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December 2009
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February 2010

Walk on Water in Southern France

FamilyHike On a cold humid day stuck inside on the Côte d'Azur, hiker friends were recently day-dreaming aloud: wouldn't it be fun to invent a new walk-related sport that we could practice in any sort of weather?

Sure, snow shoeing is fun in Winter, but you have to drive up to Audibergue or Gréolières or Auron or further and only when snow is around.

Looks like the state of Assam in southern India took us up on this :) They're promoting the sport of water walking, where you walk inside a thermoplastic bubble ball that floats on water. Sort of like a hamster's wheel, except that it's a clear ball and it sits on water. The frantic running gives you quite a work-out: the claim is that 5 minutes inside a water ball is equivalent to 20 mins on a treadmill, and lots more laughs.

To get a better idea, watch this YouTube Video:

How about bouncing a few balls over to Southern France?

Tour de France 2010: Not South Enough

TdF2010Unlike last year, the Tour de France won't pedal through the French Riviera in 2010.

Instead of Monaco, the happening tour will take off from the south side of Rotterdam beginning on July 3rd 2010. Then it dashes south, heads to nearby Gap and Sisteron and moves west to reach the Pyrenées and the leg-burner peak of Col du Tourmalet.

So no TdF craze for the Côte d'Azur this year, outside of gatherings around pubs and friends' with big screen TVs. 

More info on the Tour de France 2010, check out the very complete LeTour site:

Big Brash Beautiful Bus

Bus I love taking the bus on the French Riviera. Plenty of time to admire the surroundings, lots of space for luggage, lots of plush comfort, of relaxation, of arguing.

I loved my latest bus trip from the Nice Airport to Fréjus. A poor customer who clearly had not read this blog post arrived 15 mins early at the airport bus stop. It was freezing cold. He asked, no demanded, to go in the bus. Listen to this: he was speaking in English. At the international airport, c'est incroyable. The bus driver said no, you wait. He got impatient. The bus driver told him that if he's unhappy, take a taxi. He started screaming that it was cold and what the hell, the bus was here anyway. Bus driver responded in French "c'est ma pause". He said he "didn't give a shit". In English. Big mistake - he should have said it in French. Bus driver "j'en ai rien à foutre," and exchange continues until it's time to board. Bus driver let me and others climb aboard. Fuming but freezing poor lad had to wait outside. Is last to board.

So. Are you visiting the Côte d'Azur? Coming from another planet where "the customer is king?" You're going to need some prepping before taking the bus on the French Riviera.

Top 10 Rules for Proper Bus Behavior
  1. Before: Allow plenty of time to find current bus line schedules.
  2. Before leaving house: Make sure you have exact change ready in hand. While waiting at stop: Make darn sure you have exact change ready in hand. Double check change in your sweaty palms as bus rolls in at stop.
  3. If your bus is ready, idle and waiting at the bus stop. Do not board until the scheduled departure time unless you're interested in a lesson in injurious speak.
  4. After the bus doors open for you, before you make any motion. Say "bonjour!" loud and clear, "bonsoir" if evening.
  5. As you climb up toward driver. Say where you are going. Do not attempt any other discussion at this time. Pray that you have a match between place you want to go and places where bus stops.
  6. Hand out your change in a quick cowboy draw.
  7. Take your receipt instantly as it spouts out of machine next to driver.
  8. With receipt in hand, say "Merci" and move back slightly. As bus dashes off, do not tumble. Appear sturdy and well-anchored at all times. Do not even hint that driver may have a lead foot.
  9. If bus is still waiting for exact departure time, attempt brief conversation. Try a dash of dry humor such as "quelle foule aujourd'hui" if there's not another soul on-board. Or "ça roule bien aujourd'hui?". If no response, sit in far back.
  10. You want to get off outside of a standard bus stops? You're kidding. Don't mention a thing. Walking is really good for your health.
And to think that in the States, we actually have to pay extra for this kind of entertainment (see Dick's Last Resort).

Sentier du Littoral: When not to go

Sentier du Littoral on the French Riviera

On most days, the sentier du littoral or coastal path that winds alongside the Med, makes for delightful walks with views of the sea, sounds of gentle rumbling waves. 

However, there are days when you should stay away. When? Whenever it's very windy. On the Cote d'Azur, winds can pick up in the Fall and Winter. If the wind howls, don't assume that the coastal footpath is safe. It isn't. It gets wet and in some sections of the footpath, waves can leap overhead.

This New Year's day, a few folks learned this lesson the hard way. On the coastal path along princely St Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a few braved the winds to stroll along the footpath. Waves were crushing dangerously close. A strong whip of waves scooped six people off the path and into the sea. A family of three visiting from Germany thankfully made it safely back to shore. Two others also managed to struggle back to safety. A young woman wasn't so lucky and perished. 

Be safe. When the weather turns windy and waves start slapping the shore, stay off the coastal path. It won't be long before good coastal hiking weather returns.