Monaco / Nice / Cannes
Saint Paul de Vence
Verdon Gorge (incl Moustiers Saint Marie)
Argeles Sur Mer
Pics and details attached.
1st ever road trip in Lorenzo, our Autosleeper Kingham campervan. Won't be last ...
Monaco / Nice / Cannes
Saint Paul de Vence
Verdon Gorge (incl Moustiers Saint Marie)
Argeles Sur Mer
Pics and details attached.
Villa Failte has a good sized boules pitch in the back garden - great for a bit of fun or competition after a hard days sightseeing or during a relaxing day by the pool.
At the start of 2017 we added floodlights so that the pitch can be used at night time even if pitch dark ... so no excuses for sitting watching films all night !!! Why not combine a boules competition with a table tennis tournament ?
Pictures below were taken in October 2017 and April 2017.
Spent a great 4 days at the Villa in October. Our flight home was 9.50pm from Bareclona so this time instead of spending the last day around Argeles we decided to pop into Girona en route (Girona is about one hour from Villa Failte - pretty much halfway to Barcelona). We left the villa about 11.30 and used the sat nav to get to Placa Catalunya right in the centre. Found an underground car park really easily which was under the main square area ... perfect !
1st thing we did, after a coffee at one of the many street cafes, was to walk about 100m to the bridge where, like so many cities in Northern Spain and France, there was a tourist trainbus (see pictures below). Cost was about 6 euros each for a 35/40min guided tour of the old city which took in many of the old streets, the cathedral and various bits of the ancient city walls.
The tourist information office is just across the bridge from where the trainbus starts and finishes.
Afterwards we spent some time wandering the lovely streets and finished the afternoon off with a nice leisurely meal.
All in all a fantastic way to spend our last day and break up the journey to the airport. A great "taster" for Girona which looks like a lovely, historical but cosmopolitan city. Thoroughly recommended ... we will definitely return for a proper visit.
Well we took the plunge and as part of our 10 day January visit to Villa Failte in Argeles Sur Mer we booked 2 nights in an apartment in Font Romeu so that we could sample a few days skiing. Font Romeu is one of the oldest and most historic ski resorts in France ... but it has modern facilities ! See this PO link for some history and background reading. The resort is not a busy apres-ski resort but is very pretty and has numerous bars and restuarants after a good days skiing. An excellent feature of the resort is that there is a cable car that links the village to the slopes so no need to drive there every day. Indeed there is no need to drive to Font Romeu as there is a regular bus service from Perpignan to the resort.
For information on Font Romeu skiing as well as Les Angles (which is a nearby resort) see either our Skiing webpage or this excellent website (no recommendation on the company but the info is really good). For webcams and slope information see this link and for places to eat see this link.
There had not been much snow so far in the year and in fact the last decent days snowfall was 10th December, however the Font Romeu / Pyrenees 2000 complex (the ski areas are linked) are renowned for having amongst the best snow making facilities in Europe. Indeed hardly a days skiing is lost throughout the season through lack of snow. However we needn't have worried ! ...the day before we travelled it started snowing and over the next two days there was over 100cm of snowfall.
The journey up was fine (should take about 1.5 hours normally) but because of road conditions took as closer to 2.5 hours. If driving you MUST take snow chains in the car (or snow socks which in our opinion are easier to fit). We had to put them on about 20km before reaching Font Romeu.
The village is very pretty and has several shops, restaurants and hotels. There are plenty of places where you can rent ski equipment relatively inexpensively.
As it turned out we ended up with only one full days skiing as on the 2nd day there was so much snow fall that many of the lifts and slopes were closed due to avalanche risk ! Hey ho ... to be fair to the place that rented us skis they gave us a full refund for that day without being asked. The day we did get was excellent (we are Intermediate skiers). The set up is probably most geared up to beginners and intermediates, although there are also several black runs for the more advanced skier.
Everywhere we went people were friendly (slopes, chairlifts, restaurant areas at the ski area, restaurants and shops in the village).
