It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post. So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself). So I’ve been procrastinating. I have organized my DVD drawer. I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses). And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work. I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.
A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work
It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating. We’ve been busy. I mean, very busy. Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new. So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents. I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog). So let’s get this party started… no more delays. And so, it begins with a trip to France…
When I last left you, my sister and her family had come to visit. We had a short window between their departure and the arrival of our next guests, Jen’s parents and sister. The timing was perfect, because good friends of ours, Michel and Shirley arrived at their home in Sablet, France just days before this brief “window”. They had graciously invited us to their home and we both jumped at the chance to see France through their eyes. We decided to take the circuitous route, passing by the sea and staying overnight in a small town along the French Riviera before joining them in what could easily be called, vin de pays (wine country).
Scenery along the drive
The drive from our home to the French Riviera was only a few hours (we were pleased to learn this – we hope to embark on a repeat journey while we’re here). We first passed through a small portion of the Italian Riviera before crossing into France. The landscape was stunning – windy roads encased by a vast ocean on our left and coarse mountains to our right.
The plan was simple – stop by Monte Carlo, Monaco for a little while before continuing to Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, where we had made hotel reservations. My secret plan that I kept to myself was also simple. Take Jen and Julia to the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino and win thousands of dollars in mere moments while they both waited and applauded. Needless to say, when I presented that plan I was shot down. Strange, I always thought I could sell anything. Something about a baby in a Casino… blah, blah, blah.
View as we approached Monte Carlo
A gold yacht?! You may think “tacky”. I think “baaaallllleeerr!”
We had gotten our typical late-start from home and so by the time we got to Monte Carlo we did not have enough time to properly enjoy the city. We were hungry and eager to stretch our legs, so after a brief drive-through we pushed on to Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, vowing to come back when we had the time to really enjoy Monte Carlo (also, when I had my tuxedo so that I could do my best Bond impression).
I chose Beaulieu-Sur-Mer to stay overnight because Michel had recommended Villefranche-Sur-Mer, the neighboring town. I liked his recommendation based on the town’s size, proximity to Nice and Monaco, and hotel availability. It fit snugly into my travel plans and so I booked a nice seaside hotel with views of the ocean and mountain. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized I actually booked in the neighboring town. Oh, well – c’est la vie (that’s life). It turned out to be a nice blessing, because “our” town was beautiful and couldn’t have made for a better overnight stay.
View of the marina from our balcony
View of the mountain from our balcony
Our pool that we didn’t have time to use
Same marina view at night – loved the night sky
Same mountain view at night
Upon checking in, we asked the young lady at the front desk where we should eat lunch. She stumbled over her answer and said that “maybe you could go to the marina, or maybe you could go into town” but she wasn’t quite sure which way either of those things were (FYI – the marina was literally across the street and town was ten minutes north by foot). I quickly dismissed her recommendations and we ventured off on our own (ever get that “this person has no idea” feeling before they’re even done talking?). Maybe it’s the language barrier you say? I hope not – she was from Southern California.
Jen and Julia in front of the marina across from our hotel
A different marina nearby
Making me wish I knew how to sail
We took off in the direction opposite of her suggestion and found ourselves in one beautiful setting after another. My camera flashed on Julia and the scenery like I was a photographer from the National Geographic (sadly, my pictures turned out to be of slightly lower quality). We made our way into the center of town and purchased a bottle of wine to enjoy on our balcony later that night. We ate a light snack in lieu of lunch and continued to explore on our own whilst waiting for our restaurant of choosing to open their doors for dinner. We found a Casino (a-ha!) and I was able to convince Jen that a few hands of blackjack were just what the doctor ordered! Julia was asleep in her carriage and it was just the angle I needed to close the deal. Sales record intact! Sadly, it was closed for renovation – a disappointing turn of events that cost me hundreds of euro’s (or saved me, depending on your view of gambling).
A park we passed
Kissing my baby
Wonder what that says, too bad it’s in French
Oh, it says “wet paint”!
Julia’s favorite flower is a rose
We found a casino! Too bad they were closed
Dusk sets in as we walked home after dinner
Street scenes in the evening
Boat scenes at night – we enjoyed walking past all the docked yachts
We ate a delicious dinner at, La Pignatelle, which I’ll feature in a separate piece on some of our favorite French dining experiences. Finally, we strolled home and enjoyed our balcony before turning in to bed.
The next day, we departed and headed for Michel and Shirley’s home – two hours north of our current location. We had coordinated our arrival for late afternoon, allowing enough time to travel the twenty minutes southwest into Nice, France for lunch and exploration. I parked in the center of town and we got out and enjoyed wandering from one end of Avenue Jean Medecin (Nice’s main street and shopping corridor) to the other. Since Nice is the fifth most populated city in France, a few hours would not be nearly enough to explore properly – but perhaps enough to get a bit of the local flavor.
Nice from afar
You can see the city is quite grand
We followed Avenue Jean Medecin all the way to it’s end, where it nearly intersects with the sea. We strolled through the markets they have set up (we were very impressed with the French markets throughout our entire time there) and ended up on the beach.
View from the Place Masséna
The Basilique Notre-Dame de Nice is the largest church in Nice
A market was set up besides open-air restaurants
“Can I pull this off?”
Beautiful array of flowers
Large selection of fresh vegetables
Aromatic spices available for purchase
As you may know about Nice, the beaches are not at all nice and sandy, but rather awash with large stones. It’s charming simply by it’s uniqueness and what’s better – Julia could have all the fun in the world without getting dirty!
Playing in the rocks…errr, playing on the beach
“Look at me!”
“I’m going to throw it”
“I really am…”
“Nah, just kidding – here you go”
Julia teaching me how to use the camera
Behind the scenes of our photo shoot
Mom and daughter having fun
After lunch on the beach (sandwiches on French bread – my pick, not Jens. I’d tell you a mini-battle raged over my selection of lunch, but Jen will be mad at me – so it never happened) we walked around a bit more before getting back in the car and departing for a few days with Michel and Shirley. So far, we were loving what France had to offer. Much more to come, stay tuned…