Fun with friends in Provence...with a step into Italy!

Community Highlights Europe Fun with friends in Provence...with a step into Italy!

We had the best week with our friends from Denver, John & Lisa Reynolds! They spent a few days seeing Paris and then joined us here in Roquebrune at our friend Kristin's home. We all live on the same block in Denver, so it is a bit of a South Saint Paul St. party - although missing the rest of our wonderful neighbors, and of course, Kristin & Yani we wish you were here! We picked them up at the Nice airport and had dinner on our deck that night.


We are 4 miles from the Italian border and John was anxious to add Italy to the countries he had visited, so we spent a day exploring Ventimiglia and La Dolceaqua, two small towns just across the border. La Dolceaqua is a small village just up a valley from Ventimiglia, right out of medieval times and famous for "inspiring" Monet. It is well away from the busy French and Italian Riviera's, so feels quiet and secluded with mountains around it. It has a castle overlooking the town that sits across from a fast-flowing river, joined by an ancient humpback stone bridge. It is lovely. We also enjoyed a wonderful Italian lunch there: spaghetti and clams, burrata salad and fresh pasta:


On our way home we planned to visit the old town in Ventimiglia but got a bit lost and ended up at a viewpoint watching a boat on fire out in the sea. We don't think anyone was hurt as there was no emergency vehicles, but it was a sight to see! We checked the news but couldn't find anything but then our Italian is pretty minimal...


We enjoyed a wonderful dinner that night at a restaurant in the Roquebrune old town. Typical in Europe, many places have an "old town" which may be walled and is a myriad of lanes and narrow alleys, with homes or businesses stuck in every nook and cranny, primarily pedestrian (few cars)...and then they have a "new town" where most businesses are, shopping and residential areas. There are also shops, restaurants and homes in the old city, which are so interesting as they are in impossible places – one common theme is lots of steps and many twists and turns! (Don’t offer to help someone move here!) The old town of Roquebrune is up many, many stairs from us and is topped with a castle used to defend the peninsula in medieval times (there was a place where they poured hot oil on their attackers!) Anyways, we went there for dinner with John and Lisa to a restaurant in a was amazing ambience and food (duck confit with veggie casserole, white boar stew and pancakes, sea bass with ravioli, Coquille St Jacques).


From medieval villages to ultra-modern Monaco! We spend the next day touring the sights of the world’s second smallest country (the Vatican is the smallest) at 2 square kms, right on the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by France and 15 km from Italy. It is an interesting mix of French, Italian and English-speaking people, has no income tax and low business tax, and is home to the most dangerous Grand Prix track on the F1 circuit. On the fairy tale side, this is home to Grace Kelly, the Hollywood movie star that married Prince Rainier III in 1956 to become the Princess Grace of Monaco. We toured the palace, home of the royal family - ruling monarchy since 1200's. It is magnificent to say the least:


We also toured the Oceanographic Museum, founded by Prince Albert I in the early 1900’s. Prince Albert I was an early day’s marine biologist and sailor, extremely interested in ocean life and led many scientific research expeditions in the late 1800s to study, learn and educate others. Jack Cousteau was the Director from 1957 – 1988, so also greatly influenced the collection. Aquariums aren’t normally big attractions for us, but this one was very impressive, hanging off a cliff in Monaco and included a lot of history as well, like one of Cousteau’s submarines (which wasn’t quite big enough for Dean!) The size and wide array of sea life was amazing, and their tanks were well designed for viewing – almost interactive in some ways, so allowed you to see the fish very well. For example, the jelly fish were in a large cylindrical tank from ceiling to floor that you could walk around. We saw a lot of sea life, including sharks, guitar fish, seahorses and many tropical fish of every color and shape imaginable. We were told that many of the larger animals are “rescues” and wouldn’t survive in the wild:


We were pooped by then so headed to Café de Paris, right outside the Monte Carla casino and known for people and car watching. Like I have said before, it is tricky to take pictures of the outrageously dressed people but trust me it is jaw dropping. (I wonder if they wear as many designers as they you can at once? Or is you wear all the same designer at once – the problems of the rich and famous! ????) We have had a request for more Porsches, which Dean was happy to accommodate:


Well we couldn't just sit and look at the casino, so after dinner we headed in to see this famous spot. Beyond providing a passport, there is a strict dress code to enter, so it was not a slam dunk we would get in. (I didn’t bring my Dior gown with me!) Anyways, we passed the test (it was a slow night) and got in. It is a magnificent room, like a palace turned into a casino, lovely painted ceilings, incredible chandeliers and not jammed in like Las Vegas. Just a few tables of each game, a lovely bar and lounge area, and of course the fanciest restroom I have ever seen! John came out ahead at the roulette table, Dean and Lisa did not fare as well at the blackjack table, but we all had lots of fun! (I was the official drink holder and cheerleader.)


Oh, and we aren’t done with the decadence yet! It is on the sea after all, so check out the yachts! Dean’s googling research says many are worth 100 million € plus!


After conquering Monaco, we headed back to medieval times at the lovely mountaintop village of Eze, just west of Monaco. Often called the "jewel of the French Riviera", it offers amazing 360-degree views of the coast and inland and is a picturesque hilltop village to boot! It is topped with ruins of a castle (of course), a beautiful garden and a village with its meandering alleys and small boutiques. Just like stepping back in time...but watch those cobblestones! We visited the Fragonard factory on our way home, a French “parfumerie” that makes wonderful soap, lotions and of course perfume. It’s amazing how many flowers are used to make perfume, literally acres and acres, and then they are distilled, similar to making alcohol. I hope to make it to Grasse this trip where they have a huge flower farm, it’s also in Provence.


A spectacular trio of roads hug the cliffs between Nice and Monaco, one right on the coast (Inferieure), one at the top (Grande) and one in between (Moyenne), called the three corniches (coastal roads). They offer spectacular views, are fun to drive with twists and turns throughout, and probably not the best for those with a weak stomach:


We spent our last day with Lisa and John right around home. We bought our “last supper” at the Menton market just up the road (everything you can imagine and fresh, fresh, fresh!), were completely overwhelmed trying to choose French tablecloths, had lunch and then headed back on foot to walk the coastal path around Cap Martin. Spectacular views and the color of the Mediterranean is oh so blue! The pebble beach right below Kristin’s is called Cabbe Beach. We enjoyed an amazing dinner that Lisa prepared (so yummy we forgot to take pictures!) and of course the views of Monaco! We couldn’t of asked for a better time in such an amazing place with great friends! Thanks for coming Lisa and John!


The dogs AND cats of the French Riviera (a special treat for our cat lover readers – sorry names are harder to get for cats as the owners are typically nowhere to be seen!):


This featured blog entry was written by margofiala from the blog Lost together...again! 🎶.
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By margofiala

Posted Sun, May 26, 2019 | France | Comments