FRANCE/MONACO - Biaritz & the Cote d Azur

Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
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Trip End Jan 10, 2013


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Flag of Monaco  ,
Friday, September 7, 2012

After re-jigging the entire southern France part of our trip we ended up going straight to Monaco after arriving in Nice by plane. We had always wanted to go to Monaco while we were living in London but it is another place we never quite got to so we were excited about our new plans. 


The 30 minute bus ride from the airport to Monaco was pretty amazing, we drove along the place where all of the private jets are parked. Apparently, here you can organise a taxi to Monaco for 100 euro and it takes 30 mins or you can catch a helicopter for 90 euro so most of the owners of the jets travel by helicopter to Monaco... we paid 20 euro for the airport bus =).

 
Technically our apartment was in Monte Cristo, which is in France, but the Monaco/France border was only a few steps away, it would have been less steps if it the mountainside wasn't soooo steep! We have over 100 stairs to get up to our apartment... with our suitcases. Ouch. Our visit here brings our country count up to 33, yes we are counting it even if it is so small.
 
 
Monaco is only two kilometers wide and officially a country on it’s own. The second smallest in the world followed only by Vatican City in Italy.  The population is 36,000 and the number plates on the car have only three or four digits. Most people who work in Monaco live in the greater Nice area.

 
The Monte Carlo casino is a beautiful building and we did want to go in there but they charge 10 euro ($12.70 AUD) just to go inside then you have to check in your bag and camera... we decided to just enjoy it from the outside. Not that we are stingy but it all seems like such a fuss and we did not want to support it. In front of the casino is a park with a huge garden and fountain which is just over the road from where all of the REALLY expensive cars are parked directly at the front... the cars kept us busy for a while.

 
Since 1955, the Monaco Grand Prix has been run along the streets in Monaco and yes, we did drive along the streets where it all happens and some of the chicanes (boundaries) and road markings are there permanently. Maybe it is to stop tourists trying to be silly driving the streets in check.


We decided to go an organised day trip here because we wanted to get out of town a little and see some of the hillside towns that border the Cote d Azur. It also meant that we outsourced the planning and organising we needed to do and we were happy for the break.  We choose "A day in Provence" and these are the places we visited with our Russian, English and French speaking guide from Ukraine:

Nice

We drove through Nice peak hour traffic in the morning and in the afternoon so we feel like we got a really good view of the place. The most odd fact our guide pointed out was a very non-descript looking building, a hospital right on the beach where Angelina Jolie had her twin babies...  I always find it amazing how much tourists love this kind of information.

Nice is the second most visited place in France after Paris and it is not hard to see why. It is beautiful.  Half of the apartments in Nice are empty, they are holiday homes that stay empty for most of the year. They are expensive but four or five times cheaper than in Monaco.

 
Cannes

Aside from seeing the most famous steps that lead the film starts into the Cannes Film Festival every year we took some time to sit back, enjoy an espresso and a croissant and watch the cars drive by. Our conversation at this café by a quiet street went like this…

Oh X6 (BMW)

Hmmm

RS6 (Audi)

Nice

Ohhhhhh SLS (Merc)

Oh, I haven’t seen one of those before

They are very rare, oh there's a Bentley

Mmm

Nice coffee

Yeah, I like it

CLS (Merc)

Hmm

Great croissant, oh SLK (Merc)

Yeah, best we’ve had

It was entertaining and a great place for a coffee!

 
Antibes

We visited the most expensive place in the world to moor your boat… where you can spend up to 5,000 euro per week (AUD $6,207) for the luxury of leaving your boat here. Bill Gates moors his boat here. There are thousands of boats here of all different kinds but the nice ones… they are something special and I am not even a boat fan. There is a boat here whereby the writing on the boat is actually real gold.

The boats might be moored here but most of them are registered in the tax haven that is the Caribbean. 

 
Grasse 

The world's capital of perfume and it produces over two thirds of France's natural aromas for perfume and for food flavourings. Jasmine is of course the key ingredient and the town produces twenty seven tonnes of it every year!

Aside from the abundance of perfume museums and shops walking around the quaint streets with the scent of the perfume in the air was delightful.

We stopped for lunch here and you'll never guess what we decided on for lunch... Indian! No, we are not sick of it. While the meal was pretty ordinary we sat in a lovely little courtyard and had a nice time together.

 
Gourdon

We spent some time strolling around this lovely medieval village up in the alps. It was so quaint and beautiful but covered in tourists. In fact this village in the alps is only open for a few months of the year because it becomes impassible in the snow and tourism is the only industry here.
 

Tourrettes sur Loup

Another charming medieval village called "Violet village" because for over a century this pretty little flower has been grown in the village. It is full of vaulted passage-ways and artists' workshops, galleries and crafts workshops which make it lovely to stroll around.

   
Saint Paul de Vence

Said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Provence and we thought it was too. Famous and non famous artists, painters, writers and poets alike have been inspired here by the beauty of the surrounds and some famous ones even took up residence in the village.

We were surprised by all of the flavours of macaroons they have here. Yum. 

This was the last town we went to and we almost got lost in the tangle of streets and didn't think we'd make it back to the bus in time... 
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