Monterosso to Nice and Aix-en-Provence, France
01.05.2016 - 02.05.2016 20 °C
After a late start this morning having been distracted with calls back home, I was in a perpetual rush! But it didn’t stop me enjoying an omelette and a Nutella crepe for brekky, made by the lovely ladies at my hotel!
I had to drive an hour and a half from Monterosso to Genova, to dehire the car at the airport, then find my way to the train station to get my train to Nice which had been pre-booked for 12:22. Sounds simple enough, and with my high expectations based on the ease of transportation in the last few weeks I thought it would be fine. To cut a long story short, the cops flagged me to slow down (driving) at one point, I endured the scariest taxi ride from the airport car rental drop point to the train station, and in the end my train actually left half an hour later so I had plenty of time! But, I have learnt a lesson in leaving ample time for international travel!
The train journey from Genova to Nice was beautiful, as it hugged the coast line for much of the trip, and the scenes of coastal French towns with the sea stretching out were delightful. I arrived in Nice, and had a horrendous walk for about 30 minutes dragging the luggage to find the airport where I would pick up my next hire car, and was thankfully directed by another solo traveller from London and her trusty GPS! A brand-spanking new Renault with in-built GPS was awaiting me, which would make life a little easier over the next 5 days.
Driving into Nice was a little tricky, with a lot of road works happening, and almost every street in the centre of town being one-way. I missed my accommodation, and ended up on a very convoluted route through one-way streets to eventually get back to the right spot. The hostel accommodation I’d booked was great, however I was in a room of 6 beds on my own! So much for meeting some people to socialise with in Nice!
I absolutely loved the French feel to Nice, and decided to frock up and stroll to the old-town to find a lovely restaurant for my first French meal. So new heels on (purchased in Lucca), and new frock on (purchased in Florence). I made my way up the main Avenue to the old town, with only one smarmy man sidling up to me and saying I had a face like a child, and it was his lifelong dream to kiss an Australian. Not creepy in the slightest. I brushed him off, and made my way to the seaside as the sun was packing up for the day.
I found a restaurant with a three course menu option which appealed, and as I elegantly strutted over looking every bit as European as I possibly could, in true Jen-fashion, I stacked it as big and as boldly as I could, managing the most awkward and flailing recovery at the final moment saving me from hitting the deck, no more than 2 meters from the entry to the restaurant. “Table for one, please”…no bloody surprises there!
I was not disappointed with my first meal in France. Entrée was a soufflé with apple and fois gras, followed by a sliced duck breast with balsamic reduced strawberries, mashed potato, potato gratin, and about a dozen other flourishes on the plate. I tried to practice a little bit of French on the waiter, who was a delight and pandered to my attempts; “Je suis plein. Mais je me rejouis a dessert”. Dessert was a crispy pile of sweet noodle things, with strawberries, cream, and passionfruit coulis, and of course the whole meal was accompanied by a half bottle of red wine from the Medoc region, which I would be visiting in a few days on a tour I had booked.
After a delightful sleep in my own private hostel room, I strolled back to the old town to sort out my French SIM card and have an explore. I'd heard the panoramic view from the top of the hill past the old town was incredible, so I made my way up there to explore the Roman ruins and get some good photos.
In transit up the hill, I asked a non-descript young guy to take a photo for me, which he obligingly did, and continued on my merry way to the top. The guy had started following me, which was mildly off-putting, but I'd assumed we were both just destined to head for the top in any case, so didn't think too much about it. Then he closed the gap, and started stroking my arm and back…he was weird and creepy, and when he went for my derriere, I whipped around and told him not to touch me and he ran off. The whole experience burst my little bubble of having felt entirely confident and safe throughout the last few weeks, and I reminded myself to be more cautious. The joy having been taken out of that little sightseeing adventure, I walked back to town, went to the post office to sort out a package home (7kg for 55 euro wasn't as bad as I'd thought), and was delighted asking the tourist office in French for directions for the Post Office, to the point where I nodded and smiled when they replied in French and I didn’t catch any of the actual directions!
Back to pick up the car, and I was off. The drive to Aix-en-Provence was lovely and relaxed, on great roads, and at a consistent speed of 130km/hr. I’m really enjoying the driving, particularly as I’ve planned it so that there’s no more than an hour or two per day between places.
The accommodation I’d picked was really lovely about 10 minutes out of town, with a comfortable big bed and private en suite on a big beautiful property. I settled in for a nap, then went out to explore the town, but being a Monday most places were closed by the time I got in at around 730 for dinner. I found a little café and had the most tender, flavourful pork I've ever had, again with a barrage of accompanying vegetables and sauces, with a glass of Rose. Back to the accommodation to plan a bit more of the accommodation for the next few days, and get a good night’s sleep before the tour tomorrow.