Saturday, June 27, 2015

France Day Eight: Merde! I Used All My Data!

This morning we strolled down to the beach and ate breakfast overlooking the Antibes harbor.  The French Riviera is about an hour and a half drive from end to end (Cannes to Menton), so we decided to straight to the end (at the Italian border), and drive back to our hotel, stopping along the way.

Menton is a gorgeous town of citrus colored buildings with a huge Italian influence. We walked through the market, out onto a long pier, and along the beach. 

There wasn’t a lot to do other than stroll, and it was hot. So we headed for Monaco.

Along the way, I told M about Princess Grace. She was fascinated. She grabbed my phone and started Googling “what ever happened to Princess Stephanie?” and read me a long story about the details of the accident. Of course, we had to find the road where their car went over the edge. I do like to provide educational trips.

We left France for a whole hour to visit the tiny country of Monaco and its big city Monte Carlo.  Monaco almost went bankrupt in the late 1800s, so they decided to build a Casino. Then a few decades later, it decided to have no income taxes for any residents. Those two things have made it a haven for the world’s rich. Because of that, we decided to look for our prince for one full hour. All I can say about Monte Carlo is that it is freaking amazing. It has clean, wide streets, gorgeous architecture and “MC” everywhere – which M loved since those are her initials!

We walked around the casino and watched all the guys gawking at and examining the cars parked out front like they have never seen a Ferrari before. Then we walked around back and BAM! – ran right into a Laduree. (M and I have been obsessed with Laduree ever since we visited one in Paris in 2012. It is a historic chain of very fancy tea shops with amazing macarons.) This Laduree sat overlooking the yachts in the harbor, and even had an all-white carousel – so we were IN!  

We had 2 ice cream sundaes for 40 euros (I mean, they did have all kinds of delicious caramelized almonds, Chantilly cream, salted caramel gelato, Madagascar vanilla beans and other stuff… which KIND of make it worth going broke to eat ice cream for lunch).

I hadn’t found my prince, but we had to leave Monaco and return to France for the little hilltop village of Eze. There is a very tiny municipal parking lot with a big line of cars waiting to find spaces. A handsome Frenchman walked up to our car, knocked on the window, and asked if we wanted his space. Then he literally stopped and blocked traffic so we could back into it. He got out of his car, and gave us his parking voucher, which still had 2 hours left on it. Who says the French aren’t nice?! Once he drove away, I realized -- he was our prince!

The problem with Eze is that it is on top of a freaking mountain, and you have to park basically at the bottom and walk up. We gave it the old college try, but it was just too hot. We walked halfway up, hit a few shops, and bailed. Since we still had time on our parking voucher, and we had only eaten ice cream for lunch, we went to a hot dog stand and ordered 2 dogs – which came on baguettes, of course.

Right about this time I got a terribly upsetting text from AT&T telling me I had used all the data available on my international data plan. I called them in a panic and said, “BUT I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND TEXT PHOTOS!!!!!” (I may have even been crying.) They told me I could have one more gig of data for $120. Done and done. Problem solved.

Leaving Eze, we could see Nice below us. It is HUGE. Not even joking, it appeared to be about the size of Chicago. We drove all the way through on the Promenade Des Anglais, with the beach on one side and lots of fancy hotels on the other. The beach was very crowded and lots of people were out strolling. We saw this for about 8km:

As we were leaving, we had this conversation:

Me: “So how did you like the drive through Nice?”
M: “It was nice.”
Me: “I see what you did there.”

On our way to St. Paul de Vence, we stopped to fill up with diesel fuel. A woman ran outside and handed me a plastic glove to wear while I pumped gas. WTF. I seriously love France.

St. Paul de Vence is a hilltop town similar to Eze. By now it had cooled down, so we made the climb. It was spectacular and so worth the burn. M sat and watched a bunch of guys playing boule (aka bocce ball), made a wish in a well, and did a lot of shopping. 

All the little tangled cobblestone lanes had the most adorable shops. 

Even the bathrooms were pretty!

Finally, we headed back to Antibes and walked to dinner. M played with some French kids and a bubble man in the park, and then we returned to Hotel Mademoiselle, exhausted.

When we were back in our room, M said, “This was my favorite day so far.” I have to agree. I liked the French Riviera about 100x better than the Amalfi Coast. It is prettier, easier to drive, and has way less traffic. We both decided that we will return here someday and spend an entire week exploring it in more depth.

Tomorrow: The French Alps!

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