Adventures In France: The Riviera & Final Thoughts
Well I sure have gotten lots of mileage (kilometerage?) out of this trip, haven’t I? The last few posts have recapped our recent travels in Paris, Dijon & Annecy, and Provence. Today I’m going to share a few pictures and tales from the final leg of our trip in Cassis and Nice in addition to a few observations I made over the course of the trip that haven’t really fit anywhere else. We left Aix-en-Provence and drove south to Cassis for a half day to explore some of the calanques (limestone cliffs/coves) and have some good seafood. There are three calanques that are walkable from the center of Cassis for people willing to walk anywhere from 1 to 4 hours round trip. We walked through the first one, Port-Miou and about halfway to the second, Port-Pin, before turning back for lunch.
We were both pretty set on having bouillabaisse for lunch and stopped at one of the many restaurants along the harbor in the center of town. I’m not sure if I had ever actually had official French bouillabaisse, but I knew what it was (fish stew). I expected to get a bowl with pieces of fish and broth, but no, this was the real deal! The staff brought out this heaping tray of full fish and an equally large bowl of broth. We got to work and left very satisfied!
We got to Nice without much issue and I was relieved to have finished the driving portion of the trip. We had dinner during the France v. Nigeria World Cup game and could hear the shouts after each goal, followed by a several hour chorus throughout the streets of happy car horns and shouting at the conclusion of the 2-0 win. The next morning we walked through a flower market on the way to a hilltop lookout point which provided fantastic views of all of Nice (and Cannes, if you strained your eyes west).
That night I had more delicious seafood for dinner and my wife had what was essentially truffle macaroni (very tasty!). Most exciting for me was when we told the waiter that menus in French were ok, he proceeded to detail the specials at a normal pace and I mostly understood him. The following day we took the train back to Paris and wandered around the tuileries before having a dinner consisting entirely of soufflé! A long plane and short cab ride later, we were home. All in all, a pretty incredible trip!
So…here’s all the things other random things I wrote down and wanted to share, but didn’t in my previous posts.
- It has been over a decade since France switched to the Euro, but almost every restaurant we went to listed the total amount due in francs at the bottom of the receipt.
- Tax (and tip at restaurants) is included in listed prices and detailed in your final bill, so you always know exactly how much you are going to pay beforehand. I like this approach and I imagine this would be a confusing switch for French travelers coming to the U.S.
- Street signs are basically non-existent and roads change names so often that people much more frequently navigate based on destinations. In cities the street might be listed on the side of a building, but that is very hard to see when you are driving through an intersection!
- There are three main types of ‘highways’ in France: small regional roads, larger departmental freeways, and national highways (toll roads). Each has a different speed limit and trucks will have stickers on the back listing speeds (60, 80, 90 for example) that they will travel on each road. I thought this was pretty neat and found they stuck very well to these posted speeds.
- French car drivers on the other hand…wow they are fast! But, I found them to be much more predictable and safer on the highways than American drivers. I know this is a generalization of French and American drivers, but the French rarely drove in the left lane when not passing, and would quickly pass you then move back over. While people did drive fast and it can be jarring, you knew exactly what they were going to do. I feel like more often in the U.S. you have people unpredictably weaving in and out across lanes.
So that’s it for France, check back for more recipes starting Monday!