Friday, April 23:  Breakfast in Italy, Lunch in Monaco, Dinner in France

Pat headed out early to do laundry, which immobilized Robert, since she had all his underwear. I wandered out to get pastries, yogurt and orange juice, while grabbing a cappuccino along the way, and the men ate in the room. Martina seemed in a rush to get our room ready for the next guests, so we cleared out and liberated the car from its perch along the side of the valley leading into town. There are a few real scrapes on the front bumper, but its not too severe. Somehow, the drive out of town was easier than the drive in.

The drive to Genova on the autostrada was more of the same, except that we seemed to alternate tunnels and bridges, tunnels and bridges, the whole way. A Mercedes honked at me for not cutting in front of him as he was about to jam me behind a slow-moving truck. Three Lamborghinis passed us today, and I joked that they were having a car show in La Napoule tonight (ala Sorrento and Ferraris).

We held out for lunch in Monaco, arriving there about 2:15 PM. Once across the border into France, we have a whole new set of words and signs to learn. The local roads in Italy had blue signs, and the autostrada had green signs. Now the autostrada has blue signs, and I’m not sure what color the local roads are. We spent a fair amount of the car ride today learning our pet phrases in French.

We made our way into central Monaco easily, and parked in a public garage where the first hour was free. A two block walk, and we were at the spotless park uphill from the famous casino. We pulled out our foccachia, proscuitto, assagio and made a frugal lunch of sandwiches, chocolate cookies and tap water on the park bench, as the rich and famous sauntered by. Well, rich anyway. Highest per capita income in the world in Monaco. (Photo 63)

Rick said we could walk into the lobby of the casino for a look around, but we first paused to check out the Rolls Royces parked out front, as one of our Lamborghini friends from the autostrada rolled by. At the entry to the lobby, they said children were not allowed, so we asked the boys to wait while we took a peek. That completed, they told me I’d need to check my knapsack, and then they said we’d better keep the boys from sitting down on the entry steps. Enough already. We took one quick look and turned around. It didn’t bother Pat and I in the least, but the treatment was enough to sour the boys on the whole town. (Photo 63)

On the walk down to a viewpoint, we saw the sturdy metal barriers being placed along the roadway around the casino, preparations for the Grand Prix Monaco next month. From a high vantage point behind the casino, we could see the Mediterranean, the yacht harbor and the palace across the way. That was enough, so back to the car and back on the road. Third country in three hours.

Found our hotel rooms at Hotel Villa Parisianna in La Napoule by feel, blowing only the final turn. This is just an overnight stop to break up a drive, and the hotel is a recommendation of Karen Goldstein’s. Its proving to be a nice, low-key way to see the French Cote d’Azur (Riviera). Were about two blocks up from a moderate sized harbor in a smaller town. Pat bundled the boys off to the beach and they found a very nice stretch of sand between the harbor and the waterfront castle. The water was warm, shallow and protected, so the boys had a great swim, including finding a pet fish (a minnow with a head injury, that must have been close to death). (Photo 66)

Three of our four suitcases are Rick Steves’ specials, which are working out nicely. Even better, they were factory seconds, so we got them for half-price. However, one of the plastic feet fell off David’s this morning. We located the pieces that fell off at curbside this morning, and the nuts were still bouncing around inside his bag. Further inspection of the other bags found several other screws loose, missing washers and odd-looking nuts. You get what you pay for.

For dinner, we took the hotel’s recommendation and went down the street about a quarter kilometer. The busboy’s English was nonexistent, but we ended up with an Albanian waiter who spoke Albanian, French, Italian and English (plus one other language). He helped us through the menu, and the boys had meat, French fries and ice cream, while Pat and I had a three-course set menu. Fish soup, whitefish with vegetables, and creme caramel for Pat; salad with goat cheese, turkey with a spaghetti side, and coffee ice cream for Rob. All very elaborately prepared, very delicious and about the same cost as an evening at Ristorante Latini, i.e. 100 Latini units (which has become the dining gold standard).

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Photo 63  Monaco Picnic
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Photo 64  Monaco Casino