August 26: We had our luggage placed outside our cabin door by 7:00 so personnel could load it onto the buses taking us to Monaco. I had breakfast with Jan, Rob, and Ginni; afterwards, we boarded a bus for our journey to Monte Carlo. Halfway to our destination, the bus stopped at a convenience store where we could purchase lunch, drinks, etc. Ginni and I decided we would wait to have our lunch once we arrived at the Fairmont Hotel where we were spending the night. Shortly after 1:00, we arrived at our hotel; because we could not check in until 3:00, we took our luggage to a room reserved by Avalon. Ginni and I had lunch in the hotel dining room where we had excellent food and wonderful view of the harbor. We took a walk and stumbled upon the Japanese Gardens; a lovely, quiet place. Upon returning to the hotel, we were able to check in; we retrieved our luggage and went to our room which was very nice. Both of us signed up for the evening tour which consisted of driving by bus to the “Rock” where the palace, governmental buildings, cathedral where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier were married and buried, and other landmarks were pointed out to us by a local guide as we walked the area. The guide told us that Monaco is the world’s second-smallest country and has an unrivaled density of millionaires and billionaires; it does not have taxes. In 1297, the fortress was captured by Francesco Grimaldi; in 1997, the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi Family Dynasty was celebrated. Prince Albert oversees the governing; his wife, Charlene Wittstock, is expecting their first child in December. After the walking tour, we traveled to the Vista Palace Hotel & Beach Resort for our evening meal. Appetizers and drinks were served on a terrace overlooking Monte Carlo; dinner was in the dining room. It was a wonderful way to “cap” off our evening!
August 27: Ginni and I were picked up by a driver who took us to Nice where we had booked lodging at the Holiday Inn for the night. A friend of mine, Monique, lives in Nice and I wanted to have the opportunity of seeing her while I was in France. The driver dropped us off at the hotel where we stored our luggage and received a room number from the hotel staff before starting a 3-hour tour of Nice; our room was to be ready for us when we returned around 12:30. The tour started with a visit to Castle Hill where we had a breathtaking view of old town and the port. From there, we proceeded to the Cimiez area where we could view the Fransciscan Church, referred to Church of Assumption, and walk through the Mediterranean gardens. Within the gardens, we visited the Les Musées À Nice and viewed the roman ruins located within the area. Next, we went to Old Town where we walked the flower market; I purchased some fresh flowers to give Monique when we caught up with her later in the day. Upon arrival at our hotel, we were told they were giving us an upgrade but the room would not be available until 3:00 (we believe our original planned room was given to a large group who registered around noon). I contacted Monique and asked her to delay her arrival until 3:15. We had lunch at the restaurant within the hotel and, at 3:00, our room was ready. However, we discovered it was two beds put together as one; I called the lobby and said we needed a room with two beds. One of the staff brought us keys to another room and, when we entered the new one, it was exactly like the first one. We went down to the lobby and the manager approached us with the question “What is wrong with the room?” We explained that we needed two beds and not one; he explained they had no rooms with two beds and they could not separate the two as one because of the headboard. Our comment “We don’t need a headboard; move it away from the headboard and it will be fine”. During all of this, Monique was sitting in the lobby waiting for us. After introducing her to Ginni, off we went to the shopping district but neither of us found anything to purchase. Monique took us to her apartment where she served us appetizers plus spritz, a drink made with champagne. Then on to Davisto, an Italian restaurant, where Monique had arranged our meal of fresh fish (acquired that morning from a fisherman) along with accompaniments; it was excellent! Since we had to be up and ready to journey to the airport at 4:15 the next morning, we said our “good byes” shortly after 9:00. It was an evening filled with lots of laughter and cheer; I was so glad to have the opportunity to see Monique once again!
Home: We got up around 3:30 in order to be ready for our transportation to the airport at 4:15. The driver was on time and, upon arrival at the airport, we discovered that the American Airlines personnel were not on duty yet so we waited about an half hour before we could check in. After going through security, we went to the lounge where we stayed until our flight was called. The flights back to the good old USA were uneventful; Mary and Joe were at the airport to greet me as planned. In summary, the overall trip was excellent and I am glad I finally got to see France. All of the country is beautiful and the people friendly. Paris was too crowded with rude tourists but I was happy to visit this beautiful city with the added bonus of spending time with Jeannette and Allan. If you are planning on traveling to France, my recommendation would be not to go in the August time frame since that is their holiday season so there were large crowds and many stores closed. The cruise was very relaxing and I was able to meet some wonderful people. But next time I would consider a different airline than American. As always, it was good to go but it was good to be home with my cats, pond, and flowers!