Archive for September, 2007

St. Tropez.

Well, I am not one for the celebrity scene but if you are ever in France and want to see where the real ballers live – St. Tropez is your destination.

St. Tropez is not a place for celebrities like Brad Pitt. St. Tropez is a place for celebrates that pay Brad Pitt to do things for them. As you see, the real money isn’t in starring in films or being featured in commercials. The real money is being the person who has the rights to those films or being the owner of that advertised product. They vacation here.

How do you know your rich? When poor saps like me have to pay money to glide past your home on a boat full of other poor saps; that’s rich.

A proud moment was when I was sitting at the port and I noticed a HUGE yacht to the right of my eye. Could it be; the biggest yacht in the port and it bears a Canadian flag!!!!

canada boat

After leaving all the yachts, we traveled to the next baller sanctuary – Port Grimo. This place is so rich that it has its own security guard at the front wall preventing local traffic from entering. Once in, you are surrounded by all the rich peoples backyards – and they all seem to be fully stocked with sail boats. Being a sap, I was once again paying for a boat ride to tour around their backyards.

Down the road is an awesome local English pub called Monros. I remember this place because Granddad and I came here last year…. All day. We sat merrily for a couple hours this time drinking Gin and Tonic.



Back to Le Lavandou

Before arriving in our villa, we stopped upon a place called Grasse. Grasse is a beautiful little part of France where a lot of perfume is made. Needless to say we visited one of these “plants” where we were given a tour of how the operation goes down and then were coerced into buying their product. And you know me, I am a sucker for very attractive women selling things; especially those with a barley speaking English, French accent.

Hot Girl in Grasse

Later that day, we arrived in Le Lavandou. Le Lavandou used to be a sleeper of a town; A little hidden gem for my Grandparents and their friends to spend their days lying on the beach; nowadays its a lot more busy and we found ourselves on the top of these huge hill, over looking all of the towns activities.

Our Villa


Le Lavendou

Guy sitting

We plan to visit a few local places here; Hyeres, Bormes and St. Tropez.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Today we sit in Cannes.

Cannes

You might remember the name of this location because of the Cannes Film Festival. That event unfortunately has come and gone but this week holds the 2007 yacht expo. I thought the boats in Sarnia were nice – this place was off the hook. I could tell Audi was sponsoring the event because there were a million of them lined up driving all the ballers place to place.

Natalie and Brad Pitt

After walking around (and finding our hotel) we found ourselves on the beach directly behind the huge theatre that holds the Cannes Film Festival.

Tonight we went to the “old town” for dinner. We sat a lovely restaurant in a small back alley. Well, the “old town” is primarily small back allies. It’s really unexplainable how much culture you experience at once and the pictures I took didn’t capture the mood at all.

Tomorrow we travel to our final destination where we have rented a villa for 7 days. I don’t know what my internet will be like once I get there (last year I had none).

Cheers.

I had to go to Monte-Carlo

Today we sit in Monte Carlo.
Wow.


Natalie at Monte Carlo

The rest of the trip entails following the sea. I don’t have a problem with that at all.
Yesterday we drove across Italy (6 hours) and rested in Menton.

Driving by a pit stop I had the urge to use the little boys’ room so we stopped. Upon my return Granddad in his persistent habit for getting to know new people was having an all out conversation with a biker having the word “violence” tattooed on his neck. Turns out he was a super nice guy so our posse decided to sit and drink tea with their posse; they even let us sit on their bikes (which I might add are bad ass!).


Natalie on bike

Check out their site!

This morning we got up and cruised down the sea-side and will be resting in Nice tonight on the promenade. This afternoon we will relax on the beach (I am going for a well needed run) and tonight we will travel to the “old town” and drink. Oh yah, and eat.

Venice or Venezia

Today we ventured to Venice (Venezia).


Ron with pigeons

Gondola


It’s a very historic place and I think that what makes it so fascinating. I am always being pressed for time and I regret not having a couple solid days to read about each location I visit. Instead, I make up the other 90% of the travelers; taking pictures and conquering the experience – it’s quite a shame.

Tonight is our last night in Jesolo. It’s always emotional for Granddad at these times. He has been coming here for so many years and to be known by person is a tremendously good feeling. I encountered this 2 nights ago when we entered the restaurant we dined at last year. The same head waiter was there, shook our hands and gave us free food all night. The next night he reserved for us the same table. It’s those little things that make the difference and Granddad seems to get that treatment everywhere we go.

Tomorrow we drive to the south of France to a place called Nice. I love Nice, it has a part in it called “the old town” and it’s amazing. Hole in the wall pubs everywhere and since I haven’t drank on this trip, I imagine tomorrow night will be my first to let the collar loose.

Cheers.

Out with the Old, in with the New.

Tonight I am writing from a taxi, on the way to Verona (which is an hours drive away from where I am staying) to receive my new car – which I am demanding be a Mercedes (because Granddad has always wanted to drive one here). Why am I in a taxi getting a new car and what happened to my Alpha Romeo?

Quick pause, I am on the highway, the taxi driver just got a phone call and he is becoming frantic. He went from slugging along at a nice pace to driving like 150 in two seconds. What the heck!!!!

Anyway, where was I, oh yah, my Alpha Romeo stopped working; seriously. The car was working one minute and not the next. Not knowing Italian and having rented the car in Switzerland, I was up the creek without a paddle. Switzerland said it was Italy’s problem and Italy said it was Switzerland’s. This is my 11th hour of negotiating, dealing with countless Hertz people on the phone, tow-truck companies, mechanics and taxis.

