Where the rich and beautiful come to play

Trip Start Jan 17, 2006
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21
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Trip End Dec 01, 2006


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Flag of France  ,
Friday, April 21, 2006

Its been great to get away from the Bauhaus for a few days. I worked for about fifteen days straight before I left for the Côte D'Azur and when work is over there is generally nothing else to do in Brugge, but hang around the bar and chat to the other workers.

So I hopped on a night train very anxious to get to Nice, which is where my hostel was. A little bit about the Côte D'Azur: It literally means Azure coast and when you see the colour of the water, you immediately know why it is called that. The water is a light blue/green colour and is quite easy on the eye. There are a number of attractions along this stretch of coastline including Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Eze, Cap D'Aie and Monaco. I went to all of these places and had a look around. Nice is the major city in the middle of all these places that are approximately thirty minutes each east and west. Put simply, this place is the playground of the rich.

CANNES (said 'can')
This was my first expedition even before I looked around Nice itself. Some of you might have already noticed that this is the place where the world famous Cannes Film Festival is held - you couldn't really tell when you were there. What I saw was basically the coastline and beach, the old castle, some of the old town and the shopping district. It is quite a tradition to sit along the beach, just above the sand on the chairs provided and watch the sunset over the mountains that go straight into to the Mediterranean. There have been so many people watch the sunset over the years that the tarred ground where the seats are has thousands of holes in it from the legs of the chairs. To me, this is a really subtle, but lovely indication of the culture of the people who live there. The council provides the chairs and the people just sit there in the late afternoon: sounds like a good life to me. Behind the chairs are ice cream and crepe shops and a few buskers. There was a guy who had painted gold skin and stood there with a fake movie camera. It amazes me that the whole world over, people think that spray-painting themselves and standing still is impressive. It doesn't really make sense to me anyway...

Atop the chateau, one can see most of the city and the coastline, all of which make for picturesque photos. The old town is fairly standard and didn't really surprise me. The problem with this old town is that it has so many new features about it (such as cars and bitumen roads) that is doesn't look old anymore. On one of the balconies directly adjacent from the tower was a woman totally dressed up in high heels and designer clothes and haircut reading a book on her balcony - how bourgeois...

ANTIBES (said 'onteeb')
There isn't much here except a nice beach and the old sea walls. We got there and sat in the park and tried to work out what all the flags were that surrounded us next to the yacht bay. Some of the boats in this dock were absolutely huge and I reckon it would take a long time saving to own anything nearly as big. To give you an idea of the grandeur of these boats, some of the private ones were as big as the ferries that go to Rottnest and back (the smaller ones). The other highlight of this place was the "Outback Australian bar" that had boomerangs and Fosters signs all over the show. Just like home eh?


NICE (said 'neece')
This was where I spent the majority of my time on the Côte D'Azur. I came here specifically because I found out there was a 'Europe's Famous Hostel' (EFH) partner called Villa Saint Exupery. EFH is a group of hostels that market themselves together as being the best hostels in Europe - in most cases, this is true (bar the Three Ducks in Paris and Kabul in Barcelona). When a staff member of one hostel stays at another, he/she receives a 50% discount on everything - can't complain. The hostel is on the top of a hill that looks over most of the city with an ocean view from most of the rooms. The staff there are absolutely fantastic and they are numerous too, so you never have to wait long for help when you need it. Outside the building that they call 'The Chapel' (basically the bar and restaurant section) is a balcony with trees and limestone furniture that is absolutely perfect to sit on during the day when the sun is shining through the leaves.

It was on this balcony that I met some of my Nice hostel mates. They were two Aussie dudes in their thirties who had come to Nice to get some inspiration for the soundtrack to a film they had both made. The were really interesting fellows who I shared a lot in common with including a taste for good food. The first day there they insisted I join them for wine, baguettes and dried fruits on the balcony: I wasn't going to say no. We chatted about stuff for a while and it turns out they know my musical directions from the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra - small world. I met other cool people at the hostel too, including a dude from Quebec who hosts a TV show in Canada (not a bad occupation) and this lovely American girl (the trend continues) from San Francisco.

On the first night in the hostel, we all hung out in the bar/lounge area and relaxed with a few bevvies. After a few hours a girl comes in looking worried saying that her handbag (with passport inside) has gone missing. For about ten minutes, she walked around looking worried retracing her steps. Following this, she started to get upset and frantic, so most of the people in the bar got up to look with her. So this brigade of twenty people go around the hostel looking for this elusive item. One hour later, they all sit down, defeated, thinking that the bag is long gone and their valuables could be next. Just as we thought it had all passed over, the girl comes in and she had obviously been crying and she started kicking chairs over and shouting at the people working behind the bar and at patrons alike. I went downstairs to the toilets where she had trashed the place and turned the bins inside out (including the sanitary bins) and made a general mess. She storms out and we all breathe a sigh of relief: we have weathered the storm. Two beers later, the psycho bitch comes back into the bar with her bag and tells us gleefully that she has found it: it was on her bed the whole time...then she walked out and went to bed: didn't apologise to anyone, didn't clean anything up. This is the sort of person I like to be around: DICKHEAD

Discovering Nice the next day with Andre (Quebec dude) was a treat. We walked around along the beach and up onto the hill where the gardens and such are. The photos tell the story, so I won't harp on too long except to say that the beaches here are covered in rocks. It is really painful to walk on with bare feet and you get this white powder all over your gear. There is one advantage however, it does mean that you don't have to wash sand out of your hair or towel or bags. We went to the fruit and flower market the next day, bought some olives, goats cheese, baguettes, avocado and kiwi fruit and we had ourselves a divine little feast right there at the water front.

CAP D'AIE (don't know how to say this one really)
This is one of the lovely beaches along the Côte D'Azur that is recommended for swimming. At first I was very wary of going into the water because it was completely still. Coming from Perth beaches, this seems like a symbol of danger to me because whenever the water is flat at home, the stingers come in and it doesn't make for pleasant swimming. Fortunately there were no dangerous animals in the water in France - just some fish. When I conjured up the courage to jump in, it was ice cold and I ran straight back out. After drying off, I went back in again and swam around for a minute before I retreaded again. Before we left the beach, we saw some other girls from our hostel and we were told to swim out to this cave about 150m from the shore. We were feeling fit and so we decided to try it. We got about half way out and then suddenly the cold started to get to me: I seized up and I couldn't talk and found it hard to breathe, so I had to tuck-tail and run (well swim) back to the shore. When I got out, my skin was burning like I had Deep-Heat or Denkarub all over my body: I can now imagine how the people coming out of the Titanic felt. I had never been so cold in my life and boy was I glad not to drown and get back onto the warm pebbles.

EZE (said 'ezz')
This is a tourist attraction that has butchered a really nice historical place as far as I can see. Eze is a town around a castle that used to house some people and protect them from intruders. Now all the houses in the fort are filled with shops with overpriced merchandise. I saw a pepper grinder (not unlike those sold at Coles or Ikea) for 65€: tell him he's dreamin'!

MONACO
This really is the home of the rich: Massive boats and amazingly expensive cars litter the port and roads. I went to the front of the Monte Carlo casino where I was confronted with more luxury cars than you could poke a stick at. Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys; you name it, it was there and nicely polished to boot. Apart from this, I didn't really find Monaco that exciting.

Even though I was really excited to get to the Côte D'Azur, I was also sort of happy to be able to get back to Brugge where I can rest up and get some more cash. Oh by the way - I got a little bit of a tan back - yay no more pasty Euro-skin...
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