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ARRIVING IN NICE
we touched down in Nice, I was one of the first off
the plane, which was key as there are only two customs agents working passport control. No matter what, if you check bags, you will most likely wait a good 40 minutes before getting out of the airport. But I prefer to wait at baggage claim because there, you have the freedom to use your cell phone and, more importantly, the restroom. As scheduled, the Club Med driver
was waiting outside baggage claim with a sign. If you book your flight with Club Med, transfers
to and from
the airport are included – otherwise a taxi ride will run you about 70 euros (about $96USD), which still might be cheaper if you book the air yourself so price around. The driver was pleasant and though he didn't speak English, I was still able to detect his love and pride for his country, as he proudly pointed out castles and other landmarks along
the 30-minute route to the resort.
CLUB MED OPIO
The Club Med Opio village
is 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Nice airport, high in the hills above Cannes, in a truly delightful corner of Provence. It's located in the Maritime Alps between Grasse and Valbonne and the village itself is 50 hectares (123 acres). There are 443 rooms, all situated in 10 traditional two- to four-story Provencal-style buildings, complete with courtyards
and water fountains. FYI: There are no elevators so if you don't want to hike it upstairs, then request a room on the ground floor.
I was incredibly excited to be here because I had such a great experience at the reopening of Club Med Cancun last November (here's the link to that story and video). That's when Club Med unveiled their new philosophy: to go upscale and cater to families. There are 80 Club Med properties worldwide and only a few of them are still adults-only. However, by 2009 virtually all the resorts will be family-friendly.
around midday. I was looking forward to dropping off my bags and taking a shower but no such luck. It was opening weekend and the front desk
was a bit overwhelmed; they were sold out and things were taking longer than expected. That meant I had to wait a few hours before I could check-in. But that was fine with me. After all, I was in the south of France, it was a gorgeous day and I had all kinds of options to choose from ... all for free. In my opinion, being all-inclusive (except for certain activities and high-end alcohol) is one of Club Med's best attributes – besides their international, friendly staff. I couldn't make up my mind. Should I go
to the bar, grab a drink and log on to the Internet. Take part in one of the many sports on offer? Or just take a nap by the pool? Ah, it's nice to have options.
For starters, Club Med Opio has four pools. One of them is adults-only
and is called The Calm Pool. There’s an indoor Roman bath that is reserved for the Club Med Spa customers (more on this later) and one that's reserved for Mini Club Med. Yes, this place is very kid-friendly! The main
oversized pool is located in between
two bars and next to the lobby
so it's the focal point. In fact, it's where the majority of guests spend most of their time. If you want to get or stay in shape, you'll find a state of the art gym
with daily spinning
and yoga classes. I ventured in one morning thinking I would try an energizing spinning class for the first time ... I walked out with a fresh, warm chocolate croissant
in my hand. Only in France would you find croissants in a gym! Other highlights included a compact, nine-hole golf course
on the property, where lessons are free; there are 21 other golf courses nearby. Then there's volleyball, archery, tennis
(13 courts), mountain
and petanque, which is France's national pastime, similar to bocce. Oh! And how could I
forget about my
favorite, the flying
trapeze? I became addicted
to this curious activity in Cancun and it continued here.
LUNCH IN THE OLIVE GARDEN
Fortunately for me, it was time for my favorite pastime: lunch. It was served in the most unusual of places – in the olive garden. No silly, not the popular chain restaurant but a real olive grove
with thousands of these hundred-year-old trees, neatly lined up row after row. What an introduction to Provence! It was magical. Food stations were set between the tree trunks with an assortment of dishes that made my mouth water. This is another thing I love about the new Club Med. Although everything is included, the food is high quality, wonderfully presented
and there's something for everyone, no matter what your dietary needs or how finicky an eater you may be. There were loads of fresh fruits, vegetables
and a variety of salads, bread
and meats. Don't even get me started
on dessert! Wow! The special was strawberries soaked in fresh mint, yogurt or wine. Of course, the olive grove is not the typical dining area; it's used every few weeks or on special occasions.
FOOD AT CLUB MED
are two restaurants
in the village but most meals are served
in Le Provencal, a second floor, upscale cafeteria with multiple
food stations. Each night featured
a different theme, from Italian to Mexican. But no matter what the theme was, there were always some staple foods available for those who didn't like that type of cuisine. Being part Italian, I appreciated that they always had pizza and pasta
by Italians no less. Lunch was almost as elaborate as dinner, though not as many dessert choices. Thank God. I mean, you've got to draw the line somewhere. And breakfast
would satisfy any taste buds as they offered much more
than just croissants
and coffee. Because of the themed meals, I didn't get sick and tired of the food. A couple of evenings, I went out with friends and explored the nearby towns, recommended by the Club Med staff. NOTE: If you're one of those people who gets the midnight munchies, be forewarned that European Club Meds don't offer food 24/7 like the ones in the US. Plus, there's no room service or mini bars or fridges in the rooms. However, they do offer
three bars and poolside.
