Monday, June 25, 2007

Day 10 – June 4, 2007 – Villefranche, France “French Riviera”

Today we made our way to the French Riviera. Same routine as yesterday, wakeup call, breakfast at Parrot Cay and meet for the Excursion. Today’s shore excursion is “Monaco, Monte Carlo, and Eze”. Again we have to tender into port from the ships resting spot in the harbor. The town of Villefranche is between Nice and Monte Carlo. The charming harbor is very small as compared to the other ports we have docked at on this trip; however, it is the most beautiful setting we have had. The harbor is protected from the north winds by the mountains and deep cove the harbor resides protects it from the sea. It is calm body of water and it a beautiful day.

This is a busy town in a busy part of the Côte d'Azur. A couple of features that make it attractive to visitors are the seaside, with long sandy beaches, terrace cafés and restaurants, and the very nice old town, vieille ville.

Things went quite well from the check in to the boarding of the tender and the short walk to the bus we arrive on the motor coach at about 10:00 am from our 7:45 am met in Walt Disney Theater. Our first venture was Monaco a tiny European kingdom that is now home for the rich. The motor coach ride to Monaco takes you along the cost line about midway up the side of the mountains along the Lower Corniche. The view looking down cliffs at the harbors is spectacular. As we arrive in Monaco you can tell you entered a special place in the world. Feriers, Merceds and the like everywhere you look, not to mention the yachts. The first stop to walk around is the “Rock of Monaco” geological structure daringly jutting over the sea where the Monaco Palace is. We were given a guided walking tour of the exteriors of the Oceanographic Museum and the Monaco Cathedral where Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III are entombed. We were able to take a tour of the majestic Prince's Palace. Here you were given a headset and get a guided tour from room to room.

The Monaco Grand Prix Motor Race was held a week ago and the stands and guard rails along the highways could still be seen. The course runs through the twisting streets of the city. The Prince and Princess of Monaco make an appearance in a ceremonial lap to begin the race.

We boarded the bus and made our way a few miles trough the streets of Monaco to the Grand Casino of Monte Carlo, surrounded by gardens, the spectacular Hotel de Paris and the famous Cafe de Paris. We were able to visit the exquisite casino built in 1863. The Grand Casino interior is more amazing than its exterior. Glass chandeliers, carved marble and woodwork make this look like a palace. 45-minute ride back to Villefranche.

Lunch was served at the Café de Paris. After a long wait for the bus to pick us up after the trip to the casino, we traveled to the medieval village of Eze. This was about a 30-minute drive. This was a community perched on a craggy peak above the Mediterranean Sea isolated from the passage of time. You have to climb steep cobblestone streets through the village to see the shops that are now housed in the homes people lived in. It does remind you of a medieval village you seen in movies. It is then another half-hour ride back to Villefranche where you have move views of the coast and sea before you arrive back at the port for the tender boat ride. We were about an hour late from our scheduled arrival back which meant we missed the show “Dreams” which was okay for use we have seen it many times.

The dinner this night was “Captain’s Gala”, a semi-formal affair that is the only night that features lobster on the menu. We dressed for the occasion but I would guess the less that half dressed in semi-formal and many dressed what I would consider attire for working the docks. It may have been a result of getting back to the ship late.