Toulon, France:

We arrived in Toulon France today at 8:00 am. We have backtracked on this trip and this city is actually the beginning of the French Riviera or Cote d’Azure as they call it in France. The furthest to the Northwest that we’ve been on this trip since Marseille.  We are on a tour called Le Castellet and Sanary Sur Mer. We will drive to Le Castellet which takes about 45 minutes. Then, we’ll drive to Sanary in about 30 minutes and check out the sites there.

Margaret still wasn’t feeling too confident about her condition to leave the room on a tour so I went to La Veranda for a quick breakfast and stopped by the coffee shop to get her a hot English Breakfast tea on the way back to the room. She tasted the tea and thought there was something wrong with the hot water so I went back down and had the barrista make another for me with his hot water rather than that from the automatic machine. It was acceptable. She had decided she was staying back and would meet me at 1:00 for the afternoon tour.

The ship had docked about a half hour late because the pilot boat was late. Each port a pilot boat comes out and a guy gets off while our ship is moving and jumps aboard.  He goes up to the bridge and helps guide the ship into the port.  I enjoy watching this process happen in most ports.  As I was watching on the walking deck 12 I could see the ship was dead in the water for at least 20 minutes waiting for the pilot to arrive. So, there was a mass of people in the theater waiting for the their numbers to be called and I was number 12…the last one. No bother, we just left 30 minutes late but still managed to get back to the theater on time.

The bus drove on somewhat windy (or is that winedy when it is driving through vineyards) roads although not nearly what we had on our trip around Monaco. Lots of terraced hillsides with olive trees and vineyards. This was Bandol territory, a part of Provence that makes what many feel is the best Rose in the world. I would certainly agree. After the 40 minute bus ride we arrived at the hilltop, walled city of Le Castellet. Another walk up a hill, through the entrance gates that once had a gate to stop the Saracen hoards from entering, and up more hills lined with shops and cafes. Painters, antiques, soaps, perfumes, bakeries and other such stuff were intermixed with locals selling all types of stuff, which appeared to be their houses in what seemed to be a never ending parade of garage sales although there wasn’t a garage in sight.  I had to wonder how some of the people, who had their selling spots nowhere near a house how they got all their wares up the hill to areas right outside the hilltop church. The views from the top were rather spectacular, looking out over vineyard after vineyard in the valley.

The church was built right next to the palace and was interesting in that it had two churches in one with a gothic one running parallel and open to another Roman style church. Pretty basic as churches go in these parts but still beautiful. After viewing some artists working on their paintings, one who does almost all his work with pallet knives, I decided to walk around the entire city quickly, then doubled back to a café I had seen at the beginning of our walk that had some water misters to keep the heat down. I ordered a latte and did some people watching in between the mists that emitted every 30 seconds. A nice relaxing time.

As always, the time to depart came quicker than it should have and I headed back down the hill to the bus and arrived right on time at 11:10, with two people still to come.  Par for the course on bus tours.  We drove down the hill towards Sanary Sur Mer (Sanary by the Sea), an ancient seaside town. It took only 15 minutes to arrive to the coast, with the famous (to me anyway) city of Bandol on a peninsula just to the north and sandy beaches lining the shore to the south towards Sanary, a town that originally had just 27 fisherman. They used the small colorful boats I had seen having the regatta on our first stop in St. Tropez and, in fact, I saw several of the very same boats tied up to the dock that I’d taken pictures just a couple days ago.  Pretty cool!  Stepping off the bus there was a covered market that takes place every day of the week in Sanary. Beautiful, well-priced vegetables, fruits, olives, meats and flowers and a few fishermen that had small stands next to their boats with fish so fresh their mouths were still gasping for air!  They were starting to pack them in bags, probably taking them to local restaurants at the end of the open-air market time.

I walked to the end of town to the old church and stuck my head in a service that was just finishing mass. The air smelled of incense and small children (the children didn’t actually have a smell) were starting to line the ocean-front exit to the church. I was then blessed with witnessing a procession of, first, small children being cajoled by sisters dressed in beige and white gowns, then older boys and girls, the priest carrying a fancy cross with lots of gold and jewels and with a canopy carried over him by four men, then the rest of the congregation, all singing what must have been popular church songs in French. They walked a few blocks down the waterfront to a raised pagoda where they sang some more songs and the priest gave a short sermon.

