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  • Day13

    Nice

    April 26, 2016 in France ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Wow. I have heard that Nice was a must-see but I was not prepared for this. We had a full day to explore Nice so we had to make it count.

    We started first at the Old Town (Vieille Ville). This was the best Old Town we have seen thus far. Narrow alleyways snake through vibrant markets selling all sorts of things. One of our favourites displayed various salts from around the world in big jars. You can buy them in smaller amounts where they're packaged into test tubes - brilliant! The owner said her favourite salt is one from the Murray River in Australia. We never even knew that the Murray produced salt. We'll have to give this a go at home.

    We finally got to the waterfront where the view completely floored us. The water was iridescent blue. The last time we saw waters this beautiful was in Exmouth and Coral Bay. This Mediterranean coast is unique as it doesn't have white sandy beaches. Instead, the French strip off to their underwear on a warm day and lie on the large pebbles on the beach. By warm, I mean 20degC with bone-chilling winds.

    The best views of the coastline and Nice are to be had at the top of Castle Hill, just at the end of the promenade. If you ever get the chance to visit Nice, you will see that the photos here cannot do it justice. We wish we could spend more time here.

    This is our last French city for now. Tomorrow we will make our way to Italy.
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  • Day11

    Aix-en-Provence

    April 24, 2016 in France ⋅ 🌬 11 °C

    We arrived last night just before nightfall. We are staying at an old French chateau that had been slowly renovated by their owners, Dominique and Eric, over the past 10 years. We are a big fan of old buildings and houses. Unfortunately, this renovation had not been done properly. We had reservations about the structural integrity of the house. Our room was up on the second floor, up some flights of stairs with 10mm cracks that had propagated from the ceiling, down the wall and across the entire width of the stair. To make matters worse, upon further inspection, Aaron pulls out a loose chunk of concrete from a step.

    The house was also a little eerie (according to Flora). Aaron mentions ghosts right before bedtime and spooked an already unsettled Flora. She would not sleep well again that night. Her cold makes her restless and hiding her head under the doona to avoid ghosts makes it rather difficult to breathe. Aaron thought it all so amusing.

    Thank goodness for daylight. Flora couldn't get out of the house quick enough. We went to the city for a few hours to see what it's all about. We walked down Cours Mirabeau, a wide main thoroughfare in the city, and found very few people about. We cut across through an alleyway and found that most of the shops were closed (it was a Sunday), much to Flora's dismay. Exploring shops in a spiderweb of alleyways has quickly become Flora's favourite pastime in France.

    We got to the main square and, all of a sudden, there was a huge congregation of people. Is there a market?? No, just a gazillion tourists on tour groups. We left the city and headed off to a couple of little towns called Bonnieux and Apt.

    Aaron loves challenges so when his mate, Liam, tells him about a time when he worked on a homestead in the Provence region, Aaron thought he would find it. Armed with a roughly-placed flag on a Google map screenshot from Liam, and the directions that, "it is about halfway between Bonnieux and Apt," we set off on this great adventure. Oh, Liam also mentioned that the guy that lives there is called Ian Anderson. Should be super easy to find.

    For the next hour, we drove down a 14km road, stopping at letterboxes outside some homesteads to see if an Ian Anderson lives there. There were lots of houses and homesteads. Lots. We got to Bonnieux to find some wifi so we could ask Liam some questions about the location of this homestead but, being a Sunday, nothing was open except for a bar without WiFi. Sorry Liam, we tried.

    We took this opportunity to walk around little old Bonnieux. Such a shame that none of the cute little shops were open. The wind was ripping right through our jackets. It's one of the coldest days we've had in France and it's not helping with Flora's cold. Time to head home.

    Flora needed some Asian food. Some warm bowl of soup. On a Sunday. In France. Against all odds, she found one in a town 10 km away. It's no Tra Vinh back home but it sure hit the spot.
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  • Day10

    Sisteron

    April 23, 2016 in France ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    We sadly bid our alps home goodbye this morning. It has been the most rejuvenating and incredible stay and we are already wishing we could return at the end of our Europe trip. We head off to our next accommodation, this time in the French Provence to sample some of the local wine. Unfortunately, Flora has taken ill. She spent most of the night awake. She would spend the entire drive asleep (nothing new really).

