Written by TianjinPaul on 01 Oct, 2013
When I began thinking about this journal entry, my mind was moving towards focusing on a couple of central areas. The first was the magnificent effect that rain can have on the tourists that come to Nice. The majority of those coming to the South…Read More
When I began thinking about this journal entry, my mind was moving towards focusing on a couple of central areas. The first was the magnificent effect that rain can have on the tourists that come to Nice. The majority of those coming to the South of France expect beautiful weather. Therefore, when we get the type of downpour that I experienced on a recent Sunday afternoon, they tend to disappear rather quickly. As anyone who lives in a city that attracts a lot of tourists will tell you, this can sometimes feel like a blessed relief. The empty streets give the city an air of normality.I was also thinking about detailing just how wonderful it feels powering along the deserted promenade in the rain. When I did it, I had rock music blaring into my ear-phoned and my shirt was plastered to my chest with a combination of sweat and rainwater. If you had thrown in a beautiful girl waiting for me outside the Negresco Hotel, you would have had a pretty decent ending to a Hollywood movie. Sadly for me, there was no dramatic final kiss - just wet feet and sore calf muscles.In truth, both of these takes would be accurate and would give an accurate glimpse into life on the Riviera. However, I have taken both approaches before in other journal entries Therefore, I thought it best to focus on something else that struck me on my run. As beautiful as the solitude I enjoyed was, there was one thing that detracted from it: the smell. My wonderful run and Hollywood ending were set against a backdrop of a rather unpleasant aroma.If you were to peruse a map of Nice you would not think that is a city built on two or three rivers. The sea is easy to spot, but the rivers that flow down from the Alps into it are far less conspicuous. This is because much of the city is actually built across the top of them rendering them invisible. These rivers are not what you would describe as clear and wonderful. As they are beneath the city, they do not get the benefit of sun light and also collect any random refuse that falls into the city's drainage system. Finally because of their anonymity, there seems to be little effort made to actually keep them clean.When the rains came, they had a dramatic effect. Rather than cleansing the city, the water seemed to flush everything out from beneath it. There are three rivers that come out into the Bay of Nice. Put of each of tbese burst a huge cascade of slurry and filthy black water. The sea in this area is normally a wonderful shade of blue - hence the name Cote d'Azur. But in the rain it became a mash of frothing brown sludge. It looked awful. However, the visual aspect was nothing compared to the smell. Oh, the smell. If I could have what hell smelled like, the water frothing into the sea was it. I genuinely enjoyed my little jog in the rain, but the smells that came with it were less welcome. Close
Written by TianjinPaul on 08 Aug, 2013
I feel the need to begin this journal with a degree of self-analysis. I have to admit that I was in a rather frenzied state for my trip to Golfe Juan. My girlfriend’s family had come to stay with us in Nice and her hyperactive…Read More
I feel the need to begin this journal with a degree of self-analysis. I have to admit that I was in a rather frenzied state for my trip to Golfe Juan. My girlfriend’s family had come to stay with us in Nice and her hyperactive eight-year old nephew was fraying my nerve-endings a little. The drive from Nice to Golfe Juan was rather fraught as he bounced around the back-seat and made focusing on the road a tad difficult. Things got no better when we got to Golfe Juan. As it was a busy Sunday in the height of summer, it was difficult to find a place to park and everyone in the car – my girlfriend, her sister, her brother-in-law and her nephew – made it clear that they were impatient to hit the sand.When we finally managed to find a place to leave the car I was in need of some relaxation. This was not caused just by the drive – although it had cranked up my stress levels – but it was a result of the cumulative impact of a week of dealing with work and a screaming kid when I got home. I had in mind beautiful golden sands and a relaxing dip in the water. Sadly, this was not to be. The beach was so crowded that you could barely pick out the sand beneath the towels and parasols. So, I decided that it would be better if I took a stroll around the port. It proved to be a fantastic decision.After leaving my girlfriend and her family, I walked along the beach and into town; Straight away this proved to be something of a blessed relief as the the area bordering the beach was open to the sunshine and was frighteningly hot. I could literally feel my head – I am completely bald - burning as I walked. Once I neared the port, thought, things changed. There was considerably more shade and the temperature seemed to be a good ten degrees lower. Taking advantage of what felt like an oasis, I sat