Surprise festivals and cloudy beaches


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Europe » France » Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur » Nice
May 22nd 2012
Published: June 19th 2012
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View from the top of Cannes
We finally made it out of Paris, after finding out that having a first class eurail passes doesn't mean they'll let you fill empty 1stclass seats; only the cheap ones. Taking regional trains took most of the day, arriving in Nice around 9pm (but it didn't cost us anything extra). We quickly found our hostel (part of a wee hotel) and grabbed beds. Heading out straight away having been cooped up on the trains we found a dance crew showcasing their stuff in the middle of square near the beach. Just follow the sound of screaming girls and you are sure to find shirtless guys strutting their stuff. A little more walking and we found the beach. Nice is not the place to go if you want to relax on the sand; in other words, the beach is rocky (big rocks in fact). We walked along the beach as far as we could go and then along the promenade until we made it to the port, which seemed to be a much nicer side of Nice than right by the train station where our hostel was.

It turned out we were in Nice just in time for the Cannes Film
All inAll inAll in

The famous Monte-Carlo Casino.
Festival. Another reason it was so diffcult to get a train to the south. We thought we'd check it out and it was only a quick train ride away. The town was absolutely buzzing with people: media and your average tourist hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity. We didn't see any celebrities unfortunately; probably because neither of us were willing to wait in a sea of people for hours just to see a shoulder. However, there was a large crowd outside the Chopard shop so we can only imagine who was shopping in there. Later on we saw a huge crowd around a hotel too; but no, again we didn't take the time to figure out if someone famous was there. We mostly just took a walk on the beach and people-watched which was interesting considering the massive pop culture event that was happening. Press tents and exclusive looking restaurants were set up all along the beach and we saw the red carpet people would inevitabley be walking on later that night. There was definitely excitement in the air. It was so crowded in town we decided to walk up the hill that had a church on the
Soaking up the sunSoaking up the sunSoaking up the sun

During our walk along the hotel roof gardens
top. From the top we had a great view of the town, harbour and festival area.

We were sick of all the people in Cannes so we went to Monaco. Monte-Carlo had everything you'd expect: expensive cars, even more expensive yachts, great architecture, and clear turquoise water. We took a walk along the Grand Prix track where the grand stands were set up for the race the following week. There were even grand stands on top of the Fairmont Hotel! We felt super safe there. Very likely we were the poorest people there so we had nothing to worry about. We walked in the gardens that were set up on the rooftops of hotels and apartment building. The country is absolutely stunning. We walked along the promenade admiring the yachts and discussing our future yacht will look like and ended the trip with a refreshing gelato.

Our second day in Nice we went sun- seeking. It started with a walk through Nice to Mont Boron which is a nature reserve separating Nice from Villfranche sur Mer. It was uphill all the way but beautiful. Dan stayed in a hostel on Mont Boron in 2005 and it was very peaceful. You feel a million miles away from the city up in the trees. On our walk through the forest we found an outdoor gym along the path and had fun playing on each piece pretending that we were monkies. Three hours after starting our walk we made it to Villefranche sur Mer just in time for the sun to come out! To the beach we went. But on the way we stopped at a green grocer's and bought a quarter watermelon to savour at the waterfront. We demonlished that tasty watermelon and then laid on the beach. We forgot the sunscreen, which is a really bad idea when all you want to do is lay in the sun, so we had to be extremely careful about not staying too long. But it was joyous nonetheless to lay on the sand and dip our toes in the cold, clear water. We finished off the day with a coffee at a cafe that overlooked the sea. It was the perfect day. Later that night we met a Canadian couple from Calgary, Mike and Anna who are on a 6 month round the world trip. It was really interesting listening to their
One more...grrrrrOne more...grrrrrOne more...grrrrr

Working out on the outdoor gym.
stories. They told us about a Champagne party that was happening in the hostel that we had no idea about. It turned out the courtyard where we ate dinner was shared between two hostels; the owners were cousins. So the party with the free champagne (which was definitely more along the lines of sparkling wine) was in the other hostel's common room. It was entertaining to watch everyone's reaction when they found out the drinks were free.

