Our Apologies, Italy Lovers.
Friday, August 27th, 2004: Nice, France:
Noventa di Piave to Nice: 597 kilometres
We apologize to all those Italy lovers out there: we are bypassing the rest of Italy and are on our way to France and Spain. There will be no portraits of the wonderful Tuscan countryside, of romantic castles or of towns perched precariously on hilltops. We have spent more time in Italy on our previous journeys than perhaps anywhere else in the world (no, that may not be true: California would be a very close second). Today we are on the road at 10:00, goodbyes said to Stephano, Luigi the cat and Anouka the dog. We estimate about a 6 hour drive ahead of us.
The drive is as easy as can be, the tolls on the autostrada amazingly expensive, but the roads in great shape. We drive through the lush and bountiful Po Valley before heading south into the Ligurian Apennines, where we drive through at least 200 tunnels of varying lengths and at least as many bridges. The border between France and Italy is a very short break between 2 much longer tunnels. Where did border inspections take place before the Schengen Treaty? Before we know it we are in Nice, in a small hotel across the street from Notre Dame, about 500 metres from the beach.
We walk to the beach, and along the Promenade des Anglais. We walk east for a couple of kilometres, only a part of this amazingly long beach. We are pleasantly surprised to see how much of the beach is public, true they are lacking chaises and parasols, but also lacking that 20 Euro charge for access.
Just before La Colline du Chateau, the promontory that divides Nice in half, the beaches on 1 side, the harbour on the other, we turn away from the beach and into the old town, a jumble of narrow streets crammed with tourists fighting their way around the outdoor cafes, and find a place for dinner.