall food ingredients used in their meal preparations.
You will be salivating over the menu selection and will definitely want to taste not only what you have selected but those you are with as well. It’s only fair to share and at Les Garcons and you definitely can with the portion sizes available, especially when it comes to dessert.
The restaurant can get busy especially at high season but if you arrive early enough or are willing to wait a short while, it is totally worth it. The courtyard seems to be the most popular area but at cooler times or for a bit more privacy, the restaurant itself is warm and inviting.

Les Garcons is the kind of place where if you eat there once, years later you will still be telling people about the fantastic meal and experience you had there.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Vibrant Villefranche-sur-Mer

In my years of living in the French Riviera, I'm surprised I've never written about Villefranche-sur-Mer before?!

Likely because the location quickly became such a part of daily life but if you are planning a trip to France, this is definitely a place you have to come experience.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is an amazing seaside town just 3.5kms from Nice on the way to Monaco and is known for its colorful, historic buildings, gourmet restaurants, beaches, and shops.

A visit to the French Riviera would not be complete without spending some of your time here.
With a lengthy history dating back to prehistoric times, this area was also used by the Greeks and Romans as a place for stops during their journeys. Know for it's natural surroundings, breathtaking views and the Rade de Villefranche, which is one of the deepest in the world making it ideal for boating, diving and includes a variety of sea life such as dolphins and whales.
Given the beauty of the area, during the mid-1900s, this part of France became known for its wealthy and royal visitors that built many luxury properties so that they could enjoy the warm sunshine throughout the year and entice friends and families for long visits.
This all leads to Villefranche-sur-Mer quickly becoming a true travel destination for tourists to relax and entertain during their holidays with others.

Compared to city life in places such as Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a more subdued lifestyle. Here you can explore the many pedestrian streets amongst the colorful buildings at your leisure, shop at the many boutiques that will cater to your every whim. and enjoy delicious meals offering local food favorites. 
Not known as a particularly "gay" place to live, the area is still very gay-friendly and members of the LGBT community do live or own second homes here. For those that don't want hectic city life, this is the place to be. I personally have many gay friends that live in Villefranche-sur-Mer who love it and it's always a pleasure and a welcoming break when I get to visit with them.
Nightlife is a different situation due to the size of the town so there are no nightclubs, yet it doesn't feel like you would be missing that scene. Here the bars and restaurants tend to be extended out onto terraces where you can enjoy the sounds of a band or DJ under the stars.

This is a great way to meet the friendly locals that live nearby year-round or others also on vacation. During the summer months , there are lots of outdoor concerts in the parks along with a large outdoor cinema playing various favorite international films.
If you want to have some of the most amazing experiences of your life, plan a visit to Villefranche-sur-Mer! Even Madonna spent time here at a luxury villa rental overlooking the bay and town during one of her birthdays, so if it's good enough for the superstar...

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Your Disco Needs You!

A summer in the French Riviera without nightclubs?! C'est impossible!

It appears Coronavirus has struck again, this time with the nightclub world. As we moved forward in France to "Phase 3" of the restrictions being lifted, one thing stayed the same. All nightclubs in France had to stay closed and now it appears that rule may stay into affect until September sometime.

As understandable and sad as it is, especially because in the summer months the LGBTQ nightclubs (and nightlife overall) is one of the most interesting, fun activities to do here as it is an extremely big part of the social life here in France. But then again, being social in a pandemic is not a good thing.

Currently bars are allowed to be open, but only if they have a terrace where people can social distance or if you can go inside, a mask must be on at all times. There have been cruising bars that have opened and even the gay bathhouses but again, it depends on how they are regulated in their city, laid out internally and of course with many safety precautions in much as that can allow for anyway.

Needless to say, nightclub owners are upset and a movement has begun to try and at least have limited openings with a certain amount of people in attendance while adhering to safety measures.

As one nightclub owner wrote as part of a press statement (translated):

"The Government signs the death warrant of the nightclubs. Night professionals are in complete incomprehension vis-a-vis the improbable decision which was taken yesterday by the Government and the health services to keep closed the night clubs until September.

In this same decision, it is stated that sporting events and performance halls are authorized to accommodate between 1,500 to 5,000 people maximum; it's more than what discos welcome! In France, there are 40 nightclubs that can accommodate more than 1,000 people.

