Three weeks after our return to France, we decided to take a week-long vacation where we basically just stayed local.The idea was to take in a couple performances at the Jazz-à-Juan festival, which was now in full swing, soak up some rays on the beach, take some day trips, etc.One of our day trips was something that sounded intriguing to us when we had first heard about it a long time ago, but never made the effort to look into it until now.We took a trip on Le Train des Merveilles, from Nice Ville to the medieval perched village of Tende.It was an hour and 45-minute journey through the scenic Paillon and Roya-Bevera Valleys (LesVallées des Merveilles), with a running commentary in both French and English by a lovely professional guide from the Tourist Office in Tende.We traveled through steep canyons, vertiginous viaducts, and winding tunnels, one of which was a helical tunnel which spiraled around, crossing over itself inside the tunnel.We climbed to an altitude of 1000 meters, stopping at a number of picturesque villages along the way, many of which are popular hiking destinations.We disembarked at Tende, where we hiked around a bit, taking in the views and the architecture.We then lingered over an alfresco lunch in the warm sunshine before checking out the Musée des Merveilles.
Hilltop Cemetery in Tende
Ruins of Château Lascaris in Tende
Wall Art in Tende
After the museum visit in Tende, we hopped back onto the train and headed over to the village of Breil-sur-Roya, which sits beside the cool and colorful Roya River.After exploring the village, we found a comfortable rocky platform next to the river where we cooled off by sticking our bare feet into the fresh flowing water, while we watched others swimming, kayaking, and jumping from the cliffs into the river. It would have been a great picnic spot.
We were not prepared to do any hiking on this trip, but the next time we go that will be our primary objective.It would be great to stop at one of the villages and do a nice hike and spend the night, then stop at another village the next day for another hike before taking the train back home.We’ll have to add this to our “To Do” list.
Our stateside séjour was very eventful this spring, and it ended with a trip down to southern California, where we visited family, conducted some business, and even partook of a little R & R on the beautiful L.A. beaches.
Venice on the Beach Hotel
Once we got a glimpse of where we were staying, we decided we would switch to another hotel.When we were having no luck finding another place to stay at the last minute, we gave in and decided to check into the Venice on the Beach Hotel, as planned. It was a bit funky, but we actually warmed up to it, and even decided that we would stay there again in the future.The location is great – right on the beach.And, we decided that funky is just part of the Venice Beach experience.
Morning Run along the Beach
Bicycling from Venice Beach to Santa Monica
After our morning run, we picked up a couple of giant sandwiches at Shoop’s Delicatessen at 2400 Main Street in Santa Monica.Later we rented some bicycles at one of the many rental kiosks along the Venice Beach promenade, and rode along the 8 ½-mile bicycle path from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Beach.We even found picnic tables on the beach for our picnic.
We just returned from a long weekend in Paris, which took just five hours by TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse - France's high-speed train) from Antibes to Gare de Lyon. After getting settled into the Hotel DesJardins du Luxembourg in the 5th arrondissement (5, impasse Royer Collard, tél: +126.96.36.199.08.88), our next order of business was to get some fresh air and stretch our legs, so we headed over to one of our favorite walking paths, the Promenade Plantée in the 12th arrondissement.
The promenade was completed in 1993, and is built on an abandoned 19th-century train viaduct which stretches out for just about 3 miles, starting from the very modern l'Opéra de la Bastille and continuing on toward the entrance of the Bois de Vincennes, the 2,458-acre public park which flanks the east side of the city. The series of arcades that support the promenade from below on avenue Daumesnil have been turned into an area called the Viaduc des Arts, which consists of art studios, shops, and cafés such as the Viaduc Café (43 av Daumesnil in the 12th) where we have been known to have a quick lunch before boarding the train at Gare de Lyon. And, if you continue on down the road, as we always do, being the nerds that we are, you will run into a computer store by the name of Surcouf (139 av Daumesnil in the 12th), the French version of Silicon Valley's Fry's Electronics.
Caveau de la Huchette
In addition to all of our normal Parisian activities: eating, drinking, strolling, eating, museum visiting, drinking, eating, etc., we had another great evening of music at the self-proclaimed "temple of New-Orleans Jazz and be-bop", Caveau de la Huchette, which they claim "was the first club in Paris where jazz was played". This time we saw the Drew Davies Swing Band, whose smooth vocals and cool saxophone captivated the locals into the heights of a dancing frenzy that only professional bebop dancers can attain. Actually, I'm pretty sure that they were not professional dancers, but they certainly seemed to know what they were doing, and they knew how to have a great time doing it.
We were rather surprised to see traces of snow on the ground in different spots that we could view from the A-8 autoroute on our way from Antibes to Saint-Tropez for President's Day Weekend. It may not have been the best weekend for our planned randonnées, but we didn't let the weather stop us from hiking and pique-niquing, even if we did have to fight a little bit of rain and hail in the process. Although, in the future I think we'll wait until later in the season before making any hiking plans in the Var. Our last randonnée in Saint-Tropez took place in June, which was really a great time of year because, not only were all the trails open and cleaned up, but we could take advantage of lots of great swimming opportunities along the hiking path.
It's been a rainy, dreary, snowy winter this year in Antibes. Yes, I said snowy ! There were two days this winter where we actually saw snow here in the 2nd largest city on the Côte d'Azur. The last day of January we had snow flurries in the morning, but they quickly disappeared when the sky cleared up and the sun took over, turning into a beautiful spring-like day. But, today the snow persisted long enough to stick to the ground for the whole day, and long enough to allow us an opportunity to traipse through it foraging for photos.