in the shade of a tree and rested for a few moments.From my position, it was possible to look out across a good section of the port. The majority of what I could see was actually refreshingly different from the rest of the Cote d’Azur. There were no super-yachts such as those that you might find in Nice, Cannes and Antibes. And, there were no giant cruise-liners. Instead, the western part of the port was made-up almost exclusively of small fishing vessels. This gave it a wonderfully authentic feel. I was rather disappointed that it was a Sunday and most of the fishermen seemed to be sitting on the beach. I would have very much enjoyed watching them work.After my little period of relaxation, I decided to brave the sun again and wandered out into the port area. The Eastern areas of it were less interesting than what I had seen before. They seemed to be a rather watered down version of Antibes with plenty of plastic yachts and shiny Perspex sun-decks. The only bright-spot was a beautiful wooden yacht that would have not looked out of place in the 1920s and certainly captured my attention for a few minutes before I decided to head back to the protection of the shade.Golfe Juan has a fine beach and is a lovely place to spend the day, but I would certainly recommend taking an hour or so to enjoy the shade around the port and take a nice stroll. Close
Written by TianjinPaul on 27 Jul, 2013
The Tour de France arrived in Nice at one of the least opportune moments in the history of competitive cycling. Lance Armstrong had rocked the sporting world by admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs and that bombshell was quickly followed by other famous top performers…Read More
The Tour de France arrived in Nice at one of the least opportune moments in the history of competitive cycling. Lance Armstrong had rocked the sporting world by admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs and that bombshell was quickly followed by other famous top performers and past winners making similar confessions. Because of this, I was expecting the arrival in Nice of Le Tour to be something of a low-key affair. Not a bit of it. The arrival of the yellow jersey and all the accompanying trappings proved to be headline news and the city was abuzz for a four-day period.The race came to Nice from Corsica where it had begun a few days before. With it came a huge cavalcade of sponsors, concession stands and hangers-on. For a two-week period, every souvenir stall added yellow t-shirts to their usual offerings of sea-side tat. The Promenade des Anglais was also taken up with huge marquees for sponsors and media outlets. There games for kids and free give-aways for passers-by. There was a stall with fixed racing bikes that you could try in order to see things from the perspective of Chris Froome and Co. There was nothing of great substance, but it was an interesting enough little area. It all certainly managed to raise interest levels. There is no doubt that the tour was fantastically exciting and it caused great excitement in the South of France. But, I am not 100% sure the investment of time and energy coupled with the huge inconvenience it caused was totally worth it. Le Tour is not a spectacle you can enjoy in great detail like a football or rugby match. Rather like F1, because of the speeds involved it is only possiible to get a fleeting glimpse of each competitor. I was lucky enough for my office to be just 30m from the course. Therefore, I was able to watch several of the teams fly by in the sprint section of the race. However, I was less than enthused at this as it felt rather like standing on a platform at a small train station and watching an express train whizz past. I think I enjoyed it more for a visual than sporting spectacle. As I saw each rider for such a brief interval it was not really possible to create an emotional link to the competitors. However, the sheer speeds involved were exhilarating and the symmetry of seeing the riders in formation was stunning. I managed to watch a few teams zip along Rue Buffa before I decided I could tick Le Tour off my list of major sporting events witnessed. It was only as I tried to go for lunch that I realised the upheaval the event had caused. I walked in all four directions - North, East, South and West - but found my route barred. Rather shockingly part of the city had been put on lock-down for a two-hour period. It stuck me as a huge breach of civil liberties as it stopped people moving freely to appointments and to their jobs. The school at which I work had to cancel several classes because the students simply could not puncture the blockade. I imagined that if Francois Hollande had done something similar there would have been outcry. Worst of all it stopped me from getting my lunch!It was fun to see the Tour in Nice. I enjoyed the spectacle and the buzz it caused. However, I cannot say the sporting element was grand enough to really capture my imagination and the inconvenience caused was truly immense. Close
Written by TianjinPaul on 31 Mar, 2012
This story actually begins in my office. My company was looking for a new manager to take charge of one of our offices on the Cote d’Azur. I conducted telephone interviews with a candidate in Ireland to whom we decided to offer the job. To…Read More
