Archive for October 2019

Living the Monaco and Monte Carlo Dream   14 comments

One more day out before me move on to the last part of the trip. Another rather enjoyable if slow bus journey to Monaco.

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More wonderful views of the coastline

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After a supermarket inspired lunch (Monaco is pricey) we set off to explore, initially up to the Old Town with fine views across this city and country in miniature.

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Whether its common to Monaco due to the very steep cliffs that back the city, it was, like my last visit, overcast, humid and very hot. That last visit was when TBF was pregnant with TJS and it reminded just how hardy she was to walk around with all that extra load. We did some fairly strenuous activity on that trip.

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The old town is actually rather nice, lots of narrow streets, interesting buildings – and money!

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At the entrance is the Place du Palais and Le Palais des Princes de Monaco. Considering the wealth it’s a quite an understated affair.

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Saint Nicholas Cathedral.

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The Palace of Justice

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And the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, a very grand building indeed for what is in essence an Aquarium.

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Monaco is in reality, largely just an urban sprawl of very expensive apartment buildings and shops. It doesn’t have a beach of any sort but what it does have is lots of spare cash. Time to visit its most affluent and famous sights in Monte Carlo.

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It sits on the opposite side of the harbour to the old town and we took advantage of the boat bus to cross the harbour and save a bit of a walk.

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As with all things here it cost a bit more than it should but it was enjoyable if brief.

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I’d been told to watch out for all the expensive yachts and cruisers in the harbour but we saw more impressive craft in the harbour in Nice.

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While looking for the lift up to the Casino we spotted our first luxury sports car sat outside the hotel at the exit from the famous road tunnel used in the Monaco Grand Prix.

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Onwards into the heart of all that money, the Parc du Casino and all that surrounds it. This is the famous Casino and they let you in to the lobby for a peek inside.

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Very ostentatious as you can see.

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But it was the parking area outside where the real money was. Every space was filled with luxury sports cars.

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I’m no petrol-head but I have an idea of how much these things cost and I reckon there was a couple of million quids worth parked up in the few spaces around the square. First place where I’ve looked at a Porsche and thought “cheap tat”.

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This was the one I liked the looked of but possibly a little impractical as a family car.

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We found the whole experience fascinating, just people watching. We saw several middle-aged businessmen with their gorgeous trophy wives on show.

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In fact the Parc is rather nice in an ornate sort of way

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And a short walk down is the famous view of the hairpin bend on the Monaco GP circuit. Lewis Hamilton’s car for next season may see him struggle to retain the driver’s championship.

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For any of you visiting Monaco a word of warning on Mobile Communications. It’s not included in the roaming agreements in Europe so data and voice are chargeable. We racked up a few quid in charges before we realised. Another interesting example of control taken back after we leave the EU as it will drop us out of all roaming agreements and unlimited free use of data (within what you pay in the UK) while travelling in Europe will be a thing of the past.

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And that was enough for one day. We hopped on a train back to Nice, spent another day exploring the coast before heading off to our final stop of another epic trip.

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Days Out on The Cote D’Azure   9 comments

Lots of wonderful places to see on the Cote D’Azure and an excellent and cheap (if a little crowded) local bus service to explore them.

Eze is one of the most popular spots, a picture postcard village perched high above the coast on a rocky outcrop. The bus journey along the Moyenne (middle) Corniche Road were superb.

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As befitting a well known spot, Eze was rammed with tourists but not overly so as in some of the places we’ve been over the past couple of years. Most of the village is a private hotel complex but what you can walk around is rather nice.

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Although the high point is a sculpted cactus garden that you have to pay to visit. Worth it – just – for the magnificent views along the coast.

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The ruined castle at the top of the hill

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And views over the private part of the village.

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Clouds hugging the cliffs.

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More cactus – should that be cacti.

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As you’d expect it was brutally hot so there is only so much you stand before you crave a cool outdoor lunch and a cold beer. We took the bus down to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and a had an excellent, if quite expensive meal down by the harbour.

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Followed by a brief stroll through town to the Plage des Fourmis. We should have brought swimming stuff and had a dip as it was a very nice beach.

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On our last day we took a day trip to St Jean Cap Ferrat. If anything it was even hotter although the beaches and views were good.

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This beach, the Plage Paloma, looked rather fine but the beach bar was staggeringly expensive and after lunch it was too hot to walk back.

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After the only underwhelming meal of the whole trip (a disappointing and pricey pizza by the harbour) we returned to the closer Plage Cros Dei Pin for a very enjoyable afternoon swim.

