Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Riviera!

To be fair, the weather was poor as we traversed the famous French Riviera. However, even under the best of conditions, it has to bear little resemblance to the images portrayed in romantic comedies such as To Catch a Thief and other movies.
Take the renowned Principality of Monaco for example. At just less than 2 square kilometers in total (about 485 acres) and a population, not including visitors, of 32,000 there are just 650 square feet per person - about the square footage of two American RVs. This doesn't sound too bad until allowance is made for roads, sidewalks, businesses, retail space, hotels, casinos, restaurants and parks. All of these necessary elements eat into the 485 acres, reducing the remaining land area to something in the range of 10 feet square (100 square feet) per person. Not surprisingly then, Monaco, the most densely populated country in the world, has become a high-rise haven as it seeks to break out of the confines of a 10' by 10' cell limitation. This result is not confined to Monaco. All along this part of the coast (and for a further 100 miles into Italy, we were to learn) the mountains slope down into the sea, leaving just a narrow strip of land that is more or less suitable for building on and everything that is there, is piled into this margin. The desire for a "good" address and a glimpse of the ocean must loom large in the residents eyes.
Marian has a cousin - Emma the Hippie - who has lived around these parts for the last fifty or sixty years and we planned to stop by to say Hello and catch up on the last half century. That was the plan. Emma lives in Menton, the "last stop" in France before the Italian border, a city renowned for its pleasant year-round climate and, of course, its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. After a frustrating half-hour of driving up and down outside of Emma's crib we foolishly turned into the multiple hairpin road shown in the map and got seriously jammed up at the second turn. After some nimble footwork and a little cussing we conceded defeat and fled to Italy without ever announcing our presence to Emma.
Entering Italy was similar to crossing from Indiana into Ohio - no formality, no immigration or customs posts and, outside of a change of road surface (for the worse) and language changes on signposts and billboards, it would have been quite unnoticed. Hooray for the EU on this front and also on the currency front - no change there either - Euros through and through. Following are some snaps of this odyssey covering Saint Raphael, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo and similar exotic places - all taken from within the moving vehicle since, in a hundred miles of somewhat tired and tacky seaside resorts, there was nary a place to stop. After a pretty grueling day in the saddle the weather had begun to recover and we finally pitched up at another Dutch owned campsite in Ceriale, Italy.

On a typical day, sunshine, blue skies and pleasant temperatures, these bays and harbors must look a lot more attractive. Unlikely though, that the overcrowding and lack of parking will be anything but worse


The coastal highway through Nice

Downtown somewhere...

More highrise housing

The Autoroute - Interstate equivalent - runs close to the ocean all
along this part of the coast. The majority of the express highway
system throughout France and Italy are actually toll roads,
known affectionately as Peage

Continuation of the coast road in Italy

More of the Italian Riviera
Snapped along the way...

In truly inaccessible areas along the coast, construction is
performed by erecting a crane midway between the nearest
usable highway and the construction site to move materials
in and out as required

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