Monday, May 23, 2011

April 13th: Ciao Bella

So we got to see a little of Nice in the morning as the next day's drive began. The road ran along the sea for a good portion of our drive so we had an excellent view of the beach. With the sun was just starting to come through the clouds and the waves crashing on the beach, it was a very peaceful scene. You can just see the shadows of a couple of people out for an early morning walk.

 The water is very grey in this photo, and so is the sky. It's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

We drove past several more marinas where these massive yachts were moored. It became a running (and tired) joke about that being so-and-so's boat and we were all invited for a party later...or even that it was so-and-so's future husbands boat, once, you know, said future husband realized who he was missing out on. :)

Our last stop before leaving France was at the Fragonard perfumery. It sits high on a hill over looking the water, with one of those twisty little entrance roads that are so fun/worrying to watch our coach driver negotiate.

A pretty display in the entryway...

We had a tour of the factory and then were funneled into the shop (surprising, I know) where we were given samples to smell. It's very flamboyant, the way they describe the scents of each perfume, going on about the scent "notes" in each one...I usually have a hard time picking things out, I just know which ones I like. :)

They import ingredients from all over the world. Why am I not surprised that Canada is their source for pine. Of course it is. :)

Our destination for this night was Florence, Italy. At some point in the next part of our drive we crossed over the French-Italian border, although I'm not sure exactly where. With the European Union agreement in place there are no border crossings between those countries, and the signs upon reaching the border were often small and out of the way. I original had planned to try get a photo of each as we passed into the new country, but I usually missed seeing the sign altogether!

It was a gorgeous drive down the coast for the most part. Luckily, I was sitting on the coastal side of the bus so I had a decent view. There were all these gorgeous seaside towns with tidy little harbours. I could have happily picked one and settled in for a week or two....or three.

When we crossed into Italy there wasn't much of a change in the surroundings. You kind of expect it to be "Oh, this is definitely Italy," but the changes are slower as one type of landscape and architecture blends into another. I did notice though, that Italians were a lot fonder of these terraces on the hillsides in this area. Which makes sense considering it provides them with so much more useful land.

I like the little archway in the building's like they wanted to build this massive house, but it blocked the way to the water, so they built passage underneath. I wish I could have gone closer, it would have made for some neat pictures. :)

We were making one major pit stop on this day before heading to Florence, and that was in Pisa.

For the Leaning Tower of Pisa, of course.

The picture above shows the Baptistery (with the brown domed roof), the Cathedral and the Tower in the background. The Tower was originally built as a bell tower, and was completed in only 177 years. That's some quick work there, hey?

The tower began to sink when the second level was under construction due to an insufficient foundation and unstable subsoil. Construction stopped for about a hundred years at this point, as Pisa was involved in continuous battles with surrounding states. Once construction began again, the builders tried to compensate for the tilt by building each level a little taller on one side. Smart thinking, until you realize that creates extra weight on the sinking side, which causes it to sink faster. Oops?

Recently, the tower has been slightly straightened by the removal of soil underneath the higher side, and the bells have been removed from the tower as well to decrease the weight. The tower was closed to the public for a time, as it was considered unsafe, but is now open again. I didn't take the time to climb the steps...because really, who needs to pay to climb stairs? And when I really just wanted gelato? :)

And, in case anyone really needs to know, lemon gelato is amazing! :)

Guards. To keep you off the grass around the cathedral. It was very nice looking grass to be sure. :)

I took my requisite holding-up-the-tower-with-one-hand-photo, but it's not that great, so instead I'll show you some of the same photos....just taken completely out of context.

Hilarious to watch.

We had a contest going, to see who could get the most creative Leaning Tower of Pisa photo. The first two posing photos and Handstand Guy above were all part of my tour group. The handstand photo won hands down. (Haha.)

I need to see if I can track down a copy of it...but instead I have the photo below, which was one of the runner-ups.

Look Ma! No hands!

We spent the night in another site with little cabins, just outside of Florence. That night, after dinner, we were supposed to be heading into the city for karaoke (not that I would have the nerve to get up on stage!), but my roommate and I were running late getting ready, and the door would just not lock. Worst lock ever. By the time we did manage to lock it, I realized that I'd left my purse on the other side, and then there was getting the lock open, and then locking it AGAIN, and then we were just out of time...the bus ended up leaving without us.

On the plus side, this meant I didn't have to sing on the bus. I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but the penalty for being late to the bus was iPodoke. Like karaoke (which I've already mentioned is not my thing!), but done to a song on your (or someone's) iPod, sung into the microphone over the bus's sound system. Yikes. We had a few rounds of the trip.

I just bought a watch and made sure I wasn't late. (Well, except for this night obviously.)

On the plus side, there were about seven of us who stayed behind, and we sat up at the restaurant/bar/general store until late at night, just hanging out and talking, which was a lot of fun. And I got my laundry done too. Without out fighting for one of the two machines. Bonus.

The only downside to the day: it was a really cold night, and damp (probably not helped by the wet laundry hanging all over the cabin, stuff we didn't want going in the dryer), and the heater wasn't really working... At the time, I thought I would freeze to death before morning.

But obviously I've lived to laugh about it. :)



  1. I'm coming from Karen's blog :-)

    I'm enjoying your trip photos. We're tentatively planning to go over next spring so it's good inspiration. Dh & I've been before but it's a different thing when you haul two teens with you. Way more expensive, for one thing.... LOL

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying these posts.

    It's not cheap for sure, but just imagine how much fun your teens are going to have! I would have loved to have gone to Europe as a teenaged. :)

  3. Makes me want to pack my bags! We have friends in Italy and Croatia right now.