Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our summer vacation, Post 3: Nice and Monaco

 The final leg of our journey took us to the Cote d'Azur region, where we stopped off in Nice. And I LOVED Nice!!! The beach was SO clean (the city made a daily effort to keep the water clean) and beautiful, although it was a stone beach. Only thing that would've made it nicer is if it were sand.
 The main square of the city has an area with water jets. These were particularly beautiful to watch at night. It seemed like there were people running around in the water 24/7. To be fair, it was 30C and 80% humidity. No wonder why people were trying to cool down!

 One of the first places we visited was the hill! Because if there's a way to see nature and escape the city I haven't yet explored, I'm all over that. (I'm terribly anti-social in that way)

 There was a waterfall at the top!
 And castle ruins

 View over the port
 I'm the red spot you can see...

 It was a beautiful view from the hill. Then we dropped down to Old Nice, an area with beautiful buildings and delicious food (just avoid that tourist traps that are mingled within authentic!)
 Fountains at night

 The next day we grabbed the bus to Monaco and saw some amazing sights along the way. There are beautiful little seaside villages between Nice and Monaco (sadly, we didn't have enough time to see them).

 A walk up to the royal palace of Monaco

 I liked the palace and the views from high up, but I've got to admit- it was nothing special in comparison to what I've seen elsewhere around Europe. So that was quite disappointing. And since I despise the money flaunting aspect that the other half of Monaco represents, I was extra bummed. But, since Ben was excited to see the race track and casino, we headed off in that direction.
 I didn't get to see much of the inside of Monaco because you had to buy a ticket to enter, but Ben did a bit of gambling in the casino.
 Formula 1 hairpin
 Monte Carlo
So overall, I loved Nice. And if I could do it again, I would visit the seaside towns in Cote d'Azur and skip Monaco altogether. However, Ben liked Monaco and would recommend a trip to those who enjoy Formula 1.

Final thoughts: Cote d'Azur AMAZING and I want to see more of it. Monaco, mixed feelings. Go if you like Formula 1 or gambling/money-extravagance. If you aren't keen on those, skip it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Our summer vacation Part 2: Montpelier and Aix-en-Provence

We set off from Barcelona and headed out to Montpelier, France which is in the Languedoc region. Our plan was to stop at one city in each region we crossed on our way to Monaco. My overall impressions of Montpelier is that it was nice, but there wasn't a lot to do without a car. I'm sure the region would've been amazing if we had a better way to get around, but for our walking/bussing/training only travel, it wasn't the greatest hub ever. That being said, I'm still happy we went, as the city and people were truly lovely.

 We stayed in an artist's loft apartment with this beautiful little courtyard in the middle and a nice view of one of the church spires out the kitchen window

 After our first night, we had really seen all of the sights that the city had to offer. So we went out for a bike ride (my first time since I learned how to ride a bicycle over 10 years ago!!!!) toward Palavas. I had read that you could bike to Palavas, where there is a beach, and have a bit of a break before heading off to a lonely castle sitting on an almost island, surrounded by wetlands (we were near to Camargue nature reserve).

 Unfortunately, due to bike shop lunchtime closure and having a train to catch, we didn't quite make it to Palavas.
If I could do it over, I probably would've preferred to be closer to Camargue, maybe even staying in Palavas so that we could see Montpelier, but also see the wetlands and Mediterranean. That would be my helpful tip to anyone with a short amount of time in the region!

We were off to our next region, Provence, and stayed in Aix-en-Provence. Aix seemed quite a bit pricier than Montpelier and I got the impression that more wealthy tourism occurred in this region. That isn't meant to be good or bad, just an observation.

 The view from outside our front doors
 The most delicious restaurant!!!

 Cezanne was very popular with the city
 In the morning, before heading to the bus station, we stopped by a local market for some breakfast things. I sincerely believe that I was meant to be European, with all of the markets scattered around the continent and my undying love for them. I even got to practice my (terrible) French, which was quite nice.

 The view on our way out of Provence.
I would recommend an overnight stay in Aix. It is beautiful and the people are wonderful. The food is delicious and you can really get a feel for their culture. But again, we didn't get to properly explore the Provence region. And I think it would be best suited to someone with a car.

The next post will contain our final leg of the trip: Nice and Monaco!!