Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Villefranche, France

Jeff here again, writing in between meals, an afternoon wine tasting and packing (sigh). Yesterday, as I said before, we docked at what in my opinion is the most picturesque port of all that we’ve visited – Villefranche. Once again, we did a private tour, this time with a company called Revelation Tours. Our driver was Michel (pronounced Michelle) and our touring partners were Jeanette, her husband Doug and Patti and her husband Mike. I’d contacted Revelation about a tour and gotten Jeanette’s email from Michel. Jeanette and I had exchanged several emails prior to the cruise to coordinate our itinerary. In short, Jeanette, Doug, Patti and Mike were a lot of fun to tour with.

After we’d both had less than desirable experiences tendering in La Spezia, Jeanette and I agreed we’d get to the Buena Vista Theatre an hour early to make sure we met our driver at the agreed to time of 9 am. As it turned out, we were 30 minutes early. Better to be early than late! Once again, Michel, like Olivier had a wonderful 8 passenger van that was very roomy. Additionally, Michel had a microphone hooked up with speakers in the back so that we all could clearly hear everything he was saying as he narrated the various points of interest we saw. Michel also had pre-recorded segments covering the key spots that he played over the audio system.

We began our tour in the port city of Nice. Michel told us that we would see a heavy Italian influence in Nice since it had been under Italian rule and influence for many, many years. Nice has a population of about 380,000. One can see from the photo that it’s pretty densely packed. After stopping at the overlook from which we took the picture here, we proceeded to the old part of Nice. Here, Michel let us off for about 30 minutes to tour the market square, which holds a nice flea market each Monday. There were a lot of antique type items here in addition to paintings, minerals, etc. It was interesting to look through it. At Michel’s suggestion we then visited the local Baroque style church, which was as plain as cardboard on the outside but very ornate inside. Next, we were back in the van and on our way to a small medieval village called Tourrette. This tiny village was amazing. Like other such villages, it sits on a hilltop (for defensive purposes) and is surrounded by a rampart (wall). Michel dropped us off so we could tour on our own. At this stop, and all stops, Michel passed out laminated cards that had a summary of the place we were visiting, along with a map notated with the most significant/interesting places to see. Michel would be a good engineer because he’s extremely organized.

Our next stop was another medieval village, Saint Paul. It was similar to Tourrette except it was much more popular with tourists. Michel told us that some 3 million tourists visit Saint Paul each year. It wasn’t too bad when we visited though until several Disney tour groups showed up. We made our way to the rear of the village intent on finding the grave of painter Chagall. After searching the entire cemetery and all but giving up, we found his grave right by the entrance…doh! We had lunch at the Malabar restaurant (recommended by Michel) and it turned out to be very good. Next up was Monaco and Monte Carlo. Here we made the obligatory tourist stop at the grand casino, rode around the streets used to run the Monaco Grand Prix, visited the grave of Princess Grace, visited the royal Palace and admired all the beautiful yachts in the harbor. It was like an episode of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

We finished up our tour with a visit to Eze (pronounced Ez), yet another small medieval village. This was my least favorite village – it is very touristy and it was the most crowded of all the villages we visited. Of course it could also have been that we were all tired at this point and ready to relax on the ship. We didn’t spend too much time here bud did stay long enough to buy some sweet treats to snack on during our drive back to the pier. We said our goodbyes to our touring mates and Michel and reboarded the ship. We finished out the evening by watching the new show “When Mickey Dreams”. It was pretty good. My favorite part was the re-use of music from the Tapestry of Dreams parade at Epcot.


Anonymous said...

James here... I took my heartworm medicine this morning too...
All the pix and descriptions sound wonderful... still hot as blazes here with no rain... scattered showers mean somewhere else...
Come on home... I miss Oliver.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Someone is reading this! I feel like I got to take a mini vacation with you. Jeff, you did a great job of sharing the sights and attractions of your wonderful cruise. I might even consider a Disney cruise after your "why Disney" blog. Thanks. It is also great to have Susan back at work.