Tuesday, August 2, 2011

French Riviera

Had a nice train ride to Nice (haha, get it, try the veal folks) and headed up to the hostel. A few hours later Susan arrived, yay! Had a few drinks and split a pizza while we caught up and then turned in for the night. Yay for a real conversation finally (hostel conversations rarely count as they mostly consist of “Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? Nice talking to you”). Enjoyed the free hostel breakfast and sorted out our train tickets to Barcelona in record time before jumping on the train to Monaco.
Really beautiful town set between the harbour full of huge yachts and the mountains. Hiked up to the Prince’s Palace, the official residence of the ruling family and did a quick tour of the lavish formal state rooms which were all very creatively named (Yellow room where there was yellow wallpaper and so on) and filled with numerous artworks and portraits of the Grimaldi family. There was a beautiful portrait of Princess Grace and the interior courtyard was covered with frescoes. The views over the city from up at the palace were just spectacular as well. Kind of saw the changing of the guard (bit like in London, you need to get there and look at nothing for 30 minutes before if you want to see anything other than the tops of their helmets) and grabbed a quick lunch at a cafĂ© in one of the alleys behind the palace.
 Just down the street from there was the Monaco cathedral which was rather interestingly decorated with a mix of the usual classical religious artworks and a range of brightly coloured modern abstract pieces. Found the graves of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace and then headed back down the hill and up the hill on the opposite side of town. Up here was the Monte Carlo area with all the designer shops and a lot of Porsches, Ferraris and all that stuff. Headed into the casino foyer but you have to pay 10 Euro just to go into the gambling rooms but I’m sure its lovely in there if the foyer was anything to go buy. Pretty warm and worn out by then so crammed back on the train and jumped off at the nearby town of Villefranche.
Just from the train station the view of the beach was absolutely amazing with clear blue water and white sands and sunbathers (many topless) lying about everywhere. Hiked down to the beach and discovered at least part of that was an illusion as there was no sand to be found anywhere but rather all small gravel. It was smaller gravel than any of the other beaches in the area so as advertised as being sandy, and at least you didn’t have to spend 10 minutes trying to get the sand out of everything when you left, but can’t imagine it would have been comfortable for the hours of lying on it that must have been required to achieve the levels of tanning/sunburn that most people down there had done. Headed into the water which was beautiful and really deep. 2 metres off the beach I couldn’t find the bottom even by diving down, makes a big change from Adelaide beaches.
Enjoyed the beach for a while and then took a little wander through the markets that popped up at the edge of town, lots of funky jewellery. Squished back onto the next train and back up to the hostel for a very yummy dinner.
That just left us this morning to explore Nice so dropped our bags at the train station, despite the best efforts of the snooty luggage room attendant to thwart us, and then started walking. Found a really beautiful Russian Cathedral nearby and had a wander along the incredibly rocky beaches on Nice’s coast which alternated between free beaches and paid areas covered in sun lounges and umbrellas. Headed into the old town for nutella crepes and eventually tracked down the fruit and flower market which probably had more soaps, olives and paintings than flowers but very interesting all the same. Currently on the second of 3 trains to get to Barcelona where, I’m really praying there is a laundry cos still haven’t quite got around to that as I keep finding surprise clean clothes buried in the depths of my bag…which is extra confusing as I swear that my bag is getting lighter and easier to pack as I add more stuff to it. Maybe I’m just getting more awesome :P
overlooking Monaco
dried fruit at the flower market
Russian Cathedral

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