Alpine Mediterranean Loop: Part 1
Herr had an acquaintance request a whirlwind tour of Europe. We learned several lessons from this (the biggest being we aren’t travel agents, so bring your own plans if you come to visit), but we went through a lot of countries doing it.
Because of a sudden car issue, we picked up a rental car and made our way south stopping in Geneva, Switzerland for a two hour break halfway through our way to Marseille, France. We found the lakefront, walking across the many bridges towards the water fountain (more like a geyser). Along the way was a fancy shopping district and the English Garden with its clock made of flowers.
Hopping back in the car, we drove down the south of France (discovering a multitude of tolls) and landed in Marseille. We were placed on the top floor without an elevator in hot and humid weather, so we were feeling miserable by the end of the day.
We were out the door bright and early thinking to catch the first boat to Chateau d’If. However, it didn’t leave at 7:30 a.m. like anticipated but rather 9:15 a.m. So after buying the tickets, we hiked up the big hill to the Basilica. Great views (after nearly dying from the steep slope) from a garden just under it, then up around the Basilica’s terrace. I particularly loved the “striped” pattern caused by using green-colored stone, and the interior reflecting a very nautical theme. Pretty quiet that early in the morning too, and cool, making the walk pleasant (and tiring). We had to book it back down the hill (sometimes going down is more difficult!) to catch the boat to the little island with Chateau d’If. The fortress is quite bare, but we all felt it was interesting enough to visit.
Once back, we jumped in the car for Avignon. Avignon was once a home to popes and was the initial cause for the Great Schism (when the pope relocated). We were pleasantly surprised; Avignon is a walled city along the Vaucluse River. We were melting as soon as we stepped out of the car, but that didn’t stop us from seeing the charm of this city. We visited the Palais des Papes (papal palace) and walked around town a bit, seeing the Avignon bridge with a chapel built in it as we followed the riverfront back.
But we weren’t done there. Hopping back in the car, we drove half hour west to see the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct. Herr had visited it over a decade ago and was surprised to find shops and a swimming area under the bridge. If we had known, I think we all would have joined the swimmers it was so hot!
That night we determined we should move our third night in France closer to the Italian border and go back north via Italy instead of France like originally planned (somewhat in hopes of avoiding more toll roads, to no avail). The hotel was okay with this, so Herr found a place in Nice.