Day Spas, 4 Stars (but no celebs) and Pebbley Bums

Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We sadly departed Paris (don't think we've been happy to leave a place yet, except for Honkers and that was different!) and took our first Eurail journey to Nice, located on the lovely French Riviera. As Dee turned 26 in October and is no longer a younging, we had to buy first class tickets in order to sit together (more expensive, but totally worth it!). So we were geared up for our first train journey. The train itself was unbelievable, the seats were soooo comfy and much more spacious than on a plane or bus. Dee had horror memories of training to Syd for summer camps, but this was totally different. Each seat reclined, had a tray table and even a powerpoint and coat hook - we couldn't get over how luxurious and comfortable it was and agreed that the Eurail pass was a good investment as we got to see more of France in the train journey than if we had flown.

The hostel we were staying in is quite famous, as it is located in a converted monastery, where the monk who wrote 'Le Petit Prince' (The Little Prince), a gorgeous and very well-known kids book which is also an allegory, was based there. So the monastery/hostel has little pics from the book everywhere and is generally really cute. They were so nice, had a pick up bus service into town (as the hostel is located on a mountain about 15min walk into town). The hostel had an awesome communal kitchen, but also came with a chef that we did not expect, and every night they offered 5euro pizzas or a roast and veggie meal for 6.50. Being slightly poor after Paris, we gladly took advantage of this offer, however there's only so many mini pizzas you can stomach.

The next morning, we mastered the tram service quickly and loved listening to the recorded messages that announced which stop we were at.... so chic and cute. Dani was geared up for some serious sun and sand - I mean this is the Riviera after all. She was a little disappointed when we walked down to the beach and discovered that instead of sand, there was just pebbles, and has now decided that the women of Nice must be covered in cellulite from all the pebbles! Les sun-roasted locals did not seem to mind the lack of sand one bit and glared at Dani's lily-white arms and legs which were sooo pale they are almost see through (she bought some tanning lotion the next day... feeling very self conscious!). Dee balked when she saw boobs hanging out for all to see on a woman many times her age (sooooo not right!!!).

Despite the pebbles, the French Riviera is all that its cracked up to be, absolutely gorgeous views, the water was so blue and clear, and relatively warm in comparison to Melb beaches, and had it been a few degrees warmer, we probably would have dared a swim. Ah well. There's always Barcelona! But seriously Nice is absolutely lovely, and apparently 17 and overcast here translates as not a cloud in the bluest sky we've ever seen, with sun shining.... life's tough aye...

With the lovely weather (in comparison to other spots in Europe, here we didn't need to wear our polar fleeces...) we decided to extend our stay to include the weekend and spoilt ourselves with a stay in a 4 star hotel right near the beach! Its our first splash out since we started and would you believe it was almost in budget!!! Guess the off-season thing really applies here. Its a bit sad that we haven't come here in summer as its a bit chilly still, particularly when the sea breeze comes up. We've been very jealous of the 30 degree weather back home in Melbourne and looked forward to a top of 18 one of the days whilst staying at the hotel and crossed fingers to hopefully get enough sun to enjoy the pool at our shmance hotel. We were very excited for an ensuite AND a double bed AND one doona AND maybe a bath.... Such luxury!!!

On the friday before our hotel stay, which we had decided would be chill time primarily, we decided to try and get some official sight-seeing time in and ventured out on day trip to Antibes and Cannes. Dani was pumped for Cannes as this is where they hold THE Cannes film festival. Unfortunately, just as our luck would have it, the train we took was delayed by almost 2 hours, and we still don't know why. So it took us much longer to get to our first stop on our journey which was Antibes. We had been recommended to have some lunch there and apparently they have an awesome market. However thanks to the aforementioned delay, and our silly Dubcheck moves which will be revealed shortly, the whole area was closed, with no eateries open. When we had exited the train station, we were supposed to go right and unfortunately we went left, and ended up doing a giant circle that lasted almost 2 hours, taking us past a football ground and also through the giant harbour. So when we arrived at the market/town area, and all was closed we now had a search on our hands to locate somewhere open to eat, since we were very hungry by now and the hulk was rearing in both of us!

Thankfully we eventually found a cute place that by some miracle was open. Emboldened by some food, we found our way back to the station and decided to proceed on to the next stop, Cannes. It was a little disappointing, as it seems that it is quite a small town area and we can't quite work out why they would hold a huge film festival there, but anywho. Dee kept on the lookout for Brad Pitt or George C, but no luck unfortunately as the festival was much earlier in the year. We saw some locals playing the french 'boules', which is where lawn bowling originated from. One guy had a very interesting style of chucking his ball up into the air and it would magically land in the right spot and knock out the opponent's ball. We sampled some delicious macaroon dessert thingies, which the new Lindt chocolate store in Chaddy sells and they call them 'delice'. Well, whatever they were, they were awesome, the lady at the store cut up a whole lot and gave us mini taste tests, as there were many flavours, (at least 20) everything from lemon to vanilla, creme caramel, raspberry, nougat and fig! We munched on our teeny treats and decided we'd had enough sightseeing for the day and it was time to head home.

