Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Europe 2002 Trip Reports Part 7 St Raphael, St Tropez, Nice, Monte Carlo, Rome

This is the 7th of a series of posts recalling my trip to Europe, using e-mails sent at the time. Unlike later trips, I didn’t e-mail people everyday. Trip reports are largely as I wrote them at the time with two exceptions: 1. I was usually pretty rushed due to Internet fees in Europe, so I’ve cleaned up my e-mails to make them more coherent, which wasn’t a priority at the time. Also, in some blog posts I’ll add additional thoughts with the hindsight of nine years later or to add further clarification. I’ll use “NOW” in such cases.
This 7th report covered my arriving in St. Raphael, visiting St. Tropez while there, and then carrying on to Nice, Monte Carlo, and Rome.
Went to St. Raphael and checked out St. Tropez's beaches while there.
[NOW: I arrived in St. Raphael pretty early, 5 or so, but made the mistake of not having booked in advance. It took me quite a few hours to reach a hostel that was open (possibly there was just the one). By the time I got there I mentioned wanting to visit St. Tropez while there and was told “I was too late.” Having arrived really early to visit St. Tropez I got stubborn and took a bus there anyway, knowing it was going to be a much shorter visit than planned.]
I found the place overrated: the beaches made my shoes smell; the idea of multiple small beaches that are really just one beach is interesting though. But I even forget to take photos in St. Tropez.
[NOW: I recall that the beach smelled really bad, as alluded to above, and it was nowhere near as glamorous as its reputation. I don’t recall much about St. Raphael, other than I grabbed dinner from a vendor with a trailer, and while the food was being cooked the vendor and I tried to chat even though neither of us had any idea what the other way saying.]
I left a little sooner than expected to Nice and Monaco the next day. Another big disaster in Nice: on the beach I was weighed down by my luggage since I didn’t want to spend locker money on just half a day, so when I realized I had left behind my sunscreen, I decided not to backtrack and get some new stuff later. Big mistake: I realized in Monaco that I had also left behind my journal. No return address on it. In a certain way it's my biggest loss to date, though not financially. No doubt that wiped out a lot of memories for me that I won’t easily be able to get back to the surface later on. I am toying with the idea of buying another plane ticket and returning home early. I don’t like traveling for longer than 1 or 2 weeks anyway even when things are going well. And this trip has been a disastrous blow to the self-esteem.
[NOW: Actually nowadays, 12 days is probably optimal for me. I did make some attempt at journal writing in another book, but my heart wasn’t in it. Nice’s beach wasn’t very, well, nice. All pebbles instead of sand. Of course, after all these years, much of the trauma from the trip has worn off. I did end up finishing the trip and returning the day I originally planned to. Monte Carlo I recall I just stayed close to the train station. I sneaked pics of the bathroom of the famous casino nearby. It was a few days before the Grand Prix]
In Rome now. Paying the highest amount yet for a place (E20; prices are another reason I can't wait to return home) but I did enjoy visiting all the ruins today.
[NOW: E20 doesn’t seem all that bad in hindsight; possible typo in that e-mail. I lost my phrase guide at the train station. By ruins, I visited the Roman Forum (free) and the Coliseum. While at the latter a tour group speaking English came by where I was taking a breather so I eavesdropped for a bit. There are lots of stray cats in Rome. Also saw guards at street corners carrying automatic weapons. I also recall crossing the street on a crosswalk and getting ¾ of the way across but having to return to the start due to cars not stopping.]
Despite the price I plan to stay hear a bit longer than most places I've been to since I am a bit more interested in Rome than most places. And my place is close to the train station and thus the neighbouring shops have to price to compete a bit.

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