The Cote D'Azur Region, also called the French Rivieria, is where Provence and the Mediterranean meet, the result is breathtaking diversity and scope in terms of striking contrasts, abundant natural and cultural heritage and tastes.
Day 16 This became a free day for us ending with our final group in the evening. I started my day with a light breakfast and a bus ride to Monaco. The ride lasted 45 minutes and provided a beautiful scenic ride along the coast for just 3.90 euros. Using the downhill theory I rode to the last stop in Monaco and got off.
Meticulous landscaped gardens and fountains led to the famous Monte Carlo casino. I am not much at distinguishing types of cars but the ones parked in front of the casino were very serious. Electing not to go into the casino, I wandered around the back side and viewed the rear of the casino's facade from the Palais des Congres. An excellent view of the port yield yachts of all sizes, but mostly huge, crammed into their berths.. The city was having open house tours of the various yachts. I was stunned when I saw one with a lap pool on the deck! Skirting the harbor I wandered through Monaco Ville and to the Cousteau Aquarium and the Musee Oceanographique. This mult-story stone building was built in 1910 and houses the specimen collection of Prince Albert I. I had to tear myself away from the exhibits after several hours.
After brief walk through the Monaco Cathedral and viewing of the Princess Grace and Prince Rainier's tombs behind the alter, I strolled through the Palace Square passed the Prince's Palace on my way to the return bus. After a little difficulty in locating the the return stop, I soon boarded it for a ride of a lifetime. I was able to snag a seat in the front and hang on. It turns out this was the driver's last run of the day and he was off duty as soon as our bus arrived at the terminal in Nice. With pedal to the metal, he dodged bicyclists, motor scooters, cars and pedestrians. Occasionally braking, he multi-tasked the entire route - besides driving, talked to riders, validated tickets, made change, tallied his collection box. Twice he drove passed bus stops with waiting people and when he did stop if the people boarding did not get on fast enough he just closed the doors and we took off. Forty minutes later we pulled into the Nice terminal and the bus emptied. I turned around after I got off and the bus was already dark and locked up - the driver not in sight.
The evening dinner was an outdoor gathering with great conversation while dining on a fried sampler of zuccini, mushroom, anchovie, eggplant, tomato and calamari. It was followed by a main course of meat, potato and rataouille with lemon tart dessert. We had a final farewell toast in front of hotel overlooking the beach.
Day 17 I had a leisure breakfast and took the opportunity to bid farewell to several of the tour members as they departed. The day was spent in Nice - roaming miscellaneous sites before I departed to Barcelona. Today I would experience a light rain - a rare occurrence on the French Rivera.
Heading out I first strolled the Promenade des Anglais, followed by an elevator ride to the top of castle hill (Colline du Chateau) after a light snack in the park cafe I returned to spend time walking the back streets and shops of Nice. After a leisure final dinner in France of an avocado and shrimp cocktail, followed by mussels in cream sauce with frites, I returned to the hotel and grabbed my bags. A taxi soon delivered me to train station where I caught an overnight train to Barcelona. I spent 3 nights in a B & B near the Barcelona cathedral before flying home.