We started our eastward trek along the Cote D’Azur in Marseille. Our hotel overlooked the port full of fishing boats and yachts and beyond to the Notre Dame de la Guard basilica. We arrived on a grey and blustery day with rain showers. After being blown around for a couple of hours, we stopped off at the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel (a fun way of ours to experience a posh hotel without paying the price of admission). When all lit up at night, the port looks magical and we were fortunate enough to get upgraded to a room with a balcony so we could watch afternoon fade to evening and turn to night.
Perhaps it was the season or perhaps it was the grey, windy weather but we were underwhelmed by France’s second largest city. It feels like a gritty port town with contrasting populations of the haves and the have nots. We imagined that the summertime would be a better time to visit, albeit more expensive. So, like Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo we escaped Marseille to the east.
We hopped the train and were blown east by the continuing gusty winds to Antibes on a grey and rainy day on the Cote d’Azur. A mishap almost left us in Hyeres, but we realized at just the right moment that the train was splitting into two and our part was not headed for Antibes. A quick dash down the platform, aided by the TGV train staff and we were re-situated in our proper seats en route to our proper destination with elevated heart rates and lots of appreciation for quick action and friendly customer service.
We spent a couple of days in Antibes, catching up with some local friends, enjoying the views of the Mediterranean despite the cool and windy weather which had pushed out the rain. While in Antibes, we walked along the coast line towards the Cap d’Antibes along the Sentier du Littoral seaside trail.
On our second day, we visited the Picasso Museum. I’m the first to admit that I don’t always “get” Picasso. Appreciate? Sure. But like his work? Not always. I loved this museum. He used the Chateau Grimaldi where the museum is now located as a studio in the summer and fall of 1946 and there are photos of him working there along with some of the paintings he did here. Many of them are whimsical and fun, others more typical Picasso, I liked all of them.
Our last stop in the eastward trek was Nice. While not meandering around Vieux Nice or visiting the market of the Cours Saleya or climbing Castle Hill for the best views of Nice, we spent our time tasting glace (try Fenocchio), socca (thin, slightly peppery, filling pancake made from chickpea flour), eating delicious meals in local restaurants (we tried La P’tite Cochette and La Epicerie Georges (this one is a gem with very few tables owned and operated by a one-woman show. She waits the tables and prepares the meals for diners – a marvel to witness) for dinners and Olim Massena (little crocks of stews or pastas) for lunch) and walking along the coast.
We took a day trip to Monaco with a stop-off in Eze Village. We choose to book a car tour to both places as the train to Eze (while more economical) drops you at the bottom of the hill and while I think the hike would have been good, I read some reviews that said it was really steep and didn’t want to chance it sight unseen. I’d also read that the bus which drops you at the base of Eze village can be unpredictable in the offseason. Hence, the car. We were driven with six other English speakers by our Austrian guide to Eze village which is mostly closed up or being prepared for the upcoming summer season this time of year. It is definitely a place to which we will return.
Back in the van, we rolled in hot to Monaco listening to the same joke about meeting Price Albert for tea from the Californian woman in the back seat over and over during our short descent. And for the answer to the question of what will make her stop this particular joke in a repetitive loop it is that when she gets lost in the six square block old town neighborhood of the palace of Monaco and misses our van pick-up at the appointed time she’s too embarrassed to say much on our return trip. Thank goodness for small miracles. No longer having to hear about Albert and his tea, we rolled on over to the Monte Carlo Casino and took in the Jaguars, Bentleys and Lamborghinis and the spectacle of wealth around us.
While the weather made the coast more like the Cote de Grise than blue, it was fun to return to Nice, visit with friends and take in the coast in all of its spectacular beauty and opulence.
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