We ate at night at :
La Potiniere, which although listed on TripAdvisor 28 out of 30 restaurants in Font Romeu, we thought was excellent. This is our review on Trip Advisor :
We found this restaurant by chance but what a great find ! The owners / staff were very helpful and friendly and the atmosphere / decor of the place very welcoming. We chose the mixed meat platter that you cook at the table... massive portion and excellent quality. We couldn't fit in a desert so settled for coffee. House red was excellent as well. Thoroughly recommended.
Le Cellier which did pretty good pizza and tarte a flette.
In summary a really good trip and a good option for anyone going to Villa Failte, Argeles Sur Mer in the Winter.
Looking for some excellent quality wine, reasonably priced then this could be just what you are looking for.
Mas Christine (see website) is located 5 minutes drive from Villa Failte ... head towards Le Boulou / St Andre and at the roundabout just past La Decheterie turn right (signposted Mas Christine) and you will come to the vineyard. where you can taste and buy the wine. They speak excellent French and English and are very welcoming and helpful.
Note; the actual vineyards are on the hills overlooking Collioure but this is where the wines are warehoused and sold.
Another vineyard nearby is the better known Chateau Valmy which is the large white house that can be seen on the hillside on the right hand side when driving towards Collioure. Excellent wines there as well.
When visiting Villa Failte there are several options for takeaway pizza (if that's what you want !). We have tried 3 places :
Pizza Phone : Located in the centre of the village just opposite Le Tabac at 25 Avenue de la Liberation
Sun Pizza : Located 11 Avenue des Flamants Roses which is on the way to the Intermarche Supermarket / Macdonalds. Once off the roundabout from the main road you will see it on the left hand side. Sun Pizza is open throughout the year.
Enzos Pizza : Also located on the way to the Intermarche Supermarket
All bake the pizzas to order and use stone baked ovens. Our favorite has probably been Sun Pizza (there should be a menu in the Villa). Please be aware that the takeaway system is a wee bit different in France ... you typically will wait an hour or more ... in other words phone in advance !! The one exception we have noted is the Pizza Phone that tends to turn thing around more quickly.
Looking for somewhere decent to eat and / or have a drink outwith the Summer season ... then this might be the place for you. La Mandoline is located on the main road that runs along parallel to the beaches ... it is between the Centre Plage and the Port on the left hand side if driving towards the Port.
The food is a combination of daily specials, pasta, pizza, meat and seafood ... not a huge menu but the food is not bad at all. I had Sardines, salad and a local wine which was all very nice. The atmosphere is "local but welcoming" and as with most places in the region everyone is very friendly even if you have limited French.
Open for lunch and evening dinner.
"We spent an afternoon early in January visting the Forteresse de Salses which is just a few miles after Perpignan. We weren't sure what to expect but, despite being out of season, the visit was well worthwhile.
Entrance was 8 Euros each but that included a guided tour ... albeit it was in French only ! However the tour guide was superb and, despite having very limited English, he took lots of time to explain things to us in very simple French. An added bonus was that because of the time of year on the tour were only us and a Catalan couple ... it was effectively a personal tour which took us through the various rooms including the soldiers garrisons, the prison quarters, the eating and banqueting areas and which highlighted the defensive qualities and strategic importance of the fortress.
The following is an overview from Wikipedia :
"The Fort de Salses (also called Forteresse de Salses) is a Catalan fortress in the commune of Salses-le-Château, situated in the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales. It is clearly visible from the A9 autoroute and it is possible to visit from the motorway rest area.
Built by the Spaniards at the end of the 15th century, the fortress guarded the former frontier between Spain and France. Its layout and architecture, innovative for the time, present a rare example of the transition between medieval castle and the fortresses of the modern period.
The fort was captured by the French in 1642, and remained French since the Treaty of the Pyrenees.
Fort de Salses is listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture, and is operated by the Centre des monuments nationaux. The fortress receives 100,000 visitors a year.
During the Spanish Civil War, the fort was used as refuge."
A selection of photos that we took are below :
For general information see here.
From Villa Failte you will be using the yellow and red lines (broadly the same line just opposite directions ). Walk for 15 minutes to Place de Gambetta, which is the square in the centre of Argeles Village where the small Carrefour is located. The stop is just beyond the far corner of the square. One side goes towards the port and beaches (yellow line ... you will see a yellow circle on the sign at the trainbus stop) and the other side is for the returning trainbus (red line ... red circle on the sign). The cost for the journey (wherever you are going) is 2.5 Euros each way. Payment can be made once on the trainbus (directly to "conductor") or in advance by purchasing book of tickets from the kiosks at the Centre Plage.