This story actually begins in my office. My company was looking for a new manager to take charge of one of our offices on the Cote d’Azur. I conducted telephone interviews with a candidate in Ireland to whom we decided to offer the job. To my complete surprise, he turned it down. I was astonished. I received the call on a Friday afternoon and could not really process the information. I constantly asked myself, "How can someone turn down the chance to come and work here?"This question was put into even starker contrast when I took a short trip with my girlfriend to the small town of Villefranche sur Mer, which is located a few kilometres outside Nice. We were sat at a small cafe on the quayside enjoying a frothy cappuccino and staring out to sea. It was a spectacular view that caused me to continue to question how anyone would turn down the chance to spend their Sundays in the manner we were.The view was wonderful. If we looked straight out to sea, we saw the beautiful coastline and delicately crafted villas on the peninsula of St Jean cap Ferrat. As it was a pleasant spring afternoon, the trees on the Cap were a wonderfully lush green and were only broken by the sight of some of the world’s most expensive real estate poking through the foliage. There was also a very nice and rather petite sandy beach running along the base of the Cap.Turning around and looking behind us, things were also pretty impressive. A well-known feature of the Cote d’Azur is the close proximity of mountains and sea. Nowhere is the better illustrated than in Villefranche. The mountains tower above the town and fall sharply towards the sea. As they reach Villefranche’s tiny beach, they are separated from the town and the sea by the train track. The mountains are so steep and fall so close to the sea that there is no room for the train, which, therefore, tunnels through the base of the mountain in spectacular style. The cafes along the quayside in Villefranche are a very nice place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, or any afternoon in fact. The views are fantastic and the blue of the blue of the sea is almost hypnotic. Anyone offered the opportunity to live and work in such an area should definitely take it. Close
Written by TianjinPaul on 17 Mar, 2012
Earlier this year, I read the truly fantastic 'Life', the autobiography of Keith Richards. It was a magnificently entertaining read full of rock and roll hijinks and some wonderful sentiment. No-one could fail to find the anecdotes of the early days of the Stones anything…Read More
Earlier this year, I read the truly fantastic 'Life', the autobiography of Keith Richards. It was a magnificently entertaining read full of rock and roll hijinks and some wonderful sentiment. No-one could fail to find the anecdotes of the early days of the Stones anything but entertaining. However, there was one aspect of the book that hit me on a different level. This was the account of the Stones' time on the Cote d'Azur. At this point, I must confess to some musical ignorance and admit that I had no idea that the classic album Exile On Main Street was recorded at Villa Nelle Cote on St Jean Cap Ferrat.The book details - this is perhaps the wrong verb as Richards' memory is undermined somewhat by his excessive drug use - the period the Stones spent in France making the album whilst in the company of legendary country-rock icon Gram Parsons. There are descriptions of drug-fuelled jam sessions and jaunts around the area including boat trips to Villefranch sur Mer just along the coast. There were also, as you might expect, some run-ins with the local gendarmerie.When my girlfriend and I took the bus to St Jean, I was very keen to soak up some of the musical history of the area. Sadly, this was not particularly easy to do. Nelle Cote is now a private residence and is not open to the public. There is not even a plaque to mark the spot. I actually found it a little disappointing that the musical significance is completely ignored and visitors can only stare at Nelle Cote from a distance. The villa is not even mentioned on any of the Cap's signs or maps.All of this meant that my rock and roll pilgrimage was a rather tame affair. Everything was left to my imagination. I took my Kindle and read the appropriate sections of Life whilst I wandered around the Cap. This at least allowed me to imagine the Stones taking a motor launch to Villefranche after days strung out on cocaine needing a break from recording. It also allowed me to imagine Richards scooting along in a convertible only to be stopped and searched - unjustly he claims - by the local police from the adjacent town of Beausoleil.St Jean Cap Ferrat might not quite be Graceland or Abbey Road, but it is home to rock and roll history. However, it also one of the most beautiful spots in the world, which probably compensates for the lack of direct historical sights. Close
St Jean Cap Ferrat is a wonderful part of the world. It blends a magnificent coastline with some beautiful architecture. On a pleasant afternoon, there are few places that are better to visit. The majority of tourists head to the very edge of the peninsula…Read More
