Anyone who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life. - Charles Darwin

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The South Of France

Wed, Apr 25

Thu, Apr 26

- arrived in Lyon and took 2 hours to get out of the airport (1 hour for passport control, and then went to the wrong rental car agency).

- drove to Seguret and tried to find Gene. "Meet me at the church." was the only instruction he gave us. We did eventually connect and he walked us to his place.

- Gene offered us some wine and he talked for quite a while about the region of southern france and gave us some tips for visiting the area.

- drove over to Vaison l'Romaine and walked around a bit, trying to find a place to go for dinner. We eventually settled on Fleur de Sel, a crepe place.

- walked back home across the 2,000 year old bridge

Fri, Apr 27

- woke up and went back to Vaison la Romaine for breakfast. Found a boulangerie and grabbed a pain au chocolate and a 'cafe' which we found out is not a coffee, but a shot of espresso.

- Ate our breakfast on the square and then headed out towards Crestet. Walked around some very narrow, cobblestone streets with no commercial enterprises, except for one panoramic restaurant at the top.

- drove towards Suzette, via the Col de la Chaine mountain pass. We ran head on into some race cars coming down the mountain. Along the way we saw the 'Dentelles de Montmirail' (small chain of mountains).

- continued on to Gigondas, and tasted some wine at the local Caveau de Gigondas. Ended up buying some Domaine Burle La Fouilles wine, a glass, and a corkscrew, so we could have a picnic in the town square (cheese, bread, and wine).

- drove to Orange where we checked out the Amphitheatre, one of the best preserved ampitheatres of ancient Rome. We made it through a few of the audio guide sessions, but not all 20.

- had some ice cream and walked around Orange for a bit. Had a mediocre smoothie (not worth 6 euros).

- drove to Chateneuf de Pape, where we had a great wine tasting at Les Caves Saint Charles, with a girl who knew a lot about the local wine heritage (as she should, she started drinking them at 10 years of age).

We tried some red wines (and 2 whites) from the region with very different tastes, ranging from the noveau to the traditional. All were delicious.

- Walked up to the castle at the top of Chateneuf de Pape.

- Drove back home, stopping along the way to buy some strawberries on the side of the road.

- Had a glass of wine on our terrace with the beautiful view and went out for dinner to Cote Terrasse. Pretty good food in a nice setting.

- Came back to the room and watched the Penguins come from behind to defeat the Capitals.

Sat, Apr 28

- left Seguret and stopped in Orange at a boulangerie for some pain au chocolat

- went to the Pont du Gard, an amazing 160ft high, and very photogenic Roman aqueduct The natural area surrounding the aqueduct is also beautiful. The ticket system to get in was a little confusing, and they seemed to be trying to upsell people on getting a guide.

- had a cafe creme (latte) and drank it with views of the aqueduct in the background.

- went to Nimes and bought some snacks (cheese, olives, strawberries, and a quiche) at Les Halles de Nimes, a popular market.

- walked around town (which was very lively and full of people drinking/eating on the streets) and ran into the Arena of Nimes, a Roman amphitheatre, while looking for the Maison Carree (similar to the Parthenon in Rome).

- From the Maison Carree we headed back to our car and drove to Collioure. I felt pretty tired while driving and later realized I may have accidentally been taking melantonin.

- We checked in to Villa Miranda, and sat on our balcony to enjoy the views of the sea.

- Went out for tapas at Paco. We thought they were kind of mediocre. The patatas bravas was burned.

Sun, Apr 29

- Went to the Collioure market and bought strawberries, cheese, wine, a baguette, and tomatos.

- Came back to Miranda's for a very good breakfast, and then made our way to Carcassonne via the Haute Corbieres route.

- The first stop was the Chateau of Queribus, a half ruined, half medieval castle sitting high up on a mountain peak.

- The next castle was Peyrepertuse. We walked to the top of it and took in some nice views while the rain clouds moved in.

- Next it was on to Gorge de Galamus. By this point it was pouring rain so we weren't too interested in hanging around.

- Drove on to Carcasssone and parked the car by the draw bridge. Walked into the castle walls to find our hotel. There were a lot of people, and a lot of stores selling swords. Carcassone itself looked just like the game though!

- We walked from our hotel, across the bridge, into the new town of Carcassone and had some pizza at L'Italia.

- Back in the medieval town of Carcassone we went for a night walk between the walls. A lot less tourists at this time of day.

Mon, Apr 30

- The following morning, we took another walk around Carcassone, giving ourselves a self-guided tour before the first wave of tourists arrived.

- Drove to Les Baux-de-Provence, where the tourist masses had already settled in for the day. We managed to find some parking and walked to the Carrieres de Lumieres (a multi-media show, set in an old quarry). Today's multi-media feature was about Picasso, and we also saw one about pop culture.

- Then we walked up to Chateau des Baux, a fortress/castle built in the 900's. We walked up to the top to take in the views and walked all around the grounds. Wished we had brought our picnic. Watched Europe's largest trebuchet hurl something a really long ways.

- Drove to Cassis, getting stuck in Marseille's legendary bad traffic along the way. Took the route through the Calanques, which we didn't think was as amazing as Gene had lead us to believe.

- Checked into our Airbnb and drove into Cassis. Wandering around, we ran across D'une Rive a l'Autre - a Lebanese restaurant. We sat outside (the only seats left). It was pretty chilly, and the food took a long time to come out, but when the mezze platter did finally arrive, it was pretty good.

Tue, May 1

- Mirielle made us a nice breakfast and we drove to the start of our Calanques hike at Port Miou.

