Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sure, George Clooney is a pretty good looking guy... But he's a little too old for me.

Last weekend, Ryan and I added another country to the count by visiting Monaco. Although we were required to spend time in France to accomplish this, it was a surprisingly good experience.

Just to put this entire weekend into reference, the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland blew up and all of Europe decided to shit a HUGE brick about it. And closed all airspace. All. Except Rome. Which is useless to absolutely anyone not living south of Milan. Which is everyone.

On Friday, the ash cloud of doom was still pretty far north. So I checked the flight status and everything was a go. So at lunch, we got on a train to Basel and flew. Later on, we learned that Swiss airspace had been completely shut down around 30minutes after we had taken off. We were also the only interns who managed to get to our planned destination that weekend.
Officially added to resume: Awesome at travelling

Arriving in Nice after a relatively pleasant EasyJet flight and once again confusing people by wearing flip flops everywhere, we took the bus to the hostel and set our stuff up. Then we went for a stroll to the beach. It was pleasant. Although not very warm because it was getting to be the evening.

This is where the George Clooney comment began. All over Europe, Geroge Clooney is the face behind Nescafe. And the ads are EVERYWHERE. Also in Como in the summer, all the locals liked to show off the George Clooney had a home there. So obviously, I believe that all Europeans adore George Clooney. It was also an ongoing joke between Ryan and I that we would see him as some point. Likely at the casino, where I would ask if we could have a picture together and if I could borrow 100€ to play roulette and would pay him back upon earning some $$. It is also an ongoing joke that I am obsessed with George Clooney. It's just a joke, so relax. Or is it? (Watch video here)

Fishing our wandering and realizing we had accidentally gone by 4 of the 8 landmarks of the city and thereby giving us nothing to do on Monday, we went to a restaurant for Chin-Din. It was delicious. Then we went to the store to pick up munchies for the following morning and beer for some predrinking action. We had 4 roomies in our hostel room. 3 were Canadians. What are the chances?

We predrank on the terrace with some fellow travellers who were either stranded or were about to be. Because there were no airplanes. Ugggh. Oh Belgium EuroControl. Why are you fear mongerers? Anyway, we went to some pub called Wayne's and had a few pints. Being that it was supposed to be a tame night and I hadn't recouped from being busy every weekend for the last 3 months, we headed back at a reasonable hour (I think?) and got to bed.

On Saturday, Ryan and I dressed to the nines (is that how you use the phrase? I've never used it before) and took a bus to Monaco.

But first, we helped an Australian woman (living in Switzerland) find a way home. Her flight had been cancelled and helped her get information on how to get back to Lausanne. For some reason, she wasn't a fan of Italian trains. BUT she knew Ryan and I live in Switzerland. And she also thought we were actually FROM Switzerland. Score one for Steve and Ryan. We made a local believe we were locals.

Officially added to the resume: Convincing at being a local.

The bus ride was pretty long, and was also quite expensive. Being that it went to Monaco and all. 1€. Hahaha.

It was quite questionable at the beginning of the day as to how far we would get before tiring out or getting sick of wearing dress cloths, but we just kinda went with it. We knew that we needed to dress classy to gain access to the Grand Casino...

It was kinda weird walking to the bus station in dress cloths. We were definitely out dressing the general population, which is a first for me in Europe. Once we got to Monaco though, it only felt right. Being surrounded by Europe's rich and famous, along with their high priced cars.

Monaco is a very small country, less than two square kilometers. It is also the most densely populated countries on earth (more information available via Wikipedia if required). It also hosts the Monaco F1 grand prix every year! We were visiting 4 weeks before the race, so they already had a whole bunch of protective walls up along the main streets that are also used for the races. They also have the starting lines painted on the road (all year round, presumably).

We walked around Monaco for quite some time, along the coast and the main roads. The views are quite stunning, as were the size of the yachts in the various ports. Seriously. Some of them are bigger than my residence back in Calgary. And it floats. I'd bet some of them are big enough to attempt an oceanic crossing.

Walking around, we came across a pretty cool place to pose. So I did. Can you guess where Monaco ends and France begins? I'll give you a clue: would the most densely populated country in the world have a whole lot of trees? Nein. If you look at the bottom right side of the picture, you'll see some of the grandstands for the F1 race (they're blue).