St Jean Cap Ferrat is a wonderful part of the world. It blends a magnificent coastline with some beautiful architecture. On a pleasant afternoon, there are few places that are better to visit. The majority of tourists head to the very edge of the peninsula where a footpath that is just a few metres above the sea leads all the way around the outcrop. This is by far the best way see the area as it offers a fantastci blend of natural scenery and wonderful architecture. It is, though, also possible to explore the peninsula from the inside. However, after doing just that, I would not really recommend it. The bus (number 81) from Nice to St Jean drops you at the tourist office, which is at the top of the peninsula, close to the village of Beausoleil. We got off there and decided to head along up the hill and into the heart of the peninsula. We were entertaining notions of experiencing wonderful architecture and rubbing shoulders with a few celebrities. We knew that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had a residence somewhere on the peninsula and that there was a beautiful modern villa designed by Lord Norman Foster. I also wanted to get a good look at Villa Nelle Cote, where the Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street.Sadly, none of this actually transpired. The interior proved to be massively disappointing as there was nothing to see. Everything was obscured from view by large fences and walls - it seemed the residents of St Jean valued their privacy to an alarming extent. We found ourselves constantly trying to peer over large hedges or to peek through the slats in wooden fences to see what lay beyond. This generated a couple of strange feelings. The first one, which was not entirely unpleasant, was of being a child again trying to peer into the neighbours garden. The second feeling, which I really did not care for, was of being a pauper unable to even glimpse the exquisite houses of the rich.The one building we could view easily was the Hotel de Cap Ferrat, which sat behind a low fence and was on a slight incline. This meant it was easily visible. It was a beautiful building that was bursting with turn of the previous century style. It seemed a truly magnificent place to stay. Sadly, its beauty served only to emphasize how much was hidden from view and how frustrating the interior of Cap Ferrat is.After taking a few snaps of the hotel, we took a small wooden path down to the sea where we would follow the path around the edge of the peninsula. This is by far the best way to see St Jean Cap Ferrat. Anyone planning a trip should eschew the interior. Close
Written by Cantin2 on 29 Nov, 2008
Many folks cruise to get a "taste" of a new area. It's amazing to do this by river cruising.....a floating hotel with excursions included in the price. Ships are small since they have to fit through locks or under bridges and usually carry fewer passengers…Read More
Many folks cruise to get a "taste" of a new area. It's amazing to do this by river cruising.....a floating hotel with excursions included in the price. Ships are small since they have to fit through locks or under bridges and usually carry fewer passengers because of their size - this translates - usually into quiet night life.The itineraries are usually great - European rivers wind through wonderful villages and past vineyards and orchards......Each port has an excursion included. I'll highlight two of my favorite during our seven cruise.....CHALON-SUR-SOANE:.......We boarded a motorcoach here for a short drive past Burgundy vineyards on our way to Beaune. We were given free time to walk along the narrow streets lined with shops and cafes for an hour or so. We then met our local guide for a tour of "L'Hotel Dieu" a hospice for the poor that were in need of medical care. This splendid building was established in 1443 by Nicholas Rolin - a politician. He erected a monument to his own wealth and importance - lots of gables and glazed wiles - you feel as though you wouldn't have minded being poor and ill to be taken here......until you hear that two or three patients occupied each bed.A little more free time and a short walk to a storefront for wine tasting - lovely shop. We are taken downstairs into a brick walled - cave-like basement. We are given glasses for a few sips of white - a few sips of red and morsels of fresh baked bread in between. Just what we needed to prompt us to return upstairs and purchase a bottle or two to take aboard. You are allowed to take wines to the dining room for corkage or to enjoy on deck. We return to our home on the river for lunch and a pleasant afternoon of sailing.....a very pleasant day.LYON: The third largest city in France - known for it's Michelin star chefs....We started the day with a motorcoach tour to the cathedral on the mountain for an hour or so and then through "vieux Lyon" for a quick overview and over the river to the new convention area. This short tour gave us a more comfortable feeling for venturing out that evening for our nightime escapade. Since we were going, as a group, to a Paull Bocuse "fun night" at his catering restaurant - "L'Abbaye" the