My Summer’ish European Experience: French Riviera to Florence


By Liso Donaldson    19-Jul-2013 09:26 UTC+02:00

Go, See, Write: French Riviera to Florence

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The French Riviera

It was a Friday morning. I remember that it was a Friday because it was the most beautiful Friday morning I have ever witnessed in my whole little life. The drive day was along the infamous French Riviera, known in French as the Côte d’Azur. The French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, it also includes the sovereign state, Monaco. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from the Italian border in the east to Saint-Tropez in the west. As a tourist centre it benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71miles) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.

We drove through the same narrow streets that have, since 1929, held the best known Formula 1 Grand Prix.; The Monaco Grand Prix. The erection of the Circuit de Monaco takes six weeks to complete, and the removal after the race takes another three weeks. The circuit has many elevation changes, tight corners, and a tunnel making it perhaps the most demanding Formula One track. The main attraction of the Monaco Grand Prix is the proximity of the speeding Formula One cars to the race spectators. The thrill of screaming engines, smoking tires and determined drivers also makes the Monaco Grand Prix one of the most exciting races in the world.

The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d’Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50% of the world’s super yacht fleet, with 90% of all super yachts visiting the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime.

Surrounded by such magnificent opulence one cannot but help feel like a celebrity (even riding in a bus) and most celebrities go to Cannes. Cannes is a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. This festival is held annually and previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world.Founded in 1946, it is one of the most prestigious and publicised film festivals in the world. The city is also famous for its luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels.

Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille. For decades now, the picturesque Nicean surroundings have attracted not only those in search of relaxation, but also those seeking inspiration and perfume, which a stop at the Fragonard perfume factory seemed to prove true.

After driving for 4 hours through beautiful coastline we finally reached Italy, home to pizza, gelato and the leaning tower. Since no trip to Italy is complete without getting that Kodak picture of yourself trying to push over the leaning tower of Pisa, a stop in the town was absolutely necessary.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisais the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

After a long day of travelling what more could one want than a delicious strawberry daiquiri or long island ice tea at an authentic Italian place? Insert The Red Garter .With more than 50 years history behind it, the Red Garter was born as one of the first American bars in Italy and is today one of the most famous nightspots in the city, well known even overseas. Perhaps the most popular American-style sports bar in Florence, The Red Garter has enough rooms, nooks, and cozy corners to accommodate any mood, and attracts a young and rambunctious crowd of English speakers eager to order a pitcher of beer and kick back with their compatriots.

Some of the guys, Sports fans, congregated in the front room with its plethora of TVs tuned into the ‘big game’, while the rest of us in the mood for mingling kept ourselves situated in the back where there were long picnic tables for the flow of our drinks, a DJ booth, and a dance floor that invariably became the scene of most of the action.  What started off as a mild Contikikaraoke session became a wild night of dancing and story-telling for the duration of the trip. The Red Garter remains one of the best nights on tour.

Needless to say we all became Brian Adams that night!

“18 till I die. Gonna be 18 till I die. It sure feels good to be alive; someday I’ll be 18 going on 65


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