If going to the Port or beaches from Villa Failte then get the bus from the stop on the right hand side of the road with the yellow circle.
We took the trainbus in the evening when going to the Port for dinner. There are scheduled times for the trainbus stops (see the trainbus schedules available from Tourist Offices, the sales kiosk, online, etc). Broadly speaking during peak season every 20/30 mins and running late into the night.
If leaving the Port to return to Villa Failte the stop is found by turning left when leaving the Port and following the path / road round to the right of the roundabout. The stop (red circle as you will be going on the red line) is about 100 yards further on on the right hand side (there is an Estate Agents / Immobilier just across the road).
Worth doing at least once during your trip ... if only for the experience ! PS, the picture below was taken very early in the season ... in July / August the trainbus is much busier !!!
Located on the quayside of Argeles Port is Navisud who rent out small motor boats for a few hours, half day or full day.
All of the boats require that you have a RYA international certificate of competence ... with the exception of the Bombard Explorer DB420, which is a 13ft / 4.25m dingy (the black one with the canopy below).
We (5 people with mix of adults and teenagers ... probably maximum capacity) hired this for 2 hours which was ample to travel along the coast to Collioure and Port Vendre Harbours and back. A great way to see the coastline and to sample "the open seas" ! Lifejackets, etc are provided and the boat even has steps if you want to go for a swim during the trip. Very easy to steer and operate, even with no experience.
Total cost was 70 Euros for the boat. To rent, take a wander down to the Port where on most days the there is someone there to speak to ... it was always the same person whilst we were there this August and he spoke excellent English.
Next time we will take one of the larger boats ... in the meantime I am taking the RYA course back in the UK !!!
Peche En Mer is run by a very experience boat captain from Argeles Port.
There were 3 of us and we were joined by 4 others on the trip which was booked direct with the captain by phoning (0033) 680231369. His English isn't great but you can get by with poor French !! There is a sign at the Port, where the boat leaves from, that says when the next trips are (see photo below). We booked on the Saturday for a trip on the Monday. Left at 0730 and returned about 1200.
Standard boat fishing using prawns, sardines and the likes for bait with each person (to max of about 8) having their own rod. The boat has sonar for detecting fish shoals which is good. Unfortunately, on our trip each person only caught a few fish, all relatively small ... we were warned before we left that might be the case though due to the sea conditions that day.
Was still very enjoyable and superb views along the coast from Argeles to Collioure to Port Vendres and Banyuls Sur Mer. See selection of pictures below.
Located in the centre of the village ... La Vieille Cave is excellent for meat skewers including pork, chicken and fabulous steak. Have other dishes such as salads and fish / chips as well as a kids menu but it is the skewers that I would recommend ... delicious and reasonably priced.
The picture below was taken in winter at a time of day when it was closed ... but is open all year round. Click on the link above for facebook page with menus and photos.
We have been to this small restaurant in Argeles Village several times now and is always good quality. Definitely recommended.
La Gamate usually has a few reasonably prices set 2 or 3 course menus or the option to choose individual items. Variety of dishes including pizza, seafood, pasta and meat. Not a huge menu but always plenty to choose from. Has seating both outside and inside and is one of the few restaurants in Argeles Village that is open throughout the year and on most, if not all days.
Click on link above for facebook page with sample menus and photos.
Drove to Montpellier at the beginning of August ... easy drive of about 2 hours from Villa Failte. Used Sat Nav but wasn't that difficult. We followed signs for city centre parking and parked right next to the main square (Place de Comedie) in an underground car park. Can't remember price but was reasonable.
There is also a park and ride tram service that is well signposted as you enter the city.
Came out of the car park directly onto the main square, Place de Comedie ... WOW ... fantastic place to sit and people watch with loads of outside cafes / restaurants, fountain, opera house, tourist office and tourist trainbus ... all in a huge open square surrounded by beautiful buildings. Walk a few hundred yards and you are in a myriad of old streets lined with chic and artisan shops as well as al fresco dining on every corner / mini square. In fact, in hindsight maybe better to have a wander and then eat at one of those.
