Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mmm French Riviera... (pt 1)

Ventimiglia Moon
Originally uploaded by cornasdf
I had to cut work a bit early on Wednesday to head out to the French Riviera to meet my parents. Hustled through the airport and caught the flight. It was actually a very easy flight. I passed out just after sitting down. I woke just in time to see a great view of the Nice coast line and us banking to catch the runway. The runway is on a peninsula jutting out into the water. These seemed a bit odd as we were coming in but I realized the pilot has to be just as precise on land.

By the time I got in, there was no cheap way to get to nice so I caught a cab to the hotel. The cabby was very nice which turned out to be a recurring theme in this part of france. Much different than Austria, the people down here are very friendly. He mentioned that he hoped I didn’t come to Nice to meet any French people, but I would meet plenty of Brits. I was staying at the Hotel de la Mer. The location was fantastic. On the edge of old town a block or two from the sea. There was a great fountain and park just in front. The rooms were, well the rooms were French. Many of the hotels I have stayed in in France and especially Paris are pretty run down. It was clean enough but small and run down. The closet was missing the doors and I hardly fit in the toilet area. Clean but not nice.

I wandered around the old town a bit that night. Very romantic area. The beach wasn’t sandy but was made up of nearly fist sized stones. The waves would crash in and make a great sound when they pulled back. I tried to record it but it came out more or less sounding like static. Not much of a swimming beach. I watched one girl struggle to get out. The incline at the edge of the beach was quite steep and every time she would get near it, the undertow would throw her around. Her friends just stood there and laughed at her before eventually helping her out of the water. She had a lot of clothes on and I think alcohol may have been involved.

Woke in the morning and wandered to the flower market to look for breakfast. I didn’t really feel like sitting so I bought some cheese/meat/bread thing I found. Before I could make it out of the market though, I saw some really good looking sandwiches. I decided I could have the bread thing later and got the sandwich as well. It ended up being tuna, egg, lettuce, tomato and some good bread. Yum, I ate breakfast sitting on the edge of the beach.

I realized I was in the Riviera, this may be a topless beach. I didn’t notice anybody topless at first. As I wandered down the beach the first topless woman I saw was 60 and weighed at least 200 lbs. That seemed to be a reoccurring theme for about half my walk, only old topless ladies. I was wondering if it had gone out of fashion. As I wandered more I began to see fitter women topless, which is always nice. I did see some uncomfortably young girls topless as well. This was a bit disconcerting until I realized that the only reason I am noticing any of this is my prude American attitudes. Can’t overcome those entirely but it minimizes them to realize the root of these thoughts.

After the beach I headed back to the hotel to meet Pop and Anne. I was a bit early but I sad near the fountain and read my book. There was no padding or anywhere comfortable to sit so I found a perch in a low windowsill and read for a while. 12 came and past and I had to get up and stretch a couple times. Just as I was realizing I couldn’t sit there any longer, they showed up and all was well but it was a case of wishing for modern communications.

We headed out of Nice towards Menton. Drove through Monaco on the way (but didn’t get a stamp). Menton is supposed to be the locals version of Nice. Not as ritzy but simpler and more for families. We found our hotel, checked in and headed out on the town. First stop was towards La Cigale to try the tart du citron, a specialty in the area. On the way, we passed a patisserie that was selling them as well so we got one to have something to compare. It was quite good but when we found la Cigale and tried theirs, there was no comparison. Yum.

After the tart, we caught a quick train over the Italian border to Ventimiglia. It was a short trip, less than 15 minutes but it had a very different feel from France. No border crossing here either. We wandered down to the water had a snack, had a wander and had dinner. We headed back to the train station and saw that we had missed the 8:30 train. The next train wasn’t until 11:30. Ok, oh well, nothing to do. We wandered back to the beach. It worked out b/c we found the one restaurant that I had read about San Guiseppe. We should have eaten here. Our meal was ok but somewhat disappointing to have as our Italian meal. The San Guiseppe had great looking food. We had some dessert and café one the water and watched the moon come up.

When we headed back to the train station, we saw that our train was the last train out of town until 4am then next morning. We also noticed that our line said ‘sopresso’ and we didn’t have a track number. Hmmm what does that mean? Nobody around to ask but google tells us that this means ‘cancelled’. Sweet. Luckily we found a taxi and got to say ‘Take me to France’. Not so bad, it costs us 35 euro. No Italian stamp either. When we mentioned this at the Tourist info the next day he shrugged and said the must have been on strike. The general feel in the area is that the train is faster but completely unreliable.

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