The profession is on edge and wonders about this injustice between what is authorized for an athlete or a performance hall and prohibited for discotheques.

How is it that we keep closing nightclubs or bars at night, even though the prefect of Paris authorizes 4 demonstrations today or that football matches will again take place with thousands of spectators?"

So it's alright for one type of entertainment but not for another. Overall there seems to be a lot of confusion as to how the government came to these decisions, especially when you see in person a restaurant full of patrons in the evening yet literally next door a nightclub the same size has to remain closed.

In my personal opinion the government has done a tremendous job with Covid19 and it has actually been amazing to experience people abiding by all the rules so we can get back to whatever normal is as soon as possible. Safety first, just the line seems a little blurred in this case.

Time will tell though as new changes on restrictions are to follow in the next week or two.

The French Riviera is a great place for trying out new ideas so perhaps all the dancing will be done on the streets this summer!

Monday, June 15, 2020

June Covid19 Deconfinement Update

Needless to say, it’s been a confusing time for not only travelers but also for those of us living in France with both not being certain of what is coming next due to the Coronivus pandemic along with who and what countries will be allowed to cross the border into France for either business or pleasure.

As of last night, June 14, 2020, President Macron indicated in his speech to the country what would be steps would be coming next.

Besides what is happening now with the pandemic and how far we have all come, along with the economy, it was announced what countries would be allowed past our borders.
Here is the main confirmation people have been waiting for as France is now in Phase 3 of the lockdown:

From June 15th France has reopened its borders to travelers from within the EU, UK and Schengen zone with no more need for international travel permits.

People traveling from the UK are "invited" to quarantine in a mirror of the UK's quarantine restrictions, but in France this is optional.

However, for people wanting to travel from outside Europe the restrictions remain in place until at least July 1st.

This will continue to be dependent upon how each country is doing with the containment of Covid 19.
It is extremely exciting that people are allowed to visit the beautiful country of France again but please keep in mind there are still various basic rules to follow, such as:

1. No public gatherings of more than 10 people
Seems tricky but it can be done and the better we all progress the sooner this gets lifted.

2. Masks
Masks are compulsory on all forms of public transport (including taxis) and in many shops and public buildings.

Masks are not compulsory in public spaces like the streets, but are advised, and in spaces such as beaches, parks and gardens local authorities can decide whether to make them compulsory or not so check out the signs at the place you are visiting.

3. No getting closer than 1m
The advice for social distancing and hygiene measures in France remains unchanged - people are asked to follow basic health advice including not getting closer than 1m to other people, washing their hands frequently, using hand gel and coughing into their elbows. It really seems to have become second nature here for the most part.

4. No cinemas
Although a lot of venues are reopening not all have been given the go-ahead just yet, with cinemas set to reopen on June 22nd. Word is nightclubs may be allowed to open at this same date but with a limited number of people allowed in attendance.

Bars, cafés, restaurants, tourist accommodation and museums have all now been given the go-ahead to reopen fully after the whole of mainland France became a 'green zone' on June 15th.

Venues are obliged to put in hygiene measures and ensure that their customers and staff can safely social distance, so some businesses are not reopening straight away while they put the extra measures in place.

5. No sports matches or concerts
Mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people are still banned and are unlikely to come back before September. This means that concerts at bigger music venues are still banned, as are professional sports fixtures.

6. Attestation on the Paris Metro
If you're in Paris and traveling on public transport at rush hour, who will need an attestation stating that your journey is for essential work-related reasons. Outside of rush hour (7.30am-9.30am and 4.30pm-7.30pm) there is no requirement for a form.

This rule runs until June 22nd.

7. No cars (in some streets)
If you're in Paris, watch out for changes to the traffic rules as local authorities have declared many streets off-limits to cars. Some of them have been closed to allow café terraces to expand while others - like the Rue de Rivoli - have been turned into bike lanes to encourage more people to take up cycling and stay off the crowded public transport. This has also happened in a lot of local cities such as in Nice and Cannes.
I encourage everyone to come and visit, just take those one or two extra steps of caution so that as a whole community we can continue to fight this virus together.

Stay safe.