where in the world… (part 3)?

are viv + i?
bonjour mon ami…” from southern france!

using rick steves’ provence & the french riviera guidebook (a.k.a. our “other” bible in southern france), vivien outlined a tour de southern france via our avis rental car: an opel. definitely a different experience for me… cause when i vacation, i tend to stay in one hotel/location for the duration of the stay and take a taxi. the long, windy and scenic roads from town to town were pretty fun to drive.

bonjour from hotel negresco in nice! le'g+v...

not knowing what to expect for the city driving/parking conditions, it was crazy and stressful! the streets were SO narrow and often-times one-way and it was shared by cars, bicyclists, scooters, cats and dogs all at the same time! in most intersections, they had these roundabouts that were a bit confusing as well… and just required you to pretty much close your eye and jump into the circle of death and drive around until you find the right road to get off to! you just had to pay attention to the many arrowed signs and pray you chose the right one!

when in doubt... always head toward "centre ville"...

driving stats:

  • total distance driven: 1234km = 766.772 miles
  • total spent on diesel: €106 euros = $158.73 USD
  • total number of swear words dropped: 11mutha F-bombs” 😐

thank the Lord that there were so many things to ease my driving stress… paellas, poissons and pâtisseries, oh my!  😀

the places:

  • paris

then a short flight to provence (southeastern region in france on the mediterranean, adjacent to italy):

  • marseille
  • aix en provence:  a happening place where one can enjoy people watching and modern shopping all while checking out some great museums dedicated to van gogh + cezanne.

fountain de la rotunde in the city center...

night time stroll down aix en provence's city center...

  • arles:  van gogh called this place home for some time. here is where we also experienced “le mistral” for the first time. passing through the valleys of the rhone and durance rivers, the wind that blew through the streets and the open courtyards were UNREAL! there were times when i opened our rental car doors and really believed the door would rip off from the sheer strength of the mistral!
  • st. remy:  great cafés and even greater chocolates! (and van gogh committed himself to an insane asylum in this city).
  • les baux

home of "château des baux"... a fortified castle built in the 10th century. one of the most beautiful historic castle/site in france!

  • avignon:  we stayed inside the walls of this once fortified city. it is well known for its “palais des papes” (palace of the popes), where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries and “pont-saint bénézet” (bridge of st. bénézet).

a historical palace (which became the residence of the popes) in avignon, it's one of the largest and most important medieval gothic buildings in europe.

  • orange:  seeing the theatre was seriously humbling. since we went kinda late in the tourist season, it was pretty much empty when we got there. and to enter this incredible structure… and taking the site all in gave me goosebumps + chills. to imagine what it must’ve been like in the past when it was filled to capacity and full of energy! the funniest part, was this lone cat that i had to take a picture of… so patiently sitting/waiting in seat 65 for some show to begin. hey andy, can this pic be submitted to http://icanhascheezburger.com/? 🙂

théâtre antique d'orange (“ancient theatre of orange”) an ancient roman theatre...

this cat (assigned seat 65) was patiently awaiting for the start of the show...

  • vaison la romaine
  • isla sur la sorgue
  • rousillion
  • pont du gard (one of the many landmarks in the provence region that is on unesco’s world heritage list).  and man… when you see this structure it’s truly awe-inspiring. so beautiful, so rich in historic worth… and still standing after all these years! makes me realize how young any of the structures we might have in the u.s.

pont du gard... if it was warmer we would have jumped from the bridge and swam!

  • nîmes

the temple of diane...

the pg-version of the matador in front on the arènes de nîmes (thanks to viv + rick steves' guidebook!)

the maison carrée (under renovation)...

the maison carrée, currently under renovation...


arènes de nîmes' lone matador under the spotlight...

– uzes

  • cassis:  a small, quaint seaside port city… it’s referred to as “the poor man’s st. tropez“. this place was definitely my fav! if i go back, i’d stay here longer for sure. the vibe in this place was so nice and relaxed! and after being in the larger cities of aix en provence, arles and avignon, coming here was a great change of pace. the restaurants and shops near the water and the ocean view were breath-taking. cassis is also known for their  magnificent “calanques” (see picture below). when we return to southern france in the future, we hope to spend more time here so we can charter a boat to the callanque en vau and spend the day on the beach (pictured below viv) and swim the crystal clear waters! t+t, bring your snorkel, mask + fins and join us… oui oui!

everyone in france rode bikes!

view of the boat moor from a local cassis cafe...

waterfront view of cassis

after an aftenoon coffee + gelato, a stroll to the beachfront does a soul good!

i scream, you scream, we all scream for gelato!

after hiking 1.5 hours we arrived to callanque en vau. your own private beach!

and then off to côte d’azur (a.k.a. “the french riviera“):

  • cannes
  • monaco:  i have NEVER seen so many maseratis, bentleys, rolls royces, and aston martins in my life. i thought viv + i would get shot for driving our rental opel through here.

the casino monte carlo... where true ballaz go to play! there's an admission fee just to get in and gamble!

  • eze village
  • nice: definitely a tourist mecca. they had an incredible open market on most mornings which looked like pike place market times 10. and the beachfront here was off the chart. seeing the ocean’s color at sunset almost looked fake. viv + i visited the marc chagall biblical museum (prior to going, i had never heard of this artist and after visiting, i am now a HUGE fan of his work) and saw his 12 paintings depicting various stories from genesis + exodus of the old testament (he also has 5 paintings inspired by song of songs). all i could do was just stand speechless and be mesmerized as i looked at each of the paintings. you could literally spend hours looking at each drawing. so much was conveyed through these paintings (the user of shapes and amazing colors)… a reminder to keep being creative and explore how art and faith intersects in my life.

upon entrance of the marc chagall biblical museum... this is your initial view!

viv mesmerized by the "noah and the rainbow" painting by chagall...

sunset in nice = SO nice!

  • villafranche

au revoir (for now)…

for more reading:

– where in the world… (part 1)