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Day 8 - May 6, 2005 - Beaujolais Region, France to French Riviera and Monaco

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I woke up at 6:30 this morning and packed my luggage in the coach at 7:00.  I had some not so great grilled cheese for breakfast and we left the chateau at 8:00.  I remember looking back at the chateau, the lawn where we played hacky sack, and all the vineyards and thinking that I will never forget that place.  I truly am going to miss it.
 
We were then on our way to the French Riviera.  A few days before I left for the trip, I saw a special on PBS on the French Riviera.  It looked incredible and I was highly anticipating it.  We would be stopping in Cannes before we arrived at our campsite in Antibes.  This meant a very long day of driving.
 
To occupy the time, Rex introduced a game to us called Love Thy Neighbor.   We each made a dare for the person sitting next to us.  I was sitting next to Vince, so we came up with dares for each other.  My dare to Vince was to ask a gypsy for money.  Vince's dare to me was to propose to someone on the tour.  We wrote down our dares and passed them up to Rex.  She then told us that the dares we just passed to her are not for our neighbors, but are actually for ourselves.  No one saw it coming. 
 
She proceeded to read all the dares, for everyone to hear.  Some of the dares were very funny.  When she read one dare in particular, for me, it was the funniest part of the entire trip.  Matt and Sally made dares for "each other."  Sally had come on the trip with Neil.  They insisted that they were just friends though, and there was no romantic involvement.  Being the sexually forward person he was, Matt's dare to Sally stated that she had to admit she was in love with Neil, express this through affection, hold hands everywhere they went, and at the farewell dinner in Amsterdam, organize a wedding reception.  As Rex read this out loud, the dare that Matt essentially made for himself, the coach burst out in laughter.  Personally, I can't recall too many times in my life I laughed that hard.  Just when I thought the dare was ending, it kept continuing and kept getting worse for Matt.  I initially felt bad for him, but then I realized it was Neil who I should have pity on.
 
After things calmed down, Matt and I invented another game and named it Osama Bin Hacky.  By the way, the Osama Bin Laden references did not, in any way, condone terrorism.  Osama Bin Hacky was great because it killed a lot of time on the coach for the rest of the trip.  On the back of each seat, there were cup holders.  While sitting across from your opponent, the object was to throw a hacky sack into your opponent's cup holder.  The first one to ten won.  It was required that you took into consideration curves in the road, and the coach accelerating and decelerating.  I played with Matt, Steve and Neil all the way to Cannes.

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OSAMA BIN HACKY

I've heard some criticism about Cannes, accusing it of having nothing to offer other than the film festival.  However, it is a fairly large town.  There are tons of quaint shops and restaurants all over the place.  It was very nice and the breeze off the Mediterranean was perfect.  By the way, the film festival was scheduled to start like three days after I was there.  I would have probably made arrangements to see a film there if I had the opportunity.  Perhaps next time. 
 
We got off the coach in Cannes right on the beach.  Some people had planned ahead and already had their bathing suits on to go swimming.  I don't really enjoy swimming, and it wasn't that hot anyway, so I opted against it.  I decided to explore the city with Vince, Myungsoo, Freddy, Olivia, Kim, Yvonne and Kent.  I found a Kodak shop and got my pictures burned to a CD, since I was running out of memory.   We then stopped at a restaurant for some lunch.  I ordered mussels in a cream, white wine, basil and onion sauce.  It was incredible.  I was actually tempted to order another dish of it, but I was completely stuffed.  After eating, I picked up my CD and we went in and out of a few stores.  We ended up at the beach and we stepped into the water, I guess pretty much just to be able to say we've been in the Mediterranean Sea.

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MY FIRST VIEW OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

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KIM, YVONNE, ME, VINCE, AND MYUNGSOO AT THE BEACH

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A STREET IN CANNES

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AND ANOTHER

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SITE OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

 
We boarded the coach after only spending a couple hours in Cannes.  Not being a major city, I'm not sure if I'll ever make it back there again.  Sometimes, it saddens me that the world is so huge.  It makes me think of just how many quaint towns like Cannes exist that I will never see.  On the way out of Cannes, we drove past the building that houses the annual film festival.  I was glad to see it, since I didn't have enough time to see it on foot.
 
