Barcelona to the French Riviera,
It was another early morning wake-up, we will learn to loathe these starts, pack up the tent and coach and hit the road. Our super coach driver Rado weaved his way through the breathtaking landscapes of the Provence, famous for its fields of lavender. We arrived in a town by the name of Avignon for lunch. We were greeted by the grand Palais des Papes, “The Popes Palace” named due to the large number of popes it has produced. The Palais des Papes is steeped in history and dates back to the 14th Century. We were lucky enough to be in Avignon during the famous “Festival d’Avignon” held in the Popes Palace courtyard. The Festival d’Avignon is a street art, music, theatre and dance festival. I am a big fan of street festivals so you could just imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a world famous street festival in France. I could of stayed in Avignon for days. I walked around and watched all the amazing performers, looked through all the markets and just took in all the sounds, smells and action. I found a little deli and attempted to order a Baguette and an orange juice. We sat out in the courtyard and just watched the festival pass us by. It was a great way to spend my lunch break. Throughout the amazing dance, artwork and markets there were yet again scammers. This lady came up to my pointing to a peace of paper and mumbling. It was written in French and some really bad English, but I got the gist of it. It said “Deff Society”, and she asked for a donation. Now I have already heard about this scam and was ready for it. These people can hear and speak fine so please do not fall for them. On our way back through the festival to our pre-organised meeting place I noticed a guy setting up for a gig. He had long dreads, was dressed in faded and ripped jeans and had a Didgeridoo. I thought this guy must be Aussie, I wonder where he is from? So I went up and in my best aussie accent said “g’day mate” To which reply g’day mate, good to see another Aussie”. We had a brief chat while we waited for our group to arrive. Turns out this bloke was from Byron Bay and has been travelling around Europe playing gigs at all the Festivals. What a life that would be hey? We wished him best of luck and got back on our couch. We cruised along the rugged coastline of Côte d’Azur though the famous Cannes, think famous film festival.
That night we stopped at a cool Contiki Camp ground in Antibes. My back was playing up again and I really needed some help. Lucky enough one of the Friends of the Contiki Crew who was staying there that night is a professional deep tissue masseur. I was in heaven, my back had pretty much seized up and I could hardly move. This amazing lady managed to release my back and it was so good I could touch my toes. So I told myself to look after my back and not do anything stupid. That kind of didn’t last. Just around the corner, only a 5 min walk was a great not so little theme park. We wondered down there and where amazed it was just there, we do not have anything like it in Western Australia. We went on this dodgiest looking roller coaster and mucked around
on the bumper boats. Which we all went a little crazy and got completely saturated. A few of the braver guys went on this massive swing, it was huge. You got strapped in, winched up to the top and then let loose. It was pretty cool to watch but there was no way you were getting me on that. That night I had my first taste of Frogs Legs, kind of tastes like chicken, some French Champagne and relaxed, after the excitement of the Theme Park.
Our first stop in the morning was the Fragonard perfumery where we learnt all about how French Perfume was made, much to the excitement of the all the guys on the tour. We were more interested in all the super cars in the car park. A high end rental company uses the car park as a meeting point for rich people to lease high end sports cars and drive around the French Riviera. I thought I am getting a photo of these cars but was soon pounced upon by one of the men and told no photo’s you must pay for photo. A few of the girls brought up big in the perfumery, I am sure it was a good deal as I know that French Perfume in Australia is very expensive.
That afternoon we wondered around the street and had a glimpse into how the other half live. It was very glitzy and glamorous. We thought that we would take this
opportunity to chill out down on the beach and take in the famous French Riviera beach lifestyle and maybe get a glimpse of some celebrity sunbaking topless. No such luck, all we got was this old lady whose breasts were like the ones off “Something about Mary”. I have no idea why the beach on the French Riviera is so famous. It is full of rocks, there is no sand and you need to where shoes into the water because the rocks hurt, you can not lay down on the beach as the rocks dig into your back, you need have these bamboo rugs.
If you wanted to be on the part of the beach were it is cool to be seen you have to pay to enter. I did not like that at all. I guess in WA we are a little spoilt with beaches. We do have the best beaches that I have seen all over the world, white sandy beaches, blue as blue water, just perfect.
That night we ticked off another country, Monaco. I’m still amazed that we just went to another country for a few hours. In Australia you drive 6 hours and 600km just to get to another town. It takes two days to get out of Western Australia driving, but here we are going to another country for a few hours to check out a casino. But what a casino! We went to the famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco the home of the formula 1. We drove over the grand Prix starting line and had a look around this amazing little Principality.
Monaco is so flash it is ridiculous. It is a place to see and to be seen. We ventured into the glitzy casino and stood out like sore thumbs. I am certain that they see all the backpackers coming into have a look around all the time but we just felt so out of place. I had to get my James Bond fix and asked at the bar for a Martini. It was the worst tasting drink I have ever had. A fellow Contiki guy went up to the same bar and said and I quote “Got any Jager?” To which the shocked bar tender replied with a stern face “No” much to our amusement. So where ever we went after that he asked “Got any Jager”. Right up till the point in Prague that he got it tattooed on him. That is another story. A few of us paid the 10euro fee and went into the “High Rollers Room”. At first there was no one in there so we actually had an entire table to ourselves which was pretty cool. We played a few games of Roulette and I even came away 20euro ahead. One of the young Americans on the tour had his first taste of gambling ever and he too won, I think he walked away 60euro up.
Then the “High Rollers” started to roll in. We watched two friends just playing around and putting bets on of up to 90K Euro rounds. I then saw one of them flick the dealer a 5K chip. We noticed these massive square chips in the back pocket of one of the men. We watched him chuck it on the table, to our surprise it was 100K Euro chip. I witnessed his mate playfully steal one of the 100K chips and chuck it on the table this was no problem. The High Roller noticed us, gobsmacked and asked “English or French?” I asked him how much do you bet? To which he replied I don’t know, it doesn’t matter it is just a game. It was one of these weird moments where we had a glimpse into the super rich lifestyle and how they live. I managed to keep two 10 euro chips from the High Rollers Room as souvenirs.
Outside the casino was just as impressive as inside, it was a little later now so there were a few more flash cars there. This huge white car that I have been told was a “WhaleBack” a custom built car and a black Lamborghini, which we witnessed a sugar daddy and his girlfriend get into, not before he put her Louie Vuitton matching bags into the front boot.
All in all Monaco was a place to see and we absolutely loved people watching the super rich.
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