Tag: Marseille

Alpine Mediterranean Loop: Part 2

Day 3

We checked out of the hotel in the morning and paid one more visit to the Marseille harbor to see the St. Jean fort (under construction, so just a walk by), then to the Cathedral. Along the way we stopped by a quaint French cafe for breakfast that was just right. The Cathedral also sported the striped stone building construction, and inside was quite lovely. I swung by a candy shop on the way back to the car (it couldn’t be helped), and then we hit the road for Monaco.


The scenery was magnificent! I had not realized that Monaco is its own country because it’s a virtually impenetrable piece of France literally a part of the mountains along the Azure Coast. We drove through a long downward-winding tunnel and roadway catching snippets of incredible scenery as we entered Monte Carlo. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world with Monte Carlo the only city (not even) fitting inside its mile length. After a considerable amount of time zig zagging through the expensive looking buildings, Herr finally found a parking ramp. We proceeded in the direction of the coast and left Herr’s friend at the pebble beach while we caught a taxi up to the Aquarium. The building was lovely, but it was very crowded and small; unique though, with a giant octopus hanging from the ceiling in the main foyer and a second museum with the recently added royal wedding outfits. Jean Jacques Cousteau was once the director, too, which might explain the giant squid/octopus thing.

Monaco.Sea horses.Clown fish.Lion fish.Fish.

When we finally squeezed out of the building we didn’t have enough time to tour the Prince’s Palace, so we hopped a mini tour train to get back to the beach. It stopped at the casino, one of the well-known landmarks if ever you heard of Monaco or Monte Carlo, then walked the waterfront stopping for ice cream a few times along the way. Herr and I waded in the Mediterranean for a short time (just as salty in this part of the Med) before we jumped back in the car, promptly got lost in Nice, then passed out when we finally made it to the hotel (or at least I did soon after we ate).

Day 4

The epic driving day. We started off at a decent hour following the main route parallel to the Azure Coast, which alternated between tunnels and bridges over large valleys with the sea on our right. It was a very scenic drive (aside from the tunnels), but I was finding it difficult to do homework (sad, I know, but it was due). I gave it up shortly after. Right before reaching Genoa, we turned north, got lost (and a bit frustrated) in Turin, then found the Alps. What a sight! Admittedly, I was bouncing around in the backseat with the camera, going from window to window trying to capture it all. Herr finally pulled over in the town of Hone, where we had some tasty Italian food (honestly, every time I get a calzone in Italy it’s nearly the size of my torso… it became my lunch the next day as well). We took some backroads for a while before jumping back on the route for the St. Bernard Tunnel, one of the longest road tunnels in the world. Cost a bit of money to get through as well, just FYI.

Hone fort.

Switzerland was one big traffic jam, then Germany was one big rain storm. We were quite grumpy by the time we returned having lost an hour driving “through” Turin, an hour in traffic, an hour driving slowly in sometimes torrential rains, and we did stop for lunch too… we had one night to recuperate before jumping back in the car the next morning for the Czech Republic.

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.

Day 1

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.

Flower clock.Geneva geyser.

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.

Day 2

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.

Basilica du Notre Dame.Basilica interior.Marseille harbor.Chateau D'If.

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.

Reading.Rib support.

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!

Aqueduct.Olive tree.

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.