Culture

On the blog part 2…

April 15, 2015

So bleary eyed we said our goodbyes and the next part of our journey began. The weather was crap the whole time we were in Bordeaux, but as soon as we left it was beautiful. Typical. But we were on our way to the Côte d’Azur, so really who’d complain?! We picked up our baby blue Twingo rental and our first positive impressions were thwarted at the first hurdle: we couldn’t open the boot. It’s these setbacks that are really good for language learning. I’m all for them! I will now never forget the French word for boot (coffre, in case you were wondering), and particularly enjoyed reading about all the gadgets the car had to offer including cruise control, reverse camera and it even told you when to change gear! My 1998 Renault Clio doesn’t even want to go into gear (sometimes! I’m trying to sell it… Any takers?!). Tant pis, c’est la vie! So once we’d got the boot open (there’s a button just above the number plate), we were very impressed with it, though the French kerbs weren’t… The mother in law had failed to mention my partner’s kerb clipping habits, something I and the roads found out first hand in Nice and Monaco! I put this down to being left-handed…

Despite the bumper car, he did very well driving and parking on the French roads what with all the tolls, supercars and well, French drivers. We parked up in the first of many underground car parks and wandered round the old part of town (very Nice, see what I did there?!) and the flower market which was lovely. At this point we were a little peckish and came across a niçoise speciality: socca. We decided to go for it, even though we had no idea what it was.

Jackie Chan - What

 

I had to ask the woman if it was sweet or salty. Turns out it was salty and is a kind of pancake made out of chickpea flour. As we continued our stroll along the beach front, we were amazed at the amount of people sunbathing (mostly topless) at a lunchtime in March! Oh the life… Not quite a suitable activity for a teacher I guess. Imagine the headlines!

How many of you tried to find the topless?!

How many of you tried to find the topless?!

So, after a busy day ogling half naked French people, we made our way into the hilly countryside where we were staying with my partner’s colleague and wife. The contrast in accommodation was significant to say the least. The silence was deafening, only broken by the strut of their half-beast half-cat cat Cesar:

That's a big suitcase!

That’s a big suitcase!

I instantly fell in love and to my delight they said they were looking for someone to look after the cats while they’re back in America for 3 months.  So naturally I checked out KLM’s pet policy but my hopes of an easy steal were dashed. Cesar would be over the weight limit of 6kg and would have to go through the hold and charged as extra luggage, in addition to needing a pet passport. He’d cost me a fortune at near 10kg! Alas, it wasn’t meant to be…

On the second day we made a day trip to Marseille and even though it cost 15 euros each way in toll fees, it was worth the few hours we spent there. We met up for lunch with an old school friend of my partner and ate in the sunshine next to the marina. As they jabbered on in Romanian I was quite happy to just sit there and take it all in. My partner’s face certainly took in the sun, but only on one side! Neither of us noticed until later on, mainly because the wind was so strong we couldn’t feel our faces. We wanted to visit the islands where Monte Cristo was based but thought better of it, and the water looked so choppy that we decided to be a typical tourist and get on one of those really naff ‘train’ tours (I do love them though! I think they’re a great way to see a lot of places in a short space of time) which took us around the coast and up to Notre-Dame de la Garde. The views of the city, surrounding waters and islands and the church itself were worth every cent. The only thing we didn’t think about was how strong the winds would be. Walking, talking and taking photos were very difficult tasks, as demonstrated below…

Before...

Before…

...after!

…after!

Day three: Monaco. Dear Monaco. No thanks. Never again. Driving around Monaco was.a.nightmare.  Never mind the stupid bint on the Sat-Nav getting her knickers in a twist, Grand Prix stands and construction were EVERYWHERE. After getting a park in, yep, another underground car park, we walked up the hill to see the highly recommended Monaco Aquarium. I really enjoy aquariums and architecture so this was a must for me as it’s built into a cliff. But we were hungry and already agitated by the morning’s drive, which is sooooo not a good combination.

Model of the Aquarium from the sea

Model of the Aquarium from the sea

The excitement!

The excitement!