    Along the way, we stopped by at Sisteron on Trevor's advice. You know what they say - locals know best. We only had a short time here so we went straight for the top of the hill where La Citadelle de Sisteron sits.

    Today is a history day. Today, we used our selfie stick for the first time. Aaron was hooked. That selfie stick would be an extension of his arm for the next hour. The citadel had been used as a fortress for centuries, a jail for a time and even held a Polish prince prisoner at the top of the tower. His cell was closed off with perspex but they had furnished it with a small bed, a study table and a (very princely) mannequin.

    After some selfie-stick time, we headed back to the car and continued on to Aix-en-Provence where we would stay for the next 2 nights.
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  • Day8

    French Alps - Annecy

    April 21, 2016 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today was spent walking around Annecy, a romantic alpine town in the French Alps with canals winding through old buildings. The water is crystal clear. We weren't so lucky with the weather today. This didn't stop the locals from taking their daily walks around Lake Annecy. We followed suit.

    The French love their dogs. Everywhere we go, we see them walking their dogs, even in the city. Apart from the crazy French driver that went ballistic when we nearly took his car out in the mountains, everyone else seems so laid-back. There is no rush. Life moves as fast as their little French bulldog and they seem to be more than content with it. A worthy lesson to learn, we think.

    And then there was that witching hour again where Flora hears nothing but the rumbling of her stomach. We headed down a cobbled path to find some food. In order to keep our budget down, we avoid the expensive restaurants and cafes and frequent boulangeries for yummy baguettes. This time, however, Aaron decided he'd get a burger from a street stall, chock full of french fries.

    We find a nice spot in the park adjacent to Lake Annecy to enjoy our lunch and the stunning view of the Alps.
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  • Day7

    French Alps - Beaufort, Albertville

    April 20, 2016 in France ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We decided to visit the little towns around Quiege on our first morning at the French Alps. Beaufort and Albertville sit on either side of Quiege and were only 15 mins drive away.

    We came across a market in Beaufort. The day had already started beautifully! As is typical of markets in France, fresh produce was sold in abundance. This market also sold cured sausages of different flavours, cheese and olives. There would be no bargaining at this market. All the prices were written on chalkboards. 1 sausage for 4 Euros, 4 sausages for 10 Euros. What a difficult decision to make!

    Next, we stopped at Albertville. This town is a lot bigger than Beaufort. Not many shops were open but we found a cafe to sit in and have some coffee and a beautiful chocolate crepe.

    We head back to our home in the Alps to enjoy some roast chicken and rice for dinner.
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  • Day6

    French Alps - Quiege

    April 19, 2016 in France ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    We set off from Paris early this morning to get to the French Alps. We took the toll roads which set us back 40 Euros (holy moly!). On the upside, the roads are not congested, extremely smooth and pleasant to drive and the pit stops have great facilities.

    The 6-hr drive took us through Annecy, a picturesque town at the foot of the mountains. We kept on driving to get to our accommodation high up on the French Alps in a little (I mean little!) town called Quiege. What would we eat, Flora wonders.

    If you have ever seen the most perfect photo of little houses perched along the side of a mountain, imagine it 20 times more beautiful and that would be Quiege. We eventually arrived at the house, after snaking up the mountain for 20 minutes and nearly being in a head-on collision with another car (note to self: do not veer to the wrong side of the road when you see a crazy French driver screaming down the small roads).

    Our English host, Trevor, was lovely and welcomed us into our home for the next 4 nights. We would live downstairs and have our own privacy. The house is splendid! Well-equipped kitchen, comfortable living room, a bed like the clouds with a view to die for.

    We would be the only diners at the only local bar/restaurant that night. It was a mere 5 minutes walk from the house. We ordered a baguette and croissants or pain au chocolat for the next morning and the mornings after. Every morning, whilst Flora was still in bed, Aaron would fetch the bread. They were divine, especially with the blueberry jam that Trevor's neighbour made. Flora decided that she would take the jar with her when they leave.

