The Boat D’Azur

I start the day with a Mimosa…. well, it is Cannes and this weekend I will be part of the Cocktail Set. A Mimosa, being Champagne and orange juice, I figure this will be two of my five a day. Another couple and I’ll be in credit.

I can indulge too because I won’t be driving today, rather I’ll be in the passenger sat, being chauffeured in a classic 1950s Fiat 500 in a cortege along part of the 130km La Route des Mimosas.

The Mimosa Trail hugs the Cote d’Azur taking in eight quaint villages, winding roads an around stunning cliffs. Our stretch will be 36kms from Cannes to Agny and I have an elbow out the window and wind in my beard.

We will picnic by the beach on cold meats, soft cheeses and vin de rouge, looking out on the azure sea with the warming sun at our backs. All that’s missing is Audrey Hepburn in a shawl and oversized sunglasses.

I look for a packet of Gauloises in the glove compartment. It is at times like this that you wish you smoked.

After an hour of convivial company – we say au revoir to Agny and take to the water, as you do, on a 12-man speed boat back to Mandelieu La Napoule outside Cannes where we are staying, passing as we do the stunning Saint Honorat Island where St Patrick is believed to have studied.

I had been skimming stones as every self-respecting 50-year-old must do when he finds a beach but now I will be the one skimming across the Med.

Does this car look big in me? The Fiat 500

The ride is exhilarating – the driver revs the engine up, puts the pedal to the metal and lifts the boat to a 45 degree angle as we take to the open seas.

Alan, our guide/babysittere for the weekend mentions Goldfinger and the comparison is not misplaced.

They love only gold in the hills above us and we slow down to stare at these pleasure domes and one in particular, fashion designer Pierre Cardin’s pink Palais Bulles, or Bubble Palace, a 1200sqm mega-complex which comes with ten space-age rooms, three swimming pools, luxurious gardens, an amphitheatre that seats 500, stunning views and a revolving cast of A-listers including Marion Cotillard and Pierce Brosnan.

I have to confess I don’t like it, particularly at a sale price of €300million or even at the nightly rental of €950 per person,

I’m quite happy at Ray Byrne’s Mimozas Resort, thank you.

Mimozas is Cannes for families like us, offering affordable one-, two- and three-bed apartments and not just affordable by Cannes rates.

Mimozas is situated in Cannes’ next door neighbour, Mandelieu which means that it avoids its big brother’s premium rates while enjoying proximity to its famous front… just follow the dog walkers along the riverbank – you’ll know you’re going the right way because the crimped pooches will have their noses up in the air.

My ball is in there somewhere: At the Old Course, Cannes

I also find Mandelieu more charming, prettier, and, well, with more to do.

And you don’t even need to leave Ray’s resort. It is expertly laid out with plenty to do for the children… there are soccer and basketball courts and, of course, swimming pools to occupy them while you whizz around the resort on an electric bike… or take a luxurious spa treatment.

The bike option looks great fun but the combination of Mimosa cocktails and driving on the wrong side, albeit a promenade, puts me off.

I wish I’d had more bottle, as two of our party were rewarded at the end of their rides by being invited to take part in a real Cote D’Azur speciality, Jet-propellers,

They were literally walking on air,

Count me in for the next Ryder Cup: A winning European team

Feeling that I’m missing out on some of the fun though, and seeing as I am next to Cannes I feel I ought to check out some of its other pleasures, so I seek out the sand.

The bunkers on Cannes’ Old Course, the oldest on the Med, founded by the Grand Duke Michale Mikhailovich, of Russia, in 1891 aren’t as deep as those of its famous namesake in Scotland but there are enough of them and I should know – I was in every one.

I also found water, but not with my erratic shots rather on the golf buggy which we park up on the barge and across the river between holes, a classy quirk of this course and great fun… you can also get a drink in the small hut on the other side.

Cannes is a beautiful pine-tree paved course and its proprietors are welcoming. I turfed up without a glove or shoes, and they provided me with both.

You can also pose with the winning European Ryder Cup team… well, a picture, at least, outside the clubhouse.

France hosts the Ryder Cup in two years’ time and they are putting out the bunting already. It will be the closest I get to the level of the miracle workers of Medina unless I come back to watch the pros play here as they regularly do which wold be more than tempting.

My winning partner: Jacinta

Sunday on the Cote D’Azur is family day and Sunday in the middle two weeks in February in Cannes/Mandelieu sees families flock to the annual Mimosa Festival… ah, the famed Mimosa which divests name to my cocktail and resort.

The Mimosa – or Acacia Dealbata – is a golden sweet-smelling flower which the area is renowned for.

It was actually brought here from Australia in the 19th Century by wealthy English settlers on the Cote D’Azur and quickly escaped from the gardens and began growing prolifically in the ira – yes, this may be classy but they are not beyond taking here either.

A word on such matters. Cannes/Mandelieu-Napoule feels particularly safe, unlike some Mediterranean hotspots. Our guide tells us that it is is because there is such wealth that petty crime is almost non-existent.

Good news then if you wish to leave your electric bike around… or even a pitching wedge in a bunker!

Merci, Jacinta, for retrieving said item, as it was the most used club in my bag.

Tee for two: Europe and America

Turning into Mandelieu’s harbour I eventually find my elusive Mimosa. Every Mimosa on the Cote D’Azur has been picked for the floats and the decorations for the festival and its parade.

A sun shower breaks out as a cascade of the golden flowers decend on us from an excitable carnivalgoer on one of the floats.

Behind her a brass band belts out Under The Moon of Love. If you’re looking for love then it is all around you in Mandelieu. We had dined the night before in the beautiful old cobbled centre at the aptly named La Pomme D’Amour restaurant.

The name was not lost on me and I avoided anything with apples particularly from pretty French waitresses, so the signature dish La Pomme d’Amour (warm apple topped with foie gras) was out.

Instead, I opt as I always do for fish soup.

For my main I went for the filet of ten spices roasted duckling which was tender and mouth-watering.

The French do have a way with meat, although I did feel a pan of conscience for those little quackery who I had passed by earlier in the day.

Stuffed, I passed on dessert but if you have a sweet tooth you could plump for a duo of chocolate caffein pailletine background with caramel Kahlua…. and you would be plump after it.

The parade snakes around the harbour which is home to more yachts than anywhere else on the Cote D’Azur. We meander through the good-natured crowd and stop at the medieval castle, Chateau de la Napoule where The Edge and Morleigh had their wedding reception a couple of years ago.

This is where the Mimosa trail will end, they are packing up the floats and the mimosas although the brass band still continues to belt out Under The Moon of Love.

I doff my trilby to the beanie-hatted one and the Rich Set and attach a mimosa to it.

I’m taking the sun home.

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: Ryanair flies daily Dublin-Nice through the summer.

Where to stay: A family of four can stay at Mimosas Resort Canne in May from just €127 per night (based on a large studio room, checking in May 26).

Activities: Old Course, a partner golf course to Mimozas Resort. Special rate of €69 for 18 holes, bookable through reception.
Classic car/boat trip organised through Team Nature, costs from €300pp in groups of ten or more. Cost goes down as group numbers go up.
Electric bikes cost circa €40per day, with bike hire organised through reception.

Where to eat: Pomme d’Amour. Or at Mimosas Resort Cannes where Alex, the chef’s buffets are never-ending. There are Mimosa cocktails too. Visit http://mimozas-resort-cannes.mandelieu-la-napoule.hotelescotedazur.com/en/. Visit www.atoutfrance.fr

*This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail

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