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Old 06-10-2013, 05:09 PM   #16
kikids
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Lovely Villefranche

Villefranche:

The plan: Monaco for the Oceanographic Museum and Nice for the Cours Saleya flea market and either Promenade des Anglais or the Chagall Musuem if time allowed. I had train and bus schedules/stops researched, along with tomsportguide printed out and my Rick Steves chapter on the area. Ready to go!

The outcome: Due to a medical emergency the ship high-tailed it to the port during the night, arriving around 1030pm. The view of Villefranche at night all lit up was nothing short of breathtaking. But we had to wait til morning to disembark, of course.

As this is a tendering port, instead of crowding the stairs, anyone not on a tour was asked to meet in the theatre for a tender ticket starting at 745. We arrived around 750, and had to wait until 810 or so to get on a tender. They were good size boats, probably 100+ people. I had my color print out of tomsportguide and could see the location of the train station as the tender headed for shore. I absolutely would not have found the train station without this as it is kind of hidden without good signage (IMO). There was an attendant on the platform heading to Monaco but only a ticket machine on the platform headed to Nice. To be safe, we went to the attended side and I'm very glad we did.

As it turned out, even though we have credit cards with PIN's (no chips), none of the train stations in France or Italy accepted any of our credit cards (BOA, USAA, or Fidelity banks). *** Of all the shops, eateries, and many places we spent money on our trip, the automated train machines were the only places our cards were rejected.***
There was one attendant at the ticket counter and another, who seemed to be security, on the platform, warning people about keeping valuables close and reminding people to validate their tickets in the punch box. Both employees spoke english well. I bought a ticket to Monaco and a return ticket from Monaco to Nice at the same time. We waited maybe 10 minutes for a train to monaco. The trains were kind of yucky, grafitti filled, old, etc. I'll post a picture. But the ride to Monaco was quick and you can't miss the stop, the overhead voice announced it, there were signs on the platforms you passed, etc. Getting off the train though, my guide books said to look for the Place Ste Devote exit, as there are 3 exits to the Monaco train station. Nothing was marked Place Ste Devote! So we followed the crowd and a sign saying "Monaco Ville and Palace" which took us, thankfully to the Place Ste Devote exit. I knew when we walked out of that tunnel that there was no way we could walk to the museum. Due to the hills there is no line of sight, everything twists and turns, I couldn't see any road signs, and for a minute I panicked a little. Then right in front of me, a bus drove by that said bus #2 and I knew that both bus #1 and bus #2 went to the museum so we just followed the bus and jumped on. I had read you could buy tickets from the driver for 2 euros each, so that's what we did instead of trying the machine and saving 50 cents. I asked the driver to let me know when we arrived at the museum/palace stop, and he did. It was lots of twists and turns and hills though - we'd still be looking for it if we'd tried to walk!
We arrived at the museum around 910 but, contrary to guide books saying it opens at 9, it doesn't open until 930. We loved the museum though - nice display of fish, seahorses, jellys, etc. And the rooftop has a playground (new)!!! Views of monaco and the harbor, and a cafe that serves big 5 euro sandwiches. My kids loved it!
At around 1115 we reversed our path, caught the bus again, got off at Princess Antoinette (as an alternative you could ride the bus around Monaco to see it all and get off right at the station). We had a very hard time finding the train station entrance from the Princess Antoinette stop. Eventually we just got lucky but we should have asked someone.
Since we had our return ticket to Nice, we looked at the monitors and saw our train was on "voie 3" and followed the signs. It was pretty easy. But to be sure, I did ask someone on the platform "to Nice?". In fact, I never trusted our instincts the entire trip and I always asked someone on the platforms if I was on the right track. (And if I hadn't, we would have taken a wrong train in Italy so it pays to be a polite but annoying American).
The ride to Nice went smoothly as well, getting off at Nice Ville was a no brainer. That train station is a hot mess of crowded people and construction. Follow the crowd out! I had hoped to take the tram to the waterfront but you had to buy tickets from a machine (no attendant) and it only accepted coins. I did not have 4 euros in coins at the time so we walked it. Very long walk to the waterfront! On the plus side, my bank, BOA has a recipricol with BNP Paribas and I knew their logo was a green square with white stars in it, and we saw several of their ATM's during our walk to get more euros out.
We arrived at the cours saleya market, which is a flower market every day except monday when it becomes an antique/flea market. Here is a cool article about it: http://chezsabine.com/2012/05/30/a-d...n-nice-france/

It was fun, but I was worried about my kids breaking something, things were overpriced, and we were hungry. So my kids found a couple trinkets (lots of little ceramics for sale), and we ate and one of the many places along the edge of the flea market. There are public restrooms but they cost 50 euros per person.