    This place is really a slice of paradise. Words and photos don't do it justice. We would love to come back here again.
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  • Day5

    Eiffel Tower

    April 18, 2016 in France ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    Another day, another croissant, and another walking marathon. Thank heavens for the sun, however temporary it is. We got off at a metro station a couple of kilometres away. We were heading in the direction of the Eiffel Tower when we saw a crowd outside a shop. The Asian in Flora was awoken. Crowd = bargains = win. We got into the line not knowing what it was about. It turns out it was for a very popular boulangerie (bakery). WIN!

    In a mix of broken French and brilliant hand gestures, we left the shop with 2 baguettes. We'd like to think of it as a Kinder Surprise - who knows what you've just ordered. We set off to find some sun to devour our prizes. We found a spot along the Seine river, just outside of the Louvre. What a beautiful, beautiful day.

    Fueled by food, Flora found her second wind and charged along to the Tower. Walking is not her favourite pastime. Why walk when you can run? We got there some time later. Great - Flora is hungry and tired again. We rest in the sunshine and contemplated climbing the Eiffel Tower by stairs. Stairs to the second platform it is. Just think of how many croissants we were burning off!

    The panoramic view of Paris from the tower is pretty amazing. We probably preferred the view from the second platform (approximately 1/4 of the way up) rather than the very top as it wasn't obstructed by a cage. You can get to the second platform by stairs, but a lift will be required to get right up to the top for an extra fee. It was worth the experience.

    We fail at being tourists. Every other person has a selfie stick which they wield expertly with one hand. We had a camera, mobile phones and short arms which unfortunately cannot give the same bird's-eye-view effect. Excuse us if the Eiffel Tower looks really small in our photos. Our heads are just very big.
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  • Day4

    Arc de Triomphe & Champs-Élysées

    April 17, 2016 in France ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    After we had spent a few hours at the Louvre, we decided to go for a walk to Arc de Triomphe to soak up the sun. Arc de Triomphe sits at the end of 2km long boulevard called Champs-Élysées.

    Champs-Élysées is flanked with expensive stores and clearly attract the desired clientele. Not unlike the rest of Paris, this boulevard also has its share of street beggars - quite a juxtaposition of rich and poor. I've never noticed this many beggars at home. Or have we been so absorbed in our daily lives that we fail to notice the little things? In any case, it was quite a sad sight.

    By the time we got to Arc de Triomphe, our feet were aching and the sun was disappearing behind the clouds. The queue to climb to the top was too long. Flora's getting hungry - never a good thing. A few quick photos and we found the nearest metro to take us home.
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  • Day4

    Musee du Louvre

    April 17, 2016 in France ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    Let's be honest. We're not very cultured or knowledgeable when it comes to paintings but it would be a crime not to visit the Louvre. We quickly decided we liked the Louvre. It had heating. So hot that we needed to take our jacket and scarves off. Yep, we will stay here to defrost, thank you very much.

    So, what did we know about paintings? Not much, I'm afraid. We scanned the sections before our eyes caught a glimpse of something we recognised - Darth Vader. The original Darth Vader mask was on display. The exhibition tells of how modern day filmmakers, illustrators, sculptors, etc. draw inspiration from myths. Was Darth Vader inspired by Hercules?

    I wish we were more cultured. We decided we would go see the Mona Lisa. Unexpectedly, we ended up spell-bound by the paintings that line the corridors. We can't tell you the titles of the paintings but I think we might have started our Art Appreciation 101 class.

    There she was, perched on her own pedestal, in the middle of the room. I could just make out her face above the bobbing heads of tourists and selfie sticks. The Mona Lisa. It was like being in a room with a royalty.
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  • Day3

    Notre Dame

    April 16, 2016 in France ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We were told to expect lots and lots of cathedrals in Paris. Not sure if any other cathedral can top this. Notre Dame is jaw-dropping. The architecture is incredible. Inside, it is even more beautiful.

    The construction commenced in the 1160s. Over the next centuries, the building continued to evolve. Throngs of tourists visit each year. We're not big fans of overly-touristy things but this one is a must-see.
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