130327 Tullamarine to Nice

From Tullamarine to Nice

Since a rather late arrival for a departure to Canberra some years ago, Lyn ensures that we are almost first to check in for any departure since. Sharlee took us to Tullamarine arriving some 3 hours before our scheduled departure for Singapore.

Lyn had ‘chatted up’ the Emirates sales rep to get us upgraded into Business Class but the effort only yielded 2 hours of eating in the Emirates Business Lounge and a ‘last on’ boarding of our 777 aircraft. (Not happy Lyn). Her response to me was, “it’s my turn to embarrass you”.

Airlines seem to think the best way to fill in your time on a long flight is to supply meals – we have had 4 since leaving Melbourne in just 15 hours after that delicious food at Tullamarine. The cabin service on Emirates has been very good tho.

We were late leaving Melbourne and so we were late into Singapore and a little late leaving for our onward journey to Dubai. You can tell when you have left Australia as Wifi is FREE at Singapore Changi Airport – imagine all those passengers texted relatives and servicing their Facebook pages all at once – and with speed. Who needs a Senator Conroy NBN service – just get good Wifi?

Emirates has 201 aircraft made up of 126 Boeing 777, 31 Airbus 380’s, 18 Airbus 340, 18 A330 and one Boeing 747 for cargo. It has an enormous network covering 130 major destinations around the world and each flight has a minimum of 8 nationalities amongst the cabin staff.

Arriving at Dubai at 5.00 am does not mean you are the only ones to be in the terminal; the day started years ago for Dubai Airport and hasn’t finished yet. Rarely is there a spare moment for the employees to have a rest. Even though the gate opened on time, punctuality was not going to prevail. From the terminal, we had what seemed like a 30 minute drive to where our aircraft was parked. Lyn and I held back and were in the last transfer coach to arrive at the boarding point. Just as we were completing the pre-flight instructions and push back, the lady sitting next to me decided to have a ‘medical problem’. After returning to the boarding point and much mucking around getting her baggage from the hold, we left 2 hours late. Ah … the lady was French – a great introduction. (We never did get to know what the medical problem was.)
We have yet another 7 hours flight to Nice over very arid Middle Eastern countries.
Arrival at Nice was in very low visibility with constant rain. Immigration was quick but baggage collection very slow. Lyn’s new suitcase is not hard to pick in a forest of ubiquitous black ‘boxes’. It was easy to catch the 98 bus that comes right along Promenade Des Anglais to our Hotel West End not far from the town centre but across from a great view of the Mediterranean Sea. Our room looks out over the Mediterranean.

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Nice – Day 1

The sleep came in handy. Today we don’t have anything planned – just see Nice. There are not many people on the promenade as we leave for our ‘before breakfast walk’. Heading towards Monaco and around the point named “where your hat blows off in the wind”, we come across the marinas where lots of billionaires live on luxurious boats – magnificent – might trade in the Motorhome for one. We take a few photos on the iPhones as ‘we are on a walk’ and loads of camera gear slows you down.
We are really looking for a ‘nice’ cafe for breakfast but have to wait until we get back to the main promenade before we enjoy a mixed French and English breakfast while sitting at a table on the sidewalk. It is cold and windy and the street is gradually getting busy with tourists and morning diners.
Even after the breakfast, the promenade is still busy with joggers and late early morning walkers. We wander the streets with ease looking at shops, yes, ladies clothing and shoe shops. Lyn ‘tests’ the price of a nice light jacket – beautiful colour; €550, around $670. It is still in the shop.
After wandering around for a couple of hours, we drop into a supermarket and pick up some bagel sandwiches, fresh fruit and yoghurt to bring back to the motel. Sitting on the balcony watching planes come in at very regular intervals while having lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, is quite relaxing.
Mid afternoon, we decide to do the open deck bus tour of the city. Meandering through narrow streets, we have commentary in English about the majestic homes of the rich, the various museums, the river through the city which has been ‘covered’ to give more useable open public space. We notice the bus stops are named after famous people of the town and France.
After the bus tour, we try to find the famous patisserie pointed out to us on the tour so we could enjoy the delicious food, but to no avail.
Today, we must have walked 10km. That’s good because we need to use up all the good food we have eaten before it becomes part of us. We return to our balcony for hors douvres and decide its too much bother to go to dinner. Bed calls at 9:00pm.

