25 – 26 June 2010
Official Contiki Itinerary
Day 8: Barcelona to French Riviera
Travel through the charmingly rustic region of Provence to
Arles. Then it’s on to the glamorous French Riviera. Contiki
• Scenic drive along the Cote d’Azur
• Visit the historic city of Arles
Day 9: French Riviera
Stroll through outdoor markets, shop the upscale boutiques
& sun worship on the beach. Contiki Village (B,D)
• Visit a French perfumery
• See the Royal Palace in Monaco
• Visit a Monte Carlo casino
On our Contiki tour we have fallen into a few routines, most initiated by Ray and they tend to prove useful or funny in their own way. For instance we always start a coach ride with the same song, it’s our song and it is called ‘Memories’ by some dude. It’s not the best song in the world, but it is now our routine. Prior to arriving in a destination or for a stop Ray will always play the Baywatch soundtrack, God knows why but it works; when ever that song comes on people will pull out of their slumber and brighten up. Following these songs Ray will usually get on the mic and give us a run down on what is going to happen for the day, what time to get back on the coach, or just local things of interest.
Prior to our stop in the town of Arles Ray gave us a little history on the place and it’s most famous resident, Vincent Van Gogh. Apparently Van Gogh started painting at 27, he was originally Dutch but lived in Paris and then later moved to Arles to find more peace and quiet; it was here that many of his famous works were painted. Van Gogh lived in a yellow house, he painted Starry Night over the Run, his self portrait, and a sunflower all in Arles. Ray spoke of Absinthe and the possible effect this stuff may have had on Van Gogh’s creativity. He also touched on Van Gogh’s craziness, his eventual suicide and the famous cutting off of his own ear. The story Ray has heard most about this incident involved Van Gogh and someone else having an argument over love, somewhere a prostitute came into the mix and Van Gogh apparently said “you know what love is, this is love” and he cut of his ear and gave it to the prostitute. Nice!
25 June 2010
Apparently there are over a hundred towns in the French Riviera, known as the Cote de Azur and famous for beautiful deep blue water.
On arrival at our campsite in Nice I got settled into my cabin, finally got some washing done and generally relaxed in preparation for a big day in Nice (tomorrow).
Official Contiki Day Sheet
Full day in Nice
26 June 2010
Our first stop in the morning on our way into town was a tour of the Fragonard Parfumer which is impressively set amid the hills above Nice.
During my full day in Nice I bought a micro towel as I had misplaced mine at the hostel in Barcelona. With the practical stuff out of the way I walked the main street and then meandered my way to the ‘old town’ which the Lonely Planet describes as the most atmospheric part of Nice, a tangled array of thin alleyways and tiny streets; I loved it. I sat at one particular cafe and enjoyed a fromage and jambon crepe while entertained by street musicians.
I took a walk up to a lookout point while enjoying a delicious ice cream.
If you’re not doing a Contiki, but still want to be guided around a bit, consider just finding a company which specialises in Nice tours who knows the local spots; personally I loved the little streets with the cafes and vibrancy – a little local knowledge could certainly help you make the most of your time here.
Evening in Monaco
26 June 2010
After dinner that evening we took the coach over to the country of Monaco. Monaco is a mere two square kilometres total, making it the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican City. It was founded by conquest in 1297 and has been ruled ever since by the Grimaldi family. It has its own police force, postal system, flag and national holiday.
Monaco is well known for its tax haven status which creates much annoyance for France and other countries. Each year the King (currently Prince Albert) will select 30 new citizens from the many who apply. The cost of becoming a citizen is one million Euros, however once a citizen you pay no personal income tax, rather the counties income is derived from taxes on businesses, especially the famous casinos. Monaco apparently has a 100% literacy rate and 0% unemployment; they only have a few thousand citizens. Many people think of super rich celebrities and high rolling gamblers when they think of Monaco. It is a place for people who have so much money that any cost is irrelevant. During the grand prix stage held in Monaco (Monte Carlo race) we are told that boats have to pay one million Euros per day to moor at the dock. We certainly saw numerous expensive exotic cars during our visit.
Monaco has a famous love story; the fairytale romance between Prince Rainer and his Oscar winning wife Grace Kelly, when Grace died in a car accident Prince Rainer vowed to place a fresh rose on her grave every day until he died, and that he did until his death in 2005.
We didn’t have long in Monaco and no one wanted to pay over one hundred Euros to take a taxi back to the campsite so we just had a quick wonder around the famous casinos, the most well known is The Grand Casino where part of Casino Royale was filmed. We are told that to get in some rooms of The Grand Casino you need to prove you have at least twenty-five million Euros in liquid assets!