Driving the French Riviera

September 24, 2013

Our car ride to Marseilles turned out to be a bit challenging. We had asked Hertz for a DETAILED map, but it turns out it wasn’t, and the set of directions we had to arrive at the city center left out a highway. As I was following the road signs and Theresa was navigating, the directions were contradicting the signs! After a few U-turns and an interesting way of paying toll when the machine wouldn’t take our credit card because American cards aren’t “chipped”, we eventually made it near the parking area. At this point, I turned on the Google maps app, also rather useless as it kept pointing me the wrong way down one way streets and taking me to the underground parking garage on the side where there wasn’t an entrance. At least, we drive on the same side of the road as France. That helped a little as I deciphered unfamiliar road signs in a strange language with mopeds zipping by in all directions. Needless to say, I was happy to finally be parked a few hours later than anticipated to begin our tour of the best cities to visit in the French Riviera!

Marseilles was pleasantly surprising to me. It was also much larger than I expected too. We began our day of walking around the port that was peppered with art; painted elephants, melting clocks, and statues with their torsos missing. Marseilles was definitely an artistic community. From the port, we could see the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde perched atop the hill. The Neo-Byzantine church with a Romanesque style crypt was built in 1864, and is considered the protector of the city.

As we strolled along, climbed the stairs, and rounded the bend, to our amazement we stumbled upon a new port with modern, glass museums and another Neo-Byzantine Cathedral, Cathedrale de la Major. This cathedral was close enough for us to tour. The intricate stone work, high painted ceilings, and gold embossments were magnificent. After touring the cathedral, we wandered around the modern museums enjoying the crisp air and the cerulean waters before we turned back toward the parking area.

From Marseilles we headed to Cannes. We had much better success getting to Cannes, except for paying the toll with our credit card again. We had to ask for the attendant who chewed us out in French. We just shrugged at her until she took our money. What were we supposed to do, reverse and go to a different toll booth? We found free one hour parking in Cannes. I parked across from a Bentley in our crappy rental car which was now overheating and flashed the low tire pressure symbol on the dashboard. It got a nice rest while we spent an hour watching the sun set across from the Ritz Carlton.

After a short walk along the boardwalk, we gave our car a little love and chugged twenty kilometers back to Nice and dropped the hunk of junk off at Hertz just a few blocks from our hotel. From all our walking in Nice yesterday, we had spotted a very popular restaurant, and made sure to try it tonight, Chez Jo L’Ecailler. Tables lined the mainstreet and the side street and yesterday they were all full! Fortunately, we arrived late in the evening and snagged one of two empty tables tonight. The choices on the menu were seafood, namely shellfish. We went with a preselected mix…some of the items I had never heard of in English, much less French: 8 oysters, 4 shrimp, 1 Palourde, 1 Amandes, 1 Clam, 1 Paire, small grey shrimp, small sea snails, and regular sea snails. I was surprised to like the snails the best, though I felt a little bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when one of them went flying…”Slippery little suckers”.

IMG_2074 dinner

The restaurant was in the area of Nice we loved so much, and we really weren’t ready for the night to end, thus we decided to search out dessert at L’ecurie again. To our dismay, it was getting late and the restaurants were closing down, so instead we stopped off at Pub Oxford. We watched some soccer and tried some interesting beer, a Tango which was beer mixed with Cherry flavor or something. It didn’t take too long to meet a bunch of Frenchmen. They invited us to their table. Matthieu was studying and working in between Nice and another city but was from Germany. Fabian was from Nice. Another young man owned a video company. I can’t remember all of their names. They were all much younger than us, but fun and they knew enough English to speak with us. When we told them we didn’t know French, they tested a few words on us, and then started laughing. I can only imagine what crude things they said! What a way to end our last night in Nice…ETB

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