Southern France

Jane’s chalet right across from our RV – Great!
Jane, Mike and Jackie in Nice

My cousin Jane just spent the last four days with us in southern France which was really nice. As you can see from the photo above, Jane’s small chalet was right across from our camper which was super. Jane gets up earlier than I do and she could see when our front blind was raised. This is always our indication that I am dressed and ready to talk to people. It is kind of like the raised flag when the queen is in residence! We started using this signal during Covid when two lovely children often came over to visit, sometimes a little earlier than desired 😊. The campground was rather surprised when we wanted to rent a chalet for one. Our camper, at 37 feet (12 meters), is huge by European standards. They couldn’t believe that we could only sleep two in our “mansion”.

Beach in Nice, France
Roman history also in Fréjus

Mike and I got to Nice twice, once the day before Jane arrived and again while Jane was visiting. We toured using our audio guide app on our phones. We split the tour in two because of my leg but that didn’t really help. The first day of the tour I walked 14,000 steps which was too much with a recovering broken ankle. My steps were shorter than normal, but they were still steps! I am afraid that over the five days, starting in Nice and ending in Nice, the day Jane left, I walked over 50,000 steps and I think that I have set back my recovery somewhat. My leg isn’t feeling very good at the moment.

Nice, France was first established as a Greek colony in the 4th century BC. 200 years later it was conquered by the Romans and became an important trading centre thanks to its location on the Mediterranean Sea. Nice was conquered by various rulers and was part of Italy for many centuries. Nice didn’t actually become part of France until 1860 in the Treaty of Turin which was quite controversial at the time. Today it feels all French.

Below is a statue of Apollo erected in 1956. He is surrounded by five bronze planet-deities emerging from the water. They are Gaia (Earth), Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Venus. I have to admit that Mike took this picture. He said it was at the end of our walking tour. I was in such rotten shape by then that I don’t even remember seeing it which was too bad.

Statue of Apollo in Nice

Our campground was next to Saint-Raphaël and Fréjus, both lovely seaside towns. Quite a few of these smaller seaside towns have a “le petit train” for tourists. It is similar to the Hop-On Hop-Off buses except it is skinny and tows four separate cars with seating for tourists. It can get into the very narrow pedestrian areas of a town. During the tour of Saint-Raphaël we were told that the town was named after the patron saint of travellers. Well, I had to check that out. I was always taught that St. Christopher was the patron saint of travellers. According to the internet, St. Christopher is THE patron saint of travellers and Saint-Raphaël is A patron saint of travellers. The weird things you learn while travelling. Jane’s train was delayed so Mike and I decided to take a similar “le petit train” tour in Fréjus while we were waiting. That wasn’t very successful. It started with a tourist bus driver that couldn’t speak English which is extremely unusual. So far, all these small tour buses had had a small folding step to help mobility challenged people, like me, get onto the bus. Either this tourist train didn’t have one or the tour driver couldn’t be bothered looking too hard. When we purchased the tickets, she did let us know that there was English and that we would have to use the ear pods. We have had a few trains that weren’t busy, and they put us in the back car and directed English onto that car’s speakers which was very nice. Well, the ride started, and the French speaker was blasting in our car in which we were the only occupants. We kept waving to the driver trying to get her to turn it down and that didn’t work. We then realized that it didn’t really matter since the audio system you plug the ear pods into wasn’t even turned on. After about five or six minutes, the little train stopped at an intersection. Mike ran out and got to the front before we started moving again. Basically, the useless driver managed to indicate that she had no clue how to turn down the volume of the speakers or turn on the sound system for additional languages. Mike demanded our money back and we left the train. At this point in time, we were in the middle of a residential area and had to walk back to where we had boarded the little train and left our car. We didn’t think that through very well.

We did stop and visit a Roman amphitheatre in Fréjus. My two canes got me in free. This is the first time that has happened. Mike had to pay 6 €.

Lunch in Fréjus

Jane had highly recommended that we visit the town of Grasse, famous for its perfumes. We drove there a few days before she arrived. All the parking lots close to the centre of town were full. Mike parked in a parking lot on the opposite side of town which I thought was nuts. We got out of the car and after 5-minutes of walking at my extremely slow pace Mike thought that we should turn back as we would never make it to the perfumeries at this speed. I had already figured that out. Mike wasn’t very interested in the perfume manufacturing places that you could tour so we ended up just leaving Grasse which was too bad. We did then get a lovely drive through some gorges in the countryside.

