French Mediterranean

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From Paris, we flew to Nice, France aboard an easyJet airliner, a rapid growing "no-frills" airline based in London. If you want soda and peanuts, you pay for them. But I didn't complain. I only paid 12 euros, roughly $12 (9/2002), plus tax for a one-way ticket. An individual eurail ticket would cost a lot more.

At the end of the flight, the cabin steward made the following statement. "We thank you for flying with us today. If you enjoyed your flight, please tell your friends. If you didn't enjoy the flight, let's just keep that our little secret." Sometimes they offer one-penny fares from London to Stockholm. You can book your flight through their Web site:


Along the long curved beachfront, a promenade and jogging trail hugged the wide boulevard that bustled with cars. The palm trees, joggers, roller-bladers, and bicyclists reminded me of beach communities in Southern California.

As we approached the harbor and old town district, the resemblance to Southern California disappeared. The old town had an opened-air farmer's market surrounded with restaurants and sidewalk cafes. We hiked to the top of Castle Hill and were rather surprised to find a large city park atop the hill. Great panoramic views can be seen from here.

Windsurf Cruise

We looked forward to a relaxing cruise after the unnerving experiences with pickpockets on the Paris subway. Windsurf is the largest ship in the fleet of Windstar Cruises with a passenger capacity of over 300. This is very small compared to the mega-cruise ships that hold over 2,000 passengers. Windstar ships are actually multiple mast sailing ships, assisted by diesel-electric engines once owned by Club Med. During our cruise, we had little wind, and I never saw the sails unfurled.

We chose this cruise line because of the many port stops especially to places large ships can't dock. We liked the "smart casual" dress code--no need for suits and ties, or evening gowns for dress-up nights. This was important because we had pre-and post-cruise itineraries. This didn't stop some passengers from dressing to the "nines." Standard cabin sizes were 155 sq. ft. We thought the smaller ship and lack of entertainment and shipboard activities would encourage more interaction with other passengers. Surprisingly, we didn't meet many people like we usually do on larger ships. Each night at dinner, the maitre' d seated the four of us on a table by ourselves.

At nights, there's a small casino, or smoky lounge that played "elevator music," or VCR movies (mostly old titles) in your cabin. The food was OK, but the variety and quality wasn't as good as Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo Harbor -- where my sister-in-law's shoe fell off and was fished out of the water.
Monaco Palace was founded in 1191 as a Genoese fortress.
Cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were married

Our first port of call was Monte Carlo, Monaco, just a few hours after Nice. We arrived to see the beautiful lights of the Monte Carlo night skyline. Some passengers disembarked in tuxedos and elegant evening dresses to visit the famous Monte Carlo casino. A strict dress code is enforced. Men must wear a jacket and tie.

Next day we set out to explore the city of Monte Carlo and the rest of Monaco, which is small, but independent principality. The Garibaldi family headed by Prince Rainier is the titular head of Monaco.Most people know that the Prince was married to Hollywood actress, Grace Kelly, until she died in a tragic car accident in 1982. While Monaco is a sovereign and independent state, it is a protectorate of France. In an agreement, if the head of Monaco dies without leaving any male heirs, Monaco will become part of France. That could happen if Prince Albert, son of Prince Rainier, who is currently unmarried, has no sons. We visited the royal palace where Prince Rainier resides. Throughout the palace, people on walking tours are provided headsets with recorded guides in several languages. Later, I visited the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were married and where she is now buried. That night I watched the movie "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

Monte Carlo has many modern high-rise buildings and a harbor where many luxurious yachts hail from places such as Grand Cayman. It was difficult to know where the city of Monte Carlo ends and where the rest of Monaco begins. Perhaps, there is no such demarcation. Looking at a map, it appeared we were only a few blocks away from anywhere in Monaco to the French border. I don't know how to speak French. But I noticed a small difference in the written word for "pull" which is on the entrance doors to the shops. In Paris, tirez is used. In Italy, tirar is used. In Monaco, the word is tirer, which seems to be in between.

Paris | Versaille Palace / Louvre | Nice / Monte Carlo | San Tropez / Corsica

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