11 February ’05, Friday. Fort Carré, Antibes It’s amazing how fast the weeks go by… We have kind of slowed down our “journey” since arriving in Antibes, so there isn’t the constant “new” ancient sites that I can cover in the journal. Now that I’ve said that, we did take in Fort Carré in Antibes. We have walked by it a number of times since we arrived, and finally on Wednesday, we decided it was time. We walked almost completely around it before we found the entrance and when we did, we found that we had to have a guided tour. It would be another 15 minutes before the next one. It was a fast 15 minutes before the young lady came out and directed us through the gate. As it was, Louise and I were the only people on the tour… another good reason to travel in the winter… Our tour was nice, but short…(I think she had a date waiting for her in the office that she wanted to get back too). The “Fort” was really an interesting piece of architecture. It was built on a small peninsula just across a small inlet from Antibes. In the center of the structure was a chapel, living quarters for the officers and non-officers, and the tower for the church, clock, and pigeon quarters.
This was a circular building of 3 floors. The rest of the fort was built into a 4 star “bastion” spreading out from the center. Long before Christianity, this was a place of a Roman cult with a temple dedicated to the god Mercury. As Christianity spread, this became the site for one of the first churches of the area. In 1550, King Henry II had the fort built for the defenses of the area and was completed in 1588 under Henry III. It was never fired upon, but did have some interesting “defensive” architectural designs. One was to keep the rats from coming off the waterfront and infesting the interior, and the other was the slope and the angles of the exterior walls. As far as the rats, there was a small rounded protrusion that came out from the walls about ¾’s of the way up that the rats couldn’t climb over. The other, being the slope and angles of the walls, were built so that when a cannon ball was to hit the wall, it would glance off the wall with no damage to the structure. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it never got tested… Other than that, we have stayed close to home, with long walks through the local parks and around the village.
8 February ’05, Tuesday. Yesterday we kind of stuck around the van. Most of the time we spent with a good book, and then we both felt we needed to get out for awhile. We decided to walk down to the corner and walk through the park and then up the road a little farther to the grocery store, I was looking for some peanut butter. Louise wanted to feed the ducks at the pond, but when we got there, they had a sign that said “Do Not Feed The Ducks”, so we just watched them beg…what a sorrowful sight, even if these were the fattest ducks you have ever seen…hell, someone was feeding them… Our walk to the store for my peanut butter proved to be fruitless. We’ve searched quite a number of stores without results. Getting back to things “of interest” here and there: Sidewalks…they are often non-existent, or when we do have them, they are very narrow with broken concrete, trees growing right out of the middle and haven’t been trimmed to keep the branches above waist height, cars parked on or across them, bicycle lanes take up 90%, and they come to an end right in the middle of the block….crosswalks…France is the first country since Germany, that traffic will stop if you make a motion to cross at a crosswalk, but in the other countries such as Turkey and Greece, you have no rights as a pedestrian, except if you get in the way of a car, you get hit…
Well anyway, today we unhitched Bumble Bee from the tent again and headed off for Grasse. It was about a 40 minute ride out into the hills overlooking the Mediterranean. Grasse is one of the many hilltop towns that are so plentiful in this part of France. Not only does it have a medieval history behind it, it is famous world wide as the city of perfume. Some of the hilltop towns / villages are just “charmingly” small, but Grasse was a town of good size. Fact is, we got turned around by road construction a number of times, and had the distinct “pleasure”??? of going up and down it’s hills many more times than I would want again… Yes, it is a picturesque town, charming in many ways I’m sure, but…
We opted not to stop by one of the many perfume companies, as we had already been introduced to the manufacture of perfume in Egypt, and we still smell like it. We were also looking for The Route de Napolêon, that retraces history, and as they put it; “They did it on foot, so, do it by car”…we took the challenge and did it…by car. It was a very pretty drive into the mountains high above the villages, cities, and the Med far below. Fact is, we even got into the snow again. But the view, beautiful. The unfortunate part of the trip was the weather was heavy overcast and the haze over the valleys just didn’t give us a good photo opportunity.
