The Cote d'Azur

Trip Start Apr 18, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2009

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Where I stayed
Private Flat Rental

Flag of Monaco  ,
Sunday, April 19, 2009

So let me start with how we found our place to stay.  After much searching Steve found the French version of Gumtree or Craigs list and used Google translator to find a few places.  We settled on an inexpensive place centrally located and Steve contacted them.  Well, when you use a foreign website to find a place you will probably also find that those you contact don't speak English.  Our contact put us in touch with her daughter who "speaks" English.  I put that in quotes because she doesn't speak it very well but with the aid of the translator we were set.  Yet another reason I need to work on my French!!  Our flight didn't arrive until late so we didn't anticipate getting to the flat until about 11pm.  We called the daughter and she sent her children to let us in.  The flat was like staying at your Grandma's minus the Grandma and towels.....   good price, lacking small amenities.  We made due with some dish towels, yes imagine that!
Our first day was to be a driving frenzy.  I wish Travelpod had a better way of putting in your location as we had multiple that day.  I've thrown together a Google map so you can get the jest:  Map Link.  We set out early for our 2.5 hour drive to Monaco.  We had to do it.  It's Monaco!  We thought we would take the highway there and hug the coast on the way back.  Little did we know that most of the highways in France are toll roads....  About 25 euros later we were in Monaco.  We will avoid the toll roads in the future!  Monaco is crazy.  There is so much money there you cannot comprehend!  The yachts in the harbor and the crazy expensive cars.  Dang.  Monaco is less than a square mile but it is stuck to the side of a mountain so lots of up hill walking.  The Monte-Carlo grand prix is in May and they were already setting up bleachers.  We made our way around the harbor from the casino.  Again the yachts....  Who owns these??  Up the hill to the palace and the cathedral where our beloved Grace lies.  The streets are so narrow and packed with souvenir shops.  I read a wonderful biography on Grace and her life in Monaco with Rainier.  It seemed surreal to be there.  We grabbed a quick baguette sandwich from a street vendor (we were not dressed to go into a restaurant for lunch, nor were we willing to part with the cash!) and made our way back toward the casino.  As I said we were not "dressed" so we couldn't go into the casino but you could see the money all around.  What a crazy place!

Back in the car we headed out.  There are three roads that head west from Monaco.  One hugs the coast, one is about half way up the mountain and the third is way up the mountain.  We got several recommendations to drive either the middle or the upper corniches.  We chose the middle so we could stop in a neat village called Eze.  This town is built on the side of the mountain.  It has tiny little streets that are a maze.  Because the town is built up you don't realize that you are hugging the side of a mountain until you happen to catch a glimpse of the view through a private courtyard.  The view was breathtaking!  Lots of art shops and one olive oil shop we wouldn't even go into because we knew we couldn't take any home.  (We don't check luggage) 

From Eze we went to Nice.  There were a few things to see in Nice but the MOST important thing in Nice was 'the best gelato in Provence'!  This is a MUST!  There was no distracting me from the good stuff.  The place is Fenocchio.  Not to be confused with Pinocchio which is kitty-corner on the same square.  If there aren't masses of people waiting patiently around you...  you are not in the right place.  I had lavender and jasmine.  Steve had rosemary and thyme.  I know it sounds weird but we were in Provence and this was Fenocchio!  All four were really good.  I wanted seconds but Steve refused.  Nice was nice.  We stuck to the old town.  Walked along the promenade.  Rocky beach.  We decided to stay in town for dinner.  Found this great place called L'Escalinada.  We started with the house specialty ribambelle:  chick pea salad, artichokes, fried zucchini flowers, cuttle fish, stuffed grape leaves, calamari, etc.  Yum!  Then for entrees we got the Nicoise salad (we were in the birth place) and gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.  Both were fabulous but let's talk about the gnocchi for a minute.  I love Italian food.  I love gnocchi.  The French however have taken a yummy thing and made it melt in your mouth.  I'm not sure what they did but I am sure it wasn't a healthy alteration.  It tasted like butter.  WOW!  This food did not help our commute home.  We still had a two hour drive home.  It was the longest two hours ever.  We took the toll roads....  we just wanted to lie down!!!
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