We had a light lunch then hopped on the train bus for a tour around the city. This goes through the aforementioned streets as well as up through the Arc (like Arc de Triumphe) to the highest point in the city. The trainbus is effectively the same as those found in Perpignan, Argeles Sur Mer and Collioure ... seem to be an ever present but excellent feature of many of the towns and cities throughout the Languedoc region.
After that we spent the afternoon walking around the streets before finishing off with a visit to the Musee Fabre which is very close to Place de Comedie and where there was an excellent exhibition of the life of Frederic Bazille including many paintings from most of the famous Impressionists of his time including Renoir and Monet.
Below are some of the pictures of our trip ...
Took the train from Argeles Train Station to Collioure ... cost 1.80 Euros per person each way, journey time about 5 min in the train (after 12 min walk from Villa Failte).
Once in Collioure it is a short 5 min walk from the station to the town centre where we got the Collioure to Port Vendres trainbus for 8 Euros each (return trip). The journey takes about 45 minutes each way and you can go all the way around or get off at Port Vendres and get a later trainbus back.
The journey is stunning with the trainbus heading up over the hills with fantastic views of Collioure, Port Vendres and the surrounding hills including vineyards and fortifications.
Back in Collioure we wandered around the arts and crafts shops and enjoyed a leisurely dinner beside the waterfront before catching the train home.
Easy and rewarding day out !
Some pictures from trainbus in Collioure below :
Just back from a 2 week holiday at Villa Failte. Decided to go for a days rafting and chose to book with Oxygen Aventure (www.oxygen-aventure.com) since they had good reviews on Trip Advisor and spoke English ! They have a few videos on the site as well.
Would highly recommend. We (5 of us) chose the "Rafting Integral" which combines both their other rafting trips "Rafting Famille" and "Rafting Sportif" ... in other words partly relatively calm river conditions and partly exciting rapids. The cost for 2.5 hours in the water (with an additional hour for induction, etc) was 45 Euros per person. Booking can be done online ... e-mail Oxygen and they are pretty quick at responding with booking form etc. Minimum group size is 6 so if you have fewer (we had 5) you could be joined by others on arrival (we had a Frenchman and his young son with us). It is possible to book for morning or afternoon ... a godsend if you have teenagers that you need to get out of bed !!!
The start point is Belvianes Cavirac, just before St Quillan, which is about 1 hr 40 mins drive from Villa Failte. The drive is absolutely stunning ! After Perpignan the route takes you through fabulous mountain scenery, including rivers, gorges and beautiful French villages such as Maury and St Paul de Fenouilledes. The route follows the route of the Little Red Train, crossing the line on several occasions.
The rafting itself was fantastic ... the wetsuits, booties, helmets and lifejackets were all in excellent condition as was the raft itself. Our instructor spoke both French and English. After a comprehensive induction we were quickly on the river and very quickly on light rapids !!! A few of us did fall out a few times but it was very clear what was to be done and was very much part of the fun. Before doing the "hairy" section we all had to demonstrate that we could swim across fast flowing water ... at this point we were given the choice of missing the section to join the raft at a later stage. But to be honest the "hairy section" wasn't too bad ... if anything we felt that passed too quickly but we all had to row quite hard and follow the instructor's instructions !!!!
A few of us chose to float down the light rapids on the final stage.
The trip was primarily on the River Aude and through the Gorge St George and the Gorge Pierre Lys. Definitely recommended.
The company also does canyoning, hydrospeed (down rapids holding onto floats), caving and climbing ... full information is on their website (see link above). There are other companies doing very similar in the area and we saw a few ... they looked good as well.
Some pictures from our walk from Racou Beach to Collioure. We parked at the Racou Beach car park and walked both ways ... with a nice meal overlooking the harbour at Collioure in between of course !
From 31 May 2016 all NEW bookings made via HomeAway or Owners Direct will incur a newly introduced traveler fee on HomeAway / OwnersDirect. This is a pity as this site is the best for features and usability. We thought that it is only fair to give advance warning of this ... the booking sites do not highlight the fee until you are at the payment stage !