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One of the nicest beaches we visited but being the middle of the day it was just too hot to hang around. I’d love to come back here in Spring or autumn when the water will still be warm but the temperatures more realistic for a laze on the beach and for coastal walks.

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A Day in the Mercantour Alps   12 comments

Warning! A post with lots of smug, blue-sky and mountains photos!

One of the main reasons we took to four wheels for a couple of days was to head out into the mountains inland. As you’ll see from they post they are truly spectacular. We got lucky with the weather as well. After the previous rainy day the skies were completely clear and fresh. Leaving the Funsters for a day of beach luxury on sunbeds in one of the beach bars in Nice, we struck out at 6am for a mountain day.

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One our concerns was that after the record high temperatures it might be too hot for walking even at altitude. This concept was soon quelled when we parked up and abandoned our plan for an al fresco breakfast as it was too cold!

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From a plethora of great sounding routes in the guidebook we’d plumped for a start from Madone de Fenestre, high up in the Vallee de Vesubie, taking in a couple of mountain passes and chance of a summit. It proved to be inspired.

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It was a stunning day and sensational spot. A lush green valley with sparse forest, tumbling streams and towering rocky mountains.

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A view across the the Cime de L’Agnelliere which we’d be hoping to climb later.

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The route follows an old mule path up to the Col de Fenestre an ancient trade route between Italy and the coast. In later years as a frontier between Italy and France it was the scene of fighting during the second world war and an attempt by Italian Jews to flee the persecution that ended in tragedy, most rounded up and shot by the SS.

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On a brighter note the path is wonderful and allows easy progress high into these majestic mountains.

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We saw a few Marmots and this Ibex as well as several others at distance, always pleasing to see these nimble creatures at work on the rocky slopes.

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The views became ever more impressive as we climbed in perfect conditions. A warm sun but cool mountain air. Walking on a day like this hardly seems an effort.

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We passed the stunningly clear Lac de Fenestre. Thoughts of a swim quickly dispelled by the achingly cold water.

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Our objective, the Col de Fenestre behind.

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After a brief rest we pressed on, again the well made path making the climb easy and allowing plenty of opportunities to take in the views.

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Just below the pass are several military buildings, barracks and watch towers, now deserted.

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The name is the pass of the rock window and here it is at 2476m.

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Views down into Italy and the Val Gesso and over the plain of Peidmont. We could even see the what I think was the snow capped Pennine Alps far in the distance.

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Onwards and the route got even better. A high path traverses steep rocky slopes over to the Pas des Ladres, an old military route to a less used smugglers pass through the mountains.

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As we climbed higher the highest peaks of the range came into view.

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I think this is the Cime Gelas, the highest peak in the area but without a map I’m not entirely sure. Whatever, it was high and looked rocky and difficult, the domain of the rock athlete and dusted with fresh snow from the day before. It was the focus of attention for the rest of the day.

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This part of the day was a sheer delight. Looking down to the Pas de Ladres at 2448m with our peak objective behind.

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A view down to the Lac de Trecolpas another popular walk from the other side of the range.

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With plenty of time to spare we took on the optional climb to the Cime de L’Agnelliere. It much narrower path but still easy to follow as it twisted along the ridge.

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The summit was a surprisingly flat plateau of bare rocks topped with shattered rocky tors.

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The panorama to the south and the Mediterranean coast.

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And north to the mountains of the Mercantour.

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It was the perfect spot for a long rest and lunch.

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TJS had no interest in climbing to the actual summit but I was keen despite the slopes looking rather loose. After seeing a woman make easy work of it I gave it a go.

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Other than one slightly loose and exposed section it was easy and the views from the top at 2700m well worth the effort.

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The lady I’d seem climbing was still on the summit and she confirmed that the big peak opposite was the highest peak and a bit Internet research confirms it is Cime de Gelas, 3134m high.

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She also kindly took a photo of me on the summit but had set off when I asked if she wanted me to return the favour.

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I sat on the summit for a while taking in the sensational views but had to press on back down to recover my junior sherpa.

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Close up view of the Cime de Gelas.

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Sadly (always a little sad on days as good as this) it was time to head down.

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Retracing our steps to the Pas de Ladres we followed a different valley back down to the car. Different but far less impressive than the route up.

The panorama looking back to our two cols and routes before we headed back down to the car.

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Our desire to climb mountains on what was a city break trip satisfied we headed back to the coast. TJS to laze in the apartment, me to grab a quick swim in the sea to finish off a tremendous day.

We love our city trips but my heart will always belong to the mountains!

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