After dinner you can enjoy nightly entertainment that's family-friendly but to be perfectly honest, I found it pretty cheesy. However, the kids
seemed to love it and I guess that's what's most important. This does not include the guitarist
by the bar.
I was in the Bastide du Jasmine building; all of the buildings
are named after herbs. This particular building is so named because there are loads
of jasmine flowers
everywhere that smelled so incredible, I can't do the fragrance justice by describing it. My second-floor room was nice, though nothing special. It was dark, a little on the small side and the bed wasn't too comfortable. Actually, I didn't sleep that well because the walls were thin, the bed
too firm for my liking and the duvet too heavy. Since there were no sheets, I was hot most of the time, even with the AC blasting. Actually, the bedding is my biggest complaint about the whole place. They definitely need to get some new linens and a softer flat sheet, as the fabric was too rough on my skin. The bathroom
was also small but the water pressure in the shower was hot and firm. Rooms come with flat screen TVs
and connecting rooms are available if you're traveling with kids. Warning: Like most of Europe, the maid still comes in and cleans your room even when the Do Not Disturb sign is on the door. I didn't complain because she left bottles of water each time.
TRAVELING WITH KIDS
Travelers don't come to this Club Med looking to meet someone or for a romantic escape like a honeymoon. As Club Med transitions from singles hotspot to family-friendly vacation destination, the only way I'd ever return is if I were to bring my family with me. I know, I know ... first I need to get a family. No wait, first I need to get a girlfriend ... Anyhow, I digress. Parents love this place because it's a fun and safe environment for kids of all ages and kids love it because they get to meet new friends, and they're never bored. It's win-win, all around. For people with babies up to 23 months, Club Med Baby
Welcome offers baby equipment and suitable food. Petit Club Med
is for kids 2 to 3 years, Mini Club Med
is for kids 4 to 10 years and Club Med Passworld is a new concept dedicated to kids between 11 and 17 years,
so they can be creative, play sports and more. For further information, log on to ClubMed.com.
CLUB MED SPA
While the kids are at "camp", adults are free to take care of themselves. One of the most popular places is the spa, complete
with a mosaic tiled Hammam
steam bath and sauna. Like most spas, they offer a wide range of services, including face and body skincare, relaxation baths, massages and a variety of authentic sensory experiences. I signed up for a 35 minute relaxing massage with essential oils (it smelled like Citronella) for 62 euros ($85USD). I arrived for my appointment and the pretty receptionists
handed me a robe and showed me to the men's locker room. It was small and had a shower and bathroom. I put my clothes in a locker, donned the robe
and went out to the waiting room overlooking the beautiful Roman pool. Sitting there with just my robe on, trying to make sure the dragon didn't make an unscheduled appearance, I thought, "Uh oh! I forgot to request a woman masseuse. What if I get I guy?" I'm far from homophobic but I hate having male therapists massage me. I usually walk out more tense than when I arrived.
Luckily, my masseuse was a woman. She escorted me to the room
and she said something in French, which I didn't understand and then she said, "Voila." Usually, after being led into the therapy room, the masseuse steps out so you can get your naked body on the table and under a towel so no one has to witness what's beneath the robe. But when she said, "Voila!" again and motioned for me to get on the table, I gathered she was telling me to drop the towel and hoist my naked ass up onto the table. I didn't want to look like a dumb American so I did as I was told and just … well, dropped the towel. WHOA NELLY! You should've seen this scene. I don't know who was more surprised -- the masseuse or my reaction to her reaction! After I let it all hang out she let out a little scream and quickly turned around. I instantly grabbed the paper covering from the table and covered you-know-who. With her back to me and one hand over her eyes, she handed me some paper underwear. It turned out that the woman at the front desk had forgotten to give me this important cover-up. I've seen this disposable underwear before, last fall in Malaysia. But I'm happy to report that the French have added a flair of their own to them. They're not only painted black but they've made them into thongs. I've never worn a thong before and I wasn't quite sure which way it went on until I put them on the wrong way. Trust me, you'll know. When I finally put them on the right way, I felt more naked then when I was actually naked. Oh my! I lay on the table with my butt fully exposed and was a bit uncomfortable until she put a towel over me. The massage was just as it was billed – relaxing. It was nothing skilled but I did fall asleep.
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30 Minute Drive
Club Med Village
Flat Screen TVs
Going For a Massage