15.07.2011 21 °C
Day 7 European Tour
We left Florence behind in search of beautiful south of France. After a long drive through Genoa, we crossed into the Principality of Monaco. Making our way into Monaco we drove along the main straight, it isn’t that wide, incredible to think Formula 1 cars are allowed through there. We got off the bus and made our way up to the main square, walking part of the Formula 1 circuit. It didn’t take long to get a sight of an exotic car. The main square was a filled with Ferrari’s, Bentley’s, Porsche’s and Aston’s. After filling up all the cameras with photos and videos of cars, it was time for Nice.
Going along the Bassa (lower) Corniche road we passed many towns including Menton, San Remo, Antibes and arrived at Nice mid-afternoon. The coast around Nice was spectacular, the water was a deep blue and the beaches were packed. It didn’t take long for us to decide it was time for a swim. We quickly realised though why Australian beaches are so good. The French call them pebble beaches, I call the rocks, and sharp rocks at that. After fighting for a spot on the shore, it was then the challenge of walking bare foot to the water for a swim. The water was warm but very salty and got deep very quickly. The final challenge was getting out, with the rocks digging in and the current pulling you out, it was not a pretty sight. Many of the Russians that were there would leave their shoes at the shore line, then when it came time to get out, would shout at their partners to throw them their shoes so they could walk out.
Day 8 European Tour
Day 8 of the tour didn’t start til 1 so there was time for an early swim and a look through the shops for souvenirs from the Cote d’Azur. On our way to dinner, taking the Alta Corniche road, we stopped at a perfumery where all the brands go to make their products. After Angela and Isabella stocked up on perfumes, face and hand creams, it was time for dinner at La Bergerie, opposite the house of former Juventus and French footballer, David Trezegeut. The restaurant was perched on top of the mountain overlooking the whole of the coast. Snails were on the menu, so Angela being the bravest of us all decided to be the guinea pig. Apparently they tasted like tripe. They must not have been too bad because nobody was throwing up.
Day 9-11 European Tour
We left Nice and backtracked our way towards Genoa to make our way to Zermatt in Switzerland. It was a visual feast up and over the Simplon Pass. Zermatt is a car free zone and we needed to swap the bus for a taxi ride from hell along a one way road with 2 way traffic and then onto electric taxis into beautiful Zermatt. It was threatening to rain all day but it waited until our walking tour through the town to come down. After the walking tour it was time for our fondue feast, cheese followed by meat and then a chocolate fondue with fruit. The Matterhorn overlooks the village but was shrouded in clouds for our short stay so we were unable to see the summit.
Next its onto Andermatt via the Glacier Express.
Day 12-13 European Tour
It was still raining when we left for the train station to catch the world famous Glacier Express. The ride through the Alps was hampered by the low cloud and rain but it was still an awesome experience crossing gorges with rivers several hundred metres below.
The sun was shining albeit briefly when we arrived in Andermatt 2.5 hours later and we headed for Staserhorn to ascend the mountain on the funicular and cable car. The mountain was shrouded in mist which provided a new vista every few minutes as the clouds moved across. The restaurant has a revolving floor which made for a dizzy lunch! We then headed to Lucerne for a lake cruise and then free time in the city centre. It was raining cats & dogs by this stage so we had to move from shop to shop by running and then hiding under verandahs or canopies. The Swiss like their watches and almost every second shop sells them. The tourist trap is a shop called Bucherer this place sells everything from Rolexs to Swiss cow bells and was wall to wall with Japanese & Spanish tourists by the time we got there. We only wanted to pick up our free souvenir Rolex spoons but you had to literally fight your way through because the Japanese do not have any concept of personal space. Switzerland has a fantastic freeway system with tunnels to enable tavel during winter when it snows. We travelled down the Devils Gorge to get to Staserhorn. It was an incredible set of switchbacks (hairpins) and tunnels in what seemed an almost vertical descent down the mountain. The rain was torrential all day but it was still fairly warm (luckily) but it did not dampen our spirits but that cannot be said for some of our fellow travellers.
Next its onto gay Paris!
Day 14 European Tour
We arrived in Paris on Bastille Day lucky for us because that meant no traffic in the city. The Parisians were out in force lining the River Seine and any other vantage point to see the Eiffel Tower light show and fireworks. We had a very French dinner on the Champs Elysees before we joined 896 other travellers on a river cruise to see the all the famous sights, Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Pont De Alexander III, Pont de Concorde, Notre Dame. It was a fantastic way to finish off the day.
Today we climbed the Eiffel Tower to see the spectacular views from it and to be chased by Marochini selling 5 eiffel tower keyrings for 5 euros and gypsies with a hearing problem and couldn't speak but wanted 10 euros? It was really sleazy and I walked around holding my bum bag with both hands. I couldn't wait to get out of there. When we arrived at the Palais Versailles it was just as bad but they were not allowed inside the Palais fence so it was only a couple of hundred metres that we had to shake our heads and not make eye contact. The Palais Versailles gardens are amazing and so is the palace itself but the amount of people trying to work their way through the rooms was ridiculous and by the end I gave up on the guided tour and just wandered around. We then stop for an hour at the Arche D'Triumphe and ate some pastries we had bought earlier and watched the Paris traffic work its way around the arch. The rules here are give way to the right when you are on the roundaout crazy because they drive on the right but it seems to work. We even saw a couple of idiots trying to cross the road to get to the Arch lukily I didn't bet my son they would be killed becuase the freanch drivers hjust went around them. BTW there is an underground pass to get to Arch.
Tonight we go to a Parisian cabaret and then our tour comes to an end