A Travellerspoint blog

Don't miss your turn off or you'll end up in Italy!

sunny 26 °C

Does 'Mediterranean Blue' refer to the colour of the sky or the water? They are both stunning

Foodie moment

Today we got to enjoy another 'Menu de Jour' (due to a super cheap day yesterday). For our entree we had Tartare de Saumon and Salade Nicois (Again!!) and 2 traditional dishes to Nice for our mains; Daube Nicois (Slow cooked beef stew with carrots, onions, red wine, tomato, herbs - served with pasta) and Filets de Rouget with Ratatouille (Fish fillets with eggplant, zucchini, capsicum in a tomato sauce). Of course we had the house red with it (4.50 Euros for 50cl!) and it was a lovely meal! Sorry there is no photo of the main as we dug straight in and completely forgot to take one till our plates were clean!

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Mark learnt the French word 'Glaces' very early on - it means ice cream. Whilst my favourite ice cream shop was in Annecy (lemon tart flavour!!!), Mark found his today. He had Choc Orange and Choc Chilli and i had Choc Orange and Bounty. The Bounty flavour was exactly like the chocolate bar, and Mark enjoyed the Choc Orange very much! The array of flavours was amazing, and we were intrigued (yet not tempted enough) by the savoury flavours such as tomato and basil, and black and green olive.

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Cultural moment

Many European drivers seem to have a dubious reputation as drivers - road rules seem to be less rules and more gentle suggestions. We've found that French drivers are not necessarily bad drivers but more selfish! Double parking is a regular occurance, even if that blocks off the whole lane of traffic. They will happily cut you off on a roundabout it they have found out they are in the wrong lane for the direction they want to travel in. They will pull out right in front of you on the motorway to pass a slow truck rather than wait for you to pass to pull out; even if you are travelling much faster than them and they can't match your speed. A couple of hair pulling moments, and maybe a couple of bad words have been uttered whilst Mark has been driving.

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Wow moment

The roads between Nice and Monaco are famous for Grace Kelly's scenes in a Hitchcock film, as well as her death in a car accident later. They also have spectacular views around every turn, so much so that you need to remember to keep your eyes on the hairpin turns whilst uttering 'Wow!' These roads are called the Grande and Moyen Corniche (Big and Medium Ocean road). The Grande Corniche runs at the top of the cliffs, whilst the Moyen is slightly lower down. The lookouts are spectacular (for a lack of a better word!), and whilst on the Grande Corniche you can go to the National Park which takes you even higher on the peaks, looking down over the glitz and glamour of the Cote d'azur from a dizzying height! One of the most amazing sights was the Alps... As you are looking over a beach sparkling in the baking sun, in the distance tower the Alps with snow capped tops - quite a surreal image!

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What we learnt today

Nice roads are ridiculous!!! That's the city, not the adjective! They are unforgiving to visitors, one missed turn has you heading 9km across the city with no escape. The roads sometimes have two 2 way streets next to each other, giving you the terrifying feeling of being on the wrong side of the road (we normally have this feeling anyway, but this situation is doubly confusing!). We even spent some time (legally) driving on the left! Needless to say, Mark will be happy once we drive our little 'Navi' out of the streets, avenues and motorways of Nice to more sensible roads!!

Posted by travellinglise 11:35 Archived in France Comments (1)

Cannes - Lifestyles of the Rich, Famous and Tanned!

sunny 26 °C

"So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?" - Christina Aguilera

Foodie moment

I had promised myself, as soon as I got to the coast, I was going to get myself some Moules et Frites (Mussels and Fries). First day in Cannes, and they were on my radar. Mark noticed them in a great restaurant that had a live band playing (more on them later). I chose Moules Mariniere, and the huge pile in front of me didn't disappoint! Biggest news of the night, Mark tried mussels for the first time and enjoyed them!

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One of the traditional dishes of Nice is the Salad Nicois. We've been trying to eat cheap for either lunch or dinner each day (we have breckie at the van) and often the kiosks are the best for this. As i was getting a bit sick of burgers, pizza and baguettes, I looked closer at the menu and found they served salad as well. The size and quality was amazing, and needless to say we have had a few more of them since! Plus Mark has also realised that he quite likes tuna!