6 February ’05, Sunday. If I hadn’t asked her if she wanted to go out for a walk, I would have called it a “Forced March”… I was thinking of a nice (little) walk, but no, she wanted to take on a full fledged, all out, hike…it took over an hour, just one way, and we’d been there before !!! Being Sunday, there weren’t a lot of stores open, so at least we saved a little money for another day. Our destination was to find a couple of large “towers” we had seen from a distance on a return trip from Antibes, but because of the wind and cold of the day, we dispensed of that destination. All we did do, was find the internet café and check in with the latest news from family and friends, and then a little walk through “Old Town”.
I have to also tell you about the fact that anything that is a “left-over” from a previous meal is sacred…it gets made into a soup. May it be said though, Louise makes the best soups that could pass beyond your lips. She makes “magic” with all those left-over pieces. Today it was left-over sauerkraut, which she put together with mushroom soup base and sausage….it was wonderful !!! I must say, I am fed quite well, this is only a small sample of what she puts together. I wanted to start a new paragraph for this…
We had heard and read, that in France, you’ve got to watch the sidewalks very closely…they don’t “Poopy Scoop” and there is dog shit everywhere…”WATCH OUT !!! Another thing of interest ???…When a man has to go, he has to go…and I mean he will just stop his car right on the sidewalk, walk down a hill of grass a little bit (still very much in sight), and go…or when he is out walking with his wife, he may find a fence just off the sidewalk and …well… Just a couple of interesting points… Oh yes, if you want to stop by a coffee house or restaurant and have a “cappuccino” (they don’t have “Lattes”), you had better have it standing (there are very few that will have it to “take away”), because if you sit down to drink it, the cost of that cup of coffee goes up about 30%… in all the countries that we have traveled through in the last year (19), France has the fewest that speak English…now don’t miss-understand me, I have and still do feel, that if you are visiting or living in a country different from the one you carry a drivers license from, you should at least have a few words to convey to the host…it’s just…well, you know…
Bread…the French bread, and especially the baguette, deserve the prize for taste…the Greek bread…well, we now know how they got so good with the “Discus” throw…the bread is sooo dense and taste-less that it was all we could do but toss it ourselves. Getting back to the French and their baguette, I can remember once seeing an older man with his arms full of groceries and tied onto his dogs back was 2 loaves of baguettes… Ok, one more tid-bit…we are “Hooked” on “Sour Worms”…
5 February ’05, Saturday. Hill Top Village of Biot, France It’s always a little stressful when you walk onto the train platform in a new city/town/village. First off, where do you get your ticket, what are the spellings or how do you pronounce the word “round trip”, where does the train leave from, where do you validate the ticket, and what stop do you get off at ??? I don’t know where the stress comes from, cause it always works out just fine… We caught the train into Nice yesterday morning (actually after a 20 minute train ride, it turned out to be just about noon by the time we got into Nice). Our plan was to visit the “Old Town” of Nice, so when we arrived at the station, we found the Information booth just outside of the station door. They were able to give us all the maps and information we thought we would need while here. With the map in my navigators hands, we were off for a great day on the Cote d’ Azur. It turned out that “Old Town” was about a 30 minute walk from the station, so we did some window shopping along the way. Fact is, I bought a new sweatshirt. I am learning that I’ve just got to keep myself covered with black while we are camping…guess what color shirt I got??? That was a no brain-er… Seeing as how it was lunch time, we split a baguette sandwich and took it to the boardwalk to eat with all the other locals and tourists. We enjoyed our walk through the narrow streets of the “Old Town” and then found the walkway to where the castle used to sit overlooking the city of Nice. It was good exercise walking up the stairs to the site. On the top, we found a wonderful church with a cemetery that we spent sometime wandering through, and then onto the top of the hill and the spectacular “Overlook” of Nice and the Cote d’ Azur.
