The South of France: Nice, Monaco & Cannes

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2011

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Saturday, July 30, 2011

After an early morning bus ride to Pistoia, and 5 separate train connections through Lucca, Pisa, Genova, and Ventimiglia, I finally arrived in Nice, France.  I had a week to kill before meeting my BFF and her 2 evil stepsisters in Spain (actually, they're not evil and they're her biological sisters who happen to be twins) so I spontaneously decided to see a bit of France.  I couldn't believe that I would finally have to utilize some of the French I last learned 10 years ago.  Sure, everyone knows "bonjour" or "au revoir", but I had to google "how to say sorry in French" because I couldn't even remember it for the life of me.  The French have the reputation of being rather snobby towards non-native French speakers so I was a tad worried that I would butcher their language and be completely ignored in return.  I was actually pleasantly surprised as they were very accomodating and a couple of them actually praised me for my proficiency.  I truly believe that when you visit any foreign country, at the very least, you have to attempt to learn a few basic words.  Saying "hello" and "thank you" in their native language goes a LONG way

One of my favourite things to do is to visit the markets early in the morning before the tourists swarm the stalls.  The Cours Saleya is one of the most charming markets in all of Europe.  With everything from fresh flowers to fruit and vegetables to olives and cheese, the market is one of the top attractions in the city.  As I walked from stall to stall, I couldn't help but notice the juicy peaches and nectarines yelling "buy me! eat me!" to me.  And so I did.  They were straight from the orchards in Provence and they were DELICIOUS.  After enjoying an amazing almond croissant and cappuccino for breakfast, I walked up to Castle Hill for the stunning views of the French Riviera.  Now I know why so many people decide to vacation here! 

I managed to make a last minute reservation for lunch at Chez Palmyre, one of the hidden gems of the Old Town.  My only warning was that I would have to sit across from some random old guy at a table for two.  Otherwise, the restaurant was fully booked.  For good food, I was willing to sit with random old guy.  I arrived at noon, and old guy was already there enjoying a glass of wine.  He spoke very little English and I spoke very little French but we somehow managed to communicate!  There was a lovely German couple who sat next to us and joined in on the "Frenglish" conversation.  After a fantastic 3 course meal of ham and egg ratatouille, braised veal, and an apricot coulis fromage blanc for dessert, I was in foodie heaven!  Add some great conversation with random strangers, and I was beginning to fall in love with France!  To top it off, the meal was only 18 euros including a small carafe of wine and a coffee.  Over the next few days, I would try everything from beef tongue to fish soup to veal liver to "socca" (a local specialty flatbread made of chickpeas).  I even tried the ubiquitous salade nicoise which really isn't my cup of tea.  

I went on a day trip to Monaco and Eze Village.  All the restaurants in Monaco were overpriced so I just went to the supermarket to munch on a baguette sandwich for lunch.  I visited the Old Casino in Monte Carlo but you couldn't even look inside the gambling rooms unless you paid a 10 euro entrance fee.  There was no way I was paying for that!  The fancy cars parked outside the casino were much more interesting anyways.  Monaco was a bit of a bust and I think most people go just to say that they've been there.  Eze on the other hand was a cute medieval town that is definitely worth a visit.  

The next morning, I took the train to Cannes to visit their sandy beaches.  Nice's beaches consists of uncomfortable pebbles so most people head south to Cannes.  Unfortunately, only a small area of the beach is designated for the public.  The rest of the privately owned sections are pay for use (up to 30 euros a day for a sunbed and umbrella).  I decided that it was too crowded to sunbathe, so I treated myself to a Maison du Chocolat (possibly the best chocolatiers in the world) chocolate mousse for a snack.  I couldn't help but notice 3 young girls sitting a couple of tables from me enjoying their desserts.  They all had designer bags and were resting after a tiring day of shopping.  They even had some guy whose job was to accompany them and carry their shopping bags!  Cannes is definitely a popular destination for the wealthy.    
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Em on

I'm sorry you thought Monaco was a bust...I absolutely loved it!! Thought it was a nice mixture of history, modern wealth, and a fairytale story! But compared to the rest of your travels, this was probably another small country in the bucket. Take care!! Be safes!! =)

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