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Cultural moment

As I mentioned earlier, the restaurant we chose for my Moules and Frites had a live band playing. They were a fun Latin style band with maracas, bongo drums, keyboard and vocals. It was somewhat background music for much of the night as most people enjoyed their dinners, but at around 9.30pm suddenly the vibe changed. The music got louder and the staff handed out Mexican hats, suddenly everyone was dancing and singing - Saturday night had got under way! It was interesting to see that what looked like a normal restaurant earlier became their bar/nightclub later on. The French see their meals as part of their Saturday night entertainment and the fun goes from there....

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Mark has been very excited to see that Rollerblading is still cool (making a revival?) in France. Down on the coast there are people cruising down the board walk, looking very nineties and baywatchesque (if you ask me), but I Mark is dying to try some moves.

Wow moment

We weren't sure what to expect with Cannes, as we knew very little about it but it was a really pretty place. The marina had its fairshare of yacht eye candy to check out, and the smell of money was in the air, but it was also very relaxed, down to earth and affordable, if you wanted. We managed to unintentionally rock up 4 days before the International Film Festival began, which was lucky as we got to see the preparations going ahead, but still managed to get in to accommodation and the city. Big tip, a lot of money has gone into 'The Gatsby' to do well at the festival- I'm guessing Leo and Tobey would have been hidden somewhere in the countless hotels that line the beach. A walk up to the Chateau on the hill gave us breathtaking views of it all, framed by the beautiful blue sky and ocean we have now begun to expect.

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What we learnt today

The majority of beaches in Cannes are private, owned by hotels and beaches, where you must be a customer to use them. We went to find the public beach 'near' our camp-site at La Bocca. Needless to say it was incredibly hard to get to as the giant cross country train lines run parallel to its, separating it from the town. To get past them, you must find an underpass and after some poor directions and an hour of walking, we finally made it there! Once there we realised the public beaches weren't the best beaches either, with a tiny strip of sand, and water which went from ankle deep to head height in one step. We were just happy to finally make it there, have a (warm) beer and soak up the afternoon sun!

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Posted by travellinglise 10:37 Archived in France Comments (1)

Walking on Sunshine in Aix en Provence

sunny 25 °C

"Hey, who turned on the sun?" - Lisa

Foodie moment

Hardly culinary genius but we love the soup machines found at service stations throughout France! 1.50 Euros and out pops a cup of hot, yummy soup; tomato, chicken noodle, curry, leek ... A business idea for Australian railway platforms - we think so!

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One Euro beers with compulsory (1 Euro) tapas purchase meant cheese, salami, Croque Monsieur... not complaining!

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Cultural moment

As soon as the sun goes down (9pm), suddenly the cafes and bars are empty. We assume they have all gone to dinner but have no idea where. As we wandered around looking for a fun place after our dinner (at a sensible 8pm) it was suddenly like a ghost town - well apart from all the other American and English tourists looking as confused as us!!

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Wow moment

A three hour drive from the Alps to the Riviera, and we finally find her - Madame Sunshine! As we passed through the toll booth to enter the peninsular, it was as if a light bulb had been switched on. Hot sun, pristine blue skies and smiles on our faces!

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Place des Cardeurs - we stumbled across this square late in the afternoon. A laid back vibe, cheap drinks, everyone soaking up the last of the days sun (don't worry, its the south of France -there's more tomorrow!) and tunes blasting...... Heaven! And we camped out here till the sun made its leisurely retreat!

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What we learnt today

Aix en Provence is a hay fever nightmare - Spring plus wind plus beautiful blossom trees has everyone sneezing and itching their eyes. Bring your Telfast!

Posted by travellinglise 12:24 Archived in France Comments (1)

Swiss Dreams are Made of Cheese! (who am I to disagree)

overcast 23 °C

"Can we live here?!" - Mark

Foodie moment

Gallettes are buckwheat pancakes which are cooked and served in a similar fashion to crepes. We found a place which specialised in them, and had an amazing dinner. Mark ordered a cheese, beef, onions, tomatoes and egg one. I decided to be adventurous and ordered goats cheese, tomato, egg, honey and herbs, although the savoury and sweet was different, it worked!! Yum!