We had hoped to spend a full day and into the early evening in town, but that just didn’t work out…we were pooped… Must be the “new” age I’ve found myself in… On the other hand, it could have been that we saw just about everything we were looking for and wanted to save ourselves for tomorrow. Nice was nice, but we enjoyed our time in Antibes Old Town more…it’s just what your looking for I guess. On the way back to the station we saw a crowd around a small food kiosk. We had to see what was going on. They had just put out this large pizza like pan of something. The locals were buying the heck out of it, so we had to get some too. They scraped what ever it was off the bottom of the pan and put it in a paper cone. We could not figure out what it was. It was hot, looked a lot like polenta...and tasted better than good! It was grilled "mashed" chickpeas. Yum! We will buy some more of that if we see it again!! Today we pulled “Bumble Bee” out and went off to see a couple of the Hill Top Villages (Perched Villages) up close and personal. The first one, Biot, is just a short distance away. We are really enjoying the road signs that we have found here in France so far. If you know were you want to go, they will make sure that you are going to find it…very nice. Well we weren’t disappointed with our first visit to a Hill Village. After doing a little up hill driving, and a few switch backs, we found ourselves in a very beautiful village. The “village people” were all out in force putting the final touches on getting ready for their “Mimosa Day” celebration.
I mean it, everyone including the children, were out tying Mimosa branches onto anything that wouldn’t move and something’s that did. The Mimosa tree is from Australia and really grows well here. The flowers from the Mimosa tree are the yellowiest of yellow, and make a striking contrast when tied to the evergreen swags that were hung throughout the village from one building to the other. We even saw a dog carrying a Mimosa branch. After an hours walk, we got back in “Bumble Bee” (it was colder than hell out today) to warm up and move on to our next “Perched Village” and then back home for a great dinner (boy, have I got a great chef / navigator with me…). Tomorrow…no plans yet…depends on the weather.
3 February ’05, Thursday. We are just about settled into our new campground and our extended stay after 3 days. The first location they put us in wasn’t available for us to stay the 3 weeks, so we went looking through the campgrounds for that special one that spoke to us…we found D43, and this is going to be it. It offers good sun, a flat location, 2 trees to tie our clothesline on,
and most important…it’s close to the potty. We have been so used to getting a campground and site that is right on the water, that this one feels like there is something missing. The Mediterranean is about ¼ mile from the entrance, so that isn’t too bad. We have already started walking into the village (Antibes), which is about 2 miles or more down the road. The bus and the train stops are both within a short walk, so when we want to go into Nice, Monaco, or any of the other cities and villages of the French Riviera, we won’t have to exert a lot of energy getting to the transportation. For a trip into the mountain top villages, we will most likely take “Bumble Bee”. Yesterday, after finding our new location, we pulled out the tent and put it up. This will give us a little more room to move around in, whether we just use it for extra storage, or additional living quarters. The weather forecast up to the weekend, calls for mostly sunny days and continued cool in the evenings….it is cool in the evenings, fact is, it is down right freezing… Thank God we have a good electric heater we use when we have to. Well, last night, Louise fixed me a wonderful birthday dinner complete with champagne, shrimp, pasta, and of course desert fit for a king. Am I spoiled or what ??? We had a great party and the celebration continues…for how long ???, I’m not asking, just enjoying !!!… Today, following breakfast, we walked into Antibes to use the internet and look around a little. We walked the beach the whole way, and as we came to Antibes, we entered one of the marinas. This IS a boating area, and they DO have the expensive toys…holy cow !!! I can only imagine the boats we will see in Monaco… As we were just walking into the internet café, we saw that there was a street market going on, so our plan was to take that in just after we finished with the internet. Well, just like all the other markets and bazaars that we have come across, they have a quitting time…1:30 sharp…I think there were 2 or 3 that hadn’t quite finished loading their trailers or trucks when we walked out of the internet, but they were done for the week here…we were really disappointed. On top of that, I did what I told myself I would never do again, I left my camera at the van. I deserve a kick in the butt. As we walked around the streets of Antibes,
