French Riviera - Part 2

(Continued From Part 1)

The next day of my trip (to Monte Carlo and French Riviera), we planned on going to Menton first (we had to go to Menton anyways) and then travel to 'Nice' and get our rental car, as we had a contract for 1 week (May 21-28). We had no idea how to get to the Menton, as we stayed somewhere outside of Menton, on a hilly part and there was no good public transport on the inner mainland. So, we planned on walking to that place (for around 5 or 7 kms) using the walking trail through that hilly part. It was partially cloudy with the Sun playing hide-and-seek behind the clouds and showing up occasionally, but the temperature was mild and pleasant. Also, it was a pleasure walking around as the surroundings were good, with all the typical houses in secluded locations,creeks, greenery and freshly bloomed flowers. Here are some pics:

After walking for a while, we reached Menton and walked into a tourist office in some main locality, to enquire about some specific info of places around. After that, we walked through some main parts of Menton, looking around some typical French markets selling different kind of fruits, fish and other things. Here are some pics that I shot:

After that, we headed towards the beach and have a first and real glimpse of the beaches at French Riviera (which is so much talked about, all over the world) and feel it. There are some casinos and open-air cafe's around the beach, where you can hang around and feel the breeze blowing towards you, from the ocean. And regarding the casino's, I'm not a gambler and wasnt interested. Even if I was interested in having a look inside the casino, I didnt carry my suit or any other formal/official dress, to get inside any casino (which is a requirement at almost all the places). Anyways, here are some pics from around that place:

After looking around the beach and its surroundings, we walked through some narrow streets/alleys towards some of the inner parts of the city. There are many old and typical houses or cathedrals in and around the old town. Here are some pics:

At some point, when we were walking around, we came across this old and grand house, where a cat was sitting outside the window of a room in that house. This cat was somehow cute, attractive, calm, composed and had some kind of aura. It looked like its well bred up and belongs to some royal cat family..haha...Here are some pics:

After walking around for a while and looking at things, we went back to the main train station and headed towards Nice, France. We set off, in a couple of minutes and the train travelled through Monte Carlo (which is 7 kms from Menton) and then we reached Nice, France (around 23 kms from Monte Carlo). Since I saw those places, I can say that these places are almost the same (being so close to each other) and can be said as 'Triplet Cities'. Below are some difference's that I identified:

1) Menton - Less disturbed and medium sized city. So, its a bit relaxing and peaceful. Also, Italian border is just 2 kms from this place and the nearest Italian town is Ventimaglia.

2) Monte Carlo - A small city (which occupies almost all of the second smallest country in the world - Monaco), but rich, sophisticated and expensive.

3) Nice - This is a big enough city and is said to be the biggest city and the main air traffic hub in the French Riviera part (including Monte Carlo).

Here are some pics that I shot when we travelled on the train, from Menton to Nice (Most of the pics below, are shot in between Menton and Monte Carlo):

One more important thing that I would like to mention about the 'French Riviera' is that, the people around here kind of have everything..For example, clear and blue beaches,lakes, European Grand Canyon (Verdon Du Gorges), good climate, mountains, nice cities, interesting, weird, relaxing and laidback villages, Monte Carlo and the world famous events at this place, Cannes (and its film festival), St. Tropez and if you like cold places and snow, just head inwards towards the Alps (which aint that far from there), ..and much more. Also, this is said to be the most (or one of the most) touristic part in the world (Obviously, with so many diverse things to offer).

After we reached Nice, we went to the 'Europcar' rental car agency (the office of which, is attached to the main train station building) and submitted necessary information/docs and got some reasonable car (Renault Clio) for the price we paid. After that, we headed towards the inner mainland, to look at some villages called 'Sospel' and then 'Saorge'. Our plan was to look at these villages and head back to Menton (where we were staying for one more night). After we drove through 'Nice' and got out of the city, we were already in the mountainous landscape, which is when we figured out that it aint that easy to drive around the inner mainland, because the roads are pretty narrow, uphill and curvy. It aint that difficult as it seems to be, but on the flip side, it aint that easy for people who are used to driving on plain, wide roads. Also, if you dont concentrate and goof up, you would probably be deep down in the valley (and from there, probably up above the sky..haha). Anyways, forget it and check some pics that I shot:

After driving for an hour or so, we were almost there at Saorge village. I mean, we could actually see the facade of the village from the road (because it sits on the edge of a mountain). From the facade of the village, I felt like, this village is pretty small with just a couple of houses, but was a bit exotic and interesting. I couldnt just wait to see that village. Before reaching Saorge, we had to drive on a road, beside which there was a creek/river flowing and also through a small village. Here are some pics:

After passing this village, we had to use this pretty narrow road and climb up the mountain. I also realised that if we haven't had a car, we would have missed this place, as its pretty hard to get around these kind of places without a car and the public transport aint that good around these places (and hence happy with what we did). As we drove by, we had to go through pretty narrow tunnels (in which only one vehice can fit in : width-wise) to reach that place. Here's a pic of the tunnel:

After that, we reached Saorge and couldnt really find any parking place, since a couple from that village were getting married and so, there were a couple of folks from other villages. Anyways, we drove in a bit in hope of parking it somewhere, but couldnt find one. It was pretty hard to reverse the car, since it was a narrow road and good number of cars were clustered around that place (Specially because its a rental car and we have to pay a small fortune, if it scratches or is scratched by an other car or any other thing). Later, some French lady came and told us that there's a parking lot, if we climb up the next road, beside the village. The road was pretty steep, but we managed to climb up and park it in the much available space there. Here's a first glimpse of 'Saorge' from that point:

If you look at the above pic, you would probably think that this village has just a couple of houses and looks like any other village. But it has more to it than what it seems to be. First is its interesting location (sitting on the edge of the mountain) and then it has something interesting, if you venture inside and walk through its alleys. We then walked towards the village, looked at the only souvenir shop around and sat in a small, but cosy cafe/restaurant and had some Cappucino. Here are some pics:

And here are some great views of the mountainous landscape, from that village:

After the restaurant thingy, we ventured in and walked through the alleys of that village. After walking through these alleys, I really felt that this is one of the interesting villages that I have ever seen (maybe also because its something new, which might not be the case for people living there), because of its location, apperance and its spooky/weird/interesting alleys. Looking at the facade of the village from a distance, you feel like it has just a couple of houses, but has hundreds of houses..all of them small, cosy and closely attached/coupled with each other and sharing the boundary wall of the house. They look a bit old, worn out and delicate, but thats how most of these villages in 'Provence' state of France (especially the ones isolated in the mountains) look like and they maintain that old stuff, in a good way. Because of this village being in a secluded location, it looks like a world in itself. Also, looking at the village and its spooky little streets/alleys, you imagine those crimi-novels that are based in these small villages..haha...Here are some pics:

After staying around that place for a while (until 8 PM or something like that), we headed back to Menton and thought of stopping by a good restaurant, on the way and have dinner. We were driving at less than moderate speed (since we were new to those places and also it was pretty risky, at some places) on those narrow and curvy roads and a car overtook us at some point. My friend said that it should be Italian..haha..We saw the registration plate and found that to be right..As we drove by, this happened a couple of times and all were Italian cars..haha..(no offence meant..just in a lighter vein). Here are some pics that I shot on the way:

After that, we stopped by this restaurant, where there was nothing else, but the restaurant..looked a bit exotic, as it was the only thing around that place. Here's a pic of that hotel:

This hotel was run by a Tunisian (some of the Tunisians look almost like Indians) and was a bit expensive, but was worth it. We didnt spend much time there,as it was getting dark and we thought, it would be hard to find the way back to our hotel, in that dark (and on that mountainous landscape). After that, we drove on those narrow mountain roads, in the dark and couldnt see anything, but a couple of metres in front of us (and that too because of the car lights). It was pretty scary at some points, as part of the road towards Menton, was bad with a couple of potholes and at scary heights and you drive close to the edge of a mountain. Anyways, after a while, we reached Menton and...called it a day! :-)

Check the next part of the trip, in a different blog post. For more pics, check the slide-shows below:




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