following night, we chose to explore the pedestrian area, with all of it's parks and fountains, to find a "bouchon" that offers simple local food. You can read about our evening in another of my reviews in this journal. We ended the evening with a cocktail overlooking Lyon "all lit up" at night.....Memorable......The next morning, was a wallking tour of the market - and what a market.....the best I've seen anywhere. Fruits, veggies, flowers, fish, rotisserie chickens, herbs, lotions, soaps - I wish I were staying longer and had cooking facilities....If only I had a market like this in my home town.......That evening we set sail for an hour or so to reach "L'Abbaye" for dinner....no....we did not meet Paul Bocuse, but we did have a great time - free flowing drinkns, funky organ music, a tour of the original kitchen that his mother cooked in and great food......No extra charge for this great evening.On to another port and more excursions.......that's what river Cruising is all about....... Close
Written by Cantin2 on 27 May, 2007
We've been sailing up the Saone River for two days - now we're back in Lyon where we boarded the ship. On embarkation day we were too exhausted to see much of Lyon, now it's time to "do it right". Today we had a three…Read More
We've been sailing up the Saone River for two days - now we're back in Lyon where we boarded the ship. On embarkation day we were too exhausted to see much of Lyon, now it's time to "do it right". Today we had a three hour city tour - a "must do" anywhere for a good orientation.We decided to opt out of dinner on board to stroll the pedestrian district on Saturday evening and experience a "typicale" Lyon meal in a "petit buchon". We asked a few of the Uniworld staff for a recommendation for a casual type Lyon meal since a "Paul Bocuse" restaurant experience was included in our cruise for the next evening. Oh yes - go to "Le Petit Buchon" on Meronnier St or Mercier St - we were told. Attempting to get a more specific address, we realized the "le petit buchon" is not the name of a specific restaurant, but rather describes the type of restaurant - much like a bistro or brasserie, as we know them...we would have walked for hours trying to find a restaurant by this name!As the sun is setting - off we go in our comfiest shoes - over the bridge and to the right. Streets are crowded with happy people. Moms pushing carriages, young lovers hand in hand , families finishing their meals, older folks perusing each menu - lots of energy...We walked on through Meronnier St. with all its outdoor cafes - uneven cobblestones, menus to entice you, tables filled with animated people, and continued on to Mercer St., a newer version of Meronnier, still pedestrian, and decide on "Le Bleu" an unassuming small "buchon" with indoor and outdoor seating - serving only mussels and tuna...they must be quite good at this!Only nine rustic wooden tables on the street and about 20 more inside - partially air-conditioned with open shuttered doors overlooking the street. It's pleasant, upbeat and all about people-watching. Most everyone has huge pots of mussels and a large plastic bowl to discard shells. Service is really quick. Our pitcher of wine arrives - a limited menu - tuna, tartare, or pan fried and mussels prepared either Parisienne, curry, a la creme, mushrooms, or wine. We chose the mussels that come with a salad and frites. Salad is served first - delicious, fresh, crisp with a tangy mustardy dressing that we enjoy so much in France. Now for the "moules"...so many...so small...so delicious with a baguette to soak up the juices and accompanied by fresh made all you can eat frites - not frozen and reheated as many of us are used to...these are firm, crisp, and salty. Wow! Sitting elbow to elbow, everyone enjoying, eyeing the parade of endless strollers and inevitably exchanging a few words or more with our neighbor diners...so much fun.We leave Mercier St. and Le Bleu - satiated...onto the next experience. We walk a few blocks toward the Rhone River to the Sofitel Hotel's panoramic top floor restaurant/cocktail lounge. From the busy crowded street to a quiet air-conditioned comfortable cocktail lounge overlooking Lyon with all its lights at night. A beautiful view, very romantic. Specialty cocktails, each served in a differently designed glass. The lounge has about 10 tables - mostly couples - tuxedoed waiters and quiet music - very romantic. A nice finale to our evening. Don't forget your credit card - two drinks here set us back more than two dinners and a liter of house wine at Le Bleu. Close
Written by haslo04 on 16 Jan, 2007
Tour de France is incredible. I have long wanted to experience the Tour and think it is the best thing about summer in France. Our whole trip was timed so we can see the race in the Pyrenees, which arguably contain the most exciting stages…Read More