we found that there is an “Old Town” of Antibes as well. Boy, what a photogenic village this is. I’m just thankful that we will be back and I can take all the pictures my little heart wishes…
2 February ’05, Tuesday. Life has it’s up’s and down’s, and we have followed that roller coaster... Right now, we’re on a high, and all I have to say about that, is HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME !!! Our travels from Naples (Pompeii) was really quite interesting. The whole time we traveled the major toll road, which stayed close to the Mediterranean coastline. We will be back to see Italy later next year, but for now, we will be moving through it as fast as we can. The scenery it really spectacular, with all the little hill-top villages and the wonderful mountains that seem to come all the way down to meet us at the next corner. Just prior to getting to Genova we started to travel through a long series of tunnels, which continued all the way to Nice, France. I would guess that we went through at least 100 tunnels that were from 25 yards long to over a mile in length. Fact is, we went through so many that we missed a tremendous amount of the best scenery in Italy and the French coast. Next year, we definitely will not be taking the toll road… Prior to hitting the tunnels, we did see some hill top communities. Some were made up of a small amount of buildings including a church, and others were at least a hundred or more structures all hanging onto the top and sides of the hill. It was hard to guess the age of these villages from the toll road, but they have been there for some time, that is for sure. Again, next year we will take the time to visit some of these, as they are really beautiful and offer a lot of history for Italy, which we look forward to learning. Prior to arriving in Nice and then going down to Pompeii, we were in snow, but then thank God, we traveled out of it. The weather turned warmer (at least a little…) as we headed to France and as we crossing the border, we were back to having the snow alongside the road. We are supposed to be in the sun belt of France…The Cote D’Azur…the Gold Coast…where everyone wears a bathing suit…to work and the beaches…some topless…all with dark tans… (Ok, I’m getting carried away…)… well, it has turned out to be just about all true… Fact is, we have decided to stay here instead of continuing on to Spain. This campground is in Antibes,
just west of Nice, and it seems central to just about everything we might want to do. Besides, it has a covered indoor swimming pool and hot tub..I just hope we find time to use them. About 30 miles prior to France, we stopped for lunch at a roadside park. After starting back onto the road, “Bumble Bee” started bucking, spitting and had a complete loss of power. “Not Now Bumble Bee” !!! Well, we nursed her all the way into Nice and finally had to find a garage to see just what has happened to our little “Bumble Bee”. Now, you have to understand, we had no idea as to were we where and were we might find a garage, and IF, they would stop everything they were doing to help us out…. As luck would seem to have it, we did find a VW garage, and we did find a young man that would take a minute to come out to the van. He got in, started the van up, stepped on the gas, and said to me to take it around the corner to the garage. He jumped into the passenger seat, and gave me directions. Now this is in a area were the streets are narrow…I mean VERY narrow. I made the first corner, squeezed between cars parked at the curb, and then he told me to park just to the right around the next corner…BUMP..GRIND…TINKLE… OH SHUCKS…!!! Yep, I hit a parked car...damn near tore off the bumper, and did put a long dent in both of our cars…SH__UCKS !!! Well, what do you do ??? A young man came out of the VW garage and you could tell it was his car even if he couldn’t speak English. He didn’t seem too upset, but… To make a long story shorter, he asked for 100 Euro to cover the damage…and yep, I TOOK IT !!! Now, what about my problem??? “We can’t fit your van into the shop, so we can’t help you…sorry…”SORRY” ??? I got in and got the heck out of there and followed Louise’s directions to the nearest campground. Just prior to arriving at the campgrounds, I did find another garage, and he told me to come back in the morning, and they would see what they could do for us. It turned out to be “WATER IN THE GAS”, and it has made a mess of the carburetor. Well, a new gas filter and a clean up of the carburetor and we are now back on the mend for a while longer. I will have to get a gas tank cleaning and a new carb, but that will have to wait I guess, as this mechanic can’t do it, and he doesn’t know anyone who will or can….well, we’ve gotten this far, and I think we can continue for a little longer…I’ll find out anyway… As it is, we have decided to stay here in Antibes until the 21th of Febr., and then head to Utrecht for our APK inspection.