A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Day 21


Another brilliant day! We started with a later than usual breakfast and a leisurely stroll along the promenade. The beachfront at Cannes is geared for the sunbathers and the tourists, plenty of stalls, sun umbrellas, beach loungers and even beach volleyball courts. There were many sports cars parading along the streets and bronzed residents and tourists relaxing in the cafes. We had a very pleasant coffee in one the cafes and returned to the hotel in time to head to Nice. What an adventure this was! It all started at the walled city of Saint Paul.


Our tour guide took us through the narrow streets of this intriguing old city where painters and writers many centuries ago used to live and flourish. Although it was overloaded with other tour parties it was an impressive example of the older parts of Saxony and the early days of Nice when it was part of Italy.


We had lunch in the cafe by the old walls of the town and watched a group of Frenchmen playing pétanque in the dusty courtyard.


On the journey back down the hill towards Nice we caught some grand vistas of the Côte d'Azur. Out to sea there were a number of large yachts out cruising the coast. We saw Cap Ferrat where many of the rich and famous live. We passed Tina Turner's and Sir Elton John's impressive holiday villas. And we saw the road where Princess Grace of Monaco died over thirty years ago after failing to negotiate a bend in the road from her farm behind Nice.


Once we arrived back in Nice we walked through the old town to a restaurant for a meal. We had a special meal, including escargots, with plenty of vino to wash it down. It was a lovely evening and we were all very tired by the time we arrived back in the hotel in Cannes. A long but satisfying day!


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Day 22



What a big day! We left Cannes really early and were prepared to visit three countries in one day. We started in France but were soon across the border into the Principality of Monaco. This was a fabulous visit, full of surprises and some sights that were already familiar and famous. From the beautiful narrow streets to the fabulous harbour full of massive luxury yachts and boats it was a gem to explore. We saw the famous Formula 1 Grand Prix, we saw the world famous oceanographic museum of Jacques Cousteau, we spent time at the Royal Palace and the church where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married, we saw the statue of the first Grimaldi who disguised himself as a monk to gain entry to the palace 800 years ag and overthrew the rulers. And sadly we saw the tomb where Princess Grace is buried.


It was difficult to leave such a beautiful place, but it is not for the everyday man. The real estate prices are some of the highest in the world and a wee dingy would not look good alongside the boats in the harbour. However unemployment is nearly zero and crime is almost non existent. We could, I suppose, make some money at the beautiful Casino and settle in to the most beautiful harbour we have seen.


After Monaco we drove through some of the most picturesque scenery of the trip, past gorgeous bays and harbours and through a myriad of short road tunnels. We tried to keep a count but were distracted by the views. The trip was dotted with little villages and towns that were mainly growing flowers in massive glasshouses. The countryside was stunning as we each bay and town and there were many places you thought you would love to live. Generally the houses looked old and tired, however, so maybe that dream is not so good.
After a longish journey we reached the highlight of the day, the leaning tower at Pisa. Pisa itself was not impressive but the Tower is impressive, all I had hoped it would be. Despite the crowds of people we had a good afternoon.


By now it was getting late and we had to travel to the small country town of Montecatini. The town was a bit run down as was the hotel. But we had a good meal and went to bed tired after a big day.

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Day 23


Wow, what a day! We set off early full of excitement as we were going to Florence and Rome today. Arriving in Florence was a real treat. What a lovely city, full of the ancient buildings of the early Romans and the Renaissance and just a delight to travel around. Once we had a feel for the place we headed into the old town to find the highlights. Easily the most impressive was the statue of David by Michelangelo. What an awesome piece of art, just blows your mind to think someone could carve that from a piece of marble 500 years ago. We also heard the stories of political intrigue in Florence at the time between Michaelangelo and the Medici family. That added an intriguing context to the statue.


A stroll through Florence in the city centre was absorbing despite the crowds of bus tours like ours. We saw the churches and official buildings, especially the ones of the Renaissance period. In the main square we saw the statues of David (a copy), of Neptune, and the Medici. All impressive and a part of a wonderful part of history.


Our trip to Florence was memorable and was a highlight of this tour. It was also where Jenny found her leather bag! It is beautiful and a good price. She is very happy.
After Florence we had another long bus trip to Roma. We were all very excited and not disappointed. Our hotel is a great one, a huge improvement on Montecatini, but we had no time to mess around, we were back on the bus and into town. Our local guide, Carlotta, took us on a tour of the city centre. Our first place of interest was the Trevi Fountain. While this was impressive, we were disappointed that it was under repair and not operating. We moved on to the Pantheon which was just magic. It reminded us how good the Romans were at creating magnificent buildings. It was uncanny to think that we were walking where the Romans walked. And it was so beautiful and perfectly constructed. That was the highlight!


