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Monday, January 28, 2019

Nice, France - A Walk On The Beachfront And Nice's Old Town

We boarded our cruise ship in Barcelona, Spain.  Barcelona was amazing, by the way!  (Read about our visit here.)  We were happy we decided to spend two days there while we waited for the ship that would take us on a vacation we have been looking forward to for many years, a cruise around Europe.  Now, it was time to get on the ship and get excited for our first stop, Nice, France.

The first port, on our cruise itinerary, was actually described as Nice (Villefranche) France.  Villefrance was actually our port but it is a very small town so I guess since Nice was so easy to get to, and more well-known, the port was listed as Nice.  Our ship couldn't dock near land in Villefranche, though, so we started off our adventure in France with a tender ride to the shore.  

Monaco was also pretty easy to get to from Villefrance but since Nice is the largest city in the French Riviera and the closest major city to Villefrance, we decided that's where we would spend our day.  We walked 10 minutes through the cute town of Villefrance to get to the train station.  If we would have decided to go to Monaco, mostly to see the famous Monte Carlo Casino, we would have wound up at this same train station going east instead of west.

We found out that finding your way around a foreign country without knowing the language and not being able to figure out how to use Google Maps (yet!) was not an easy task.  Somehow, we did make it to Old Town though.  

We were going to follow the walk that Rick Steves describes in his book, Mediterranean Cruise Ports.  His walk starts at Place Massena but before we even got there we got off course when I spotted a macaron bakery.  I found out that although macarons I have eaten in America are delicious, they are not as good as they are in France!  They are completely opposite of France's, as a matter of fact.  France's macaron has a much thinner cookie and double the filling.  I am dreaming about going back one day to try every flavor.  I can't believe I only tried one when we were there!

After enjoying that delicious macaroon, we found Place Massena.  We knew we were there when we saw the checkerboard pavement.  I was excited about finding men sitting on top of high pedestals here.  They were not hard to find!

In this same plaza, we were to look for Apollo holding his beach towel.  We would have to walk past him to get into Old Town or Vieux Nice.

Just past this amazing fountain, we found Rue St. Francois de Paule.  This street took us to the heart of Vieux Nice and on this street were shops that I was looking forward to shopping in.  The first shop on Rick Steves walk that we wanted to shop in was Alziari olive oil shop.  This shop has been in operation since 1868.  We knew we wanted to to try their olives but didn't know that there would be so many choices.  It took awhile to make a choice.

La Couqueto was also on this street and is where we bought our santon.  Santons are handpainted clay figurines that are usually used at Christmastime in nativities.  We found a shepherd boy here that we used to decorate our home this Christmas.

Next to find on Rick Steves walk, and still on Rue St. Francois de Paule, was Nice's opera house.  The facade was as incredible as we read it would be.

I was really excited about the building directly across the street from the opera house.  According to what we read in Steves book, Patisserie Auer's was where Queen Victoria would shop for chocolate.  I would definitely have bought plenty of chocolate here but the store was closed!

The next sight on our walking tour was Cours Saleya, Nice's main market square.  The flowers that are sold here are the flowers that are used to make perfume.  I couldn't wait to get a whiff of them.

After spending some time at the market, we looked for the next street on our tour, Rue de la Poissonerie.  We were looking for Adam and Eve on our right as we turned onto this street.  We were to look up toward the first floor of the first building here to see them.  Well...we searched and we searched and never found them.  At first we were on the wrong street, but couldn't find them when we found the right street!  But we didn't miss the small church, Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation.  This church is the most popular church in Nice as it is dedicated to St. Rita.  She is the patron saint of desperate causes and desperate people and she has a special place in the hearts of the locals here.

From here we were to look for Rue Droite.   On this street we would find Eglise St-Jacques le Majeur.  It is a Catholic church and a Baroque style building.  The definition I found for Baroque is "richly decorated with many ornaments, stucco, false marble, cherubs and medallions."  It was definitely richly decorated and beautiful.

Place Rossetti was where our walking tour ended.  Here we found the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Reparate.

One last stop before we left Old Town and headed to the beach.  Fenocchios and our first taste of gelato!  Looks like we saved the best for last!  I think half the population of Nice was here enjoying the deliciousness! 

Before starting our second Rick Steves walking tour, we made a stop at Castle Hill.  We had a choice of walking up the hill, to get to an ancient fort and great view, or taking an elevator.  We took the elevator!  We were so glad we went a out of our way to stop here.  The view we were treated to was well worth it!

Rick Steves' Promenade Des Anglais walk was next on our "must-see in Nice" list.  We didn't see most of the sights on this walking tour as we ran out of time to.  We mostly just wanted to stroll along the beach anyway.  If we had time, we might have took a peek inside the elegant Hotel Negresco and maybe checked out the Massena Museum to have a look at Josephine's cape and tiara and Napoleon's desk mask!

What we did see was a beach like we've never seen before.  We are used to seeing sandy beaches so seeing one as rocky as this one was a very unusual, but very cool sight to see.  I also couldn't believe how comfortable the sunbathers looked laying on top of these rocks on their thin beach blankets!

