Day 9: Côte d’Azur Allure

 

Barcelona – Arles – Menton

June 2, 2019

It was an early morning this morning. We frantically re-packed our bags with all of the clothes that we had washed and waited almost 2 days to fully dry. We had the A/C on full blast all night, but some of Emily’s pants didn’t fully dry and she had to use the hairdryer to kick-start them. We would have ran the A/C all day, but we it required our room key to use, though any card would have worked (but we didn’t want to cheat the system). Our Tasmanian friends said they spent 2 hours with the hairdryer to get theirs dried…yikes!!  We finally got packed and headed downstairs for breakfast before officially saying goodbye to Barcelona.

After a few travel stops, we got to spend about an hour and a half in the town of Arles. Apparently this town was significant for trade during the height of the Roman empire and was probably a bit further south than is located today. The town houses a significant coliseum which the town uses to host bullfighting and street parties. It was also a favorite place of Vincent Van Gogh, as the town was in the backdrop of many of his paintings.

windows
Charming windows and shutters in Arles

We walked through the city and made our way to the coliseum, an impressive structure indeed! I thought it’s most striking feature was the white stone used to construct it. It was not beige like the Roman coliseum. The white gave it a certain beauty that made it almost timeless.

arles ampitheatre
The Arles Amphitheatre

We ate lunch right next to the coliseum, so we got to stare at it for our whole meal. Just to the left of the coliseum from my view was a picturesque European street they featured all different colors of window shutters, flower boxes on the balconies, and striped awnings. That view itself was almost as amazing as the coliseum!

restaurant view
Our view from our restaurant in Arles

For lunch we both got ham and cheese crepes at a place that seemed to have a bit of Hungarian influence, as they had goulash and stroganoff on the menu. We knew it would be good when we saw the chef open a window and pick some fresh basil from one of the window boxes of herbs! The crepes were amazing, and also huge. Probably the biggest crepe I’ve ever had! For dessert we ordered a Nutella crepe, which was even more fantastic! The warm Nutella paired so well with the flavor of the crepe. I realized that I will have had more Nutella this trip than in my whole life before the trip! We struggled to get the check paid in time to meet our group at the base of the coliseum (within view of our restaurant)…not sure if it was because of the busyness of the place or the more laid back culture. Nonetheless we made it back to the group and headed back on the road.

ham and cheese crepes
Ham and Cheese Crêpes!

Driving into the French Riviera was like going through the mountains. It was up and down, through a tunnel, up some more and down some more and through another tunnel…and repeat. Occasionally we would get a glimpse of the ocean, as well as all of the hotels and super yachts in the bay. And the water was so blue! Perhaps that’s why this Provence is called Cote d’Azur. We passed by Nice and Monaco before arriving in Menton.

The streets here were so narrow when we arrived. Jean took about 5 minutes and a stall to make one turn. The whole bus was silenced in suspense during the process. Once he made it and pulled though, everyone erupted in applause! We took a breather once we got to our room, but then headed out to see the “beach”. It was not like an American beach with sand. Here it was mostly rocks, which made it really hard to walk on. We at least went in to get our feet wet. First time ever in the Mediterranean! It was way too cold to swim, so just a sample was perfect. We walked around Menton a bit to take in the beauty of the view. Reminded us of California with all of the houses built on the side of the mountain leading to the water. 

Looking towards the town of Menton

 

mediterranean view
View of the Mediterranean looking towards the Jean Cocteau Bastion Museum

We ended up finding a great Italian place to eat dinner. There were a lot of Italian places near here, which makes sense because Menton just 14 miles away from the Italian border. We both got spaghetti carbonara which was great. A lot creamier than I’m used to, and it also didn’t have any peas, just ham. It also had a fresh basil leaf on top which added extra freshness. Afterwards we continued to walk the streets and walked right by a Gelato place…we both got smalls which had 2 scoops. Emily got snickers and oreo, I got chocolate and mint. So good! It was also nice because both were 2.50 euro, so all we had to do was give him a 5 and walk away. No taxes to pay on top of that, which was nice.

spaghetti carbonara
Our dinner in Menton: Spaghetti Carbonara!

