Sete, France was our first stop after Barcelona and it was another new port for us. It was a small town that was fun to walk around but not a lot to do or see there. It has just been added to some cruise ship itineraries and the town’s tourist department has done an excellent job in making this a pleasant stop. It appears the most interesting thing to see in Sete is the water jousting but this doesn’t occur until their festival in August. They have an official jousting tournament that occurs in August where the jouster stands out on a platform of a boat and tries to knock the jouster on the other boat off his platform. The jousters have wooden shields and 8 foot steel tipped poles, and it looks like the old days when knights used to joust. We think that if this town wants to be a major cruise line stop they need to put on jousting demonstrations for the tourists. People would definitely come to see that. We did have a pleasant walk up the hill above the city and there were some great panoramic views from the top (Mount Saint Clair). We walked down the side where there was a nice lighthouse and a very interesting cemetery where all the flowers on the tombstones were made out of ceramic. They call this city a little Venice for all the canals they have but it really didn’t seem too much like Venice to us. All in all though we thought this was a nice port stop.
Our next stop was Cannes where we had an overnight stop because of the International Film Festival having its annual presentations in the city. The first day we decided to take a train trip to Nice but when we got off the ship we were told the trains weren’t running. This has happened to us before in France where they seem to strike all the time. We ended up finding another couple with their son who wanted to go to Nice also and we shared a taxi driver with them for the day. The driver took us to Nice and Eze along with a few photo stops along the way. When we walked by the beaches they were packed with people. The weather was nice and sunny and the temperature was a very comfortable 80. The beaches in Nice are not that nice. They are made up of rocks and not sand. People walk the beach in their water shoes or sandals. There are many beach clubs or restaurants on the water that rent out beach chairs and umbrellas. In one area there were quite a few boys that were jumping off the rocks and some of the jumps were around 20 feet over the little rock cliffs. We left Nice and headed towards Eze but along the way we stopped at an observation area to look down at Villefranche. This is a beautiful cove where cruise ships come in. There are restaurants and little beaches around the cove. We had stopped here once on a previous cruise but didn’t spend too much time around the cove area. When we arrived at Eze we were very impressed with this well kept up medieval city. The city history goes back to 2000 BC and the control of the city has gone back and forth between the rule of Greeks, Romans, Moors, Spain and France. In 1860 the people of Eze unanimously decided to be part of France and it has stayed that way ever since. The city itself has been called the “Eagles Nest” because of how it sits high up o Eze and there are numerous shops and restaurants which line its little streets. It was a very nice stop on our short day tour. That night we walked into Cannes to see film festival activities. It was a zoo downtown with everyone trying to get a little glimpse of the movie stars as they were chauffeured into the festival. We were not there to look for any stars but we certainly got caught up in the traffic of thousands of onlookers, some of who were decked out in their best fashionable clothing. It was certainly different to see this city when the festival was in full gear.
Our second day in Cannes was just a little walk around the city. We went up to the old city and took a few pictures from the overlook areas above the city. As we walked down the hill we were impressed with some of the little cobblestone roads with shops and restaurants that we hadn’t seen on our previous trip to this city. As we walked further, we came across a really nice fresh market place where there were vendors selling fish, meats, vegetables and even some were cooking little lunch delicacies that looked really good. We then walked to the boardwalk on the beach and once again people were out taking advantage of the sun and ocean. There were many crews working in the beach area to remove many of the structures on the beach that had been erected for the film festival. As we walked by the film festival building there was one final event going on. People were selling tickets on the street for some of the film premiers that were going on inside. Once again many people were decked out in their finest gowns and tuxes to go to this final event. We took a leisurely stroll back to the ship and stopped along the marina for a little beer and wine before boarding the ship.
Next year we have a group taking a 15 day river cruise with us out of Paris that goes up north on the Seine River to Rouen where the river goes into the English Channel. From there we are taking an excursion to see the famous World War II Normandy beaches before our cruise ship goes back down the Seine to Paris. From Paris we transfer down to Lyon France and get to see the southern side of France before ending up in Nice where we are doing a 3 night stay on the beach there. After getting a chance to see some of this area again on this cruise we have mapped out many nice places to come back and see when we visit the French Riviera again next year. We are excited to spend some time here to see other areas we didn’t get to see this time. We are also doing a 3 night stay in Paris prior to this cruise and will be there during Frances Bastille Day (Independence Day) celebration. The fireworks display at the Eifel Tower is supposed to be spectacular for this celebration. We have six other couples coming with us and still have room for one more couple if anyone is interested!
After leaving France we made two stops in Italy. The first stop was in Livorno where we were going to go into Florence again but the weather didn’t look good so we stayed around the area to get some things done. When we got to the port for Rome we rushed to the train station where we are sure we were the only couple from our ship that made the 7:44 AM train to Rome. The weather didn’t look too good for the afternoon and we wanted to get an early start. We were standing in the St Peters Square in the Vatican at 8:30 AM ready to go! There were very few people there and we just spent some time walking around and taking some pictures. We then headed to the Spanish Steps and stopped along the way for some pictures of Castel Sant’Angelo. We arrived at the Spanish Steps which was not too crowded yet either, and took several pictures. After that we headed to the Trevi Fountain and there were certainly a lot more people there. The last time we were at the fountain, it was being restored and you really could not see it well. This time it looked great! From there we took a walk to the Colosseum but stopped at the many of the ancient Roman ruins along the way. One of the items we saw was a sculpture of Romulus and Remus with a she-wolf. This is from Roman mythology which tells the story of how Romulus founded Rome after killing his twin brother. This picture of the brothers and the wolf has become a symbol of the city throughout Rome. There is so much history in this city!
When we arrived at the Colosseum it looked much better than last time we were here also. Much of the restoration that was underway a few years ago is no longer being done and you can get some great pictures if you are willing to do some hiking to get some good vantage points of this spectacular structure. We had managed to see the four most famous sights in Rome before noon. That is quite a feat. We then decided it was time to have lunch at one of our favorite places – a little salami sandwich shop off of Campo di Fiorre. We found it and the sandwich tasted as good as last time we were there. Sharon had to have a piece of pizza at her favorite place just around the corner so we indulged ourselves once more with a little local food from Rome. It is amazing how good some of this food tastes from these little vendors on the streets that don’t even have a place to sit down. Grab it and go (carry out). After our lunch we took a leisurely stroll through the Trastevere area. There are so many winding little roads with vines and bougainvillea everywhere you look in this area. Small shops and restaurants are scattered everywhere. We are told this is where the locals eat. Another enjoyable day in Rome!
We are now on our final leg of our last cruise. We are heading off to Montenegro and Croatia where we have never been before. We are looking forward to these stops.
Sharon & Greg