By the time we finished our crepes it was around 230 and starting to rain. We had to make a choice, head to the beach/promenade area and dip our feet in the Mediterranean, or see the Chagall Museum. Since it was raining I opted for the museum but we searched using Rick Steves map for the right bus and could not find it. And every bus stop we found that was wrong had a zillion people at it! So I said, forget it, lets just get wet and go to the beach! In retrospect it was kind of fun, although at time I was cold, wet and slightly frustrated. We walked along the shore until we came to the very first awning-covered beach cafe. The staff there only had one or two other patrons and 60 or more tables. There wasn't a single soul on the rocky beach! Well, until my daughters showed up, and singing and dancing in the rain on the beach in Nice, my husband and I sat and watched them under the awning drinking wine and eating complementary potato chips. And life was good! (And free, nice bathrooms!) Oh, and the wine was cheaper than a can of pop!
By 330 we were soaked and too exhausted to mess with trains or buses, and just wanted to get back to the ship. So we quickly found a cab stand by the casino/mcdonalds across the street and hopped in. The very sweet female cab driver spoke about 3 words of english. Fortunately my college french was enough to tell her where we needed to go and get a price of 38-45 euros to take us from nice to villefranche. She couldn't have been sweeter and she went on and on about her kids and I just kept nodding and saying "oui, oui", and she got us to the port in under 15 minutes and only charged us 35 euros. The taxi ride was worth every cent between the convenience, being out of the rain, and her charm.


If I could go back and do it again: I was disappointed that Nice wasn't nice. (ha ha) It just wasn't very pretty and lots of construction. I'm still happy to say I've been there and soaked my tootsies in the French Riviera but if I ever go back, I'd see Monaco again but then maybe consider Cap Ferrat or Eze. Also I wouldn't have spent time researching buses in Nice, I didn't use them and saving a few bucks figuring out the Nice bus system wouldn't have been worth it - taxis cost more but earn their benefit.
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Old 06-10-2013, 05:14 PM   #17
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Villefranche port at night

And in the morning, this photo taken from the tender boat

New playground on the roof of Oceanographic Museum in Monaco

Inside the Nice/Monaco bus

Cours Saleya Market

Hunting for cool rocks in the rain along Nice's coast.
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Old 06-10-2013, 05:27 PM   #18
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CrusinNick - I booked direct thru the hotel by emailing them. I don't know if they charge extra for more people. I just told them I needed a room for 4 and they emailed me a price and it was done. The other option was to go with 2 rooms somewhere and had I gone that way, I may have tried priceline since so many places offer double rooms, but quad rooms are hard to find.

cforsythe - I recommend asking to be moved to 1st seating just for the last breakfast, or eat at Topsiders. Disney transfers are so costly. I'm telling you there were like 60 cabs lined up at the port hungry for travelers. That would allow you to leave at your own pace. I know using dis transfers offers some guarantee and mental security though, so I get it. You can't go wrong. You'll get to the airport with plenty of time.

To all others following along, especially those of you in the midst of planning for upcoming cruises, thanks for reading! La Spezia was my favorite stop so stay tuned.
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Old 06-10-2013, 07:36 PM   #19
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Photos of La Spezia, report forthcoming...

If you want to see pics of beautiful Lucca or the tower of Pisa area you can find them anywhere, especially tripadvisor. I took 200 pictures at this port but I am only posting the oddball helpful ones here. Eventually I'll add my favorite/most proud pics to this thread. But not today.


