Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nice is nice...part III...the sights!

While in Nice we did a lot of sight seeing.  And the sights were beautiful!

The beaches were beautiful (even if they were full of rocks) and the water was an amazing two tone blue.  It was also the perfect temperature!

Sight seeing requires lots of gelato!!!

And chocolate!  (hey we have one of these in Pasadena!!)

We saw lots of lovely, old colorful buildings like these:

On our third day in Nice, we decided to be true tourists and do a tour.  We had walked from one end of Nice to the other, twice and needed a little pampering in the form of a driver and van!  We found a great tour, in an 8 person (air-conditioned) van going to Eze, Monaco & Monte Carlo.  Our tour guide was Thomas and he spoke perfect English (with a lovely French accent).  We had one other couple with us, honeymooners from New York.  They were adorable.

This was our first photo the hills above Nice on the way to Eze.

She is one photogenic kid!

Our next stop was Eze.  Eze clings to its inaccessible rock spike like an eagle's nest.  It was inhabited by the Ligurians and by the Phoenicians, then fortified against raiders from the sea.  In 1706, both the village and the castle were destroyed on the orders of Louis XIV, but it was rebuilt after 1760.  It's a tiny little village, basically carved into the mountain side.  No cars can make it up into the village proper, everything is carried in my cart.  There are lots of little shops and restaurants tucked into all the alcoves.
An old roman gate, leading into the village.

The church.

Eze, from below.

Our next stop was a little perfume factory.  We all were dreading this part of the tour, but it actually turned out to be really cool!
We learned how perfumes and soaps are made and found out why perfume is so expensive.  There are only 150 "noses" in the entire world who can make good perfume and they work in laboratories like this.

They make these cute little soaps, with the final details trimmed & painted by hand.

Perfume bottles waiting to be filled.

Our lovely guide, Susanne (love that name!)
After a little retail therapy, she loved us too...and we should never smell bad again!!!

Outside of the perfume factory, Ethan paid 5 euro to sit in this:

Our next stop was Monaco, just in time for the changing of the guard at the palace.

Gotta like a man in uniform!

The Cathedrale, built between 1875 and 1903.  It was quite fancy inside!

A local!

I never did get the story behind the pregnant chic welcoming the boats into the harbor!

After visiting The Rock (Le Rocher), which is the historic core of the principality and its capital, we then went into Monte Carlo, where the rich and famous are everywhere!  Monaco is quite the contrast to Nice.  Very clean, no urine smell (thank god) and no graffiti.  This makes sense since they have one cop for every 16 residents.  There were cops everywhere!!!!  And they have very particular rules about apparel as you can see from this sign.

But then, they have an amazing beach!

Our driver drove us around the course for the Monaco Grand Prix and James was in heaven.  While the girls and I did some window shopping, the boys walked the course and risked their lives taking these pictures:

Ethan, above Loew's Hairpin.

Thank goodness no cops saw this!

I don't know the last time I saw James with a grin this big!
That's actual tire rubber from the race cars from the race earlier this year!
And yes, they are sitting in the road to get these pictures!

The Casino de Monte-Carlo...where you have to be fashionably dressed to go in.  We went into the "mini" casino next door, as they didn't require black tie!
Which leads me to the story regarding the night Kerry and I did a little gambling in Nice.  After dinner on our second night, we put James and the kids in a taxi to the hotel and decided to try our luck at the tables.  The casino was very small compared to Vegas standards.  They only had two tables of black jack going.  After a bit of a wait, we got spots at one table.  Minimum bet was 10 euro, max was 10,000.  We quickly discovered that black jack in France is a bit different than black jack in the states.  First, the dealer doesn't take her second card until every one's cards have been dealt and played.  It actually puts a weird twist on everything.  We think this leads to no one hitting on 16 (when we would normally hit a 16 if the dealer has a 7 or higher showing).  The first time I hit a 16, the guy next to me literally fell off his chair and made some rude noises and hand gestures at me.  I was like, gotta hit a 16 with the dealer showing a 10.  He didn't reply.  Then, Kerry had two 7's and the dealer had a 4.  She stood and this guy had a fit that she didn't split her 7's (now maybe this was a closer call, but come one...I wouldn't split 7's...but that's just me.)  (And when I say this guy had a fit....I mean a literal fit...wild gestures...french expletives...the whole would have thought we had taken a crap on the table!)

