Sunday, May 23, 2010

French Riviera travel notes - Monaco, Biot, Nice, Cannes, Antibes

Getting to Eze from Nice
This is the view from the bus, #82 from the bus station in Nice to Eze.  I forget how often this bus travels.  My guess is every 30 minutes, possibly every hour.  It's 1 Euro!  Pretty much, all buses were 1 Euro, with the exception of the airport express which was 4 Euro, although we could have taken the regular bus in Nice, to the airport.  Avoid the taxi if at all possible.  It's really not much more convenient, and costed me about 35 Euro to go about 4 miles.  The bus took about 20 minutes to arrive in Eze.  From there, hike up to the town, and pay the 5 Euro to get to the top, which is through a really nice garden.  The view is, well, what you see below.

This was a beautiful stop.  The scenery is spectacular.  If you want to shop, we found spices, soap, and perfumes.  Also paintings, pottery, clothes, and other local crafts.  An awesome half-day.  It's about halfway between Monaco and Nice.

I know we didn't do this town justice, in a regular day.  We were there during the final Gran Prix racing day, which of course meant there were people, and concession stands everywhere.  So, we got here by train.  Again, exceptional views along the water.  The train is sweet.  Very comfortable.  6 Euros each way.  It's about a 40 minute trip from the train station in Nice.  I think the train travels at least once per hour.  It makes about 5-6 stops along the way.  We climbed the rock up to the old part of the city, hoping to see some of the races.  As you can see in this picture looking out on the water, they put up temporary metal barriers so you couldn't just view the race from above...dang.  The yachts.  Oh, the yachts.  My camera battery ended at this point.

We went to Cannes by train.   It's a short ride from Nice, maybe 30 or 40 minutes.  Take the train from the station downtown.  You can also take a bus. I think the bus takes a little longer, and can be more crowded.  The train is a treat, and only 6 Euros.  The bus is 1 Euro.  We were here during the Cannes Film Festival, making it super crowded.  Lot's of people well dressed, and fine cars taking them around.  We watched a red carpet event for a while.  I was bored stiff, but hey, I was there.  Everyone asks - did you see anyone?  Yes, but I don't know who.  hehe, smart@#*.  Anyways, we had dinner on the beach.  The food was quite good, and I think about double the price of a good meal, in one of the many nice looking places all around the streets, tables outside everywhere.  It turned into a fun day, although not typical around here, without the festival.  The bus heads back to Nice about once an hour.

Pascal Guyot, Glass Blower

I love this town.  It's an old hilltop village, turned craftsman, artisan enclave. It's a little off the beaten track, so, although a tourist attraction, not as heavily trafficked as some other places.  While we were here, it was really light, partially because the restaurants all close between lunch and dinner.   I went here to see the glass blower we saw last time we were here.  His name is Pascal Guyot.  His wife runs the connected retail shop, and speaks some English, while he works in the shop, shown.  You can see it through an open window at the street.  Here's Pascal and me, with the pot I got.

Lisi Lopez, Jeweler
It was the quiet period between lunch and dinner, and the door was closed, but not locked here.  I had a glimpse of some of the pieces from the window, and loved what I saw, so tried the door, and it was unlocked, so I went in, sort of by this woman next to me.  She followed me in, and I started looking at cases, and totally loving the designs, and started to realize the person who followed me in worked there, and soon I discovered, she was the jeweler, Lisi Lopez.   Apparently, she used to live and work in Paris, then moved to Biot a couple years ago, and just moved to her present main street location a couple weeks prior.  Anyways, the more we talked, the more I liked her, and her designs.  She shared how the asymmetrical design fits the fingers better, and is more comfortable.

To get to Biot, we took the 200 bus, from Nice to Antibes, city center.   Another beautiful old, French Riviera town.  After some water and beer at a local pub, we found the bus station just a block from the city center, where we caught the bus to the Biot, old town.  Both are 1 Euro bus fares.  Both are totally easy to catch.  Be careful leaving Biot, as the bus only travels about 1 per hour.

We spent most of our week in Nice, but mostly nights, going to find restaurants, around the main shopping area.  My favorite, by far was a recommendation by my friend, Doug, who I re-met at the convention we were both attending.  We used to work together 10 years ago, and 3-4 years ago, the company he moved to was acquired by Oracle.  Mine, just a few months ago, so, we were working together, again.  The favorite restaurant is called L'Universe.  Crazy good food, awesome atmosphere, and fun staff, and nice artwork on the walls.

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