2000 Cycling Season, May 21 - 23

Nice and the French Riviera

May 21,2000, Sunday - Nice

We reached Nice via train from Aix-en-Provence by train rather than riding because it's 200km (120) miles of either hills or heavy traffic. Our hotel room in Nice was great it faced the hotel's courtyard, which made parking the bike a dream, although it took some effort to convince the hotel staff that we are very considerate of others in the way we move and store the bike.

We arrived in the afternoon and the first thing we did after getting settled in was to walk down to the beach and look out at the Mediterranean Sea. The beach at Nice is made up of small skipping style rocks rather than sand, but the blue of the Mediterranean is beautiful. This entire coastline is called Côte d'Azur for the deep blue of the sea. The cool breezes off the water make this one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. However, right now it's pretty quiet because tourist season doesn't start until the water warms up in July. The cities in this area are mostly here to support the beach and the sport of people watching. When the water is cold there really isn't that much to do other than enjoy the waterfront and watch the people - especially compared with where we've just been. Consequently this first evening, we walked along the beach for quite a while got some food and returned to call it quits early.

Dorothy Along the Coast of Nice

Dororhthy Along the Coast of Nice

May 22,2000, Monday - Nice

The first order of business was to recover our bike boxes from the train station. We had shipped them ahead from Dijon and hoped that they had actually arrived in one piece. Fortunately they made it, as planned, and were even wrapped in a plastic bag for protection - score!!!

After this success we decided to get out and see the area around Nice, since we had walked all over the night before. Of course the first place we had to go was Monaco, the playground of the really rich and famous, and the home of the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix on the 26th and 27th of May. The entire country of Monaco spans one small port area and the town of Monte-Carlo. Since France surrounds the entire country, the official language is French, and the official currency is the French Franc, so I was left wondering why Monaco even exists? Dorothy says it's because it can.

However Monte-Carlo is a cool little city. Filled with lots of tiny little streets full of the worlds most expensive shopping. The port itself was fun to see because it was full of gigantic yachts that only people like Bill Gates can afford.

John at the Harbor In Manaco

John at the Harbor in Monaco

Yacht in Monaco Harbor

Yacht in Monaco Harbor

The transformation of the little city of Monte-Carlo into a Grand-Prix racing track was dizzying. It's even more complex than what Downtown Denver endured when the Grand Prix came to town a few years ago. Every available inch of space was filled with Grandstands and reporters booths, which made us really glad we rode in on the train and were on foot rather than trying to manage with the Tandem.

Dororhy Overlooking Monaco and the Grand Prix Mess

Dororhthy Overlooking Monaco and the Grand Prix Mess

Since Dorothy and I aren't into casinos, the high point of our visit to Monaco was the visit to the Musée de Océanographiqe. The only thing John ever wanted to be before getting into computers was to be a marine biologist. So visiting an aquarium that was under the directorship of Commander Jacques Cousteau for several years is a big deal. This is a scenic museum and aquarium perched on a cliff above the Mediterranean. Although it is small compared to the Hewlet-Packard Aquarium in Monterey, California, this aquarium had some species of fish we had never encountered before. Up-stairs in the Museum you can see this place was started due to the oceanographic interests of Prince Albert I. Several of the exhibits were from actual expeditions Price Albert led in the early 1900's. One of which looked like to Antartica.

Musée Océanographiqe

Musée Océanographiqe

That night Dorothy and I started to look at the logistics of heading into Italy. Again our first stop in Italy is too far to practically make in one day on the bike, so it looks like another train ride is in store. I had a feeling we weren't going to be riding between stops much in this part of our journey, but that's okay we still have plenty of miles ahead of us! We also got more worried about the dangers of traveling in Italy after looking at a couple of up-to date Italian travel sites. The dangers include, being swarmed by bands of thieving kids, having motorcycle thieves try to take bags off your shoulders, and omni-present pickpockets. With this discouraging news we decided to revise our plan of bringing our tandem to Rome or Naples. Although we will still visit these historic cities, we are probably going to store our bike in Florence and tour southern Italy on foot and by train. The Tandem with the trailer and all of our gear makes us a nearly indefensible target for anyone with bad intentions. Maybe we're just being paranoid, but for now our plan is to ship the boxes to Florence, where we will try to store the bike before we make a two-week journey into the more dangerous parts of Italy.

May 23,2000, Tuesday- Nice

The first order of business for the day is to lighten our load even more before heading into the more dangerous region of our trip. Because the weather is mostly hot and humid, we decided to put all of our cold weather gear in the bike boxes. We also sent a box of stuff back to the states containing all the stuff we brought but haven't used and most likely won't use. This included a couple of language books and some other miscellaneous stuff that added up to about 4 pounds. All in all, this freed up enough room that we can lock our panniers into the trailer bag when we're in more dangerous areas. This means there won't be anything that isn't securely anchored to the bike. It also reduces the number of little bags we need to keep our eyes on when we're getting on and off trains.

The next business for the day was to get the bike boxes off to their next destination. We had planned to send them forward to Florence; however once we got to the train station we discovered that the SNCF rail line does not move unaccompanied luggage over the Italian border. This sent us back to the hotel to re-work this complicated part of the trip logistics. Fortunately were able to arrange accommodations with the ski resort where we will be staying at in Chamonix, France after returning from Italy. Being a ski resort that is used to lots of baggage, they quickly offered to help us by storing our bike boxes for about 30 days until we arrive. So after putting back some of our cold weather gear, and yet another taxi ride to the train station we finally have the bike box logistics back under control - we hope!

After dealing with trip logistics for more than half the day - remember we don't speak much French - we spent some quiet time at the beach, and wound the evening up early reading about what lies ahead and catching up on some writing.