Whilst enjoying some late season sun in Cannes, France, I’ve noticed that my pounds and my euros are virtually interchangable.
Let’s start at the beginning. Flights to the Cote D’Azur with the likes of Ryanair are, in our humble opinion, currently Europe’s biggest travel bargain. Tourists love the South coast of France, and France loves having them here – provided they are not too rowdy and don’t jump in the fountains – that is, after all, what the sea is for.
If you are after a mini-break the good weather looks set to continue here on the French Riviera; it’s a windy 25 degrees centigrade in Cannes today; perfect tanning weather. There may not be many film stars in town, and the red carpets have been rolled up for the season, but the seafront boulevards are thriving, the island day trips to monasteries and exclusive hideaways are still available, the casinos are open (and ready to take your money 24/7!), and there is no shortage of glitz and glamour, great food, local experiences, and charming, friendly, French company.
In short, it takes just two hours to fly from “London” Stansted to Nice airport, from where you can catch an air conditioned coach to Cannes, via Antibes, and Juan les Pins; 2 equally desirable locations. In the other direction, a breathtakingly beautiful train ride along the coast away; past towns like Eze and Villefranche-sur-Mer, is Montecarlo; yet more casinos, glitz and glamour, and across the border to Italy, Ventimiglia. Why not visit 2 countries instead of one, and pick up some duty free while you are there, where booze and cigarettes cost around one third of the price of France or the UK – if that’s your thing.
Do not, however, expect your pounds to carry much clout. Although the pound had picked up a little against the euro over the past weeks, it took yet another nosedive after the May chequers plan was pooh-poohed by 27 hostile nations and around 50-60% of the UK, if the remainers are to be believed, and fees, charges, exchange rates et cetera quickly add up to parity with the euro.
When I first arrived in Cannes, after evading an illegal taxi driver who wanted to charge me 15 euros to take the 5 min distance to my Airbnb (why did I not walk? It was midnight, I was late, had no phone battery and no Wi-Fi, reader), I withdrew 50 euros using my Natwest bank card, and I now note that the transaction cost me £47.71. So, £2.29 difference – enough for – well, not much on the Cote D’Azur, to be honest. At a stand up comedy night I went to (12 euros on the door) I paid 8 euros for a pint of Brooklyn lager (admittedly a pricey brew), and when I rented a sun lounger on the beach for a day (20 euros for the day, 6 euros for the towel), “un pression”, half a pint to you and me, was on offer for 6 euros – 10 euros for the full pint.
My next withdrawal, 6 days later (I am on what is affectionately known as a “travellers budget”), again of 50 euros (it took a few well orchestrated mind games to keep me away from the casinos) set me back £48.22. This was post Chequers Plan, which I am guessing explains the difference. So £1.78 to play with, this time. Enough for a large tin of “Haricot Verts”, which went down well as part of a mint and potato salad, to accompany some halal lamb I purchased at a town centre charcuterie. Sumptuous.
Oh and the 26 euros I paid for lounger and towel – this time paid for with credit card – £24.09 – a “saving” of £1.91, which, and I am no mathematician here, surely screams “use plastic whenever you can”.
Can you enjoy a mini-break on the French riviera on a tight budget with sterling euro exchange rates at a desperate low for the Brits? Yes, you can, but you should think about ordering your travel money in advance, perhaps, comparing rates for sending money abroad before you travel, and be able to nurse a pint, or find more healthy activities to pursue. Of which there are plenty.
In 10 days I have spent less than 30 euros / pounds (what’s the difference?) per day, and tonight I travel to Monaco to watch Monaco FC take on Angers in Ligue Un football. Tickets were 20 euros – I hope it’s a good game. Or I may have to hit the casino.
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