A "traveler service fee" of between 4% and 8% (but never more than £249) of the booking amount is added. We, like most owners, are not very happy with this, particularly when we already pay HomeAway an annual fee plus a circa 2% charge on each transaction processed.
You have the choice to book through HomeAway / OwnersDirect OR via HolidayLettings / TripAdvisor (which do not currently charge a traveler service fee). Further information re both can be found at How to Book. At this stage we do not take payments direct (eg via bank transfer) as we have always taken the view that booking through the above sites gives the traveler a degree of comfort and protection (see further on this via attachments at How to Book). However, should fees continue to rise we may consider doing this in the future.
You should be aware that on both of the above platforms we pay an Annual Fee so that the price quoted is the price of the rental (apart from the HomeAway / Owners Direct traveler fee !). In addition we pay a fee of between 2% and 3% for each booking processed. Both sites give owners the option of not paying an annual fee but instead the sites add on between 8% and 15% of the rental amount to the travelers' price !!. This is hidden from travelers but is something you should be aware of when searching vacation properties.
HomeAway / OwnersDirect pay us the money paid by you within 5-7 days whilst HolidayLettings / TripAdvisor pay us the money paid by you after your date of arrival.
Just returned from a relaxing 4 days in France. During our stay we updated the settings on the Smart TV and are pleased to report that the following are now available on the main TV set as if you were in the UK (not that you should be watching TV though ... with so much else to do !). We had them all working very well but remember that the villa internet speed is 4-5MB and so, if others are using tablets and phones for downloading music / videos at the same time, this will impact performance !!
Unfortunately we cannot guarantee availability of the services below but fingers crossed all looks good ...
UK Netflix : if you have a Netflix subscription you can now login and use Netflix
UK Amazon Instant Video : if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can now login and use Amazon Prime
BBC I-Player : is fully functional
Demand 5 : is fully functional
ITV Player : is fully functional but requires you to join and login
Our new boules area has been formed at the back of the Villa Failte. It is approximately 10m long and is made of the same surfacing that you would expect to see on a village or town boules pitch in France. Here are some pictures taken at the end of March 2016.
We hope to have a table and chairs on the gravel area before the end of May ... ideal for enjoying a refreshing drink whilst the competition is in full flow !
We also have smoothed an area just next to the boules pitch, ideal for kicking a ball around, etc. By Spring / Summer this area should be fully grassed. The white building in the background is a garden equipment shed that is part of our property.
A big thank you to all of our guests this Spring / Summer ... this has been our 1st year of renting and we can genuinely say that it has been a pleasure - not a chore ! Thanks also to Gavin Plant and the team (not least Marty and Sharon) in Argeles for looking after Villa Failte and our guests so well.
Surprisingly ALL our bookings came from HomeAway and related sites such as OwnersAbroad and Abritel. We didn't get any bookings via HolidayLettings / TripAdvisor. To be honest this suited us as we find the HomeAway system easier to use ... would be interested in hearing guest views ... ?
We have had lots of good positive feedback particularly for the pool, the summer kitchen, the villa cleanliness and equipment and the location. But as ever we can always do better and so thanks as well for the various improvement suggestions. As a result, we have added the following :
A few of you suggested different coloured towels so as to avoid confusion in large groups. This is something we will do when we replace the current towels which were all bought new at the start of the season.
We are thinking of buying 2 or 3 bikes but this comes with added legal responsibilities and difficulties in keeping the bikes in order throughout the year so no quick decision !
Currently the Villa has Orange Internet enabled TV which provides most freeview French channels as well as a few in English (albeit mainly news related). There is also an internet enabled smart LG TV which allows access to the various web providers of entertainment. However, as with most of France, English programming is difficult to access due to French broadcasting restrictions. Filmon.com is available with UK programs but can be patchy at times. We have looked into French FreeSat with a satellite dish but due to how far South we are decent reception would require an exceptionally large dish (almost 2m) ... we may return to that solution in the future though. March 2016 Update : Please see the TV update posted March 2016 ... looks like good news !
Notwithstanding the above all of our guests this year appear to have been very happy with the entertainment on offer within the villa - Orange TV, internet enabled Smart TV, music system, wi-fi throughout and of course several board games, swimming pool and table tennis !