On the way to Antibes, I played more Osama Bin Hacky with Matt, Neil and Steve.  Neil managed to put together an impressive winning streak for virtually the entire ride towards Antibes.  I think someone may have finally defeated him, but not until right before we reached the campsite.  He became known throughout that leg of the trip as the Grand Master.
 
Sometime during the late afternoon, we arrived at our campsite in Antibes.  I roomed with Matt in our small, plywood walled cabin.  I entered first and chose the bed without the huge mosquito on the pillow.  I had my thoughts set out on getting some laundry done after arrival, since I was definitely due, however it was never done.  There was a long wait and there was no way I was going to let it affect my trip to Monaco that night.

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OUR LUXURIOUS CABIN IN ANTIBES

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THE CAMPGROUND

Somewhere between the chateau and Antibes, I realized I misplaced two of the rechargeable batteries from Dan's camera.  I called him just to make sure standard analog batteries wouldn't damage the camera.  He assured me they would be fine.  I also found my list with phone numbers and addresses.  It turned out that I would be sending postcards to various family members and coworkers.
 
Soon after getting situated in our cabins, we went to dinner.  I ate with Matt, Neil, Aussie Justin, Vanessa (Aussie Justin's girlfriend), Steve, and Sally.  This was the worst food of the tour so far.  It was some form of turkey.  It was dried out and tasteless.  It didn't bother me too much though, as the food up to that point was much better than expected from a low budget tour consisting of campsites.  I then fit a quick shower in and got "dressed up" for Monaco.
 
Those of us who opted for it, boarded the bus for Monaco.  Monaco is a very glamorous country, filled with people to whom money isn't an object.  It truly is a ridiculously rich place.  The yachts, the cars, and the casinos all add up to make you really reevaluate your financial status.  Personally, it didn't help that I was wearing a $3.00 tee shirt that I got from a Goodwill thrift shop.
 
We parked and first went up to the palace, home of the prince of Monaco.  Prince Rainer III died merely weeks before we arrived.  He, at one point, was married to Grace Kelly.  I don't remember if he was replaced yet at the time we visited.  After that, we looked down from a hillside at the city below.  It was an incredible after dusk view and I wish my pictures turned out better than they did.  You could see the Grand Prix track in the foreground down below, the mountains in the background, and the harbor and the Mediterranean off to the side.  It was definitely a postcard worthy sight. 
 
We then walked down to the city and made our way to the Monte Carlo casino.  There was a €10 cover charge just to get in and I'm not much of a gambler to begin with, so I opted not to check it out.  Most of our tour went in but I was happy that enough people were on the same wavelength as me.  Most people took the time to admire the cars at this point.  I'm not really into cars, so I basically waited for everyone to walk the town.  One car though, caught my attention.  It was a Zonda and it literally looked like the Batmobile.  In my opinion, it was a ridiculously pretentious thing to drive down the street.

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PALACE OF MONTE CARLO

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THE RIDICULOUSLY PRETENTIOUS ZONDA

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THAT'S POSTCARD WORTHY

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ANOTHER CASINO SHOT

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THE FAMED MONTE CARLO SPEEDWAY

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MONTE CARLO CASINO

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MORE VIEWS

         

After our self made car show, we made our way towards the free casino.  I was with Matt, Steve, Joanne, Hayley, Karen and Kerrie.  They wouldn't let us in because some of us (myself included) were wearing shorts.  Honestly, I was happy to be denied entry, because again, I wasn't much of a gambler.  I was keener on just roaming the streets.  So that's what we did.  The temperature was, like so many previous times, perfect.  We had really been lucking out with the weather thus far.  Other than one or two exceptions, in only rained substantially when we were in the coach.
 