Although we would have liked to do a similar day trip to Monaco and Cap d'ail, the weather was a bit crappy the next few days and the majority of the sights at these spots were the awesome beaches, plus we needed some chill time too. Gotta save something for next time right? And of course, we don't really have enough Euros to start losing them at the casino in Monaco - also what would we wear? No James Bond-esque tux in our backpacks for Lewey or a gorgeous evening dress for Dee...

Speaking of shopping, although Nice is very laid back, it also has lots and lots of shmancy shops as well... there's a strip near the beach with everything from Hermes to Dolce and all in between... Dee contemplated a bit of retail therapy there and then decided maybe not.... It reminded us a bit of Surfers Paradise (but much much nicer) in the sense that its very much a beachy place, and there seem to be lots of older people here who tan themselves orange and seem to have lots of dosh?

As the weather was a bit average the next day, Dee decided to hit the affordable shopping strip and was pleasantly surprised as she finally had a good solid afternoon of shopping (oh yeah!!!) and Lewey has been promoted to a gold/baby-star-wearing-man for his patience and ability to hold stuff while she tries things on. Dani even splashed out on some gor-ge-ous black boots, on sale mais oui, they are so pretty, she wants to name them! As she decided to be smart and send them home rather than ruining them, she gave them a quick kiss goodbye and can't wait to return to her new European wardrobe. She's totally building a little winter collection for 2010 and beyond! Very excited to go somewhere, have someone compliment her and say 'oh thanks, but I got it in France!'.

Given that we were still in french territory, we feasted on delish pastries galore. Dee sampled her first proper French choc eclair...OH MY GOD was her reaction! Lewey even had dessert envy, and we both laughed at the fact that our tea cost more than the dessert (so very cheap in France for the desserts, bad bad bad as we are rapidly tripling our size, wondering how we will fit on the plane home)!

Feeling a little too much like a backpacker, and needing a tidy up before donning a bathing suit, Dee tentatively organised herself an appointment for some 'girly stuff'. She had inquired at the hostel if they knew of anywhere, as she was a bit scared to wait til Spain, unsure of what she might end up with. After locating the recommended place, Dee tried to explain what she required to the lady - who spoke no English - so there were some very amusing hand gestures. Dee was dreading the experience slightly as she hoped her request had been understood ok. She should not have stressed as the chick who looked after Dee was delightful and even though she also did not speak much English, Dee tried as much french as she could and of course those amusing hand gestures are always helpful, and Dee thinks that through this combination they were mostly able to understand each other.

Unfortunately our sun-bathing and pool time that we had put aside for the weekend didn't quite work out as planned as it was overcast and rainy (bloody weather report on poddie is not to be trusted!). Instead of swimming in the pool, we had a sleep when we checked into the hotel, and it was probably the best nooze we've had since we began our journey. Feeling a little refreshed, w decided to splash out that night with a delicious pasta in a cute little restaurant and pour la dessert, we went back to the bakery we discovered earlier in the week for mille fluer for Dee and tarte au citron avec meringue pour le Lewey. Les desserts c'est tres bien! Apart from splashing out at the hotel, we'd been pretty meager with dinners, eating whatever the roast of the day was at the hostel for 6.50 or slightly dodgy pizzas, which were sometimes nice, and sometimes not. So yeah, nice to treat ourselves.

Our stay in the hotel was was lovely and we've decided to try and treat ourselves before we get to that shabby state again. Its amazing how quickly you forget the basic luxuries; one bed without a seam or a bar in the middle, one doona to share rather than two small single ones, a bathmat and multiple towels...ahhh it was wonderful. We even had a towel warmer in the bathroom and a separate toilet!!!! Also a mini fridge and a tv which had a whopping two english speaking channels, so we were finally able to watch the news...

Our hotel also had a day spa section. We decided to cap off our extravagant weekend with some more splurge, a 1hr massage each! It also included half an hour to use the jacuzzi and steam room. It hurt the bank account, but it was worth every penny! By sunday night, we were both incredibly relaxed and a little revitalized for Barcelona, which looks to be a lot of running around again.

We finished off our relaxing spa day with a walk to the pebbley beach, finished off with an interesting dinner at the hotel restaurant to celebrate 7 weeks of travel!!! The restaurant is on the top level of the hotel and has panoramic views of Nice, it was very pretty, lots of tiny glowing lights. We splashed out on an a la carte for Lewey (entree, main and dessert) and just a main for Dee. This way, we could share the entree and dessert, without breaking the bank. For our entree we chose salad nicoise, as we figured when in Rome.... it was very nice (no pun intended) and Dee is already pumped to make it back home.

Thus concluded our stay on the French Riviera, a place we have definitely earmarked as somewhere to come back to, however we'll make sure its summer next time (and Dee will get a tan before arriving, so as not to offend the locals). Next stop, Barcelona.
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