I found a café right next to where this was taking place and had some nice local Rose and some green olives.  It was good and the people watching was even better.  More relaxed, I paid my check and walked through the market again back to the bus. Margaret called on the way back and we agreed to meet at 1:00 pm in La Veranda.

Turns out I walked into the café at exactly 1:00 and found Margaret on the back deck already eating her lunch. I loaded up my plate and by 1:15 had downed it all along with a glass of Rosé.  Margaret wasn’t drinking which was not a good sign. Although she looked fantastic she said that she wasn’t up for a bus ride, which wasn’t surprising. The afternoon tour was going to be almost a repeat of what I had done in the morning except it was just to another hilltop village so I didn’t need to go, especially without her. I gave my tickets to a couple I found heading down to the tour and asked them to turn ours into the tour guide so they wouldn’t wait for us.

We both picked out some hard copy books in the library, I picked up an espresso from the barrista and we headed back to the room for a relaxing time reading our books and taking a nap. The air was pretty still on a lazy, warm day on our deck where we both fell asleep. When I woke up I went inside and worked on writing this post, read a bit more and before you know it, it was 4:00 pm.

We had an invitiation to have dinner with the Staff Captain but Margaret had already cancelled it. So, it will be Compass Rose by ourselves again tonight, hopefully, having a Pink Flower with Mihaela before dinner if Margaret is feeling up to it. It really is a shame that she has been sick so much of this cruise. I think she has only gotten off the ship two days out of the 11 days we’ve been on the cruise so far!  Not much a vacation for her.  But then, maybe it has been more of a vacation for her than going on constant bus rides that I’ve been subjected to?

I would guess that this may be the end of our going on cruises for quite a while as it seems that she has reached her limit for group tours and maybe that has been the cause of her illnesses?  It might be time to rent a house in Provence and take day tours on trains into the surrounding areas once in a while?  Going into town in the morning to gather up fresh vegetables, meats and fish, buying local Rose for $6 a bottle and making our own meals in a nice farm house?  Doesn’t sound so bad really.  The best part of the cruise for her by far was the trip to the Provence countryside.

One thing’s for sure. All of these seaside cities we have visited are very similar when you are taking day trips to them.  The early founders of these cities intentionally built them with similar architecture because that’s what they liked, the weather is the same and you could reach almost all of them within an hour train ride for probably $5.  So, having a house inland a bit would be a great way to do what we have done from a cruise ship.  The rest of the trip would validate this opinion.

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St. Tropez, France:

We’re back in St. Tropez today.  Margaret was still having pretty serious issues while I was feeling better. We ordered a Coke and Ginger Ale along with some tea, cottage cheese and bananas to try to settle our stomach. It worked for me but it looks like Margaret will be in bed most of the day. So much for getting Margaret some nice custom-fitted sandals in St. Tropez – oh well. There’s always next time. Actually, good chance that there won’t be but there must be custom sandals elsewhere.

In the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth dealing with the tender ride to go to shore so I just read my books, watched a couple movies and relaxed.  It would be nice to just call it a sea day but we all know better.

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Cannes, France:

We’re back in Cannes. Woke up feeling a little off. About 10 am we both took off in the tender to go for a walk looking for lampshades. It was getting hot. Walked through the vegetable/flower market, walked in and out of several shops that looked like they could have lampshades but no luck.  I can guarantee you that we were the only people on the ship looking for French lampshades in Cannes.

Walked down to the water just the other side of the Cannes Film Festival building to check out the white conical temporary retail stores on the water which we had been told the other day were antique dealers. Unfortunately, they weren’t operating on Friday…they were just empty shells.  Ugh!  It was hot and now we had to walk back to where we just were.

We saw there was nother market a few blocks away so we doubled back and went through a flea market type of market that also had a smaller vegetable, flower and fish market. Found a shop that actually had some lampshades but they were made in India and probably not the right size. But, at least we had found some.

Had lunch at a nice café where we found another waiter (cute and young guy) that spoke very good English. We could get spoiled with this! With lunch we had a nice bottle of Provence Rosé.   Walked back along the harbor, past the Film Festival buildings and then a few long blocks further to the harbor and the tender. Unfortunately, a couple tour busses had just come back so the tender was already full and another 100 or so people were lined up. It was hot and we were already sweaty. After about 20 minutes we got loaded onto fully packed tender and, after we had gone the 15 minutes back to the ship we had to wait another 20 minutes for the tender in front of us to unload and load. Ugh!

