Thursday, July 6, 2006

Ciao Bella.... Bonjour Mademoiselle

Hello Everyone!!

The French Riviera certainly lived up to any romantic expectations I had of Cannes, in the south as opposed to Caen, in the north. Despite ending up in Slovenia rather than Italy on one leg of Busabout - apparently due to the incorrect coordinates that head office had conspiratorially wired through to the GPS system (which I later found out was nonexistent) - this time my efforts to reach the South of France could not go too wrong, or if they did were at least out of my control.

There was a moment of sadness as we cruised out of Italy. I, by this stage had spent over a month in the gorgeous country and it now holds some very special memories for me. I must also admit that thought of returning to France was less than high on my agenda and crossing the border did coincide with a wave of nausea as I remembered the defecation, arrogance and nasty bus drivers that I had encountered 3 months previous. To my great relief the only nausea that I felt after this initial wave was due wholeheartedly to excessive consumption of champagne at ladies night at Wayne’s (authentically French, I know).

Hotel Anderes seemed to be run by a group of dodgy Frenchmen……
When I walked into the 2 star hotel (it was a hotel not to be confused with a hostel) I ran into Rose who luckily warned me of the state of the rooms. When I made my way to the fifth floor carrying a backpack weighing a third of me all I wanted was an air-conditioned room. I burst through the door to be greeted by a musty smell, about 3 square centimetres of floor space and 4 bunk beds. After this initial shock I had a shower and met Rose and Ian (the other members of the Cinque Terre A-Team) for dinner. It was the 21st June when I arrived which happened to be Fete de la Musique. This is a national day of music in France where street performers, bands and attention seekers hit the streets and perform for hours on end. In the old town of Nice one couldn’t walk 100 metres without being struck with music from a different band or encountering acrobats doing back flips, people drinking and attempting to imitate the acrobats or people drinking and imitating the bands (I fell, literally into all 3 categories).
After a few hours of wandering around and checking out the sites we settled at Wayne’s where a stage had been set up on the street and bands of different nationalities played varying sets. I had such a great time particularly after I cottoned onto the fact that the neighbouring kebab shop was selling beer for one sixth of the price that Wayne’s was and if I was subtle enough I was able to buy the cheap stuff and pour it into my glass under the table – you can take the girl out of the coast but not the coast out of the girl I hear you say. Nathan, Greg and Chris, three friends from Busabout met Monika, a Canadian friend I made, and I at Wayne’s where we subsequently took to dancing on the tables and having an all round great night. It was such a lift to hear live music again. I didn’t realise how much I had missed it. I had a fantastic night, in my top 3 overseas. When the rest of us decided to head home Chris took off on a scooter with some locals and woke up at 8am the next morning on a rock in Monaco – enough said.

Most of the friends I had made in Cinque Terre moved on the next day…..
So I explored Nice by myself. Nice was quite cosmopolitan and although it is not the prettiest of cities it was much more friendly than my previous experience of France had been. I lay on the beach, well small boulders really, nursing my Fete de la Musique hangover and struggling into the water to swim every 15 minutes or so. It was so difficult to hobble in and out of the water that I thought it would be a god idea to wear my thongs in. Low and behold I suffered a blow out that would lead to a multitude of problems later in the day. I have been trying to adopt the local habits of the country that I’m in. In Malta, I ate, drank and spoke excessively. In Rome I ate nothing but Pizza and drank nothing but red wine. So in the South of France I sun baked all day, had a siesta then partied all night. After my siesta on this particular day 7 of us headed to the local chicken shop and had a feast of roast chicken and veggies. This, I must say was a surprise and delight for my pizza, pasta and ham sandwiched conditioned stomach. After dinner and a few bottles of champagne with Kirra from Melbourne and Lauren and Sarah from Canberra we trotted off to Wayne’s proudly displaying Aussie flag tattoos, to watch Australia play Croatia in the soccer. After my first €6 beer I realised it was ladies night, paid €2 and was presented with a classy plastic cup that would not be empty of sweet, gold, bubbly and most importantly alcoholic liquid for the remainder of the night. Needless to say there was more dancing on the tables.

