A Travellerspoint blog

15 September – Italy

Florence (Firenze)

sunny 27 °C

Arrived late at night (14th) and slept near San Remo just over the boarder. After driving through hundreds and hundreds of tunnels through every hill along the coast we permanently left the headlights on! It appears in Italy you pay tolls to use all the freeways. You just take a ticket when you get on, and pay a fee accordingly when you exit. You can understand it when you seem to be continually going either through a long tunnel of solid granite, or on a huge aquaduct high bridge spanning a huge ravine. It was scary driving along some of these with trucks and cars screaming past us! The car was starting to feel strange. Wanted to try and get a service in Italy. We’d had trouble throughout most of France as they were old workshops in 200 year old buildings and they all said that our van was too tall, or maybe the just didn’t want to work on our van!

Drove in the morning to get-me-out-of-here-Pisa. We didn’t even bother paying the rediculously high admission fees to go in. The town was a dump, it was searingly hot and there were huge crowds. There was only one sign in the whole place explaining the leaning building only, so if you werent prepared to pay E25 to see it all, then you werent going to get any info at all. The town was so run down and the place was horrid. We did however, have an excellent meal, and got back on the freeway asap!

Arrived in Firenze, Steve swore we must be at the wrong place, as it all looks so ordinary till you actually get to the really old part of town. Florence was so beautifully amazing and romantic. So much history, magnificient buildings, and the thoroughly intriguing story of the Medici family that got us hooked. Arriving on a Saturday night in any big city is hard to get accommodation. One thing Italy is not as good as France at is its Tourist Information Centres. They have huge ques, staff boardering on rude, and in some places, accommodation booking offices “disguised” as tourist info offices so they can charge you for brochures and not give you any info about other accommodation other than what they were receiving commission on selling.

We finally found a hotel on our own and set out to take in some of the night life in Florence. We found a fabulous restaurant about 3 blocks from our hotel. Met a great couple from America and we chatted to them for the rest of the night. We had a great night, and more fabulous food. Steve had decided he enjoy’s the Italian cuisine better than the French. We have found many more Truffle based excellent recipies in the couple of days we’ve been in Italy than in more than 2 weeks in France!

Posted by cssc 02:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

14 September – Monte Carlo to Italian boarder…


sunny 29 °C

Staying another night in a not-so-cheap cheap hotel, we drove back and managed to find a park right in the middle of the yacht club (we have problems with all underground carparking as the van is over 2.6m tall, so we can never fit – parking in all big cities always proves to be difficult but its nice to be able to stand up in the van)!


The second day proved to be even less wind than the first (which is fine the first day when you’re learning the ropes (so to speak) but the second day it was looking to be a little less exciting as we never really got the wind in our hair. We started the race, and it must have been a fantasic specticle watching from the land, all these magnificent J class, and down to our size yachts, mostly gaff rigged and all done up to the nines. Many had fantastic crew outfits – one J class, had huge black and white stripped long sleeved T shirts on all their crew and baggy linen looking pants. They looked like a cross between prison uniforms and roaring 20’s rowing teams! Another boat had a huge A3 size number 8 on the back of all their shirts. And the Yacht Club Monaco’s entrant has all the Red White and Blue they could muster, including all matching red caps. It was a fantastic sight.

So given the lack of wind, and the fact that the owners sister and niece had joined the boat for a few days break, the captain pulled out of the race 5 minutes into it, and launched the dingy after the crew managed to turn 3 huge fenders into a human boogie board and dragged anyone willing to jump into the cold med autumn water around until they got rope burns or bouched off. The chef served lunch and everyone lazed around the decks and watched the race unfold. For the skiff owner there was a joyous day of sailing and we returned via the popular beach and dropped the sails (quite a spectalar site in itself) to the onlooking public and then returned to port.

That night Prince Albert hosted a huge cocktail party on his “yacht” and there were police and security guards everywhere. Steve thought he saw him arrive and walk along his red carpet. There was a naval type uniformed guard standing to attention outside the boat at the ladder for the entire event!

We decided it was time to move on. We were invited to sail again the next day, but with no real increase in wind due the next day, we decided to continue on to Italy…

Posted by cssc 02:23 Archived in Monaco Comments (0)

13 September – Monte Carlo


sunny 30 °C

Monaco being Monaco, we couldn’t even afford a grotty *** hotel without a view (over E285/night)! So we drove to the next town (the next bay around the bend – 5 minutes drive) and found a still expensive old hotel room.

We eagerly arrived the next morning and discovered the amazing history surrounding the America we were about to sail on. It was an exact replica of the original “America” that was built in 1850 and won the first America’s cup yacht race. It was built in 1967 (a good year), at the same shipbuilding yard as the original. It was purchased by a wealthy (filthy rich) Italian, who apparently had the choice of either buying a Picaso or a yacht, and he chose the yacht. There was a permanent staff of 8; a Chef, cook and bottle washer, Skipper, First Mate and 4 crew. Apparently the owner hadnt been seen aboard the boat all season, but basically raced “the season” along the Med from April to October each year. Showing up at all the events, even though it generally needed 20 knots of wind to be competative, they just enjoyed turning up. Most of the staff were Australian and New Zealanders and were all classic boat lovers. The entire boat’s sails were hoisted the old fashioned way with winches only used to assist in docking the boat. It was fabulous fun and we both learned a lot along the way from some incredibly knowledable crew.

Enjoyed a great post sailing drink-a-thon with the crew at the Stars and Bars bar. Rushing to get as many drinks in as possible before happy hour ended!

Posted by cssc 02:23 Archived in Monaco Comments (0)

12 September – France

Cannes - Monaco

sunny 30 °C

The boat show was amazing. There must have been over 1000 boats from a 9.5m classic sailing boat to a 3 storey smegaplex stinker with about 5 radars on the roof. Most contained the obligatory hydraulic extension and lifting ladder that protrudes from the rear of the boat. Thus enabling the occupants to simply step of the back of the boat to the jetty. And to say that the stands to sell these monsters was elaborate, was an understatement! It looked like that had just about extended the yacht club buildings with two storey makeshift showrooms come get-them-pissed-and-they’ll-sign-up-and-buy-one lounges. The Italian boat builders obviously had to import amazing Italian designer furniture for theirs so they stood out from the crowd, which they certainly did!

From Cannes we did a quick hop along the coast to Nice. The traffic again was amazing, and we couldn’t find any camping grounds around, so decided to keep going to Monaco and see how we go there! Arrived early evening, so we found outselves parked out the front of the ritzy Yacht Club Monaco. There just happened to be a Classic Yacht display on, and no security to the marina so we could wander around admiring the boats. We then stumbled over the largest one there, America. Turns out they were looking for crew for racing over the next few days and invited us to join them at 11am the next morning.

Posted by cssc 02:22 Archived in France Comments (0)

11 September – France

San Tropez - Cannes

sunny 27 °C

Left Tulon and headed along the coastal road to San Tropez. The traffic was amazing. Windy roads, amazing views over beautifully coloured water, but strangly no better than say Quindalup, just different, and much more traffic. I guess the only difference is the size of the boats. They were just enormous the further east we went!

From San Tropez we continued along the windy roads to Cannes (pronounced Cairn – as in Cairns without the “s”). Stumbled across the Cannes Boat Show starting the very next day – decided to overnight and go the next day.

Posted by cssc 02:21 Archived in France Comments (0)

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