When the Green Man says "cross", watch out!
Crossing the road in France is not something to be undertaken lightly,
First, "zebra crossings" confer no right of way for pedestrians as in some countries - cars are not required to yield to you. Secondly, cars turning right have the freedom to turn into your path despite the fact you are crossing the road with the Green Man symbol lit up beckoning you that its safe to do so. That car will swing round into your path. Now you can trust a French driver to know you as a paedestrian now have right of way. However, how do you know that driver is French?
Watch out always - sadly French drivers are amongst the most competitive in the world, having the highest road accident fatality rates in all Europe. Motorcycles here are a menace too. They come only in two sizes - the very big and fast ,usually with names like MotoMacho and are mainly an excuse to swank around in full leathers as seen here Or they are little 50cc scooters buzzing like angry wasps, driven by two kids with possibly no insurance, sometimes no helmet and no road-sense. In the first eight months of 2009 there were forty two driver road fatalities in the Alpes Maritime. Twenty were car drivers, and twenty were motorcycle and scooter drivers, whilst only one was a pedal cyclist.
Don't join them!- watch out!
Riviera Road Safety and two wheels
The road traffic accident statistics say it all. In the first eight months of 2009, according to local daily Nice Matin, roads in the Cotes d'Azur and Alps Maritime claimed forty two lives. Never mind the injured, the bereaved relatives and friends, that's a lot of people now no longer alive, but d-e-a-d. Of the forty two, twenty were motorists, only one a cyclist, and twenty were motorcyclists (and one something else)
The cycling figures are incredibly reassuring. Cycling is a national obsession and French motorists are all very experienced in making allowances for cyclists. Very good news indeed. But the teenage urban scooters and thirty-something testosterone-fuelled superbikes are a different matter. A lethal matter. The cheap freedom of movement and enjoyment of unbridled speed ends too often in a slow motorcade.
Those of us who grew up hiring scooters for harmless exploration in exotic locations might be tempted to look to the same on the Riviera. The world has moved on.
Direction of Travel: Left, Left, and Left again.
For two hundred and fifty years the French have been revolting. Still today, hardly a week goes by without some group somewhere coming out "en greve" (in dispute). And having voted in a President with a mandate to "reform" France, the streets once more have become the battlefield of the Syndicalists - organised labour unions - and the Left generally who don't much like the smell of reform. CGT union leader Bernard Thibault sports a 1960's student haircut, which says it all. So its out with the red flags, on with Che Guevarra T-shirts, charge up the bullhorn and start the Bob Marley tape.
For visitors this is not quite the harmless fun it might seem. The CGT, CFDT and FO unions regularly halt public transport. Frequent "Days of Action" like the one pictured here, stopped most trains running for a day, and the cancellation of many flights. The students were protesting too, but exactly who that harms is difficult to say, as in Douglas Adam's wickedly satirical national philosophers strike - "ouch! that'll hurt".
These are unashamedly political strikes, aimed at the government. "Job insecurity", the "suppression of public sector posts", protecting public sector pensions, maximum working hours, everything is on the agenda, and direct action is seen as the way forward. After the street protests, TV airtime galore to spokesmen for the big unions, comments from the PS (Socialist Party) the PCF (French Communist Party) still going strong, and if that's not left enough for you there is the New Anti-Capitalist Party. Oh yes, and the Greens. And the Environmentalists. And the Anti-globalisation lot. And the nurses and doctors, the firemen, the postmen, the university "Profs", its hard to find anyone who isn't protesting. Protesting is what it means to be French.
Notice is a legal requirement for these street protests so newspapers and TV are an essential check to ensure your travel plans don't end up in tatters. And nowadays they have to provide at least a "service minimal", meaning that maybe one in three or one in four trains will run. Unless its May 1st, inaccurately referred to as "labour day", when nothing runs.
Early flight? Good luck finding transportation.
If you are staying at a hotel, you will probably not have this problem...but to all of those staying somewhere else good luck finding a taxi or private airport transfer willing to pick you up before 6 AM.
Our personal experience happened with an airport transport with Med-Tour.com. First of all, the first time we call them, we got the answering machine. Since they haven't called us back we called them again. The guy assured our request was registered. Just to be sure a couple days later we called them to confirm our picking up time. Guess what? There wasn't any requests in our names!!!!! This other guy assured that now that we called there was no worries. Last call to this place and they re-assured us everything was ok.
Well, on the day of our trip, just a few minutes before our picking up time the driver calls (with a eastern european accent) saying he was stuck on a highway traffic (yeah right, highway traffic at 5h20 AM!!!) and would be late (yeah, he probably didn't wake up on time). If we waited for him we would miss our flight. We told him it was unnecessary because we would miss our flight. We had to use our backup plan (family call)...
We would rather have used public transportation, but there wasn't any around that time or if there was, we would have missed our flight.
If you have a mischance like this, make sure you know what's the nearest taxi station (most of all, if there are taxis around the time you want to take them). Your best bet is those around big hotels.Related to:
Parking, French style
As a visitor you really don't need a car in Nice unless you plan to do a lot of touring. The bus services are fine, and your own two feet can do the rest.
Sadly, this view is not shared by the Nicois, many of whom insist on driving furiously everywhere, on four wheels, or two.
One side effect of this is bad behaviour when it comes to parking. Here a distraught young Nicois has found her car victim of the automotive finale of chess. Unable to move either forward or back , her diagonal moves are also blocked by cars double parked.