So, now, I'm starting to get a little pissed.  He's right beside me, but not looking at me or Kerry when he's making all this noise.  After several more "miss" plays on our part, the guy was fit to be tied.  He took a little break from the table, but returned shortly.  The final straw...I didn't split my 6's against a 5.  Ok, I don't know about you, but why turn one lousy hand into two lousy hands.  I personally would never split 6's.  So after he has a major sh&t fit, I decide to let him have it.  The next hand, he has a 12 and the dealer is showing a 3 or 4.  He stands.  And I let him have it!  I wave my arms, I yell at don't want to hit??? Are you sure???  I just go off on him.  The dealer ends up drawing a good card and we all I really let him have it, telling him it's all his fault...he should have hit his 12.  OMG...I thought Kerry was going to crawl under the table.  But at this point...I just didn't care.  This guy had been so damn rude...I couldn't take it anymore.  Plus the fact that he was a really little guy and if it became physical, I really think I could have taken him out!

Finally, the guy loses all his money (twice) and leaves the table.  I win 80 euro and Kerry loses 20.  So, even though we don't know how to play in France, we still did better than this creep.  As we are walking home afterwards (because the buses have stopped running and the town is so busy, there is no way to get a cab), Kerry says she thinks it was because we were women.  There were only 3 women gambling in the joint and Kerry and I were two of them.  I don't know what it was, but it sure put me off wanting to gamble in Nice!

By the way, on our lovely 45 minute walk home (in heels), we unintentionally walked through the red light district.  There were two ladies of the evening every 75 feet for about 6 to 7 blocks.  We had the misfortune to be walking behind a group of drunk young men, who stopped and propositioned every group of hookers.  It was very disconcerting and the first time I have felt unsafe since we have been here.  But, we made it home in one piece and have another great story to tell!

Ethan, after one too many days of sight seeing!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nice is nice...part II...the food!

Nice is very close to Italy, so the food has a definite Italian flair.  Plus, it's on the coast, so there's lots of seafood.  Here's a look at some of the things we ate in Nice.

Our second night, after having checked into the nicer Nice hotel...we ate at this terrific Italian restaurant.

James had the squid ink pasta with sea food.  He loved it!

Ethan had the penne with lobster.  He loved it too!

Katie had the fusilli with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  She loved it!

I had the gnocchi with shrimp & asparagus.  I loved it!

Kerry had the lasagna.  She did not love it.  Said it tasted like Chef Boyardee Ravioli.
Oh well, 4 out of 5 isn't bad!

We decided to order dessert and boy were we surprised.  For some reason, the restaurant does SUPER size desserts.  We got a strawberry tiramisu (no photo, sorry) and these two:

The bigger than James' hand Creme yummy (we ate half of it).

And, the ginormous chocolate can see how big it is compared to Katie.
It was delicious and we ate about one fourth of it.  We all agreed it was enough to feed the entire restaurant.  (Ethan also got the chocolate ice trio...which he ate all by himself!)

On our last day, for lunch we ate at an Irish Pub (Ma Nolans).  We had these to drink:

My new favorite beer.

James had a Kilkenny (these are 1/2 pints...not even pints!)

And Kerry convinced the waitress to make her an unsweetened iced tea (the waitress was from England and took pity on her!)  Kerry is addicted to a weird iced tea concoction that she gets at Starbucks (half black, half passion, unsweetened, no water).  When she tried to order that at the Paris Starbucks, they said their favorite saying "impossible!"  They could not mix the teas!!!  Too funny.  Poor Kerry was feeling poorly one day and finally figured out she was going through caffeine withdrawal.  She's now remedied that by making a pitcher of iced tea every day at the house.

I had a bacon cheese burger...yum, yum, yum!
Kerry ordered a BLT and was excited because the menu said crispy bacon.  Oh the joke was on her, it was the same limp stuff we'd seen at other places, with a few grill marks on it.  She said, but the menu said crispy...I's got grill marks on the french/english...that's crispy!

James discovered this amazing shop on our way out of Nice.

Maison Auer...a tres gourmet candy shop.

With these beautiful concoctions.

(Yep, that's James in the cap, taking a picture too...oops!)

Some of the to die for hand made chocolates.

Their specialty, candied, preserved fruits.  

(We tried an apricot, it tasted like Jam, and was quite expensive, 3,60 euros.)

The shop was a work of art!
Needless to say, we did a little damage in this shop.

On the train ride home, we had this:

And were quite happy!