My partner really wanted to see the Casino which was on the other side of Port Hercule, so we had to make the risky decision whether to walk or try and find a closer parking space… I’m always up for walking, even when hungry, but most people I’ve travelled with aren’t the same so we took the car, and drove for around half an hour around the north of Monte Carlo thanks to the GPS going AWOL…  Kudos to my partner who at this point hadn’t lost it. After finally getting back into the centre and finding a park, we visited the Casino and saw all the supercars parked out front. By this stage I’d seen so many it wasn’t a big deal. Oh look a Ferrari! Oh look there’s another! And another. And, oh wait, I’ll still never be able to afford one… It was a real conflicting experience. My inner nosey bitch thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the rich do it, yet I couldn’t help but feel slightly degraded…

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Upon checking out the menu and trying to find a suitable spot outside the busy Café de Paris to do some people spotting, we decided against it as we’d gone past the point of hunger and so instead we grabbed a massive slab of quiche each and sat in a park. After wandering around this side of town I suggested we head back to the other side and visit the royal residence, as seen in the distance:

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Cue trying to find a park take 2. This time we drove around the same block 2 ½ times before my partner finally snapped. I thought oh God, just agree and go back to Nice! But just as we gave up and were heading back home, he swerved into a car park and we made it just in time. It was worth the visit, mainly for my partner because he said it wasn’t worth the moaning he’d get if we didn’t go. Me, moan?! Honestly it was like a scene from My Family. We’re Ben and Susan in the making! En route home, Monaco just had to have the last laugh didn’t it? The tunnel we needed to take was closed. Cue driving around Monaco to get out of Monaco take 3! Needless to say, we won’t be going back to Monaco…

Us after Monaco

Ahh, don’t worry, I’m nearly finished: Cannes. This is the last place we crammed into our Cote d’Azur tour, and I have to say it was a bitter-sweet experience, as this is where the blog’s title all becomes clear…  Our hosts suggested we caught a boat to have a picnic on the islands just off the coast, however it was still winter season timings by one day. In the meantime, we decided to have our picnic on the beach instead. But before making our way there, I went to the toilet, which was more like a sun-bed box it was so small. To cut what’s really a short story short, I dropped my phone in the toilet. Which then automatically flushed. The plopping sound of my phone will always be with me, along with the slow-mo of my hand plunging into the debatable clean water as fast as possible. I’m a firm believer in almost all situations having silver linings, and the only one I could think of that day was the fact that it was rinsed upon retrieval. I blubbered for about 15 minutes walking down the beautiful Cannes seaside in front of our hosts. I knew I’d look back and think what the hell did I cry so much for but at the time I was so devastated, I wouldn’t have cared if George Clooney walked past.

Pre-toilet disaster

Pre-toilet disaster

Post-toilet disaster

Post-toilet disaster

Bless our hosts, they tried really hard to cheer me up and they did a good job! Butterfinger jokes ensued along with many more as we walked through the marina and shopping districts, but the only thing we bought was rice to put my phone in. I did try hard to not taint Cannes with my misfortune, however it will always be the place I dropped my phone in the toilet!

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On the last day (which was Easter Sunday) I felt quite light not having my phone to check every half hour. It’s interesting to see how embedded it had become into my daily routine. So, to cheer myself up we rounded off the holiday with a naked Jacuzzi (forgot swimming stuff, and was in the country anyway…).

Oh! Look what happened… Me, but in the garden :p

At lunchtime we went to some friends of the hosts for Easter lunch who lived in an amazing old mill. The old grindstone was their table! It was during the meal that my partner nudged me and pointed out that we were drinking a bottle of wine from 1992. That’s only one year younger than me! I couldn’t believe it. Whilst digesting this back at the house we had some time to kill before our flight, so we played our favourite game: Backgammon. As it turns out the wife was quite the skilled player to my partner’s surprise! She passed on some pearls of Backgammon wisdom so beating my partner alllllllmost made me forget about my now rice enshrined phone…²

I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but I never need to when I travel, as all my souvenirs are mes souvenirs¹.

¹Memories in French.

² After 48 hours in rice, the phone worked! Touch wood it continues to do so…

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