From there we hiked towards Port Pin and En Vau. En Vau was where I felt we had our first real 'Calanque view' from above, looking down on to turquoise water, like I had pictured.

- From En Vau we made our way to Devenson calanque and had our bread, cheese, and chicken for lunch.

- At this point we decided we would turn this into a one way trip, instead of returning back to Port Miou.

So we pressed on to see what might lay ahead, having no idea that the most spectacular views were yet to come.

It was from Col Devenson looking towards Sormiou that we had the best views of our hike.

- At the end, not having hiked enough up and down the Calanques all day, we decided to take in one last viewpoint of Calanque Sugiton that was a lot more accessible to tourists.

- From Luminy we took an Uber back to Cassis.

- Had dinner at Restaurant Calendal. It was a delicious 3 course meal (salad, fish / faux fillet / creme something for dessert, and a half litre of wine for around 50 euros) and probably the best value of our trip.

By this point we learned that the French like their dinner appetizer bread plain, without any oil & vinegar or butter.

The restaurant had a couple of French poodles that loved to hang around your table and hope for a bit of food to drop.

Wed, May 2

- After breakfast we took the Route des Cretes out of Cassis, which was a very scenic mountain pass.

- We drove to Antibes to stop for lunch and walked into town past the large boat harbour. Ended up grabbing some sandwiches and taking them to the local beach. We sat on the wall overlooking the beach, eating our lunch and drinking our wine.

- Then we did a self-guided walking tour around Antibes. We thought we might be able to walk to the start of Cap Antibes, but after walking quite a ways, we realized there was still a lot longer to go, so we took the bus back.

- Continued driving to Ospedaletti just over the border in Italy. There we met Simone, who let us into his apartment with the great view of the Mediterannean Sea.

- Sat out on the terrace for a bit to enjoy the nice views. Wandered around Ospedaletti looking for a place to eat, but discovered that pretty much everywhere was closed, except for one pizza place (which only had a 3.5 on Tripadvisor, uh oh!) It turned out to be quite good pizza though. By coincidence (or maybe not, being the only place open) we ran into Simone and his family.

Thu, May 3

- No driving today!

- Rented a bike just down the road at Nola Bici and 30 seconds later we were on our way down the 24km bike path from Ospedaletti to San Lorenzo.

Along the way we stopped in San Remo for a cappucino and some sort of tasty ice cream coffee drink and some foccacio.

Along the path we also encountered tunnels, mediterranean sea views, and small Italian towns.

- Stopped for a drink on the way back (beer and prosecco)

- Also stopped in San Remo again for paninis at Quotidiano and a visit to the supermarket.

- Rode back to Ospedaletti. Along the way we tried to find a place to buy a bike seat, and every person kept telling us that the next Nola Bici location would have one for sale.

- Went out for dinner at the famous Byblos Ristorante. I was worried that I might leave hungry. But after a tuna appetizer (amuse bouche), breadsticks, bread, a fondue, a pasta dish, and a dessert bar (complete with automated raising roof), I was no longer worried.

- After dinner they brought out the smallest / strongest espresso we've ever seen.

Fri, May 4

- Drove to Ville Franche through the high corniche and medium corniche road. Tried to stop in Eze but it was too annoying, packed with tourists, and nowhere to really see the view. We did eventually find a place on the side of the road just outside of Eze and found a nice view of the Devil's Bridge.

- Went to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and listened to a very detailed audio guide as we toured the property. The gardens were the best part.

- Walked around Cap Ferrat and ate our picnic lunch as the waves crashed against the rocks. Unbeknowst to us, the walls we were walking around were the perimeter of the most expensive residential property in the world (Villa Florentina, $525 million)

- Checked into our Airbnb in Ville Franche. We knew it would be cozy, but it was still amusing to find the shower inside the kitchen.

The apartment had an awesome view of the Ville Franche harbor though. Parked in the middle of it was a 300 foot yacht. Googling the name of the yacht we learned that it belonged to a Russian billionaire named Sergei Galitzsky (who started what sounds like the Walmart of Russia). From our tiny apartment with the kitchen / shower combo we were staring at a $250 million dollar boat.

- Went for dinner at La Cave Nature. It was something a little different than our other meals in France. The French version of tex-mex tacos. Very good!

- Took a little tour around Ville Franche and strolled down the promenade, and bought some gelato. Walked back up the 200-300 steps to our apartment.

Sat, May 5

- Had half of a stale pain au chocolat for breakfast on our terrace and caught the bus into Nice.

Walked along the start of the promenade and up past the hill. Went to the market and bought a rasberry crepe.

- Tried to go up the elevator to the top of Castle Hill but soon realized it would be faster/easier just to walk up the steps.

Enjoyed the great views and heard the mid-day cannon firing off.

- Went to Chez People for lunch and had some Socca, a local specialty made of chickpeas, as well as some chickpea beer which was very tasty.

- Walked through a park and the Promenade du Paillon. We ended up at Place de Massena, another massive square.

- From there we headed into the old town and bought some olive oil at Nicolas Alziari.

- Bought some ice cream at Fenocchio (ginger and ginger-chocolate).

- Wrapped up with another walk along the promenade. Went down to the actual "beach" (rocks) for a few seconds but it wasn't the greatest surface to walk on.

- Bought some local cheese and wine and hopped back on the bus to Ville Franche.

- Back in Ville Franche we bought some ingredients for dinner and made some lemon-spaghetti (missing about half the ingredients) in kitchen / shower.

- Ate our spaghettti dinner on the terrace, played a game, and wondered what Sergei was up to. He may have been shopping.