We eventually made our way into a restaurant.  Not really into it; we sat out front on a large patio area.  They were cooking fish and lobster on grills right out on the patio.  I'm really glad I wasn't hungry then, because I would've been too tempted to get ripped off.  This place was expensive.  There were bottles of wine for up to €2,900, which is roughly equivalent to something like $3,500 US dollars.  Most of the entrees exceeded €50.  Because of this, none of us ordered food.  A couple of us ordered wine; comparatively very cheap wine.  After some confusion with my tour mates ordering water, I was hesitant to do the same, despite being thirsty.  They were trying to order tap water, to avoid paying an ungodly price just for water.  Even while considering the language barrier, the waitress was inconsistent to the availability of tap water.  I think she was trying to get us to request bottled water, to increase the bill.  Everyone was, to some extent, beating around the bush.  When it came to me though, I just flat out asked her if the water was free.  Her reaction and facial expression have been etched in all our memories.  She couldn't believe for the life of her, that I actually asked what I asked, while of course I was wearing a $3.00 used tee shirt from a thrift shop, advertising the pathetic city of Trenton.  It was indeed a good laugh.
 
When my water came, they served it in a lavish goblet.  That alone not only provided more laughs, but made my trip to Monaco notably memorable.  The others got their drinks and we chatted for a while.

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AT THE RESTAURANT

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AND ANOTHER

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MY FREE WATER IN A LAVISH GOBLET

I remember talking to Kerrie again about her travels.  I'm quite envious of her past traveling.  It's people like that who motivate me to travel.  It's people like that who had a huge influence on my presence in Europe at that time.  I look forward to conversations with people like that in the future to encourage future traveling.
 
I also remember talking to Karen specifically about our trip.  She stated that, while she was having an amazing time thus far and she wasn't homesick, she would be ready to go home once the time came.  I agreed to some extent, and mentioned how I missed my house, my bed, my car and, for some reason, my routine weekly life.  We both discussed the people on our tour who were traveling around the world for months and even years.  I am so highly envious of people who have the opportunity to do that.  Karen and I also agreed that some of the tour mates who were extensively traveling seemed to be less excited about the tour than the rest of us.  I suppose part of the extent of how great of an experience we (Karen and I) were having, was knowing that it would eventually end.
 
After our dining experience among what seemed to be the world's wealthiest, we made our way back to the Monte Carlo.  We met the gambling half of our tour and then continued back to the coach and left, getting back to the campsite in Antibes at midnight.
 
While back in our cabin, I explained to Matt that I made arrangements with Vince to go to the campsite pub.  He didn't have much confidence or appeal in the night, so he just went to bed.  He did tell me, however, to wake him up if it was worth it. 
 
I made my way to the pub and met up with Vince there.  We then sat with Steve, Kerrie, Joanne and Hayley.  It was ridiculous how much we proceeded to eat that night.  I don't know what it was, but we were eating like it would be our last opportunity for days.  First, we killed off the rest of my pastel colored M&Ms.  We then went through a huge, two pound bag of pretzels (which I also brought from home) and we ordered at least three orders of cheese fries.  After the gluttony, Joanne and Hayley went to bed.  I then engaged in various interesting conversations.  The first I can remember was talking to Kerrie about general stupidity.  While elaborating on some of the people she encountered while living and working in Colorado, she said the general centered state of some of the people out there amazed her.  It was rare to find locals in Colorado who have left the region of their own country, much less the country in general.  She thought back on questions she fielded as her time as a ski instructor in Colorado.  They included ones like, "Do they have McDonalds in New Zealand?" and, "How long does it take to drive from New Zealand to Australia?"
 
Eventually, Steve went to bed and it was just Vince, Kerrie and myself.  We discussed the best parts of the trip so far.  I can't remember any of the specifics though.  We then compared drivers licenses, money and different cards we had in our wallets.  It was interesting to see such commonplace things that were different for once, being from the other side of the world.  By the way, the Australian money is great.  It's so intricate, complete with several colors and even cut out windows in the bills.  Admittedly, I was slightly embarrassed when I displayed my Monopoly like American bills.
 
For a while, all three of us wanted to retire for the night, but no one had the drive to be the first one.  Eventually however, Kerrie forced herself to bed.  Vince and I then finished our beers and made it to bed at 2:00 am.  Again, I was among the last of our group at the pub.  Everyone seems to get to sleep pretty early compared to me.  On top of that, everyone sleeps a lot on the coach.  Despite being in need of an early night, I didn't know how I was doing it thus far.