I arrived at about 4pmish in Nice, again in the heat, to an absolutely fantastic hostel (thank goodness! about time for one) called Villa Saint Expurey. Its a converted monastery up the hill behind Nice, and has such perks as free internet, a free and very good breakfast (freshly baked bread every morning!), a laundry service where they wash and dry your clothes for you for only 5 euro (to do it at a laundromat costs about 8), and have meals and a bar available each night, with amazing pizzas for 5.50 euro, and drinks for 1euro, which is about as cheap as you're going to get a dinner. Hence they're one of the highest rated hostels in the world. I dont think I was in the best of rooms, being for the first two nights in a 6 bed dorm right by the very noisy bar/common room/restaurant building, which was the old chapel, and the third night in a 13 bed dorm, which is never ideal, but the services of the place, the genuine helpfulness of the staff (mostly kiwis, aussies, americans and canadians were staying there, which meant the reception staff and most people at the hostel were speaking in English, yay!!!!), and the great people I met, more than made up for that.
On arrival, you're given detailed maps showing Nice, plus the surrounding area, including detailed instructions on which buses and trains go where, how long they take, how much they cost, and suggested day trips or itineraries, which was marvellous. The maps also acted as kind of a beacon, you'd be standing on the bus feeling a little unsure where you were supposed to be getting off, when the person next to you, also looking q little worried, would bring out their map, and after a "Hey! You're staying at Villa Saint Expurey!", Voila, an instant friend.
Day 1, I went on a day trip to Monaco. I went on the bus, via Eze, which was a pretty little town built high on a cliff, with little boutique cafes, a marvellous looking michelin starred restaurant (when I come back to Europe with someone, I'm dragging them to a Michelin star restaurant, I've seen 2 now, and been sorely tempted) and spectacular views of the coastline.
At the Eze bus station, I met three Americans who were from my hostel (again, the tell-tale map and directions sheet, in this case they spotted me frowning over it) and we travelled to Monaco together. Monaco was spectacularly over-the-top... there seemed to be an overabundance of fast cars, expensive houses, and huge boats... a reflection of the tax haven Monaco has created with its very successful casino. After a goggle at the casino, the boats and the cars, we left the downtown area, as it was pretty chaotic as they were setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix that weekend, so there was scaffolding with temporary seating, road barriers, tyre walls, security checks and sponsor signage going up. It was quite a strange experience to see all that and to realise they actually race through the town itself; must be cool to watch.
I then went up to the palace at the top of the hill for amazing views, a wander through the a-little-too-perfect palace old town (and its billion tourist shops) and checked out the guards at the palace, though if you even went beyond the ropes within 10 metres of them you got yelled at by a scary official policeman guy (no, I didn't get told off, but I saw a couple of others get an earful... and since the noise echoes around the palace square, you're pretty much getting publicly humiliated in front of 1000 tourists).
On the way back to Nice, I stopped in at Villefranche-sur-mur, a picturesque little fishing village that actually still felt like a working village, with a daycare centre, dance school and locals going about their evening business, unlike a lot of the villages on the tourist route. After a wander around the old town, I went and sat on the beach, a rocky little bay that was nonetheless pretty, quiet, filled with locals, and had lovely water... all very frustrating as I hadn't brought my togs. Never mind, I had a wade, a chillout, and enjoyed the fact that I was swanning around the South of France...
The port in Monaco, with the big, big boats, and the palace on the hill behind.
Highrolling...The hotel next to the Casino, with yet another sports car in front (Monaco was full of them).
A view from the hill overlooking Monaco.
Me from the castle ramparts looking down at the view.
Monaco Palace guards, in the white you seem to see everyone in the Cote D'Azur wearing.
Monaco Grand Prix setup. It was 4 days before the Monaco Grand Prix, so you can see all the grandstands set up and the advertising around, and the roads being readied for it. Would have been amazing to be there, but the country was chaotic enough 4 days out...
Not one of the expensive sports cqrs I saw, but... Dad! Can I have it?!!!
The pretty bay at Villefrance-sur-mur
Villefrance-sur-mur is very pretty... and very quiet... I heard later that it tends to attract the older generation...
The amazing bourganvillia that's everywhere in Provence and the Cote D'Azur
My tired feet at sunset on Villefranche-sur-mur
Sunset, looking back at the village at Villefranche-sur-mur