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I had been eyeing off the people enjoying Fondue at each restaurant, but was avoiding it due to the price. Finally Mark convinced me to take the plunge, as there was no better place to have it than on the Swiss border. It was a mix of three cheeses, bubbling away in a saucepan. We have NEVER eaten so much cheese in one sitting, but we just couldn't stop (particularly Mark), the salad was a necessity to slightly neutralise the cheese, CHEESE, CHEESE! Bring on the cheese dreams!

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Cultural moment

The French traditionally have their dinner very late in the evening. They will often have an aperitif around 5/6 pm - which is a drink and a small snack, to keep themselves going, then out to dinner later. It is strange to see families eating their big meal for the night around 9/10pm. I'm surprised the children aren't falling asleep in their pizzas!

Wow moment

Lisa had raved about Annecy from the get go, because she had been there before when she was on exchange at 16. So I had high expectations, and she was nervous it wouldn't live up to them. But wow did it ever! First time in France since the Eiffel Tower that I was blown away by what I saw. The old town (where the best areas are) is set around a glacial lake a few kilometres across. Setting the backdrop to the lake are the French and Swiss Alps. Amazingly stunning, with snow on the highest peaks, even in spring. The architecture of the buildings are all traditional and a beautiful. A river from the lake runs through the middle of the town as canals, with restaurants and shops lining its banks. The most amazingly beautiful town so far!

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What we learnt today

The drive into Annecy was an unexpected surprise for sure. It took us through the Alps along bridges that spanned valleys 100m plus in the air, through mountains by the way of long tunnels and around valleys that took your breath away. It was a great drive, but it didn't come for free. The motorways in France all have tolls, but this was the biggest by far, 44 euro to be precise, ouch! Yet when you think about the amount of work involved in creating the roads we took and the time saved, it was worth it, even for just the views alone.

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Posted by travellinglise 11:43 Archived in France Comments (1)

Tasting Stars at Moet & Chandon

overcast 16 °C

"Come quickly! I am tasting the stars" - Dom Perignon

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Foodie moment

Our first foody moment is a bit of a sneaky one as it is fast food, but it was so good it can't be ignored. A butcher in Epernay creates these amazing gourmet burgers with mozerella, salad, herbs and sauces in a Turkish bread roll. Delicious! (and cheap)

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Today I thought we would give our bodies a small rest from cheese for our aperitif and instead we bought some Pate (or terrines). We got a gourmet pack of three flavours - terrine de canarde aux figues (Duck with figs) , Terrine de canard au piment d'espelette (Duck with chilli)and Confit de foie de porc aux poivrons rouge and olives (Pork with red capsicum and olives). Even Mark enjoyed them!

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Wow moment

Today we toured the famous cellars of Moet & Chandon. Hidden in 28km of underground passages are countless numbers of bottles of champagne in their various stages of maturity. The sheer number of bottles is overwhelming, but apparently there is still not enough to match demand! Our guide said there is a bottle of Moet & Chandon popped somewhere in the world every two seconds - and at 40 Euro a bottle that is basically a licence to print money

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Today we finally got to hire some bikes and go for a bike ride. The bikes were really cool, and it was fun zooming between the different Champagne houses. It was also a whole lot easier than walking, and our feet are thanking us now.

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What we learnt today

The tour of Moet & Chandon Champagne house taught us some amazing facts.

The Champagne bottle holds up to 6kg of pressure. In the olden days, 50% of bottles used to shatter and explode whilst sitting in the cellar - not a same place to be! Now its more like 1 in 10,000 bottles.

Dom Perignon perfected the art of making Champagne. He was a monk in town near Epernay and he was looking to discover how to turn ordinary white wine into something special!

There are a group of wine makers who test and taste the grapes, juice and wine at all stages. They decide the proportions of wines to use to make their imperial brand. They may include up to 100 different wines in a batch. Now you can see why it is so hard to replicate!

One of the stages of wine making is that the bottle is kept upside down on an angle, and worker needs to turn each bottle a quarter turn each day and increase the angle the bottle is on until it is eventually completely upside down. This is called riddling. This process is to collect up all the sediment in the champagne and move it into the neck of the bottle to remove it. The workers in Moet & Chandon turn at least 50,000 bottles each, each day!

Epernay is the perfect place for growing Champagne as it rains 200 days of the year - didn't really surprise us as it has rained SO much since we've been here, although the sun HAS just come through now at 6pm on our last night!

Posted by travellinglise 02:07 Archived in France Comments (1)

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