It took awhile, but we did find the tiny bronze Statue of Liberty that Rick Steves mentions as a sight to see on this walk.

It was time to head back to Villefranche.  On our way back to the train station, we passed this interesting monument, which I didn't know at the time, was erected in 1896 to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Nice's annexation to France and...

this beautiful carousel.

We took one last picture in our port city, Villefranche, before boarding our cruise ship.  

One thing I wanted to do was to eat some French onion soup (see delicious recipe here) in France.  We looked all over but had no luck.  Do they eat it in France or is it like french fries that are not really French?  Well, anyway, lucky for me, the cruise ship had it on their dinner menu!

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Decorating With Vacation Memories

I can't believe that the vacation we waited so long for, our Mediterranean Cruise, is now just a memory.  But what a wonderful memory it is.  One we will never forget.  And just in case we do start to forget, we made sure we took plenty of pictures to jolt our memories.  Another memory jolter is the souvenirs we brought home with us.  

I brought home at least one souvenir from each country we visited.  A couple of the souvenirs were Christmas ornaments.  Some of my favorite souvenirs are the Christmas ornaments I've gotten over the years on special vacations.  We love reliving those vacations as we hang each ornament on our Christmas tree.

Sometimes I find other Christmas items that make me happy when I decorate my house at Christmastime.  This year, I found a santon that I knew would make me smile every time I decorated with it each Christmas.  

Before I left on vacation I researched the things I should seek out in each country to bring home.  In France, one of the items were a santon.  They are little figurines that are used to decorate a nativity.  We found a shepherd boy that we loved.  He didn't fit into our nativity, because our Jesus, Mary and Joseph are very big and look like giants next to him, but he looks right at home next to a house that decorates our shelf at Christmastime.

In Montenegro, I found a very beautiful and colorful Santa and he fits in perfectly with the two that I have already.  He's the Santa in the middle!

Four years ago we celebrated my mom's 94th birthday by going to Japan and brought 20 of our friends and family with us,  My friends, who live in Japan, were nice enough to arrange an overnight trip for us to the countryside where two of them live.  They rented a bus and planned a full day of activities.

The restaurant they reserved for us to have lunch in was a wonderful experience for all of us.  We had a traditional lunch served in bento boxes and sat cross legged on a tatami floor while we ate it.

On our way out of the restaurant, my daughter Lisa noticed a collection of owls sitting in trees of different sizes and they were for sale!  Me and my friend, Heidi were right behind Lisa when she saw them and we stopped to buy one along with Lisa.

I have my owls sitting on our kitchen counter.

Lisa has hers, the tallest of the three, on her fireplace mantle.

And I love the way Heidi has hers sitting on a shelf along with her other vacation memories.

My mom is Japanese and that is the reason we all wound up in Japan to celebrate her birthday.  Because we have lots of family and friends there, I have been visiting Japan regularly since my first trip when I was 12.  I have special memories of  spending the entire summer there visiting family and friends, seeing the sights and shopping!

I love shopping in Japan.  Everything is so kawaii (cute).  One thing I loved to buy was the kokeshi dolls.  My collection decorates our guest room in Florida.

My newest collection, which is not much of a collection yet, are wood signs I find in souvenir stores on our travels.  I got a couple on two separate trips we made to Gatlinburg, TN.  I have plans to have a collage of them decorating my kitchen wall one day.

Lots of times when I enter someone's house, the thing that catches my eye happens to be something they picked up on vacation somewhere.  I love the way my sister, Sandie, decorated one of kitchen walls with a small shelf that holds the cutest little houses she found in Monterosso, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre in Italy.  The map of the area that she put above it works so nice 

I also like the way Sandie used the photos she took, while on her family vacations, to create two fun collages.  One wall of her living room is decorated with her pictures of Italy...

and she has her pictures of Japan on the other.

One of my favorite decorations in my home is in the laundry room.

For almost twenty years we would go camping for a week during the summer with a group of friends.  Many of our trips were planned around beach towns.  I am not sure where I got these bright, colorful fish but all the memories of those fun times come rushing back to me every time I see them.

I also enjoy the two hanging coastal decorations that we have in our screen room.  One
we got on our vacation in Mexico and the other is a souvenir from our daughter and son-in-law's beach vacation.  I liked the way our souvenir from Lisa and Pete looked hanging in the room so much that when I saw something similar in Mexico, I had to buy it.  I do have room for a couple more so I  keep a lookout for one when I am near a beach.

Sometimes the only souvenirs I come back with from a beach vacation are shells and sand.   It's amazing how many ways you could use shells and sand to decorate.  I've seen both in lamp bases and other things made out of clear glass containers.  My Aunt Joyce uses shells to decorate frames around mirrors.

I turned our free souvenirs into beautiful decorations that we enjoy every day.  We collected sand from about 10 beach vacations and I turned it into sand art  (You can find out how I did it here!) and simply put our shells in a small glass bottle.   I display them together in my bathroom.

If you are going to decorate your home anyway, why not do it with souvenirs that will remind you of the wonderful time you had on vacation!

Do you decorate your home with your vacation memories?  We would love to hear about it!