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Nice – Day 2

The weather forecaster is spot on – rain and more rain. But there has been a break and we walk the promenade towards the airport and Cannes. Joggers are jogging and walkers are grabbing some exercise which one thought may not become part of ones activity for the day.
After about 5km, we take a lunch break at a pleasant little restaurant that is warm and comfortable where we can look out towards the Mediterranean across the promenade. Real French onion soup with blobs of mozzarella cheese followed by pizza, is enough for lunch. Not that we want one, but fast food outlets are rare here. We have seen one McDonalds and two Subways in all of Nice; and we have done a lot of walking so far. This afternoon is nap time before venturing out to find a show for the evening.
I went to sleep at 3:00pm and woke at 7:00pm – never done that for ages; but feel good about it.
It’s time to get out and see the night life in Nice. Seems the streets are alive with Cafes and restaurants, not all full but busy. In one cafe, we see the patrons around a very large wok eating the contents which appear to be muscles or could they be snails? Might be.
We walk another 3 km before deciding that an ice cream restaurant would be appropriate for a 10:00pm snack. The hot chocolate hits the spot and the caramel waffle is great. The mint chocolate and choco cake is up there too.
The sidewalk has quite a number of buskers and artists. We watch this guy painting with spray paint, flame, plant pot bases and scrap paper – not a bad job of planets in the sky. Interesting show for the night – and cheap.
Tonight, Europe advances their clocks for daylight saving and we have an appointment at 9:00am for a full day tour so better get to bed.

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Nice – Day 3

Today, we join a small group of people on a bus tour to Monaco and Cannes. There was 2 Japanese, 4 Turks, 4 Americans 1 Indian lady working for The United Nations in Switzerland and us 2.

Today is going to be a good day; the sky is blue and the air is clear.  We started the tour with a view spot looking over the coastline towards Monaco. The guide informs us that we have very little traffic to contend with, at least for the morning, as French people don’t get going until after mid day on a Sunday.

Our first stop is at a perfumery where we are shown through the factory before the testing, followed by the sales pitch. No prize for guessing where they obtain the eucalyptus. We are told that a certain crème is anti-aging, and so a small portion on the back of my hand is becoming younger than the rest of me – now that’s going to look stupid!

Just near the perfumery is an interesting little medieval village called Eze.  It is stuck on a hill – and I mean ‘stuck on a hill’, and looks out over the sea. There is no way you can drive the streets, as the ‘roads’ are only two persons wide. All the builds are used as shops and we find some very good handicrafts. Time only allows us 50 minutes here.

The main point of interest this morning is to be at the changing of the guard at the Monaco Palace.  This only happens on days of ‘no rain’ and today is a sunny day.  The streets are very narrow and wind through tunnels and buildings to get anywhere, as Monaco is built on, and against, cliffs.  We are ‘blessed’ that there is not a lot of traffic.  On a weekday, ‘poor people’ come to Monaco in their droves to see how the ‘rich people’ live.  We are amongst the poor today.

There is a walk up to the palace where we find thousands of others wanting to witness the same performance of the changing of the guard.  It is ironic that there is no crime in the country of Monaco but they still have guards at the Palace.  The performance lasts around 5 minutes and is done to perfection of course, but it is hard to get any still photos due to the crowds of people that are willing to shuffle you out of a good position – worse than a certain nationality we are familiar with.  At the conclusion, we venture into the streets to purchase souvenirs to take home.

