Exploring the Cote-d'Azur
Trip Start May 30, 2013
20Trip End Nov 25, 2013
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Where I stayed
France and the French- well we certainly know we are in a different country, and they are a different breed to the Spanish. .In Spain we found the language difficult , but the people very friendly and eager to help. I guess , because we are in a large city, and the people busy ,we have difficulty in making ourselves understood, and because we don’t speak any French , it can be difficult to get help when trying to make purchases or decisions.BUT with an apartment situated 100 yards from the port, and 300 yards from the old town, we could not be better situated, and it has not taken us long to familiarize ourselves. Locally there are little bars and eateries all along the streets. Just at the corner a wonderful PIZZA shop making pizzas in front of you , with long queues waiting (must be good) …any type you want for 6 euros.
In the area where Don & Susan are staying, we strolled through the Franciscan Monastery and gardens - situated near the Roman ruins ….the Monastery was 14-15th century, with central Nave, chapels and vaulted styled fresco-ed ceilings and glorious stained glass window
We have been using buses and trams to date, as driving and finding somewhere to park is very stressful- in fact a vehicle is NOT necessary as the trains and buses are regular and quite reasonable in price. We did head out of town however with the car - a day trip we had been recommended to Puget-Theniers- a little forgotten village in the mountain ranges that sit behind Nice. This little village appeared geared towards hiking parties and apart from a village market and local train station , it had little to offer visitors….
Last evening G & me headed out after dinner at home, and wandered the ‘old quarter again’ - we watched a motor cyclist and his machine negotiating his way home up narrow steps; and we eventually settled at an outdoor bar that overlooked the Promenade des Anglais and, Mediterranean ocean , looking along the beach towards Cannes : all the “cruising” vehicles - the likes of which we can only drool over . One lovely mustang cruising with the top down, had a small terrier standing on the top of the back seats (on the boot)- looking like he was surfing in the wind., and well balanced - I waited for him to come back, but missed a photo opportunity
Deciding each day where to go - today we 4 caught a bus to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat - a journey to the end of the bus route, to find a beautiful harbour full of amazing boats and a very pretty seaside village. Before reboarding the bus and coming back half way to the Vila & gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild. This magnificent villa sits high above the Med with glorious views, situated between Nice & Monaco, with its splendid art and porcelain collection and magnificent gardens. Beatrice had a love of travel and collected art and tapestries, Louis XV1 furniture and works by Fragonard and Boucher. Built during the Belle Epoque by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild - the villa is classed as one of the jewels of the French Riviera . Now over 100 years old , and gifted by Beatrice to the Nice Govt, to ensure her project of beauty lived on .Covering approximately 12 acres and is immaculately tended into 9 heavenly gardens- including a formal garden with musical fountains playing to beautiful music, Japanese and Spanish gardens ….all with wonderful views over the Med..sea Back on the bus to Villefranche sur Mer- another seaside village with a medieval past- and a very large Citadel -
an imposing fortress built in 1557 to defend the town.We made our way down through the cobbled ,narrow lanes and arrived right on the harbour side, with the water almost lapping at a narrow tunnel entrance …..the way out was via a narrow walkway following the Oceanside, and citadel fortress walls until we climbed back up, and up, to the street level again, to find a bus stop
Nice is rather spread out , so today we chose the little white train leaving from the Oceanside (Promenade des Anglais), to do our exploring and save our legs in the heat.1 hour of open air sightseeing with headphones and languages to suit the passengers…..certainly a good way to get the overview………. Garry rather fancies the tandam parasailing off the beach (and I made the mistake of saying I will see)- of course he thinks I mean YES!!! After a long walk back through the old quarter of Nice in the heat of the day , and a cold drink at our apartment- we set tomtom (GPS),for Mougins (a medieval village that the author I read, calls her “favourite village“.) 35 minutes inland from here…….. we arrived at a beautiful medieval hilltop village where artists, sculptures, and others have made it their home and work place in the hills above Cannes. This was home and work place also for Picasso.
Would you believe it!!!! I missed my Author (Carol Drinkwater), by only a few hours - a shop owner I spoke with ,said Carol was in the village speaking with her that morning!!!! Working on her new book …..on Mougins.
The coastline North from Nice goes from one little blue bay to the next - all hugging the mountainous range that sits up behind this whole coastline all the way into Italy.Today G & me caught an early bus, travelling along this coastline passing through pretty villages, until we reached Menton (northern side of Monaco )- and the site of the border between Italy and France. The day was HOT… HOT …and after walking the Esplanade along the ocean , with many folk already sunbathing an swimming on its stony beach , we came to the ‘little white train’…These are very reasonable in price, and give a great overview quickly of an area
The Medieval quarter sits high above the blue Mediterranean and we made our way steadily up past the St Michels Baroque church (with its very loud bells ringing in our ears), through the narrow lanes , till we reached the cemetery, with graves dating from the early 1700’s, ... the most glorious views any dead folk have ever seen (and us) of the whole of the bay - looking to the Italian border to the North and south to Roquebrune Cap- Martin.,
A quiet Panache (shandy)and bread roll in a square with a large tree canopy to shelter from the sun, as we cooled down , before finding a bus stop , to catch the bus back South along the beautiful coastline- the road is so narrow, it is amazing the glass on the buses is not shattered by the shrubbery on the high rock walls
The public transport is very user friendly - buses, trams and trains- all within a short walk of our apartment. A day trip to Monaco with Don and Susan on the train was a great experience. Fortunately leaving early , to beat the heat of the day. Arriving at the station above the city, there are a series of lifts and escalators to help locals and visitors to cope with the steepness of the site. One Irish chap we spoke to, says he is living in Monaco for 6 months, and although not at the highest point of private accommodation, still has 160 steps to negotiate up and down each time he wants to leave his apartment on the hill. Monaco , playground of the rich and although the wealth is understated , it is clearly present as evidenced by the vast array of yachts in the harbour and the vehicles on the roads . We did walk around the harbour and climb the great number of steps to reach the Grimaldi Palace- all worth the effort , for the views over Monaco were stunning. Fine views in all directions and we were able to see ‘changing of the guard ‘at 11am. The open top bus arrived so on we hopped - all too happy to be driven, and save our legs in the heat. We think the driver considered himself to be in the Grand Prix- racing along at break neck pace ,and “oh my GXX!!” his speed through the tunnels ; I just shut my eyes with a map over my face
G & me had spotted a lovely little beach at St Jean Cap-Ferrat, a short bus journey north -
So off we went early this morning, stopping for a baguette at a village shop and spent the day on the beach.Fortunately we were able to take a sun umbrella and some beach mats, as the beaches here are mostly pebbly. Jellyfish were a real problem and I had only been swimming some minutes before one got me on my arm…OUCH!!!!! Many others also got stung, and we did not venture too far from the shore after that. Interesting watching the water activity.Lots of small yachts being towed out like little ducks all in a row, and budding Jacque Cousteau’s in the water all decked out in wet suits being taught the skills of scuba diving.