Part of the benefits of living in Toulon is the close proximity to other cities. We are about 35 miles east of Marseilles, 75 miles west of Cannes, 85 miles west of Nice and 102 miles west of Monaco, with most of those miles being on the highway. Our highways in France are nothing like the big ones back in the US, with most of them being just two lanes. Occassionaly, you get stuck behind a semi or a farmer, but it is mostly smooth sailing. We have come to the conclusion that the french learned that the left lane is only used for passing, which leaves us with the left lanes all to ourselves. Since Shaun only has 1 practice a day and often has a few days off after a game, we try to get out and see as much as possible in our region. With these great cities being so close, we make a few 'day-trips' but not as often as you would think. First off, we have tolls on our highways in the south. As soon as you get on the autoroute, your credit card starts smoking. To Nice and back, it is over 25($32) euros in tolls. Then you add in gas. We understand it is all relative, but we laugh sometimes thinking about ourselves scoffing at the gas going up to $3.80 in Atlanta a few years ago. Here, it is close to $8 a gallon, (yes, Harp you read that right, $8). Fortunately our car is diesel, since regular gas is more expensive. Then, you have the speed cameras..... ah, the speed cameras. Very rarely will you see police/cops on the highway enforcing the speed limit. In fact, I can pretty much count on one hand how many times I have actually seen one in the last 8 years. You see, here in France, the police all ride together..in the same car. Sure, it's probably better for environment etc...blah blah, but it is not uncommon to see a small French police car with at least 4 cops packed inside doing their best 'barrel of monkeys' impression. So, if they actually needed to pull someone over and arrest them, where would that person sit? And on whose lap? Wonder what the criteria is for determining that? Back to the speed cameras..so, on most major highways, there are speed cameras off to the side. Not only is it clearly marked, but there is a sign a few hundred yards ahead to warn you that there is a speed camera coming up. Seems a little contradictory, doesn't it? Kind of like the police planning a big drug raid for a saturday but 'stopping' by on friday to give them a 'heads-up', I mean who would be stupid enough to stick around until saturday and get caught...? Ummmm, well Shaun and I have received 3 tickets in the last 5 years. See, the timing is like this. You are driving (most likely talking too) and see the first sign that there is a speed camera approaching, so you slow down (stop talking and focus). Some time passes, you (begin talking again) and look down at your speedometer and think to yourself, 'why am I going this slow?' You speed up, and flash, you just received a ticket. Pretty clever little system they got themselves, huh?
|Actual speed camera|
|Look closely, you will see 4 cops in there..|
However, if there is one city worth all that trouble, it is Nice. Often times, we head to Nice on a sunday to walk on the boardwalk, relax and eat. The boardwalk, or the Promenade des Anglais, runs along the beach for miles and miles in the heart of Nice. It is lined with cafes and little restaurants, benches for relaxing and gazing out at the ocean, and is very active with runners, cyclists and rollerbladers. I always dreamed of having my 'regular' running route be on the Promenade. For now, I will have to settle for down past the Veterinarian's office in Toulon up to the local Pharmacy and back...something tells me that it's not the same. Just opposite the boardwalk and 'inside' the city are many squares that host flower and antique markets by day, then restuarant's outdoor seating by night. There is a certain energy in Nice. There is something so intriguing about a beautifully architectural city lying 40 yards from the Mediterranean Sea. We have been at all times of the year, and it has something different to offer each time. The last time we went while the weather was still 'beach weather', we rented bikes and strolled up and down the promenade for hours just cruising and people watching. Each time we go, we 'stumble' upon something new that we hadn't seen before. That is the beauty of Nice, you never know what you might find there.
|Architecture in Nice, market and sunset view of the Promenade|
|Tony, Allyson, Shaun and I on our rent-a-bikes.|
|A rare 'pearl' we found while people watching..|