It is also somewhere around here that we were talking about George Clooney again. I swear it wasn't me who brought it up. It was Ryan. But I made the statement that "sure, George Clooney is a pretty good looking guy... But he's a little too old for me".

After doing quite some walking in shoes not designed for extensive walking use, seeing a ridiculous number of supercars, and getting quite hungry, we decided to stop at the nicest place we could find with outside seating and have some lunch.

What we found was quite nice and reasonably priced. This was somewhat detrimental to our goal, because we had set aside a budget of 50€ each for lunch. That is much more than I normally eat for. Much. Instead, we each got a 3 course meal for 22€. Score! The bottle of wine was almost as expensive as the food!

Something we had noticed here was that everyone is really friendly toward one another. Even strangers. I haven't encountered anything like this anywhere in Europe except Liechtenstein.

After eating our large meal and drinking our marvelous wine, we opted to go under the Casino tunnel. There was an actual racecar flying through there. As well as a Ferrari, Lambo, and a Wiesmann. I think that the local authorities turn a blind eye specifically to this tunnel.

After walking through the Casino tunnel, guess where the next stop was? The Grand Casino!

This is the entrance. It is a little unassuming and not overly spectacular. But still Ritzy. It was also surrounded by Ferraris and Bentleys. And a couple of Aston Martins.

The inside was quite golden. No cameras were allowed, so no pictures are available. But they did film two James Bond films in there (Goldeneye and something else), so I'd recommend watching Goldeneye right now. And pay close attention to the intro. If you don't understand why I say this, I also recommend you read about Swiss national day in my August blogs.

After not gambling because it's just not something I do when the odds are blatantly fixed against me, we left the casino.


In your face Mario. I've seen so many of these now... But the shock and amazement doesn't fade. There were also even more supercars parked outside than when we went in.

We took the bus back to Monaco and changed into normal cloths again. It was a little disappointing. I had enjoyed looking like the shit for the day.

The supercar count at the end of the day was 24 Ferraris, 6 Lamborghinis, 1 Lotus, 14 Aston Martins, 2 Audi R8s, 1 Marussia, 3 Wiesmann, and 1 Bugatti Veyron. 1 of the Ferraris was an Enzo. And for the sake of clarity, I tried my best to make sure that none of the cars in the count were counted twice. And they were all on the street, not in a showroom. One of the Ferraris WAS being driven by a 17 year old.

A short mention of the evening is also required. We met an Italian guy staying at the hostel. He was quite bombed and was also "busting our balls" as he liked to say. He was from Como. He brought up George Clooney. Ryan and I laughed really realllllly hard and I gave Giovanni a high five. Then he corrected me and taught me the Italian high five. Its the same as the non-classic high five back home. If you need a lesson, go to [couldn't find amusing YouTube video, so find me and I'll explain in person].

Sunday was planned to be a chill day. We slept in, then helped a nice Dutch woman look for details on her flight. All airspace was still closed. Oh and of course I forgot to mention that France likes going on strike. So the train network wasn't operating. Which kinda leaves people stranded...

We went to an old town called Eza. It was very similar to pretty much every old town I've ever been to except more of a maze and narrower streets. It was kinda cool, but definitely dull. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Romans for inventing properly perpendicular and straight roads, and buildings that fit between said roads.

Once we had our fill of old town, we ate sandwiches and I practiced my French. Lol. Man I wish we had been pushed more as kids to learn French. Every Canadian should be fluent in both languages.

Side note aside, we headed back on the bus back to Nice. We planned to take another bus to Cannes to check out the beach, but it was quite a distance away. So we opted for the rocky Nice beach instead.

This is not Nice, just a nice view from Eza.

At Nice beach, I napped. I enjoy naps a fair bit now. Maybe I'm getting old... I also have acquired a key skill of sleeping during all forms of motorized transportation.

Officially added to the resume: Able to sleep on all buses, trains, airplanes, and boats. Probably other stuff too.

Seeing as that pretty much sums up all we did that day, the blog ends here.

We actually took Monday off because we had a flight out of Nice that evening. But due to unforeseen ash domination of the European skies, the flight was cancelled. It was an adventure of its own. So therefore, it gets its own blog.