Through Monaco to Cassis, France
Calanque d'En-Vau near Cassis. That little patch on the right edge of the water is a beach.
Day 14: Say hello to France. Bonjour!
Our first stop, a country all to itself on the south coast of France called Monaco. Made up of Monte Carlo and Monaco Ville, it's a small, concentrated, dice rolling, trying-to-be-quaint overcrowded city. Some of the group went to practice their luck at the casino. Being trained in statistics, I decided my chances were better in joining one of the groups going off to sightsee. Lisa led us up the hill to Monaco Ville, where Prince Rainier lives. Susan suggested that the palace and cathedral looked a bit like Disney reproductions, and I pretty much agree. However, the inside of the cathedral was very nice. There were also some really big boats in the marina. [I took the following panorama picture of Monte Carlo from Monaco Ville - click it for a larger version.]
After Monaco, we stopped at Eze, a little hill town with a cactus garden on top and a perfume factory beside it. Those that wanted a hike went to the cactus, and the others went to workout their noses. Which do you think I did? Anyway, there was a nice view at the top of Eze. And not only were there cacti, but also a yellow church with a Baroque interior and a friendly cat. [I took a picture of Don admiring the view of Cape Ferrat in the distance.]
On to Cassis, for our vacation from our vacation (this means the guides get a well-deserved day off from worrying about us poor slobs). We got to the city late, and with no transportation to the hotel because of a supposed road closure. Eventually we figured out that the road was not closed, so we drove down, checked in to our hotel [the Hotel Le Golfe] and had dinner at a harbor-side restaurant.
To bed afterwards. Sharing a room with Santos again.
Day 15: Ahh... Wake up late (breakfast served till 10).
I walked the harbor, got a hiking map from the TI booth, and set off to hike the Calanques (mini-fiords). I did the three nearest Calanques in 4 hours, and took with me 2 bottles of water (having learned from the Dolomites) and a bag of gummi fruit. Clear signs pointed the way at first. It was a nice, breezy hike (with a couple of steep hills) on gravel trails with magnificent views of the fiords [first, second, and third] and the Mediterranean Sea. It was easy to get turned around on the myriad paths I ran into, but impossible to get truly lost as the trees were too short to hide the Calanques from you for very long. I stopped and rested at the Refuge du Piolet (a little hut above the third Calanque), which had a magnificent view and a comfortable picnic table. [The picture at the top of the page was taken from there.]
They have really loud bugs (cicadas) here. Crickets on steroids, synchronized in a cacophonous symphony. Kind of like the music from the shower scene in Psycho, sped up. [Listen to them here (with traffic noises in the background).] I swear you can get hearing damage from them. Despite their incredible noise, I never did see one. They stop chirping when you get close to them. The nearest thing I saw were the colorful ceramic ones at the gift shops. They call them "cigales." [Here's a web site devoted solely to these creatures.]
I spent some time after the hike lounging with other members of our group at the little harbor-side restaurant in front of our hotel. A little beer for relaxation and rehydration, and an opportunity to recount the tales of the Calanques.
Later, to dinner at a restaurant called Le Bonaparte [here's their web site] with Elaine and Santos. They had very good wine, and we had plenty. A nice French couple (whom Elaine and I practiced our French on) took our picture. To finish the meal, the owner gave us "Napoleon" schnapps or brandy or grappa (something very strong) for being such good guests. In hindsight, this was a bad idea. I had about 3 shots myself.
After dinner we walked along the harbor past street performers and other walkers. The red rock cliffs get really red as the sun sets. Santos and I had another beer or two at the hotel restaurant - another bad idea. Our consciousness blurred as we watched the city go to sleep and then did so ourselves.
I slept like the dead and woke up the next morning quite ill. But that's tomorrow's story.
Click the pictures for enlargements.
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Last updated 11/12/2005 . Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.