The thong blow out from earlier in the day soon came into contention with my swiftly moving feet. During the night I had no less than three near misses to falling from the table due to further blow outs. The worst however, was imminent. At 2.50am, in a state of panic we realised that we were at least a half hour walk from the hostel which had a lock out from 3-6am. As I was wearing black tights and a black singlet I already had the lets get physical vibe and started running back to the hostel, really, there were no alternatives as cabs were nowhere to be seen. Anyone who has visited Nice in the last 2 years will appreciate that the entire main street is a mess due to construction of light rail this combined with the thong blow out was a recipe for disaster. As I set the pace for my team of partiers I sprinted along, saw a piece of wood that resembled a skate ramp and tried to slide down it sideways. Now if the makeshift ramp had not been covered in dew I would have pulled off an impressive move. Unfortunately for me, my feet slid out from under me and I was left with a scratch and bruise to reckon with the one I had endured from the roller skating incident at Kate’s 80’s party – I have photographic evidence. I bounced back to my feet undeterred, only to find myself on all fours100 meters down the road when I had yet another blow out and stacked it fair on the main road. 2 grazed knees (one now infected), a grazed wrist, swollen previously sprained ankle, grazed right foot, grazed left toes, cut and bruised back later I made it to the hostel just as the doors were closing and sweetly smiled my way in. I’m thinking of sending this story to Havaianas and requesting a free pair many of the above injuries would not have been sustained had the thongs been of my sturdy a construction.

The best thing about the South of France was not necessarily Nice (ha ha)….
It was the proximity of Nice to some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in Europe. After 3 days in Nice I met Jess Brennan at Antibes for 2 nights. It was fantastic to see a friend and be able to chat with someone so normally – no questions about how long you’re travelling, what you do back home etc etc. Jess & I spent 1 day together in Antibes and one in Monaco.
Antibes had a lot of character. It has both a new and old part of town. It is much smaller than Nice which gave me a chance to speak to quite a few locals . Most of the people living in Antibes are transient, as they work on the mega-yachts docked in Antibes. On our second night Jess, myself and a friend Matt from Busabout went and watched the sunset with a few bottles of wine before heading to a Spanish bar. The bar itself had a great atmosphere but we decided it was a night for double dares. Had anyone wanted to test the affects of alcohol on 3 excitable young people this was the night. After Matt hit on a guy, then himself in a mirror, Jess crawled (but refused to bark) from the front door to the bar. Obviously the other two had under active imaginations as I was only dared to baby talk to a dog (WHAT were they thinking? I do that anyway) then walk up to a group of French people, smash a cup of ice and start the conversation with “now that the ice is broken”…. Obviously neither of them are completely familiar with my penchant for Dad jokes.

Monaco is gorgeous and I fell in love with it as soon as I left the train. It is incredibly clean and well kept which isn’t surprising given that to live there you must submit a €1,000,000 deposit and application and be prepared to lose this deposit if you are rejected. This rule isn’t taken lightly. Madonna’s application was rejected!!!!! The beach at Monaco is stunning. A man drives around all day on a jet ski with a net to catch any floating rubbish or seaweed so the water is constantly crystal clear. The beach is covered in the tiniest pebbles which are as comfortable as sand but nowhere near as annoying as you are not, for days following, shaking sand from all possessions taken to the beach.
Villefranche was a smaller village between Monaco and Nice that I loved. The town itself reminded me of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, it was still the old town painted in vivid colours but contained some fantastic shops obviously catering for the elite. The beach was quite long and sandy and had a break wall covered in brilliant purple flowers that both smelt and looked amazing. After my day here I returned to a very busy Nice as France won when they played Spain in the soccer. There were people everywhere and the atmosphere was fantastic if not a tad noisy!!!

So unfortunately my time in the South of France had to come to an end. I boarded the bus for Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland on Friday and headed away from the coast but towards the Swiss alps.

Stayed tuned for the next instalment…… there are also some personal messages below….

xx Loz

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