Menton, Cacassone and Nimes

Trip Start Aug 07, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, September 25, 2006

As some of you have noticed we have been rather quiet for the last couple of weeks. That would be because since we've now finished travelling, we have been able to rest and psyche ourselves up for the uber blog. For those of you who can't get enough, here are the last installments of our travels on the continent....

After the cruise ended we headed to Menton, a lovely seaside city close to the Italian and French border. Yes it was a lovely town, but our impressions of it will always be marred because of 'the hill'. Our trusty Lonely Planet book mentioned our accommodation was less than 1 km away which is nothing compared to mileage we had been clocking up so naturally we trusted one of the most popular travel guides in the world. Silly us. What it failed to say was this 1km was based on taking a staircase up the side of this hill, so of course not knowing this we took the road. The route by road must have been a good 4km long and it was straight up the hill. It was the middle of the day and the temperature was over 30 degC. We almost died.

The town itself was lovely though and we stayed for three nights. It wasn't as commercial as other parts of the Riviera and we actually found a beach with some sand on it. We spend our days eating olives and drinking ridiculously cheap wine. What more could you want?

Next stop was nearly on the other side of France at an inland city called Carcassone. It was a good full day of rail travel along the south coast of France and then up towards Bordeaux. Once again the only hostel in town was a good 40min walk from the railway station, but man was it a great location. Carcassone is a bustling city with a massive fortified old town to its south which was where we were heading. Just like the UK castles it was perched on a hill with massive walls surrounding it and windy cobbled streets inside. Not many locals still live in the old town and it is very tourist orientated but a great spot none the less, especially for a budget hostel. We had dinner at a crappy restaurant and witnessed the most impressive thunder/lightning/rain storm we had ever seen. (It outdid the one in Beaune.) The cobbled streets started filling up with water and the old building shook every time the booming thunder came down. Impressive stuff - thankfully we were inside eating the worst meal of the trip, really dry chicken, and almost burnt chips.. Once the rain subsided we walked the city walls by night and enjoyed the novelty of wearing trousers (it had been over 1 month since we last had).

As we were leaving Carcassone, we seriously considered calling it a day and heading back to the UK early. The exhaustion of having to figure every thing out was finally wearing us down, but as that would have meant spending loads of money and travelling over night we persevered and headed to our final stop, Nimes. We didn't make a conscious decision to go to Nimes. It just happened to be where there was a cheap flight at the right time, (thanks RyanAir), but it turns out there is plenty there to keep even the most jaded traveller occupied. It ended up being one of our favourite stops.

Nimes boasts the most complete Roman temple anywhere, the most well-preserved amphitheatre outside Rome, and is a short drive from the biggest aqueduct in the world. As you should have figured out by now, Nimes' claim to fame is its Roman history. The temple is great to look at from the outside, but if you're expecting an authentic temple experience inside, you'll be disappointed. (We weren't, we only went inside because it was free for people staying at our hostel - score!) Instead of seeing a load of boring statues, we were treated to the best 3-D movie we have ever seen. Granted the story line was a little naff, but the visual effects were good enough to override any narrative cheesiness. The amphitheatre was nice to walk around and we now know more than we need to about bullfighting and gladiators. Typically we were a week late to see some real bull fighting and had to make do with "edited for family viewing" photos and sound effects. The aqueduct is an hour's bus trip away and we were tricked by an Australian at the hostel that it would be actually good. (Lesson learnt- never trust and Aussie. He also got us lost on the way to the train station, luckily Liz has a good sense of direction
.) So the bus got there at 12 and we were horrified to learn the next bus back to town wasn't until 3pm. So we had three hours to in the middle of no where, with nothing but an aqueduct that is nice to look at, but only for so long, two terrible gift shops, and four "attractions", who's main aim was to fleece unsuspecting tourists abandoned by the bus. However we were too wily for them and occupied ourselves tramping around in the bush, getting lost and trying to interpret French information panels.

Despite the waste of a day, Nimes was one of the few places we thought could be alright to live in. The climate was temperate, there were a decent number of shops, the traffic wasn't chaotic and the city had a mellow welcoming vibe.

As we flew out from Nimes on our way to Heathrow we realised that we had reached the end phase one of our trip. We had been in eight different countries in about eight weeks, we had tasted all sorts of weird food, we had learnt a little bit of quite a few languages, and we had seen some great sights and scenery. Eight weeks has been plenty long enough in one stretch and our bank account and bodies will welcome the chance to rest up for a couple of weeks in the English countryside staying with Liz's aunt (in Southery, Norfolk). That is where we are right now as we look for jobs in London.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this series of blogs. We would appreciate hearing from all of you so start typing....

Missing you all.

Jonny and Liz
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jonnyandliz on

Re: Carcasonne
Thanks mate. I'm sure there are some benefits of having a goldfish memory. When you forget a birthday or anniversary for instance - at least you have an excuse.

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