Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Cote d’Azur – Days 6 and 7


Greetings from the south of France!!

We arrived in Nice, on the train from Lyon, early Sunday evening. Trudging our suites off the train and out the front door of the train station, we patiently stood in line to wait for a cab. After a few minutes of waiting, a cab showed up and, to our utter surprise, he refused to take us to our hotel – telling us that the street that it was on was all torn up (for road repair) and that cars were not allowed on it. Neither of us had ever been rejected by a taxi cab driver so we were a bit dumbfounded by what we heard. We went to the Information Desk and Diep asked for directions to the hotel. We were told that is was about a half hour walk or we could take the bus. Being the adventurous twosome that we are, we opted to hoof it. Considering we had no map to guide us, we had to rely on the kindness of people to give us directions.

We set off in the general direction of the hotel and very quickly found out why the taxi driver refused to take us to the hotel. The street that we were on was all torn up and only one lane of one side of the street was passable. We trudged on and on and on and at one point, met up with a British couple who happened to be doing some window shopping outside what was their hotel. The man went into the lobby and got us a map – extremely helpful. Armed with a map in hand, we finally had a sense of where were were and where we needed to go. Fortunately, by this time, we were just about a block or two away from the street we needed to be on.

We soon reached the street that the hotel was on. It’s basically a street that is blocked off to traffic and is lined with stores and restaurants. Our hotel is about 15 feet wide and is squashed between two bakeries and faces an Italian restaurant.



Once we reached our hotel, we quickly checked into our room and headed back out into the street. Since it was Sunday night, most of the stores were closed although all the eateries were open. We had a light meal on the train ride down and neither of us was in the mood for a meal so we decided to treat ourselves to dessert. “Ole sharp eyes” Diep quickly spotted an ice cream store nearby so we had some cones of some very good gelato and sorbets. After eating our cones, we did a bit of window shopping and then called it a night.

One thing about having a hotel located on a street filled with restaurants and stores is the noise. Sometime in the wee hours of the early morning, the trash trucks come down the street to pickup trash followed by street cleaners. Fortunately, we are so tired, the noise doesn’t seem to matter. The good thing about a hotel being squashed between two bakeries is the sweet smell of pastries and bread being baked each morning. It’s a wonderful aroma that fills the air.

Monday morning was a national holiday – Labor Day in France so most of the stores were closed. We walked back to the train station and hopped for a destination to spend the day. Can you guess where we went?



No??

Does this picture give you a better idea??



Still no idea??

How about now?



If you guessed Monaco, you are correct!!

We decided to spend the day in Monaco which is about a 20 minute train ride from Nice. It was a beautiful day to be on the French Riviera and Monte Carlo is strikingly pristine – abounding with beautiful architecture and landscaped gardens. We had a very enjoyable walk down some of the backstreets and treated ourselves to lunch at an outdoor café on the dock. Monaco is also a place that reminds you of just how poor you are as it is obviously occupied by a very, very, very well heeled population. I have never seen so many expensive (Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Rolls Royces, and Bentleys) in my entire life….not to mention yachts bigger than my house!!



We walked around the main points of the city – including a stop at the famed Monte Carlo casino with the obligatory photo op. Some parts of the city we did not walk to – areas were blocked off as the city is preparing for the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix.



On our way back we discovered that you could take a bus tour around the city. I was determined that we should do this as it would be the only way for us to see the Royal Palace (I could have sworn I heard Prince Albert call my name!!) Unfortunately, since it was Labor Day, the buses were not running so we decided to leave Monaco mid afternoon and hop on the train back to Nice. On the ride back, we decided to get on one of the stops along the way – in a town called Beaulieu sur Mer. We were just curious to see what one of the little towns looked like.



Once we got off the train, we walked around and eventually made our way to the beach which is typical of European beaches in that it was pretty much gravel. Here’s a picture of the beach – not sure who the two people in the photo are but they happened to be sitting there when Diep decided to take the shot. More about Diep’s photography skills later!!



Since there was not much to do in town, we decided to head back to Nice so on the train we went. Arriving back in Nice, we headed for the beach to enjoy the sunset and then back to the hotel for dinner and to call it a night.

Oh….and if you didn’t think it was true, here’s proof. Diep does wear her Blackberry to bed with her!! I’m afraid that this vacation has not broken her of the habit!



More on our adventures later.

Julee

Hello All,

I hope you’ve been enjoying our adventures. This morning, as we woke up with the smell of the pastries (… three hours after they opened the bakery), we decided to go to the train station and head out for Grasse, the capital of the parfume world. We got our tickets, and waited patiently for the train to Grasse. Once it arrived, we hopped on it, enjoying the sea view, and the French landscape. The train arrived about an hour later, and we were told by a station attendant that there was a free shuttle we could catch to get to the centre ville. We caught the shuttle, but couldn’t really figure out the map of Grasse we picked up at the train station. Suddenly, as we passed by the Palais de Justice, Julee pointed it out. From the map, the Palais was close to all the Parfume museums, so we decided to hop down the train at the next stop. Unfortunately, French streets in small towns are not easy to walk on, as the cars are zipping past us really fast. We got lost several times, even with each of us holding a map of the city. We knew exactly where we wanted to go, but unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out where the “you are here” location was! We finally got to Molinard, a parfume museum about an hour later, after having gone up and down the streets, asking directions every single time we met people. We thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and the gift shop even more . When we were done, we continued walking around, forgoing the free shuttle that passed by us several times, and arrived to the other museums. Of course, we had our mandatory stops at the perfume shops. I have to admit it was very dangerous to step in there with Julee. Every time Julee grabbed a bottle, she would just turned around, and start spraying perfume all over me. Then, she would smell it, and then decide that she didn’t like it. In addition, I wasn’t fond of the perfume smells either! At that point, I was walking around, smelling like a “cherry pie”, as Julee put it. The only time I asked for her help in choosing a perfume, she just sprayed it on the back of my upper arm. Now, how in the world would I be able to smell it???? The only way we were able to smell it was from under my arm. It just looked like both of us were smelling my armpit! What a sight.

Of course, we missed the train back, so we had to wait patiently for the next one, an hour later. When we got back to Nice, we headed to the Italian restaurant across the street from our hotel. It was very good, as usual. We went to the creperie/ice cream place where we got our ice creams the first day, and ordered some crepes. As I was taking pictures of our very nice host, he decided to become cozy with Julee.



Now, it is true we haven’t found Henry, but the owner of the creperie seemed to have won Julee’s heart… and stomach!

Well, that’s all for today. We’ll post more tomorrow on our adventures in Paris!

Diep