Needless to say, I should have learned Italian. As of right now, the car has been towed away (no idea where to) and I am in a taxi to get a new car. The Italians and been VERY friendly and have gone out of their way to be of service to me. One gentleman in particular had the car delivered to him at his shop, analyzed it, informed hertz, told them it was unacceptable, got me a taxi, had the car towed and now I am on my way to pick up a new ride.

On a day that I was using to treat myself (relax by the beach, drink wine and finish my google book) instead turned into phone calls, being driven to towns I can’t pronounce and being taken to Verona by a mad man taxi driver.

It’s currently 10 PM and I am exhausted. I have no way to contact Granddad and the crew and I think I may spend the night in Verona. The thought of arriving to Verona airport (in 30 minutes) negotiating a new car and then driving back to my hotel does not look enticing. I think I will negotiate that Hertz put me up for the night (4 star) is going to be on my agenda. I will let you know my progress once all of this settles.

UPDATE

I arrived in Verona exhausted. The lady behind the Hertz reception desk had my car replaced. It was a downgraded Alpha Romeo. That, for me, was the last straw. I blocked the line where impatient customers sat until my demands were met. And they were. So now we are cruising in a Mercedes-Benz.

Our new Mercedes

Today we drove to Venice.
Cheers.

Birds chirping, Granddad Snoring.

Wednesday I awoke to the birds chirping, streams pouring and Granddad snoring. Not to worry though, I packed extra ear plugs. We packed our things and departed over the Alps. For those of you that don’t know, the Alps are mountains; high mountains located on the border of Switzerland and Italy.

Natalie on top of the Alps

Once over the Alps I found myself in-between a fierce black Ferrari and his friend, the Porsche. Finally, I had my chance to shine in the motor world; I was driving in a car that could get up to 230 km/h and I determined to find out how I would do against these iconic vehicles. Fortunately for me, they turned the other way when we made it to the autostrada (highway). I got the Alfa Romeo cruising to the tune of 200 km/h and can you believe it – cars were passing me!!!!!!!

We made it to Lake Garda in record time. Granddad had made it back to the hotel he has been coming to for over 30 years; Assenza Isabella – A lovely place on the water.

Garda - Lake Side

Today we strolled down to Riva Garda; Granddad fed the birds and I got to photograph his enjoyment.

Granddad feeding the birds

I have had a lot of time to relax on this trip and with that, catch up on a well needed read. I am currently reading “The Story of Google” which makes me want to search the internet more and more.

Tonight as I write this (I know, I’m such a nerd that I brought my laptop out drinking but I have to take advantage of the free wireless where I can get it) we sit on the side of Lake Garda listening to a gentleman sing, play the trumpet and navigate the karaoke. Natalie and Cheryl sip merely on their wine as Granddad and I enjoy a Brandi. We had dinner again at Da Pippos and once again, enjoyed it a very great deal.

Having a Brandi outside of Di Pippo

I must say, while the Italians don’t know the first thing about bread, they make up for in just about every other compartment (well, they can’t serve a decent pint either but that’s another story). Their pizza and pasta is top notch, seriously, Natalaie keeps exclaiming “this is the best food… ever.”

We will stay in Garda for another two days and then off to Venice.
Cheers.

Reporting live from Montreux, Switzerland.

Yesterday we found ourselves in Pontarlier, France. We traveled to a castle, Chateux do Joux and saw some awesome toilets. We relaxed at one of Granddads favorites spots called Hotel de Joux. He has been coming here for 20 plus years. He loves it because nothing ever changes.

The French are very hospitable, and love the fact that we tip. For dinner Cheryl enjoyed some escargot, Granddad, the perch and Natalie…. Well, she went to bed early – she had wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Today we cruised back into Switzerland cranking Barbara Streisand and the Bee gees. We stopped in at a super market and stocked up on the essentials: liquor and wine.

Right now, we are in Montreux, where we are about to snack down on some pasta and enjoy the sites. We will sleep on the Alps this evening and cross into Italy tomorrow.

I don’t know how my internet will be in the next following days. I will post when I can.
Cheers.

Granddad at his Tree

Granddad at his tree where he marked up with his wife almost 15 years ago.

Droppin the Clutch; Switzerland Style

What’s that smell? Oh Ron must be back in Europe because all I can smell is a clutch burning up as he can’t change gears worth a damn.

Before I get to the messy details of my car, let me just confirm for everyone that we all landed safely and made it to our first destination without a hic-up (other than not being able to find our hotel, but who cares, we’re on vacation!)

Nathan drove up with us Saturday morning to Toronto. Thanks guy, once again, helping me out. We were stuck in a traffic jam on the 402 due to an accident. According to the CB reports, we were going to be waiting a while and would for sure miss our flight. So me, being “Mr. Break the rules,” drove down the emergency ramp passing loads of parked vehicles until we came across a patch of road where we could drive across to the other side of the highway. All of that to say we caught our flight with plenty of time to spare.

We arrived in London England this morning with a 5 hour layover before going to Geneva, Switzerland. So, what is a starving, famished boy to do when visiting his homeland? Have the BEST English breakfast he could find. Bacon, sausages, proper beans….. ummmmmmmm….. So good.

We arrived in Geneva around noon; we had been up 30 hours straight. We checked out into the country fine and then proceeded to Hertz for what we thought would have been a Ford Mondeo. Luckily for us, they had made a mistake; no Mondeo in sight so they had to upgrade us to a $50,000 sports wagon; An Alfa Romeo 159 if you will.

Wow!

We all had dinner tonight, the food was DELICIOUS!!!! We sleep on the border of France and Switzerland and tomorrow we descend to the bottom of the Alps.

Keep checking daily as I think I will have access to the internet a lot more this year.
Cheers.