Voila. "Checkmate." Now get out of that!
The rest of the day could be spent here waiting for the owners of the surrounding cars to turn up. Politeness suggests you leave your mobile number on the dash, but often it doesnt happen that way.
And if the parking doesn't get you, the municipal traffic police love setting up traps for hapless motorists, with spot fines a possibility. So no, you don't want a car in Nice.
Nice Cote d'Azur Airport Duty Free Scam
In the perfume/cosmetics shop at Terminal 1 insist that the till operator show you exactly how much your bill total is before you blithely punch in your PIN - otherwise you may get home like we did (twice!!) to find the item has been scanned twice and you've paid exactly DOUBLE the price. Don't get put off because they seem to be having some kind of row with their manager; it's all part of the scam to get you to pay without checking how much you're being charged.Related to:
- Business Travel
- Luxury Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
If you travel by rail and buy tickets before then be aware that in case of strikes you will be in trouble. In theory you can change time of departure but in fact there will be big chaos, stress and your travel might be delayed.Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Budget Travel
Visible police presence
I didn't know where to put this, so I chose this one. While walking around I noticed a large police presence both day and night. It made me feel better knowing there were so many around, but got me thinking about why they need so many. I'm still wondering.
There are also many plain clothes police walking among the crowds. While we were eating at Lu Fran-Calin restaurant, we saw a big man chase down a smaller man, catch him, we heard hand cuffs, a plea of no, then saw the bigger man walking the smaller man away. He was a plain clothes officer. We observed what went on and found out that the guy had drugs and tossed them while he was chased. We saw the other plain clothes cops find it with a blue light. Yes, this was our dinner entertainment! The men sitting next to us told us there are a lot of plain clothes police walking around and jokingly said you can tell who they are because they have moustaches.
Extortionate beer prices in Nice in budget area
Make sure that you ascertain the price of beer in bars the station area, particularly rue angleterre where I paid 5 euros for 25cl lager in the Guet Apens bar and neighbouring Rue Alsace Lorraine. Also note that you will be charged more after certain times, usually 10 or 11 pm.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Budget plastic surgery
The human race is the only object worthy of close attention. Some people prefer to watch birds, and true, they are cute, but I'll setttle for people.
Some people are not satisfied with how they look. Surgery can help, no? Perhaps you were wondering what Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon was doing before Jackson's face began to morph into that of Elizabeth Taylor? Well perhaps he was practicing in France, a country where how you look is of no small importance.
Testimony to the temporary nature of the surgeons gift, discretely observe the results of plastic surgery, twenty years downstream. The demand for beauty beginning to lose the battle against time.
Its a salutory warning: the baby snub nose - but soon you will be able park a bus between it and the upper lip. The eyes are said to be windows on the soul, but now wrinkles fight against the tightened skin. Half the face ages whilst the other half remains stuck in time, pulling apart like techtonic plates. The neck contradicts the cheeks.
Surgical enhancement requires high maintenance.
Road from the airport
Local media are reporting that along the road from Nice airport, young thugs are approaching cars at traffic lights, ripping open the car doors and grabbing any bags within reach. Easy to prevent: just lock your doors.Related to:
- Road Trip
Andouille de Guéménée
On one of our numerous culinaire adventures we stumbled over this kind of ..well 'sausage' called 'Andouille de Guéménée' at the Monoprix store. Not knowing what it was exactly, we ordered a slice and the girl behind the counter gave it to us, smiling. As it was quite expensive we took it, smiling and full of joie anticipée, and went on to have a picknick up there at Le chateau.
First impression: it didn't have the anticipated consistency. Strange smell too.
Cautios we tried it, just to experience the most awfull taste in the world -- after one or two horrid seconds we managed to spit it out without puking.. thank god we had enough water to flush the taste and wash our hands!
After returning home we did a little research to find out what this stuff is: Pig guts that, after ~3 weeks of storage, have been cleaned, rolled up to a sausage, put into beef stomach, smoked for 9 months and then been boiled. Mmh.
The French know various ways of enjoying it, cooked or fried, with different side-dishes, it is a speciality it seems.
Better spare yourself this kind of experience and go for the pâte instead.
Enjoy your meal!
CIIK and ewa_lilikoiRelated to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
When we were in Florida, my little sister stepped on jelly and got stung on her foot. She couldn't walk for the rest of the day, and it scarred her for life (not literally). Much to our surprise, we found the tiny version of these critters swimming in the sea beside us! My friend, not my sister ended up getting stung, and it made her arm numb for about 1/2 hour. Two weeks later, and the burn mark is still there. Though many beach goers swim out to collect them, beware the jellies!
Save your sleep
If you want to feel rested after a good night's sleep, make sure you don't stay in a hotel or place anyway near the Autoroute / rails around the central station.
I've never experienced a creaking and shrieking like from those trains - all day and 'round the clock. The French don't seem to care about noise protection.
We woke up in the night despite the ear-plugs. This is definetly not funny.Related to:
- Road Trip
Pelagia noctiluca - stinging jellyfish
Before you plunge into warm waters this summer, look before you leap.
Bell shaped up to 10cm with purple and pink warts, Pelagia inflicts burning sting and a high intake of venom can be deadly. The Med has shoals of them in the summer peak, due to the very warm waters (25C+).
Beaulieu was recently (July) unswimmable due to one floating in every few feet of water. The are easily visible,a bit nasty, and not to be "trifled" with. ("Jelly" + "Trifle" - geddit?)
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