Sunday, August 7, 2011

Journey to the South of France

I fell in love with Europe the first time I set foot in it.

My very first layover was in Nice, France. I was clueless as to where Nice was or what it had to offer. All I knew of France then was Paris and ironically, I never got to see Paris.

Nice, according to Wikipedia, is located on the south east coast of France on the Meditteranean Sea and is the second largest French city on the Meditteraneean Coast. The city is nicknamed Nice La Belle meaning Nice the Beautiful - and I could not agree more!

We stayed in a hotel by Promenade des Anglais (The Walkway of the English – coined from the earliest visitors of the resort, Upper English classmen and aristocrats who frequented Nice to spend their winters there.) Promenade des Anglais is a whole stretch of hotels, restaurants and shops right next to the seaside.

We arrived in Nice in the afternoon and with the entire crew, we took a 30 minute train ride going to Monaco. The train ride was an experience in its own, what with the scenic route that had me gaping the whole time.

We passed by a nude beach as well and it was also another first for me. J It was May and the start of summer in the Mediterranean so there were tourists left and right soaking up the sun. The climate was cool but sunny, in short – perfect.

Monte Carlo is widely known for its prominence (Monaco being a monarchy) and casinos, the Le Grand Casino being the most popular (right next to Hotel de Parisan elite hotel established in 1864 by Charles III of Monaco from which the name Monte Carlo was derived.) and has been the setting of countless James Bond movies. You could instantly feel the grandness and elegance of the city – luxury cars were parked everywhere, people in suits and ball gowns entering the casinos and hotels, flag-bearing limousines driving around.

Les Grand Casino

The city streets along the harbor of Monte Carlo is also known as Circuit de Monaco, used one weekend every May to host the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. We were fortunate enough to be there when the track was being set up and there were already F1 race cars driving all over the city. There had been a point in my life where I used to obsess about the F1 because I had an ex boyfriend who was into drag racing, so you could say I was ecstatic.

Setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix

We had dinner at a small restaurant by the harbor. It was already 8 in the evening but the sun was still up and for someone used to sunsets at 6, it was definitely something new.

Dinner with the crew. 8PM in France.

We took the last train ride out of Monaco at around 11 in the evening and was back at the hotel and safely tucked in bed by midnight. I woke up early the next morning to the sound and smell of the sea and it was one of the best mornings I have woken up to my entire life.

Not wanting to waste time as we were set to leave that afternoon, I set out and explored the city on my own. I took a leisurely stroll along Promenade des Anglais, sat by the coastline for a while watching the tourists, the birds and the sea, and took a tram ride back to the train station (with just the aide of a map on a country that spoke little or no English. I have always been good with directions.) because I had been craving the sausage in wheat bread we had the previous day.

My day ended with a smile and with beautiful memories of a place I will, to this day, remember every detail of as I have never seen a place more serene and elegant than Monaco and Nice.

I could not wait to be back.

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