We thought we'd stay in Nice if the weather improved but, alas, it didn't. It was raining even harder on Sunday so we decided to slowly make our way to Croatia which meant going to Italy for a couple days. We took the standing room only train to Ventimiglia and from there went to Genova. At the Genova train station we went to the Information desk and asked about hostels. He gave us a map to one that was on top of the hill just outside the station. He even told us what buses to take but we looked at the map, which had only a couple switchbacks and thought "How far can it really be?". An hour of uphill walking later and we made it. So, it turned out to be a bit farther than we anticipated; it was a great workout at the very least. That night we didn't want to brave the hill again so we decided to stay in and eat the food we brought with us. It was a good idea because it was also raining; did I forget to mention that?

Monday was our day to wander around Genova and explore the city. We hung out with Ashley's German roommate, Ursula, most of the day; who had thankfully done a lot more reasearch about the city. We took the bus downtown and then walked to a hill park that should have had waterfalls and a zoo on it. As it turned out Ursula's travel book was from 2001 and there was construction on most of the park, and none of the fountains were going. At the top of the hill we did get a great view of the city. We went through the city towards the port and our next stop which was a recreation of a Galleon used in the film 'Pirates'. It would have been neat to go on and see the extent
Work it, work itWork it, work itWork it, work it

Raised pushups over Mont Boron
of the details on the interior, but we got there just as siesta was approaching and didn't think the 5 euros would end up being worth it. Walking along the port there were many aggressive foregaters. They would follow you for a good two minutes trying to convince you that they didn't want money for their bracelets. We walked along the pier, saw a biosphere, and marvelled again at container ships and yachts. Following the main road along the coast, we almost went into the restricted port area (but our confused faces gave us away) and they directed us out quickly. We really wanted to find a beach, or at least water access. We walked for what almost seemed ages before we got to one close to a sports centre/ferry port. It was great to sit and listen to the waves crash into the rocky shore. Not really fond of the idea to walk all the way back we headed to to nearest major street and found a bus stop. As part of our transit pass we could take all the public transit and opted to head for the funicular back up to the hostel. It was neat to use it as public transport instead of the special mountain sport ones we'd used so far. At the top we weren't sure where to go; Dan learned that 'only 800m from the hostel' were inaccurate directions when there are three different roads from the end point. We divided to start by going up since it would be less annoying having to walk back down the hill if we were wrong. After a few more forks in the road we got back no problem. Shopping and another bus ride later we were getting ready for bed so that we could starting the trip to Croatia bright and early.

Tuesday we woke up and caught the 8:15 train to Bari, a similar ride we'd done almost 2 years ago, but this time it was first class (curse you eurail and your not counting us 'youthful' enough for cheap tickets)!!!!! We really enjoyed the ride in first class much better. Arriving in Bari we opted to walk since we were pretty sure we could remember the port not being that far and a sneaky suspicion that the bus driver ripped us off last time. We walked around the wrong side of the old town, but opted to follow the water since we had lots of time. When we got to the Jadrolinija ferry port, we had a heck of a time finding where to buy a ticket. Most of the ticket kiosks there were dark or boarded up but we finally found a Jadrolinija one with staff, who seemed very unhelpful, until one told us we didn't buy tickets there; the ticket offices were 3 km down the port. Thank goodness he thought to mention the free shuttle, it pulled up just as we left the terminal. We were still 4 hours early for our 10pm ferry but the ticket office didn't open until 3 hours before. A large line had already formed so instead of getting fruit for the journey we decided to wait in line; good thing we did, it got 5 times bigger from then on. There was also some big group checking in with 30 some odd children and with only one window open it was taking forever. Some people were starting to lose their patience but not us. We were on vacation. The kids turned out to be heading for some folk music festival (to play) so we
Taking a breakTaking a breakTaking a break

From our walk up Mont Boron.
did get a little entertainment out of the deal. After waiting the extra 45 minutes after the window opened we finally got our tickets and were off to wait in the line to actually get on (the boat boarding wasn't until 8 but was late also). We got on the ferry quite quickly and scoped out a place to sleep; the unused casino. The duty free was poorly stocked and we really didn't have any way to transport more stuff, so after a bite on board we lay down for a nights rest.


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Just landed a triple sow-cowJust landed a triple sow-cow
Just landed a triple sow-cow

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Really, do you have no modesty. Cover that tummy!
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Finally catching the rays

In Villefranche sur Mer.


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