We checked out the rooftop bar at our hotel on our way in. It was really nice and offered a great view. We had a great conversation with Jean about France and their tax situation. Apparently if you make over €200,000 per year, you have to pay 75% in taxes. SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT. (Though after researching, it looks to actually be 45%). This is why so many great soccer players end up leaving France to play for another country…because they won’t have to pay that outrageous tax rate. Even married with children have to pay 25%. Singles pay 35%. That sashes my hopes and dreams of moving to France one day, haha. Plus in top of the taxes, they have to pay to use the freeway. Jean said it would cost about €150 to get from Paris to Marseilles. That’s about 480 miles. There are other roads that are free, but not as fast. I thought if taxes were low then it made sense to fund the roadways. But no, high taxes and toll roads. Yikes! I’ve concluded that I can no longer complain about my 15% tax rate anymore. It’s pretty great!!!

rooftop view
View of Menton from the rooftop bar of our hotel

 

Step Metrics: 8,870 steps, 4 miles, 397 cal, 1h 33m time

 

Self Q&A

Q: What is the Telepass?

A: Telepass is the brand name for an electronic toll collection system used to collect tolls on motorways in Italy operated by Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A., its affiliates, and other legal entities. So it’s essentially it’s the Italian version of the Spanish Telepeaje and French Télépéage.

 

Q: Is a Bézier curve named after the town of Béziers, France?

A: No. The Bézier curve was named after Pierre Béziers, who grew up in Paris. Bézier patented and popularized the Bézier curves and Bézier surfaces that are now used in most computer-aided design and computer graphics systems.

 

Q: From where do Herbs de Provence originate from? I saw a huge display in a travel stop.

A: Also known as Provencal herbs, Herbes de Provence and simply Herbs Provence, Herbs de Provence is a traditional blend of common, aromatic herbs that flourish in hills of France’s Provence region, which includes the cities of Arles, Nice, Marsilles, Toulouse, and Menton to name a few. This region is located on France’s southeastern tip and borders Italy. Herbs de Provence is an herbal blend that was concocted in the 1970’s and similar to Indian curries, there is no one specific recipe as these vary from family to family. Some of the more common herbs in this blend are basil, bay leaf, chervil, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, orange zest, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme. Lavender is not used much in the French version of Herbs de Provence but is more common in the US version of this blend.

 

Q: What is the star system for hotels? His is it regulated? The 3 star in Barcelona was not nearly as nice as the 3 stars in Menton

A: From EuroCheapo: In many European countries, tourism officials inspect hotels and assign them a star rating based upon a long list of criteria, mostly concerning the services and amenities offered. The more criteria met, the higher the score and higher the star rating. The star rating is really a tally of all these features. These inspectors visit the hotel with a check-list of services and amenities, and check off what they see. Elevator? Check. Full bathtub in each room? Check. Cable TV? Check. No minibar? No check. The scores are tallied and stars are awarded. To make it all a tad more confusing, rating standards change by country. A three-star hotel in Spain does not have the same criteria as a three-star hotel in Italy. Additionally, the European system is 1-4 stars, while the American system is 1-5. Below are examples of criteria:

  • One-star hotel: Most likely offers smallish rooms with simple furnishings. Might have a fan, radio and sink. The rooms probably do not have air conditioning or TV, and may or may not have private bath. The hotel probably doesn’t have an elevator. (Note: Some family-run one-stars have antique furnishings and large rooms–so take these as generalizations!) The reception may be closed during certain hours, and may even be in another building.
  • Two-star hotel: Rooms probably have a TV (maybe with cable), and probably have private baths. Rooms may have air conditioning or at least a fan. The hotel may have an elevator and may offer Wi-Fi or some sort of Internet access. The reception will probably be open 24-hours.
  • Three-star hotel: Rooms will almost certainly have cable TV, minibar, safe, iron, air conditioning and private bath (with hair dryer). The hotel will have an elevator, probably Wi-Fi, and certainly 24-hour reception.
  • Four-star hotel: All of the above, plus many extras. These may include room service, office center, meeting rooms, fitness room, laundry service, restaurant and concierge services.
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Q: What does “CÉDEZ LE PASSAGE” mean under the yield signs?

A: The best translation is simply “yield” or “give way”.

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