As we continue on our journey, we now find ourselves back in France. Yaaay! After being subjected to those crazy Italian drivers, the French drivers are pussycats by comparison. The French won't cut you off, tailgate you, beep at you, cuss you out or deny you a chance to merge in. In fact the French drivers are so courteous they might as well be saying, "After you my dear Gaston" when they cut you some slack. Those darn French are so civilized!
But I digress. Yesterday we stayed in La Spezia which is a fairly large Italian coastal city and has its share of loco drivers. But we were there because it is the jumping off point to visit five very colorful fishing villages collectively known as Cinque Terre. Our very nice little hotel was right downtown and was only a half block from the train station. So we parked our car there for two days while we explored 4 of the 5 villages. The 5th was real high up on a bluff and too much for a couple of old fogies like us to climb.
The villages are not far from each other and have hiking trails that connect all of them (one of the attractions for serious hikers). However because of the constant rain 3 of the trails were washed out and the remaining one was the longest and most arduous. So, we left our hiking sticks in the hotel. (Whew!) But for a mere 12Ôé¼ we got a 12 hour train pass that goes to all of the villages.
So we hopped on and off the train at our leisure since the trains run often in both directions on their way to Genoa or Pisa and the little towns are only 5 to 8 minutes apart. The villages are on a rugged coast and the homes mostly dot the cliffs with their colorful and varied paint colors. What's more, the bloody rains stopped and we were free to enjoy blue skies and warm sunshine as we explored the quaint and ancient cobblestone streets.
However, today when we left we packed our car in a deluge. We hit the highway headed up the coast with the rain never ceasing. On we drove...past Genoa, San Remo, the French border, Monaco and Nice in the driving rain. We're talking blinding, windshield-wipers-can't-keep-up type of rain! And to top it off it was winding mountain road driving. That's right...the damn mountains come all the way down from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. So we passed through them going through fifty or more tunnels. Oh, we could see villages and cities in the valleys below or hugging the cliffs with the sea to our left, but the mountains went on and on.
Finally we left the mountains and the terrain flattened out and the rain stopped and the sun shown bright as we neared Cannes. So we got off the highway and explored this lovely seaside town and hob-knobbed with all the beautiful people in town preparing for the Cannes Film Festival the next week. Was that Amy Adams sipping Champagne with George Clooney in that outdoor cafe? No, maybe not. Well? We also cruised the main drag and the promenade in the warmth of the afternoon and stared in awe at the dozens of huge yachts moored side-by-side in the marina that were also in town for the big happenings.
Now we are in a poor mans Cote d' Azur as we bed down for the night in the seaside French town of Toulon...