Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Nice's main square

The Nice Flower Market

We disembarked Azmara Quest on April 11 and moved into an apartment downtown Nice for 2 weeks.  It was ideally located for exploring the city (old and new), the flower market and strolling along the Promenade des Anglais. 
    Beautiful tomatoes at the Flower Market
Nice waterfron
In the 18th century the mild Mediterranean climate attracted English and Russian aristocracy to the area.   The English loved  walking along the seaside and suggested that a walkway be built.  And so it is that the fabulous walking, biking path that stretches for miles beside the Mediterranean is called the Promenade des Anglais.
Promenade du Paillon

Stretching inland from the Promenade to the Museum of Modern Art is Promenade du Paillon, a 12 hectare park with beautiful gardens, fountains and walking paths.  (1 hectare = about 2 and 1/2 acres.)  
Rotunda of Le Negresco Hotel

A landmark in Nice is Le Negresco Hotel.  It is a National Historic Monument with a glass ceiling rotunda and world class art collection. The chandelier has 16,800 pieces of Baccarat glass.  Its twin hangs in the Kremlin.

Nice is the 5th largest city in France and the second most popular after Paris.  Within the city limits, population is about 400,000 but climbs to over 1 million if you count the surrounding area. The earliest settlements occurred over 400,000 years ago.  Greeks settled here around 350 B.C. and named it Nike after the goddess of victory.  
St. Paul de Vence

Fortunately, we have a friend here who was extremely gracious in spending time with us and showing us the surrounding area.  He took us to St. Paul de Vence, a medieval mountaintop town. The cobblestone streets are lined with quaint shops.  The artist Marc Chagall lived here from 1966 - 1985. This was where Yves Montand and Simone Signoret met in 1949 and married a year and a half later.  
Shops & galleries line the paths of Eze

Begi drove us to and through some of the other charming Cate d'Azur towns (Antibes and St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat) and  to Eze, a medieval village perched on top of a rocky cliff with winding pathways to the top. Flowers, galleries and shops line the way.  At the top are the ruins of an ancient fortified castle.  

We had a lovely afternoon with Begi in Villefranche, a charming village situated on what claims to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  It is encircled by the Cap of Nice on one side and Cap Ferrat on the other. 

Chef Ron's salad
With our friend in Villefranche
The weather was not always ideal but having interesting streets to wander and a friend to spend some time with made this a pleasant interlude.   And having a kitchen allowed us to have healthy meals at home.  
With Begi in Villefranche
 On April 25 we pick up the car we have leased for the coming months and happily look forward to returning to Italy.  


Saturday, April 12, 2014


Azamara Quest
Usually you find the amenities Azamara Club Cruises offer only on 6 star lines and at a considerably higher price.  On the two Azamara ships, the Quest and the Journey, gratuities, water, soda and a variety of wines and alcoholic beverages are included.  

The Quest and Journey are two of the ships that originally belonged to Renaissance cruise line which went out of business after 9/11.  Now they belong to Azamara, a subsidiary of Celebrity. Oceania has two of the same ships and I believe Princess has two.   The rooms and bathrooms are on the small side.   We had a veranda but would opt for the extra space the suites afford next time.  The gym and spa are very nice.  

We thought the food in the dining room was excellent.  We were not as impressed with the nightly buffets in Windows CafĂ©.  However, different international cuisine is featured every night so there is plenty of variety.  We didn’t try the 2 specialty restaurants but heard they were good. 

With a passenger capacity of only 650, you are not going to find the same level of entertainment as on the big ships.  Nevertheless, the shows were good and the lectures were excellent.  A big plus for small ships is that they can sail and dock where the megaships cannot.
The Rock of Gibraltar

Our cruise was a transatlantic crossing from Miami to Nice, France with the following stops... 

Barbary apes are actually monkeys
GIBRALTAR Only 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, Gibraltar is famous for “the Rock” and the Barbary Apes, a breed of tail-less monkeys from Morocco.  Although situated on the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar has been a British colony since 1713.  Several times, Spain has tried to lay claim to the land but the citizens vote overwhelmingly to remain British.  Supposedly Winston Chruchill said, “as long as the apes remain, so will the British.” 

The Rock of Gibraltar is 1,400 feet high, has several limestone caverns, is carved with 32 miles of roads and was inhabited by military during the war.  From Europa Point at the southern tip, you can see Morocco 14 miles away.  It is said that this is the point at which the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. 
Walkway past marina and into Cartagena

Roman ruins in Cartagena
CARTAGENA is situated on the southeast coast of Spain and has a history dating back to the Bronze Age. It was the home of Hannibal who led his army of 60,000 men and 37 elephants across what is now known as France, over the Alps into Italy in 218 BC. 

The town of Mahon on island of Menorca
Sailing around Menorca
MENORCA The Balearic Islands are beautiful Mediterranean Islands off the southeast coast of Spain.  We stopped at Menorca, the 2nd largest at 30 miles long and 14.5 miles wide.  
Though not as well 
as Majorca and Ibiza,  Menorca attracts its fair share of tourists and has a population of about 90,000. The capital city of Mahon where we docked boasts one of the finest natural harbors in the world. 

Cannes Marina next to site of Cannes Film Festival
CANNES was one of the first tourist resorts on the French Riviera, better known as the Cote d’Azur.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, English and 
Russian aristocracy discovered 
Cannes’ beautiful 
beachfront and mild weather, and soon turned the sleepy fishing village into a world renowned resort.  Every May, the city hosts the famous Cannes International Film Festival.    

We arrived in Nice, France on April 11 and will be here until April 25.  

This is our home for the next 2 weeks...