Saturday, August 30, 2014

8/7/14 Day 203 Roadtrip: The Coast of France

After our weekend in Paris, Kevin, Celeste and I are reunited with Julie to continue our Eurotrip, and for the duration we are heading South, onward to Toulouse for the Buddhist monastery we have been invited to visit while we were in London. We drive for hundreds and hundreds of miles through endless acres of flourishing sunflowers, and thirsty grapevines. Stopping occasionally to marvel at the turned down faces of the sun-loving flowers that instinctually reach upwards for the sunshine. We stop in Carcassonne for pizza and spend some time wandering around the huge and beautiful fortress castle upon a hill, just like in the board game. We finally reach Nalanda Monastery, nestled next to a river in the quiet village of Lavaur, some 35 kilometers from Toulouse just as dark sets in. Unfortunately for us we happened to arrive during a retreat of silence and our stay there must be diminished to a tour of the grounds, and a cup of tea with a few of the resident monks accompanied by enlightening conversation. 

Leaving Lavaur feeling radiant and full of positive Buddhist vibes the four of us continue our voyage deeper into France and all the way into the depths of Spain. The four of us split up for this weekend, with Julie and Celeste excited for a getaway to Barcelona, where Kevin and I have no desire to hit in the absolute peak of tourist season. We instead venture back to stay with Sergi, our friend who hosted us back in April when we visited Roses and Cadaques the first time. The weekend is relaxing and just what we needed, unfortunately for the ladies the Barcelona con artists got the best of them by distracting them as a group of three; two men attempted to sell them flowers and a third nabbed their purse unseen and unheard beyond the commotion. Luckily the thief obviously didn't have the know-how required to make a passport useful and dumped them with the purse in a nearby garbage can. Luckily Julie had her second card stashed away separately as you should always have your money and cards split between two places for when and if you do get ripped off. We reunite in Figueres and spend our last hours taking advantage of cheaper fuel, tapas and 1€ wine before beginning our drive across the South coast of France, the French Riviera. 

We drove through Montpellier, Nice and Cannes, with many smaller less crowded and beautiful beaches in between, stopping every so often to take a dip in the waves or to refuel with espresso. The drive into the separate country of Monaco was a split second of a journey lasting only the 4.4 kilometers of beachy width the country independently controls. The beaches on the Riviera were no doubt beautiful, but certainly not as fantastical as I have always imagined, nor as pristine and wild as the beaches in Ireland, Portugal or Spain. They are more about the ritz and glamour, fancy cars...and on the side the beaches are nice, but it was nonetheless nice to see how crowded these overrated coastlines are in height of the Summer season. I would personally take my beach vacation elsewhere, but to each his own. 

A little roadside vine tasting

Sunflowers turned down for the evening
A bit more perky
Julie and her flower
Turned up for a taste of sunshine
The beautiful grounds nestled in the woods

Oh how I have missed fruity sangria
We even returned to the Dali museum since we were short on time the first visit 

Just like in the game
But significantly larger

Some killer campsites this week

Adult juice box, 1€ Spanish red blend

Lunch break in Montpellier

The French Riviera coastline, not bad

The sunny beach of Cannes, or Nice (similarly attractive beaches)

Country number 13
Monaco license plates
Flashy architecture in Monaco

The view back towards France from Monaco
Poly's newest additions: pine cone from the Riviera and prayer flags from Nalanda Monastere

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