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Sunday, 17 January 2010 08:14

Turkey to UK - Parma to Aix-en-Provence

Day 5

When in Parma you have to sample the ham, so at breakfast, that's precisely what we do.  It's pretty good.  We check out at 9.20 and our aim today is to reach Aix-en-Provence.  

We have chosen a route that takes us along the Cote d'Azure.  Yesterday we drove up the Adriatic coast for much of the day, before heading west to Parma.  Today we will have the Mediterranean to our left as we drive from Italy to France.

It's another morning of grey skies.  It is only 4c, but at least it's not raining.  As we head west the landscape changes from flat lowlands to mountains.  As we drive up these mountains, we can see snow around us from earlier days, but thankfully the roads is clear.  The temperature falls to zero, so we have to take it steady on the winding roads.

But as we head down the other side of the mountains towards France, the temperature reaches an almost tropical 14c, and the sun and blue skies make a welcome appearance.  The mountain-sides are often terraced, with here and there, clusters of buildings clinging to some pretty steep slopes. 

We decide to stop off in Monaco to see how the other half live.  It's about 1.40pm as we wind our way down to the expensive yachts by the harbour.  You can accuse us of bias if you wish, but we don't think the harbour is a patch on Kalkan.

Monaco harbour 

Some of the buildings in Monaco are stunningly beautiful, but some are truly awful.  If you are thinking of buying a holiday home, you can pick up a bargain 2nd floor, 3 roomed apartment, for a cool 1.65 million euros.  Just think what that would buy you in Turkey.

Below: A rather elegant Monte Carlo casino.

Monte Carlo casino

Below: The Hotel de Paris.  Winston Churchill loved to stay here.

The streets are clean and tidy, except for several piles of dog poo.  The shopping centre in Monte Carlo - the gambling centre of Monaco, is full of glitz and glitter.  Beyond the chandeliers, in the photo below, you can just about make out the Cartier shop (right next to the pound shop).

Below: Monaco's equivalent of Bluewater.

Monaco shopping centre

Distinctly unimpressed, we head off for Aix-en-Provence.  Whilst we did come across toll roads in Italy, nobody bleeds the motorway driver like the French.  It's one toll after another.  At the end of our trip, we will be totting up all the costs and setting them out for you.

We have also gone through our fair share of tunnels today.  The roads in Italy and France are fast and free-flowing, with no delays at all.

In Turkey and Greece our sat nav didn't work, but from Ancona onwards we have had the company of our good friend Tom Tom.  He did go a bit wobbly in Monaco, but apart from that he has done well.

We find a very nice 3 star hotel in A-e-P, the Aquabella, and for 109 euros we have access to yet more fluffy bathrobes and slippers.  We don't bother with the Grand Hotel, as they were asking for 200 euros, which we felt was a bit steep.

The town centre is really attractive and well maintained.  It has a nice feel about it.  It has an impressive history, starting as a Roman spa town over 2,000 years ago.

There are plenty of places to eat and drink.  However, travelling through Italy and France, you are reminded just how expensive it is to eat there.  We can't help thinking about those people who complain about Kalkan prices.  Given what we found in France and Italy on our drive out last year, and again now, going back, we believe that in terms of quality and value for money, Kalkan wins hands down.

Tomorrow we begin our journey north.  Time to get out the fleeces.

Start: 09.25
Stop: 16.45
Miles: 366 (589km)
Missed turns: 0
Directions asked: 0
Snow encountered: none.
CD of the day: West Side Story, the musical, with Michael Ball

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