Two months back (around April 27), I was watching this Formula 1 race (on telly) at Hockenheim, Germany and since I was interested in fast cars and good engineering stuff, it stuck to me that "Why shouldnt I look at the live action of this formula 1 race?"...Thoughts were running in my mind and I spoke to myself: "I have never seen a formula 1 race, from close distance. So, I should do it atleast once in my life (whether I like it or not), even if its gonna be expensive".
I checked the 2008 Formula 1 season and found that the next race is at Monte Carlo, Monaco. I thought.."Whoa man..! If I make this trip, that would be so great"..This is because, Monte Carlo is said to be one of those rich, sophisticated and a cool locations. Also, its famous for the glitz and glamour. Many celebrities from sports, Hollywood, et al flock to this destination for vacation or any other purpose. Later, I googled for information regarding the tickets for the race and found that there are still some more tickets available from different stands, at the Grand prix race. I did some good research on the layout of the race track and found that 'A' stand offers great view of the race. The tickets for the stands very close to the track or for some seat in the balcony of a building (adjacent to the track) are very expensive. So, I settled for some seat in 'A2' stand, which was for some reasonable price and which aint that bad.
Ok, I booked it (almost 1 month back to the race date) and was enough excited about the trip. Now, I'd to plan the trip and decide on accomodation and other things. Later I thought "Why shouldnt I do the whole 'French Riviera' part when I'm going that far, anyways?" ..So, I came up with a plan and asked my boss (well ahead) for 1 week leave from work, at the end of May. I told about this trip to some of my German friends and they were also ready to come with me. That made it a bit easy for me!
From then on, I did enough research of all the places in French Riviera (like Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez, Menton, Grasse, Vence, Antibes, St. Maxime, Draguignan, Saorge, Verdon Du Gorges, et al) and wanted to do the trip, in such a way that I wanted to stay at different locations (a couple of days in each location) in the French Riviera and feel, explore and make the best out of it. So, here's the plan (with the map):
First 2 days --> Menton, France (Look at Menton, Saorge, Monte Carlo)
Next 2 days --> Nice, France (Nice and Monte Carlo F1 race)
Next day --> Vence, France (Vence and the world perfume capital - Grasse)
Next day --> Draguignan (Draguignan and 'Verdon Du Gorges' - European Grand Canyon)
Next 2 days --> St. Tropez (St. Tropez, Cogolin, Pampelonne beach and others)
And then, I spent a couple of days checking for flight tickets at reasonable prices and booked the 'To and Fro' tickets from Nuremberg, Germany to Nice, France. The itinerary was as below:
1) Nuremberg, Germany --> Frankfurt, Germany --> Nice, France (May 20th, 2008)
2) Nice, France --> Munich, Germany --> Nuremberg, Germany (May 28th, 2008)
I thought I would do this trip in a bit royal way and since the costs for hiring a taxi is also expensive (From Nice to Monte Carlo/Menton), I booked a 'Helicopter/chopper' trip from Nice, France to Monte-Carlo, Monaco (by 'Heli Air Monaco'), so that I can get to Monte Carlo and then travel to Menton (where I was staying for the first 2 days). I thought this would also give a feeling that you did all kind of things, around that place..haha
Ok..On May 20th, we set off from Nuremberg airport and reached Frankurt airport in just an hour. Here are some pics of the famous German Autobahn/motorway, that I shot from the plane (These motorways/Autobahn are so strikingly visible from the top), on the way to Frankfurt:
And from Frankfurt to Nice, it took us 1 hour and 15 mts. After reaching Nice, we enquired the 'Europcar' rental agency (which we booked, a week before the trip) whether we could pick up the car at Menton or not, for which they said that we have to pick it up at Nice only (Dont know why, but that was the case). After that, we went to the 'Heli Air Monaco' helicopter/chopper servuce desk and confirmed our boking details.
Later, we had to check in again, for the 'Heli Air Monaco' and some guys drove us to some end of the airport, where the helicopter was ready to take off from the helipad. I entered in and sat by the right window seat (and the other 2 guys - one on the left window seat and the other, in the front - beside the pilot) and excited enough to have a glorious view of Monte-Carlo and the mediterranean. This trip on the chopper was just for 10 mts (because Monte Carlo aint that far from Nice - 23 kms). Here's a video that I shot from the chopper (Helicopter), when we were approaching the helipad at Monte Carlo:
And here are some pics, that I shot before taking-off and from the helicopter (when we were approaching Monte Carlo):
After that, the 'Heli Air Monaco' folks dropped us at the Monaco train station. After buying the tickets and waiting for a couple of minutes, we took the train and reached Menton, which is just 7 kms from Monte Carlo. I consider that these 3 cities can be said as 'Triplet Cities' (being so close-by, although Monte Carlo is under Monaco, a different country and jurisdiction). Here's a pic of the Monte Carlo train station:
And here's a video that I shot when we travelled by train, from Monte Carlo To Menton:
After reaching Menton, we looked at the map trying to figure out the hotel address, but couldnt really make out. Since I knew just a couple of words in French (and a little bit good in German/Deutsch), I couldnt communicate properly. But since my friend knew Italian, we could convey what we meant and found that the hotel is somewhere outside the town/city (on the hilly side of Menton). Later, we took a taxi to that hotel, checked in and relaxed a bit. Later, we were all laughing at the way we reached that place - Aeroplane, Helicopter, Train and Taxi..hahaha
After relaxing a bit, we had dinner at the restaurant attached to the hotel (which sits on the edge of the hill), sat around that place for a while speculating about different things and planning for the next day (not over-planning types - 'Just relax and do it' type). That was it, for that day! :-)
If you wanna know more, check the next part of the trip, in a different blog post. Au Revoir!!! :-)