April 20 – Nice is Nice, really!

20 Apr

Actually it’s nice – very nice –  all along the Cote d’Azur  —  from Monte Carlo to Cannes.

Monte Carlo was an anchorage port.  We weren’t anchored very far from shore, so the view was excellent and the tender ride was short.  It’s always fun to be in a place that has lots of wealth!!

Although our port of call was Monte Carlo, the tour that JJ and I selected was taking us to Cannes and to St. Paul de Vence.  Both of these cities are located in France. 

You learned about Monaco the other day, didn’t you?  Do you remember that it is the second smallest country in the world – after the Holy See – the Vatican?  Monaco is located on the Mediterranean Sea – surrounded by France on three sides.  This stretch of the Mediterranean Sea is known as the Cote d’Azur – the blue coast  —  known for blue seas and blue skies.  There are about 3,000 full-time residents in Monaco.  And in order to have a tax-free status, you must reside full time for 6-months of the year in Monaco.  The Cote d’Azur is known to have about 300 days of sun each year!

Monaco is famous for the glamour, wealth and famous people.  But Monaco is also known as the home of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, world championship boxing, the Monte-Carlo Masters, European Poker Tour Grand Final and World Backgammon.  We understand that if you have an apartment with a large balcony that overlooks the Grand Prix circuit, during the race week, you can rent your balcony for about 15,000 Euros for the week.  That price would include champagne, but food would be extra.  And that price does not include the apartment – just the balcony!!  Can you figure how many US dollars 15,000 Euros is? 

We’ll all be seeing Monaco in the news coming up in July as Prince Albert is getting married.  Of course, that will be just after the really big wedding in London in April!!  A big year for Royal Weddings!!!!  And did you know that in Monaco, only the male heir can inherit the throne?

The tender took us to shore into the yacht basin.  In Monte Carlo, the word yacht takes on a new meaning . . . we saw two larger yachts in the basin that caught our eye  —  Lady Moura (just 344 feet long) and Radiant (360 feet long).  Both of these yachts are on the list of some of the largest yachts in the world. 

Monte Carlo is strictly urban  —  it has no natural resources.  Because of the minimal amount of space for development, tall buildings are everywhere.  And under many of the tall buildings are traffic tunnels  —  tunnels that are so large that they have traffic circles in them!  Because it is so expensive to live in Monaco, about 40,000 people commute into the country each day.

We headed west out of Monaco toward our first stop of Cannes  —  another home of the rich and famous!! The toll road on which we motored is considered the most expensive in all of France.   Traffic moved along quickly and we were entertained along the way with seeing the beautiful countryside  —  the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the pre-Alps on the other.  Skiing in the pre-Alps is just about one hour away from the coast.  The residents like to say that they can go skiing in the morning and go swimming in the Mediterranean in the afternoon!

We arrived in Cannes for our stay of about 1-1/2 hours.  And just as we were getting off the bus, a very light rain began to fall . . . of all days to think that we would have sunshine and left the umbrellas at home . . . can’t do anything about it now . . . so put a smile on your face and enjoy. Cannes is probably the most famous of all of the cities along the coast and is home of the Cannes Film Festival.

The city was preparing for the film festival, erecting temporary buildings where receptions are held and sprucing up the beaches.  The film festival will be held in May of this year.

The narrow streets of the city are very charming.  We happened upon a Catholic Church – Notre Dame de Bon Voyage!!!  Don’t you just love the name?  Then we made our way back to the main street along the sea where every famous name designer has a boutique. Window shopping is especially fun because all of the merchandise in the window is priced  —  the saying “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” doesn’t apply here – you don’t have to ask the price, you can read the sign and know that you can’t afford it!!  It was fun to just imagine having that much money . . .  We saw a man who had just started working on a sand sculpture.  We also saw a very cool merry go round!   The time went quickly and we were ready to go on to the next stop on our tour.

St. Paul de Vence is one of over 150 hillside villages in Southern France.  And according to our guide, it is the most popular to visit.  We had been in St. Paul de Vence over 25 years ago.  We were most anxious to see it again.  Up into the hills we went, passing through charming town after charming town.  You hardly knew which direction to look – it seemed like there was a surprise around every corner.  One village that especially caught our eye was called La Colle sur Loup  —  absolutely charming.  Only residents of the city can bring their cars into the walled city and the cars can only be driven on certain “streets”.  So, the entire town has pedestrian only streets.

St. Paul de Vence is known for contemporary artists.  Picasso and Miro both spent time in this town.  In fact, many years before these artists became famous, they were “starving” and living in St. Paul de Vence.  A world famous hotel/restaurant in the town – la Colombe d’Or – accepted paintings and drawings from these artists as payment for room and board.  So, when you visit the restaurant, you’ll be surrounded by paintings and drawings that could easily be found in any museum in the world.

We arrived at St. Paul de Vence  —  the sun came out  —  the blue skies appeared  —  just glorious weather for this part of our tour!  We had to walk a short distance to the famous walled city, but worth every step.  Our friends Mrs. Zabinski and Dr. Wood wanted to take us to lunch . . . so we set about to find a restaurant.  We could hardly take two steps without stopping to take a photograph or to say “wow”, “unbelievable”, “how charming”, “isn’t this wonderful”.  We had to keep walking or we would have stayed in the first 50 feet inside the village for the entire day!!  The shops have lots of quality merchandise and restaurants are small and plentiful. 

With little effort, we found a restaurant that had large windows that overlooked the valley.  The menu was presented (and explained) to us and we all decided to have a Chicken Salad  —  no, our French isn’t as good as thought.  Fresh bread with local olive oil and balsamic vinegar were offered – and quickly consumed!!  And shortly after, beautiful plates of a salad of mixed lettuces, cole slaw and grilled chicken breasts were delivered!!  Amazing that the four of us could be quite for so long . . . savoring every bite . . . with only the sounds of “this is absolutely delicious” heard from each of us. 

One could spend several days to a week in this charming town.  It has great shopping – quality merchandise, wonderful restaurants, tons of photographic opportunities and a very calm and peaceful ambiance.  There were just not enough hours in our day to take it all in . . . this is absolutely one spot to put on the list for a return visit!

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The return drive to the ship took us along the Lower Cornish – the road along the sea.  We drove through Nice  —  which is really nice  —  and all of the smaller, lesser-known towns.  We saw the famous Villefranche with its lovely natural harbor.  We saw large homes owned by the rich and famous – Tina Turner, Bono, Elton John.  Each town seemed to be more charming than the one we just left . . . great colors, great architecture, small shops, sidewalk cafes, the laidback lifestyle . . . all places to which you would love to return to and spend some quality time.

What a wonderful day!  We were reminded of the saying . . . “Americans live to work and the French work to live!”  For our day in France, we took the advice of the French and we lived – large!!  Viva la France!!


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