Jane came with us to the seaside town of Antibes which was lovely. Antibes is on a small peninsula with the smaller town of Juan-les-Pins on the opposite side. The three of us decided to try another “le petit train” in Antibes so that I could see more of the town without walking too much. Well, that wasn’t very successful either. It turned out to basically be a 45-minute shuttle between the two towns. The “tour” part lasted less than the first five minutes and then we enjoyed Louis Armstrong music for the remainder of the ride. Honestly, some of these little trains are very nice tours, just not the last couple we took.

Beach sculptures in Saint-Raphaël

One day Jane got to try out my electric bicycle and she and Mike rode almost 30 km down to the Mediterranean and along the coast. While Jane and Mike were cycling, I spent a little bit of time with our drone at the campground which is how I got the picture at the top of this article. Mike and Jane cycled through Saint-Raphaël which is the town our campground was in. Mike and I had wandered through the town a few days earlier. I will say that our weather has been lovely for touring the French Riviera. Saint-Raphaël was trying to start an annual sand sculpturing competition on the beach. My guess is that it wasn’t very successful as we only saw 2 large sculptures. They did have an area with piles of sand where you could create your own sculptures. Mainly people tried carving their names into the sand. I assume that the city then smashed the sculptures every night so that the sand mounds were available for use the next day.

Almost every small town has at least one carousel and Saint-Raphaël was no exception. They are really nice to see, and the kids enjoy riding on them. Large Ferris Wheels or Millennium Wheels are also found in many of the larger towns all across Europe.

Saint-Raphaël beachfront

It looks like Mike and I aren’t going to get to see as much of the southeastern part of the French Riviera as we had anticipated thanks to our recent car accident (someone smashed into us when we were stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk). I am glad that we did get to at least visit Nice again for a couple of short visits. It has been 30 years since Mike and I last visited Nice and Monaco.

Mike thinks that the water in this part of the world is so blue that it looks unnatural. I know that a lot of painters come to Provence because of the light which may contribute to these colours.

Mike and I are still continuing our drives through the countryside. In fact they are largely replacing our bike rides at the moment. At the bottom is the picture of Coursegoules, another village built up on the hills. Coursegoules dates back to the 11th century. Days are so interesting when, you can tour a medieval village for lunch, enjoy a 19th century town for drinks or ice cream and end up in a very modern shopping mall.

Some of the signs we see when driving are quite interesting. On roundabouts and in towns we will often see signs that show town A in one direction, town B and town C in another direction and then you will see a sign pointing a different way that says “Toutes Directions” which translates to “All directions”. How they can imply that ALL traffic can go in one direction when the other signs say if you want to go to Town A, B or C or anywhere past them you need to take a different exit. We just don’t understand.

We saw another sign that made us chuckle. It was on the side of the road and translated it said; ”forbidden in periods of submersion”.

Mike did a double-take when he saw this sign on the highway entering Nice. I did some research and they call motorcycles riding between moving cars without a lane “filtering”. In Canada we would simply call it ILLEGAL! Apparently, filtering is widely practiced and tolerated but it isn’t part of the Highway Code. This area is part of a multi-year trial that will evaluate legalizing “filtering”. Although this is common, since it is illegal, looking out for these motorcycles and knowing how to safely “filter” is not covered in any driver/rider education. This would change if the trial is considered a success.

Traffic in much of Southern France is almost constantly gridlocked near the cities and towns both on weekdays and weekends. This picture of available parking spots, i.e. NONE, was taken on a Tuesday afternoon, two months before the tourist season begins. These “complet” or “full” parking lots each take hundreds of cars. I am disappointed in the number of towns we have ended up leaving simply because we couldn’t find a relatively convenient parking spot. In the past we would simply have parked one or two villages away and had a lovely ride back on our bicycles.

I recently read a sign that said “The journey is the destination”. I thought that that could be Mike’s and my motto or slogan to live by.


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