Sunday, December 16, 2012

October 25th: Nice and Monaco

Since we had a full day to spend in the area, we took our time getting started in the morning. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel, made our way to a laundromat to do some laundry, then hung out on the beach while we waited for our clothes.

The view from our hotel room. The balcony was itty bitty, but the view was neat.

Since it was less than a half hour by car, we decided to spend part of the day checking out Monaco! Call it a country, principality, city-state, whatever you's only about three miles wide. We had originally hoped to run the length of it for fun but logistics got in the way so we decided to check out some of the scenery instead.

To say the streets are narrow is a bit of an understatement. I'm glad Mark was doing the driving, and it was a good thing we had a smart car!

Monaco was absolutely gorgeous. The colors were fantastic, the weather was perfect, and the scenery was amazing.

Looking out toward the port. There were a few cruise ships and a whole bunch of fancy yachts.

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world; I think those hills in the back mark the border with France.

We walked past the Prince's Palace of Monaco...

...and made our way up to the Musée Océanographique de Monaco.It was built in the early 1900s and in addition to an aquarium has all sorts of other neat skeletons and displays.

There were a bunch of African spurred turtles in a display on the roof. A couple of them were pretty bossy and kept pushing the other turtles around.

We made our way back downstairs to walk through the aquarium. There were a lot of passengers from one of the cruise ships wandering around; after close to a week of being the only foreigners it was very weird to hear fluent English with a southern accent.

I really liked the colors on this one; I forget what kind of fish it was.

They had a whole tank full of baby clownfish. I think they breed them there.

After spending a bit of time in the aquarium, we wandered through a garden to a view of the Port de Fontvieille...

...then, after grabbing lunch in a cafe, started to make our way back to the car.

The path had a pretty sweet view of the city.

We had originally planned to check out the Monte Carlo and maybe do a little gambling, but when I found out it would cost 10 Euro each just to get in I was on the fence. The casino was on the other side of the port, and once we realized how steep and winding some of the streets were, we figured it was a nice thought but we'd pass this time. Maybe next time...

We drove back to Nice, made a quick stop at the tasty gelato place again, then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out on the beach. Mark went for a short run then tried to go swimming, but the water was pretty cold and it was a little tough to stand on the rocky beach while the waves were coming in. I at least dipped my feet in the water so I could say I've been in the Mediterranean. We grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant, stopped one last time at the tasty gelato place, and walked back to the hotel along the beach. Not bad for our last day in France.   :)

I liked France a lot more than I expected to. One of the things I love about traveling is learning the cultural differences. In France it's considered very rude if you don't say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' when you enter a store or restaurant (or in some cases, even an elevator), but small talk is rare and people mostly ignore you. Tipping is uncommon because it's already factored in your check when you go to a restaurant, and you have to specifically ask for your check otherwise you'll sit at your table all night. The hotels we stayed in didn't usually have washcloths, sheets, or shower curtains, but they were all very nice and in most cases the staff spoke at least a little English. The further south you got, the more laid back everyone was.

It's pretty easy to get around, especially if you have a car, but you need to watch out for mopeds because they are apparently exempt from traffic laws. I saw one guy get around the one-way street restriction by driving on the sidewalk and another one cut through several crosswalks to avoid a red light; really it seems that if the moped can physically fit in a space, it's ok for it to be there. I wouldn't have been surprised to see one zipping through the halls of the Louvre. Crossing the street could be a little sketchy at times (or a total free for all), but once you got used to that it was fine. The only thing I didn't really like about France was that they don't curb their dogs. At all. (Well, maybe with the exception of Cannes.) You'd be walking down a gorgeous street in Paris or Nice and you'd have to spend most of your time looking down, trying to avoid all the land mines on the sidewalk. Maybe Parisians would be happier people if they'd clean up after their dogs; they'd be able to spend more time looking up at their beautiful city.

At any rate, France was fantastic but we had a race to run in Switzerland several days later, so the next day was going to be a full day of driving. Fun fun!

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