Map of Tuscany train routes. Man I wish I'd had this on hard copy. There are no maps like this available at the train stations - only posted on a few select trains. If you can find one on the internet - download it and print it!


Sorry to gross you out but this is the free woman's, yes woman's toilet at the Lucca train station. I'm still not sure how you 'go' in it.


Top of the Guinigi Tower in Lucca. Again, look it up if you plan to see Lucca.


My kids LOVED renting and riding bikes in Lucca. So much better than walking! Here we have them parked at the main, touristy Piazza, parked in front of a cafe table we ate at. Chrono bikes was great to work with. Bring your drivers license for collateral. Found them thanks to Rick Steves recommendation.


Train station you need to get off at to see the Pisa tower. It is called Pisa San Rossore. Don't get off at Pisa Centrale, the walk is four times longer from Centrale. As you can see, it's pretty basic, nothing flashy!!


The train to Pisa. Italian trains are like the Metra in Chicago (comfy but you need to know where you were going) whereas the trains in France were more like the Chicago subway/elevated train system (well marked routes but kinda nasty). If that analogy helps a single person, I'll be surprised.
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Old 06-10-2013, 08:49 PM   #20
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Off to a fantastic start. You are bringing up some great memories of my 2010 cruise.

BTW, stand on the footprints, facing forward, squat, and let 'er go. That is the nicest squatters I've seen in Europe. I still have nightmares of some of them in northern Greece and Macedonia.

Jill in CO
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Old 06-10-2013, 09:12 PM   #21
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Great report so far.. We are doing the Med cruise next year!!

The pictures so far are awesome!!
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Old 06-10-2013, 09:26 PM   #22
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BTW, stand on the footprints, facing forward, squat, and let 'er go. That is the nicest squatters I've seen in Europe. I still have nightmares of some of them in northern Greece and Macedonia.

Jill in CO
I showed the squatty potty pic to my daughter and she said "Oh no! I thought we left all of those in China!" (We did ABD China last summer and will do the med cruise in August)
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:47 AM   #23
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Thanks for the tip on the train map. I think I found it, I hope this works!

http://www.discovertuscany.com/attac...es-tuscany.pdf
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:13 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by jedijill View Post
Off to a fantastic start. You are bringing up some great memories of my 2010 cruise.

BTW, stand on the footprints, facing forward, squat, and let 'er go. That is the nicest squatters I've seen in Europe. I still have nightmares of some of them in northern Greece and Macedonia.

Jill in CO
Hahaha yes we ran into these lovelies all over France and Italy when I was there in 2005! UGH be sure to plan for your next European trip by doing the 30 day squat challenge before you go!!
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:38 AM   #25
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Such useful information so far, thank you. I love the link you posted to the blog about the flea market in Nice. I was starting to consider not going to Nice at all, but after reading that article, I will so be there! It looks amazing! Do the restrooms really cost 50 Euro per person? That's insane! Those toilets had better be gold-plated!
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Old 06-11-2013, 12:04 PM   #26
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Such useful information so far, thank you. I love the link you posted to the blog about the flea market in Nice. I was starting to consider not going to Nice at all, but after reading that article, I will so be there! It looks amazing! Do the restrooms really cost 50 Euro per person? That's insane! Those toilets had better be gold-plated!
50 Euro to use a bathroom! That's enough to make you welt your pants!!!!
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Old 06-11-2013, 12:05 PM   #27
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50 Euro to use a bathroom! That's enough to make you welt your pants!!!!
Probably more like .50Euro although I've seen 1euro.

Jill in CO
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Old 06-11-2013, 12:36 PM   #28
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Probably more like .50Euro although I've seen 1euro.

Jill in CO
I paid 1 euro each toilet trip.

Great report so far. Looking forward to the rest.
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Old 06-11-2013, 01:51 PM   #29
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I would gladly pay a euro each time not to have to squat. In the schools over here, my daughters tell me that the squat toilet is the norm (10 year old school)
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:50 PM   #30
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debsters - so glad you found that map, it's perfect.

The potty talk is cracking me up. Yes, If i said 50 euros I meant 50 cents. I did not run in to any that were 1 euro much less 50! Sorry!
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