You may have been to Paris, Bordeaux, Provence, the French Riviera… But did you see the REAL France? The France that can’t be Googled? If you’re looking for an authentic, local experience, you’ve got to meet our friend and partner, Andy Swann…
CIRE: Hello Andy! Where have you been riding out the pandemic?
ANDY: Hello! Home for me now is in Antibes on the French Riviera and has been for 12 years. I’m British but since January, I also have French Nationality, of which I am equally proud! Previously, I lived in London for 10 years off and on, and also in New York for 18 months. I grew up in Sheffield in the North of England, a former steel town.
CIRE: Ahhhhhh…. The French Riviera! So dreamy. Can you tell our readers about what you do there?
ANDY: I own a niche/boutique DMC (destination management company) based in Antibes, Andy Swann Voyage, which I set up in May 2016. We are a team of four and are regional specialists in France, focusing on the French Riviera, Provence, Burgundy, Normandy, Paris and Champagne. We are a British/American team but work with a fantastic group of primarily French (and all fluent English speaking) partners including guides, drivers, artists, glass blowers, free divers and wine sommeliers.
CIRE: Congratulations on celebrating 5 years this year! What a milestone! How did you get into travel and decide to start your own business?
ANDY: I was a graduate trainee with an international flight catering company based in Manchester, UK and then at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. While I got the travel bug of being surrounded by airports and planes, the 5am starts and cycling across the Dutch Polder at 4am just wasn’t for me at 22 years old. So, I joined an international student travel company as their branch manager in Oxford and then moved from there into working in airline and hotel sales in the UK, US and Dubai. After 7 great years working at the 5-star Hotel Martinez in Cannes, I decided to follow my dream and set up my own business as a luxury French-based DMC.
CIRE: That’s quite a path! After all that great and diverse experience, what would you say sets your company apart from others?
ANDY: I would say we know what we are, who we are, what we are good at and what is outside our area of expertise. We are a niche/boutique team and are regional specialists in some of the most beautiful and interesting parts of France, namely Normandy, Paris, Champagne, Burgundy, Provence, French Riviera, and also the Italian Riviera just across the border. If we do not know a region, we will recommend another partner rather than saying we can work there.
CIRE: Know what you do well and be the best at it! Perfect! What do you love most about your job?
ANDY: I would say the sheer variety of the requests we receive: a honeymoon couple visiting France for the first time, a multi-generational family who may have travelled many times to France, a specialist wine group looking for our support in Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone or Champagne, a group of military veterans wanting to tour Normandy, an art group interested in the lives of Picasso and Van Gogh in the South of France….
CIRE: (Taking notes for next trip to France…) Tell us more about Antibes!
ANDY: My adopted hometown of Antibes is a fantastic town on the French Riviera. Surrounded by wonderful sea/countryside, small towns and villages. The town itself is very authentic with a history going back to Roman and Greek times when it was one of the largest ports on the whole Mediterranean. Antibes has a rich heritage and the old town is full of great squares and small streets teaming with local artists and artisans. Sometimes when the summer is at full pelt and very busy and the area gets wrapped up in luxury, you can still find Antibes to be original and authentic and full of great treasures and experiences.
CIRE: When you live somewhere so fabulous, where do you go on vacation?
ANDY: We tend to have a large multigenerational vacation with my wife’s family every two years (the last three being Vietnam, Tanzania and Burma). Covid will put 2021 on the back burner but we are discussing 2022 and possibilities include Chile/Argentina or Tahiti. Chile /Argentina for the cities/landscapes and the wine, and Tahiti as it is every French family’s dream destination with the nature and colours.
CIRE: Both options sound incredible! And a long way from the French Riviera. Do you have a top travel tip for those long-haul flights?
ANDY: Eye Shades on the plane and, after years of trying to break this tip, no alcohol on the long-haul flights.
CIRE: You are stronger than we are, Andy! Cheers and see you in France soon!