Our last morning at St. Paul was a fitting sendoff for the week there. Blue sky, view straight to the sea, and though the sun won't hit for a few more minutes it was pleasantly warm on the terrace.
Departure days are hectic but other than yelling at the luggage for not compressing its contents enough, it went smooth and we were on the road a bit after 9.
What a difference a weekend day makes. There was no traffic and within minutes we were on the A8 for Villefranche sur Mer. It's a quick trip, but you're off the A8 soon and into the East end of Nice winding your way down the usual one and a half lane roads that do 180 degree turns every few hundred meters as you descend to sea level.
We found parking fast and then headed out to see the marina, where ship tenders also unload their cargo of cruising travellers, the small beach on that side, and the old town.
Many years ago, when we first cruised here, we took a bus to Eze and spent the day there. So in a sense this was our first trip here. There's a fort at the other end, a full blown market was going on, and of course a plethora of restaurants to pick from.
Since we were meeting our apartment owner at 2 pm we decided to have an early lunch, and a much later dinner. We stopped at a seaside place by the area the tenders come into and sat by the overlook onto the harbor.
Simple lunch. Pizza Margherita and Fritto Misto, and only water. The major difference between Fench and Italian Fritto's is the French serve it with a great Tartar Sauce, and the Italians plain, with lemon only, though it is amazing how big their lemons are, almost baseball size.
About 12:30 we left for Nice. Easy drive in and both Nigel and the Garmin agreed on how to get there. We found a parking garage quickly and not too difficult getting the car backed into a space. We walked first to the apartment (only a few blocks away in the Carre d'Or section), just to see the street personally. Nice street. One way. Cars parked on one side, some on the other. It'll be fun when it's time to come back and unload.
We then walked to the Promenade des Anglais, the 'bord de mer' that runs along the beach. The promenade has chairs and benches facing the sea and they have areas with seating areas with canvas to block the sun's rays.
We also looked at the various eating places along the shore and inquired at some places where you can rent a chair/lounger, with thick cushions, umbrella, towels and they come with access to a shower & changing rooms. While the beach has free cold showers the private beaches are poshy.
It appears, and we will verify more tomorrow, that, for the two of us, that will set us back 66 Euros, about $83. Just for the day. They do offer a montly package. We didn't ask. But it's vacation and, if you could see the size of the rocks you would have to lie on at the free beach, at least 6" in diameter, with some smaller but sharper, then the $83 doesn't look so bad. We can't imagine how people lay on towels on these rocks but there are plenty of people that do.
Our plan is beach day tomorrow, maybe Monday too, since many places are closed Sunday and Monday, then train and/or bus to Cannes or Monaco. The other two days we have plenty to see and do in Nice.
We walkd to the apartment, met the owner (an American woman), and talked a bit about how she got to live here. Not that we have any time to watch TV, but, when we do the TV has full access to English channels, some that you can watch a movie in French and via your control tell it you want to hear English instead.
The apartment is great (really big), nice layout, very large bathroom and shower, big bedroom, nice kitchen and living room and large terrace. In fact, her job is modernizing and restoring old houses, and her second job is teaching French teachers how to teach English. Once we reviewed how to run the appliances and security we headed back to get the car, which was pretty easy both to pay for and get out of the garage.
Back at the apartment we parked, blocking the entire street (it's only one way and the width of 1 1/2 cars). Karen stayed with the car and Mike began to porter the bags to the apartment, up three flights of stairs (40 steps), four times. Made up for missing the gym the past week. One car that entered the street behind us decided to just drive down a side street, and shortly after a pretty polite frenchman just patiently waited until Mike showed up and we drove away to return the car. Out of breath going up and down four times doesn't adequately describe it.
Finally we got to return the car, an adventure in itself as even with the GPS's we ended up driving a bit in circles as we missed a turn or two, plus it is not obvious where to bring the car even though we had just walked over to the office (which was closed from 12 to 2. On checkout there is an issue with some rear quarter-panel damage, and just what insurance does cover.
For example, if you run into a wall in the US you're covered minus your deductible. Not so here. If it's YOUR fault, you pay. Of course if you come down one morning and see damage done by someone in the night, or parking lot, a so called 'third party', then it's not your fault and you are covered.
But, even though we have zero deductible coverage, EuropeCar says that that means they will charge us for the damage and we then get reimbursed by AutoEurope who we rented it through. Needless to say, after I called Auto Europe and spoke to them (a $16 call), they said the exact opposite, that EuropeCar is who the insurance is through.
Bottom line, I'll be having some interesting conversations and email exchanges once we get back. The lady at EuropeCar did say however that should the boss decide that in fact it was not our fault, they will bill AutoEurope for the damage and us for a $50 (Euro?) administrative fee. We'll see.
We walked back, picked up some things for the week's breakfasts, and began the unpacking, and after an hour or so resting went out for an early dinner.
Our early dinner turned out not to be so early. The hour's rest was like a new day. We walked the pedestrian streets around our neighborhood, filled with people, and found some very nice restaurants. We walked some more eventually landing back on the Promenade des Anglais and followed it until it turns in Quai des Etats Unis which leads you to the lower end of the old quarter, the opera house and into Cours Saleya, which is where the 'Le Marche aux Fleurs', the flower market is held.
At this time of the evening it is filled, for at least four blocks, with restaurants and vendors. While there is a variety of food available, this is really a seafood lovers paradise (think Mike). The restaurants each have a section of the large open square, actually it's more like a very long Piazza Navona in Rome, with the center of the area devoted to tables with each restaurant having its own blocked off area. There must be at least 100 restaurants lining this pedestrian street.
There are parties of two, and parties of 10, the place is a sea of eating humanity. They deliver the huge plates of seafood on Paella platters and place them on the same kinds of metal stands as we might place pizzas on.
I had a small 16.50 Euro menu which, after I made my choices, included a huge bowl of mussels, a rabbit stew in a tomato base over linguini, and an apple tart. Karen had lasagna and salad and then the usual wine, water and bread. Her meal, a la carte was 13.50 which illustrates the benefit of ordering from the choice of 'formules' restaurants offer. After that we ordered coffees and a chocolate lava cake for Karen. We finally left our table about 8:45 and spent the next hour or more walking about the square, looking at all the vendors stalls, buying some gifts, and trinkets for us too, and then back to Place Massena to see it lit up at night.
Then we went back to Promenade des Anglais, which at night looks so different with the promenade and the city lit up like a Christmas tree. We dropped into one of the casinos, but only briefly as it was getting late, but we will go back later in the week and get them to pay for this vacation.
We got back after 11 or so, too beat to do much else but prepare for bed. We set the alarm for later, 7:30 and that was it. Tomorrow we'll just do the flower market and lay on the chaise lounges at one of the private beaches.
Villefranche Harbor, Houses & Restaurants
Villefranche Harbor View
Nice - Public versus Private Beaches
View of Private Beach
Nice Apartment Views
Cours Saleya - Restaurant Row