And lastly ... we are considering having a proper boules court (slightly smaller than official size) installed in the back garden which would be ready for Spring 2016. More on this later in the year.
Best Wishes to all
Stewart & Donna Rough
Took a short drive (40 mins) from Villa Failte to Figueres to visit the Salvador Dali museum.
Really interesting and a good day out whether or not you are particularly interested in art. The variety of work (paintings, sculptures, jewellery, etc) is fantastic. We have left a book that is full of illustrations and background in the Villa. See also this website that has 25 of his most famous paintings.
Parking (early July) was relatively easy (10 Euros) and entry was 12 Euros each (9 Euros concessions). One word of warning ... although Figueres and the Dali Museum are well signposted as you head South on the motorway ... once in Figueres it is a bit more tricky and we relied on the Sat Nav !
Figueres itself looks a nice little place itself. There are many catalan style restaurants that surround the museum so light refreshments / lunch afterwards is a good option.
We then drove 20 minutes to Roses, a small beach resort town ... just to have a look but it looks nice and maybe worth a separate day trip in the future.
1st proper visit to Perpignan a few weeks ago ... we weren't disappointed.
Walked to the Argeles Sur Mer train station from Villa Failte and took the train to Perpignan (about 15 mins / 36 Euros for 4 of us). When we got there weren't sure what way we should go (typical tourists !) but on leaving the old station we were pleasantly surprised by the clear directions and the wide tree lined street that leads to the city centre (12 minutes walk away).
On arriving at the centre there are loads of cafes and restaurants as well as a well signposted tourist information office. If you look down the beautiful canal you will see a bridge at the end ... this is where the tourist train/bus starts / finishes. It is a 45 minute journey through the streets of central Perpignan and is a great way to start your visit. Note the journey is not "hop on / hop off". Cost was 7 Euros per head and we though was well worth it.
We followed that up with a nice al fresco lunch at one of the cafes overlooking the canal and then a spot of shopping ... there are two or three excellent streets for shopping just beside the train/bus stop.
Ashamed to say that we never visited any of the fantastic historical sights in Perpignan ... next time !! Most definitely recommend going there and spending some time. The train is a great way to get there and back too.
One of our recent guests recommended paying a visit to Port Leucate to sample some of the local oysters and sea food platters (served from a series of sheds / restaurants located right next to where they land the local catch !). We have not managed to do this yet ... but certainly will.
In the meantime we hear that there are fantastic oysters and other seafood available at the local markets in Port Argeles on several days of the week.
When we were at Villa Failte in late June we cheated and went to the local Intermarche ... impressive array of fresh fish ! ... where we bought a load of fresh oysters along with the essential fresh lemons and tabasco sauce. All I can really add is that, as well as being the largest oysters we have ever eaten, they were simply delicious ... served on a plate of ice and eaten that evening out in the Summer Kitchen. Fab !
We had read about this on several occasions and really fancied giving it a go ... so in April, during a short visit to Villa Failte we took the plunge and went along to the Canyoning Park (website link). This was the 1st week it was open in 2015 so was relatively quiet ... we turned up without booking and got on just after a group that was nearly finished.
"We" were Stewart (48), Donna (42) and Jake (14). On arrival we were greeted and kitted out in wet suits, helmets and safety harnesses, followed by a short safety talk and demonstration. So far so good !! Our instructor spoke decent English as well.
The course basically consists of a series of about 12 jumps / slides / abseils of varying height and difficulty ... ending with a zip wire into a plunge pool to finish the course. The course is designed around an artifical mountain / canyon range with fresh water pools and waterfalls throughout.
The highest jump into a deep pool was about 10m / 30 feet ... which when you are up there looks a LONG way down !!! But the exhilaration once you have jumped is great !! You can opt out of any of the activities if you wish and if the group would like an easier route they will also accommodate this. The scariest bit for me was an abseil down a waterfall where you had to move sideways with the water crashing over you before dropping into the pool below. For Donna it was jumping from height !
At the end we all completed every activity, in some cases doing more than once ... not bad for a couple of old duffers !!! We all enjoyed it and especially Jake.
All in the course took about 1hr 45mins.
Highly recommended if you fancy something different during your vacation !