We made it back to our room, took showers, hung out for a bit and then got dressed for dinner at Compass Rose at 8:00 pm. At that point both of us didn’t feel very well but we stayed for dinner anyway. Nothing tasted good and we had both lost our appetite so we left after about 20 minutes and went back to the room. The rest of the night went downhill and let’s just say, it didn’t end well. Both of us had the same symptoms and we were up quite a few times during the night taking care of things.  Hopefully, things will improve by morning.

I thought I took more pictures as we walked around but I guess I didn’t.  This is all I got.

 

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After we took the bus tour to Eze and Nice we had lunch and I decided to take a hike up to The Rock part of Monaco. While I didn’t take the tour of the museums I did see all the famous buildings including the palace and walked a number of the narrow streets that looked just like all the other old towns around the French Riviera. Lots of shops selling trinkets, Formula 1 gear and little cafes everywhere. I also saw a mini-changing of the guards at the palace!

Another lifeboat drill took place at 5:15 pm (oh boy!) and then dinner at 8:00 at Signatures. In between we went to O.L. and had a couple Pink Flowers and some tuna appetizers. Later we will suspect that these made us sick 24 hours later but we’ll never know.  We found out later that Milhaela had a couple and she didn’t get sick so the Mariner is off the hood on this one.

Amy and Matt left today and are staying overnight at a nice suite at the Fairmont.  They are taking a helicopter tomorrow to Nice airport for their First Class flight home.  We will miss Amy and Matt but hopefully will meet another nice couple and we know we will see them soon at our house in Carmel.  And, I’m looking forward to working with Matt on improving this WordPress site.

 

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Monte Carlo, Monaco:

This morning we arrived in Monaco which, for most practical purposes is also Monte Carlo. This is debarkation/embarkation day for those who aren’t staying for the next leg and the newbies just coming on-board. We have a bus tour that is an overview of Monaco and leaves at 8:15.  Margaret decided to go today which is great! We had breakfast at La Veranda with a beautiful view of Monaco and Monte Carlo and the huge yachts in the harbor. Another gorgeous day although it looks like it will be a bit warm. After breakfast we waited in the theater for all the departing guests to be called. Our numbers were finally called and we headed off the ship and found our bus quite close by.

The exciting thing is that Margaret was well enough to go with me today!  And, it turned out to be the best tour so far although parts were duplicates of things I had already seen.  But, not a problem.

This is a very interesting area in that Monaco, built on what is called “The Rock” is, in essence, a separate principality with it’s own royalty, as most people know.  The principality is subdivided into 3 municipalities with the first being what is a walled city with the palace called Monaco – Ville, which includes many government buildings, an aquarium, a typical medievel city with housing, retail stores and cafes. The next is Monte Carlo, which is, in essence an adjacent city, the principle residential and resort area.  Finally, there is La Condamine the southwest area including the harbor area where we were docked. These areas were merged in 1917.  One thing I’m constantly surprised at is how recently a lot of these areas were still fluid and changing hands.  Makes you realize that other parts of the world could still be in flux, even today.  Think Ukraine.

Turns out that this tour was about 3.5 hours and, in addition to covering Monte Carlo and Monaco, it would also go up to the medieval village of Eze, all the way north to Nice, and then return via the road above shore to Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Beaulieu and back to the port. The roads were narrow and windy (a strange word in writing…meaning curvy, not having lots of wind and making me a bit car sick), the tour was very interesting and the views were incredible.  It would definitely be worth spending at least a couple hours in Eze as it was the best example of hilltop villages that I saw on this trip, and I saw a lot of them.  A must do if you ever go here as it is very close the Monaco.

As we headed out of Monte Carlo you could see the stands were still in place from the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 car race that had taken place just a couple weeks earlier.  The race is sort of like the golf tournament that took place every year in front of our former house in Montreux (Reno).  It takes about 3 months each year to put everything in place and then take it all apart.  It must be really, really good financially for the city to put up with that in such a tiny place as I was totally against the golf tournament in Montreux which, when fully analyzed, actually lost money each year.

Back on the ship we had a very nice lunch at Compass Rose, Margaret headed back to the cabin for a nap and I went for a hike up the hill to Monaco – The Rock. This will be continued in the next post.

 

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