Tour de France is incredible. I have long wanted to experience the Tour and think it is the best thing about summer in France. Our whole trip was timed so we can see the race in the Pyrenees, which arguably contain the most exciting stages of the whole event. In order to plan things properly, I used the official Le Tour de France website to get detailed maps and approximate timing of Stage 16 of the race, which was held on July 19. The route of the race is usually very diverse and includes both major highways and minor roads. All of these roads close the day before and thus in order to see the bikers up close, one needs to find a small town in the middle of nowhere that has an alternative access road. Pick a town that is too big or too close to the finish and you will stand in the crowd of Americans. Pick right and you will get in the middle of the local French spirit, lining the road to have the bikers pass several feet from your nose.Looking at such a map and schedule (both obtained from www.letour.fr), we chose a small Pyrenee village as our base for the day and drove there in our rented car. When we arrived at our destination, we were pleased to see no barricades to obstruct the direct access to the racers and no crowds to block our view. The bikers were preceded by a colorful collection of mobile advertisements, who sped through the route hurling free stuff at the eager fans. Before long, my wife was smiling from ear to ear as a proud new owner of a yellow umbrella hat and a French Telecom key chain. It turns out that this is what seeing the Tour is all about. You find your spot hours in advance, have a picnic and have fun watching the caravan, as the mobile advertisements are called. After several hours, you begin to hear a host of TV helicopters hovering over the horizon. As they come closer, you know the race is near and the caravan gives way to the team cars with the spare bikes on their roofs. The anticipation grows, as everyone along the road tenses up. Then come the bikers. There are about a hundred of them and you immediately get blown away at how fast they are going. We saw them on the 5th hour of the 16th day of a grueling race, and they passed by us with an incredible speed. It was all over in less than a minute, but Ana never doubted my travel judgment again. The race is as exhilarating as a sports event can get and being so close to it makes all the difference. Originally, we intended to see the Tour once and move on, but we liked it so much that we decided to chase it. What followed was an awesome day in the Pyrenees, when we raced our GPS-guided Citroen through some backroad mountain shortcuts in order to get ahead of the bikers. We succeeded to see them two more times, enjoying every encounter. And although standing in an excited crowd close to the finish line was interesting as well, we strongly recommend getting to a quite village, where you can sit on grass with a baugette in your hand and soak in the local spirit. Close
Written by jim on 14 Oct, 2003
Cross-Mountain Trip from Winery
We were in a little bit of a hurry when we left Domain Marchon, so it seemed like a good idea to take the dirt road when we saw the wooden sign to Suzette. At first it seemed like a stroke…Read More
Cross-Mountain Trip from Winery
We were in a little bit of a hurry when we left Domain Marchon, so it seemed like a good idea to take the dirt road when we saw the wooden sign to Suzette. At first it seemed like a stroke of genius. The total distance was about 10 kilometers (six miles) as opposed to about 25 if we took the long way around (on the real roads). We were flying along, the views were great, and the signs were clearly marked. That is when things got a little interesting.
We came to a fork in the road that had no sign. Undaunted, we chose left. Things seemed a little strange because suddenly everything was fenced in. We felt like we were heading into private property. More disconcerting, the road took a drastic turn for the worse. It was definitely touch and go and after a mile we decided to turn around and try the other way. Most alarming, all of the signs kept warning about "savage animals"--not a good place to get stuck.
When we took the other fork, the roads were even worse. The group in the car was definitely ready to turn back, but I am the eternal optimist and felt like forward was better. Along the way, something large caught our eye. It was a wild animal behind the massive fenced in area beside the road. So I stopped the car and ran over in the direction of the animal to the protestations of my fellow passengers. I did keep the car running with the door open in case I had to make a 100-meter mad dash.
As I crept up to the point I saw the wild animal, and all of sudden I heard the sound of several animals running through the bush. I jumped a few feet in the air and prayed they were behind the fence. The grunting grew louder and in a few seconds I was face to face with three wild boars. Fortunately, they were all behind the fence. The grunting was very loud and funny and they seemed a little less menacing. My companions joined me, we all had a good laugh, and headed back down the road. In a few years, the story may change so that the fence gets omitted, but I’ll have to be a bit older before I start embellishing my travel stories.
Back on the road, we went through some treacherous trails and only after scouting out the area on foot did I find a somewhat passable trail. It got us back on track and we headed out of the valley with a nice memory of a shortcut gone awry.