We walked the streets for another hour and saw many examples of Roman architecture and ingenuity. Our appetite was whetted to see more of this beautiful city. However, before that we had to enjoy a pizza in a local restaurant before it was time to go home to our hotel.


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Day 24


Best day yet, or at least I think so, it's hard to remember all the other days gone before! This was a special one. For anyone with an inkling of the Romans, the Roman Catholics, or the general history of Rome, this was awesome. We started at the Vatican in the morning. It is a tremendous place, full of intrigue and solemnity, and an obvious focus point for all who believe in Catholicism. And yet you don't need a religious belief to be blown away by the Cistine Chapel, the magnificent hallways, and the fabulous St Peters Basilica. The size, the art work, the intricate detail of the columns and ceilings and the magnificent marble floors made us all feel we were in a very special place. The Swiss Guards were almost humorous in their clown-like uniforms, supposedly designed by Michelangelo, but the security around the Vatican was very obvious and very real.


We were just getting over the magnificence of the Vatican itself when we exited onto St Peter's Square. This must be the best square in the world! It has been so well thought out in its design and it lends itself perfectly to the grandeur of the ceremonies surrounding the Pope. It wasn't hard to imagine the thousands gathered in the square and the Pope waving from his balcony.


It was really hot and humid today so we found shelter and some lunch in a restaurant just off the Square. Our next visit was perhaps the highlight of the trip so far, certainly in the top ten. The Colosseum! What a sight this is! On our way to this we passed and photographed many Roman buildings and ruins. These were great to see and put into the context of history lessons at school many years ago. Seeing the site of the Circus Maximus, the Palatine Hill with the Imperial Palace of Augustus and the Roman Forum nearby, a couple of old churches and an old viaduct was everything I thought it would be. But the Colosseum was something else! It's size, the quality of the remaining stone work, the way it had been designed and built, similar in a sense to Westpac Stadium in Wellington, was mind blowing. It just left us imagining the days of the gladiators, the lions, the cheering crowds of plebeians, and the Emperor and the senators sitting in their special seats watching the terrible scenes. I guess Gladiator has given us some idea of this but it just added to the story to see it personally.


At the end of this experience the Roman Gods took umbrage and threw an electrical storm at us. We got a good soaking on the way back to the bus and the streets of Rome were awash. In the evening we went out together for a Roman dinner with entertainment. What a final night in a beautiful city! The meal was designed to be typical Italian and was accompanied by plenty of wine and beer and an Italian pianist who was brilliant. We ended up entertaining the other guests with a conga line, some impromptu dancing, and a bit of singing. We left the other tour parties speechless, even though most of them thought we were Aussis. A small price to pay!


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Day 25


Today we sadly said goodbye to Rome and headed off to Venice. We travelled again through northern Italy and enjoyed the countryside dotted with villages on the hillsides. We passed through the Appenines which were not very high but we lush and green and displayed many agricultural activities. We arrived Venice mid afternoon and immediately set off to find the water taxis to take us into the canals.


It was fabulous cruising in the five taxis across the harbour and into the canals of the old Venice. We passed under beautiful old bridges, often lined with tourists, and were fascinated by the old houses and other buildings, many in a state of disrepair and obvious subsidence damage. It is a special city where everyone gets around by boat and the traffic problems at the intersections is similar to on the roads of Europe.


We disembarked from the taxis and walked St Marks Square. To us, this probably ranked only second to St Peters Square in Rome. The dominating tore, the distinctive architecture, and the mass of tourists gave it a very special atmosphere. All about were street hawkers, stalls and people taking photos and selfies. It was a bustling, hustling square and left a distinct impression on our memories.


Once we had had our fill of the square we made our way to where our hired gondolas were waiting. We were six to a gondola and two of them had a musician and a singer on board. Unfortunately the predicted thunderstorm arrived just as we were setting off. Although it didn't spoil the magic of a gondola ride through the narrow canals of Venice, we were a bit hunkered down under our umbrellas and fairly wet by the time we finished. The music fabulous, adding to the atmosphere of an Italian adventure and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Wet and a bit bedraggled we made our way back to our water taxi and headed back to the bus. After a hot shower and a change of clothes we enjoyed a pleasant meal together in our hotel and retired early for a well earned sleep.

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