After an hour, we meet up with the bus for a drive around the Grand Prix track at Monte Carlo.  Our driver nearly manages to get around the full circuit but we miss out on the grid area and have to turn back. We stop for a photo shoot at the Casino and a walk around the exotic cars parked in the square in front of the casino.  Crowds, seemingly like paparazzi, are waiting for celebrities to turn up to pose for them – ha-ha!

It is a 40-minute drive from Monte Carlo/Monaco to another ‘stuck on a hill’ village.  This is Saint Paul de Vencee where there are many painters and actors who have chosen to live for its artist atmosphere.  The streets here are also very narrow and there are crowds of people venturing into the little nooks and crannies to view very quaint shops in buildings that do not seem to follow a building plan that we are accustomed to.

Further on, is the town of Antibes.  This port used to be known as Antipodes in the early days.  There is a marina with many luxurious yachts lined up for us to view – such opulence.  I’m sure that Greg Norman used to moor his yacht here before his marriage breakup.

Our last stop is Cannes.  Cannes is known for the film festival and we are given the opportunity to view ‘the Red Carpet’.  The streets are very busy now with many tourists straining to see a celebrity going about their ‘private’ business.

What a great tour to go on.  If ever you come to Nice, make sure you try this tour as it gives you just enough information to want to stay longer.  We believe we could stay the whole day in the Monte Carlo/Monaco region – there is just so much to see and feel about the place.  However, to stay in the Hotel opposite the Casino is over 3000 Euros per night. That is more than the return airfare from Australia.

Today is taken up packing and turning up at the meeting point with the Scenic Tours Nice Representative.  We have a 4-hour coach transfer to the ship, which is docked at Tarascon.  The weather is overcast with a little drizzle now and then.  About 10km out from the town of Tarascon, we travel a country road with plain trees lining the road on both sides all the way into town.  If you go off the road, you are bound to hit a tree.  As this is the first ever departure for Scenic from this port, the driver does a couple of ‘U-turns” before getting us to ship-side, but we are able to have a ‘free-tour’ in the mean time.

We were on the “Scenic Emerald” in 2010 from Amsterdam to Budapest and it is a bit like returning home.  The cabin decor has been refurbished and the public areas modified a little, but generally, things happen the same.  All passengers have a butler now.  Drinks are included and the room mini-bar is restocked each day for free.  One of the dining room staff remembered us from the previous cruise.  After a short interview with the Dining room supervisor, the crew in the kitchen and dining room are ready for my ‘low salt’ diet so should be fine in the meals area.

The Meniere’s is a problem but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do, usually.  I don’t have any hesitation to let others know the ‘silent fear’ we all go through 24/7, not looking for sympathy but to educate others about this ‘silent sickness’ that for many is debilitating and life changing.  I recognize that I have been one of the lucky ones when I read stories of others’ plights and adjusted lifestyles.

After the normal registration procedures, we have a buffet dinner, followed by the emergency briefing and procedures.  The make up of the passengers is not just Australian this time.  There are Scottish, Canadians, New Zealanders, English, Americans – Scenic must have been marketing in many countries lately.  Some of them don’t know to be quiet when announcements are being made so ‘Meniere’s me’ has been missing some of those important announcements.  On our return to the cabin, our baggage is waiting to be unpacked.  Lyn is ‘not happy Lyn’, as a hair ‘tonic’ bottle has leaked in her new suitcase.  Tut tut!!

Scenic Tours now have a technology edge over its competitors.  Each of us has been given a new device called the Scenic Tailormade.  The device is so new; the developer is on board to help us if some gremlin shows up in the operation of it in real life testing.  This is GPS technology and the limit of use is boundless.  The device enables us to hear commentary along the waterways about ‘anything’ that we pass by. If we are having ‘free-time’ somewhere in a town, it will direct us back to the ship.  There are guided tours which we can use the device for in any town.  No doubt, the ship can send the passenger a message to say ‘return to the ship – or we will leave without you”.

We are looking forward to this river cruise in the south of France – the only trouble is it is only seven nights.  Enjoy the daily posts that we plan to make each day.

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