Nowhere does places with difficult names quite like France. Except maybe Russia. Or any of the Eastern European countries. Probably China, too. And don’t forget Iceland with that whole fajita volcano thing. OK; so France probably isn’t so bad, but when Aubain told me that “Gréolières” is (roughly) pronounced “grey-OH-lee-air”, I quickly decided that I would remember it as “grey oily hair”, and cemented in my mind that French will never be a language that I will master. Not that there was really any doubt before.
To make things worse, when we landed in Nice, we found that our car had built in GPS (win!), but it only spoke in French (lose!). At first I thought it wouldn’t be an issue – after all, it had a screen to show you the directions – but when you combine a random French navigator lady very sternly telling you to “sortie”, plus roadworks at the airport, angry French drivers, and a left-hand drive manual – well, there was bound to be a wrong turn every now and then, wasn’t there? Especially when the roads looked like this:
Eventually we managed to successfully navigate to our rather isolated home for the week at La Maison du Loup, and we were pleased to find that it looked easily as good in person as it did in the photos. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
The only downside of being so isolated of course, is that you’re so isolated. For example, the day after we arrived, Aubain, Ingrid, Elise and I headed out to the closest supermarket, since we needed to get groceries for the week. It took us four hours! Admittedly it didn’t help that we went a slightly inefficient route which saw us circling the entire town of Grasse – but still, it was a hike!
Consequently, we spent a lot of time each day driving to and from whatever activities that we had planned – but, we did get to see some spectacular French countryside, and the roads themselves were very interesting to drive on – so I wasn’t complaining.
Being in the South of France certainly has its advantages. For one, you can say to people things like – “Hey, sorry I haven’t replied to your e-mail, I’m currently holidaying in the South of France” with an air of pomposity like a real Frenchman.
Secondly, the fact that we were in and out of Nice made for no end of hilarious jokes, which Aubain and I took full advantage of; like:
Me: Well, this is nice!
Aubain: No dude, it’s Nice!
Thirdly, it turns out that Nice is awfully close to Monaco, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to see. Our journey to get there was once again foiled by the unintuitive GPS system which took us right through the middle of Nice (but “saved” us paying €2.60 in tolls on the motorway). But, finally we made it to the parcazur (like a dinosaur, but for cars) and boarded a tram, which then took us to the train station. Yes, it was an arduous journey to say the least, but each time we ask Oscar what his favourite part of the holiday was, he inevitably says “Riding the tram”. So, it was worth it.
Finally we got to Monaco, and it was wealthy. And that’s putting it mildly. This was clearly a place which was not short of cash.
They say money attracts money, and this was no more obvious than out the front of the Monte Carlo casino, where a line of somewhat expensive cars were parked, as if to attract other expensive cars (and their wealthy drivers) like magnets. The culmination of this was the Bugatti Veyron parked in “pole position” in front of the steps.
Oh yes, one million pounds will certainly buy you a fat whip, but I’m sure it doesn’t do 60 km/h any faster than the guy in front!
We ventured in to the casino and used their restrooms (you know – because we could), and effectively just wandered around the town until we’d seen enough to tick “See Monaco” off our bucket list. Its not a place I’d rush back to, but I’m extremely pleased to have been there.
Other than our day trip to Monaco, we filled our days with various local activities. Oscar celebrated his third birthday proper during the week, so we dedicated one day to Ludiparc – an amusement park (for want of a better description) aimed squarely at the kids. Actually, it was a very random collection of bouncy castles, a stack of trampolines, and a small water-play park. Did I mention it was very random? The whole thing had a very gypsy feel to it, and everything could have done with a very thorough wash-down; but of course Oscar and Elise didn’t notice, they just ran around having a great time.
Seemingly like all holidays, just when we were getting into the spirit of relaxation, it was time to leave! But, our main aim for the trip was to enjoy our time with our friends, and I think we’d all agree that we achieved that goal – especially Oscar and Elise, who really seemed to strike a chord with each other.
We can only hope that they remember something about the trip so that when the meet up in years to come, they can compare stories about “that time they went to France together”.