Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Strolling at Antibes

On Saturday previous week, there was a strange bright yellow boll in a blue sky in the morning.  After 2 days of rain and storm, we found ourselves in a different world. Finally some sun that we had hoped to meet here in France.

While we had sufficiently been in traffic jams the day before (and since we heard the national tribute to the victims of the Nice terrorist attack, exactly 3 months before had been postponed by 1 day due to the storm the day before), we decided not to go anywhere by car, definitely not to Nice.   Instead we walked back to Antibes which we could now experience in a totally different atmosphere than the day before. The old fortified city at the coast looked very nice in stormy weather but was so much more enjoyable in the sun.

We walked along the fortified walls (where the knights lived according to Kabouter), walked to the harbour to admire some more yachts this weekend and then crossed town to visit the Mediterrean market. The town with little and bigger streets, little bistro's and stores, French cars parked bumper against bumper and scooters navigating through traffic, old town houses and squares with fountains, ...boasts everything there is to love about a French town and we didn't even visit any of the interesting musea there is to visit (hell no, it was sunny, why would go inside today!?) .  Instead we installed ourselves at a nice terrace where Kabouter could have his daily recurring order "pancakes please" and we could try out a glass of local wine while we watched the locals & tourist walk by.  Vacation at its best :)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Father and his sons

Both the boys were at least for part of the weekend at their godparents so we could continue our big clean-up. And we missed them, their chats and their smiles. So here's a few pictures of Jan and the boys previous weekend. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Monaco part II

For the first time since our arrival for our weekend get-away in the South of France, we saw the sun after leaving the Oceanographic Museum.  (well technically we were in a different country, so we still had not seen the sun in France ;) ) .

The Oceanographic Museum is at the ocean cliffside of Monaco-ville, so we combined our search to a late lunch spot with a stroll through the narrow streets of the old city. I love old centers with tiny streets that form a maze inaccessible to cars. Well, a maze is an exaggeration as most streets are simply parallel and there's really not quite that many of them, so the visit is quickly over. We walked by the justice palace that was in favor by a lot of Asian picture snapping tourists,  the cathedral (with a Holy Door to my surprise...some research learned me that a) there's Holy Door's outside of Rome and that b) we are currently in an exceptional Jubilee of Mercy.  Damn, with some better research beforehand I could have earned another Indulgence since my walk through the Holy Door in Saint Peter's Basilica in 2000 ;). Oh well. I'm getting sidetracked here  ) and with the palace.
From the Grimaldi's and Monaco with it's extravagant reputation, I had expected a bit more spectacular palace.  The fact that the square in front was under reconstruction didn't help.  Nevertheless we chose the square, with the excellent look-out on the rest of the city state as our lunch stop and we praised ourselves lucky that we could eat outside.

After our late lunch we strolled back to the museum, back down all the elevators (the easiest option with a stroller) to walk in the harbour. Much to Kabouter's delight we took the sea bus to cross the harbour to Monte Carlo.  In the mean time the dark clouds and a drizzly rain had re-appeared. The enormous extravagant yachts made our tiny boat , as well as many other billion costing "normal" yachts look ridiculous.

After some search and walking up and down, we found the elevators at Monte Carlo's side and we had a look at the famous casino.

The rain increased again, we got cold so we walked back down to the harbour and took the sea bus back to our parking lot in order to return back to our hotel. I had seen enough of this very crowded (claustrophobic) city and did not have the feeling I wanted more of it.  Fortunately I had fed Beertje just before leaving and we had all used the washroom as we got stuck in major traffic jams once again around Nice while the rain was pouring pouring down again.  What a déjà vu. After almost 3 hours in rain traffic jams that day, I was very happy to come back in our hotel room.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Monaco part I: the Oceanographic museum

On Thursday we were looking forward to Friday: the weather predicted some thunderstorms. We all interpreted that as some brief heavy showers to flee from but also lots of time with dry and warm weather.

The rain welcomed us early in the morning and the thunder rolled in during breakfast joined with big wind gusts and lightning flashes.  We waited a bit in our room for it to pass but the rain just kept pouring down and pouring down.

We drove my parents-in-law back to the airport, bumper to bumper with the cars in front of us. The coastal road was closed off because of the storm and even our road was often partially flooded and on other roads there had been accidents. After a long drive, twice the anticipated time (fortunately we left really well on time), we continued our way to Monaco.  Traffic improved but wasn't great yet and my bladder was upset from all the water outside. We entered the city state via a long spiral tunnel in the rock and found our way to the public parking near the coast. It was such a relief to get outside!

After a series of 3 elevators in the rock-cliff, we arrived at the well-known Oceanographic Museum where we could enjoy water beauty inside, rather than cursing at the overload of water outside.

The basement floor of the museum was dedicated to aquaria, the ground floor was a monumental hallway and a touching base but the rays didn't want to collaborate and kept swimming just out of our reach.  The higher floor was dedicated to dead marine life and exploration expedition history (among other from its former director Cousteau). Unfortunately the top floor with panoramic terrace, land turtles and the restaurant was closed due to the stormy weather.

While all over Monaco, elevators seem to be hidden to take you up and down, and while inside the museum there's elevators to take you to the different floors, the entrance and exit itself takes you over a big staircase.  I can't imagine that this well-known museum would be not be wheelchair accessible, but the staff just pointed our stroller to the staircase outside.   The staff of the museum wasn't very friendly at all.  So once we had carried our stroller into the entrance hall, we inquired if there was somewhere a cloak room or place where we could park the stroller (as I was going to carry Beertje on my belly), but all we got was a very unfriendly snarl"you must take it, there's the elevator".

After we had asked Kabouter a few times whether he had to use the bathroom and he had ensured us no, he squeaked obviously 10 seconds after we entered the gift shop "no return to museum" gate, that he urgently needed to go. Ugh, thanks to the friendly staff, I had to rush him outside down the stairs, run along the road back to the entrance staircase, command myself a re-entry with him in my arms in order to rush to the toilets...all in vain. Some more water we did not want that day.  And then we were snapped at that we couldn't leave through the wide open entrance door that we had just crossed 3 minutes before in order to meet Jan and Beertje on the other side. Instead we had to walk through the museum again, back to the gift shop and exit there, to walk along the road on the outside back to the entrance to meet Jan.  Ugh...what's up with people in uniforms that are in so much need to enforce their power?

But!!! While running back and forth between the museum's exit and entrance and exit back to the entrance, we saw that there was a bright blue sky outside.  There was sun! The clouds had disappeared! That was too good to remain frustrated with museum staff and little toilet accidents...it was time to explore Monaco city :)