topics: tapenade (food), Monaco, Grimaldi family, French Riviera, more rain; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: May 31 - June 1, 1998

Food of the Day: tapenade

Tapenade is a condiment often eaten in the south of France. Made of ground capers, anchovies and black olives, and seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, it is usually served on toast as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Person of the Day: Kate Leconte and Luke

Our people of the day are our gracious hosts in Valbonne, Kate click to view a photograph and her son, Luke. While they certainly generously offered us a very comfortable place to sleep, they also gave us a little taste of America abroad. (Kate was born in the U.S. also she has lived most of her life in France, and Luke is a lucky mix of French and American, well versed in both cultures and fluent in both languages.)

While we enjoyed their hospitality, when we were not sleeping, working, using their Internet connection, or lounging by the pool click to view a photograph, we were seizing the opportunity to watch one film from their vast collection of American movies. And, of course, Kate assured herself a place as a Person of the Day by feeding us extremely well.

They did all of this despite their busy schedules. Kate was hard at work running a public relations and design firm out of her home. Given all she manages to accomplish, there might be some truth in her childhood assertion that her name is that of an Irish goddess. A junior high school student at the Collège Internationale de Valbonne at Sophia-Antipolis, Luke is a budding young actor, hard at work on a play for school. We are sure that his "Almost Full Monty" routine caused a larger stir in the community than BikeAbout's visit.

Thanks again Kate and Luke. We'll hope to run into you again in Paris or the U.S.

Place of the Day: Cannes

The film critic Rex Reed supposedly said, "Cannes is where you lie on the beach and stare at the stars - or vice versa." Though we are not exactly sure what he meant by this, a combination of European and Hollywood stars and sandy beaches has certainly made Cannes, a fashionable resort since the 18th century, into one of the more popular spots on the French Riviera.

Although we saw no stars amongst the people on the narrow stretch of beach, we did see plenty of evidence of Cannes' popularity and glamour. Accompanied by our host, Kate (see the Person of the Day), we strolled past the huge and ugly concrete complex built as the headquarters for the famous Cannes Film Festival. click to view a photograph In the sidewalk nearby was a stretch with an impressive collection of movie stars' handprints similar to the area in front of the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

From there we took a turn down the wide seaside promenade lined with expensive hotels and outdoor cafes. click to view a photograph This is the famous strip we have so often seen in the news and in special reports about the Film Festival. This is also the famous strip to which thousands flock every year.

Seeing no signs of stardom on the beach, we circled back around to check out the action at the Planet Hollywood restaurantclick to view a photograph. But before we even got through the door, the prices of hamburgers on the menu posted outside (and the zebra-skin pattern seat covers clashing with the leopard-skin pattern rug) convinced us to turn back. Maybe that's what is meant by the "price of fame."

Cannes, however, is not just about movie stars and beaches. Climbing through the older part of the city, we found a nice panorama click to view a photograph and discovered, through Kate, that Cannes is also home to the fabulously wealthy, some of whom have nothing to do with movies. The slopes outside of town are lined with huge villas. click to view a photograph We were assured, however, that during the film festival in May, even the rich leave town, abandoning it to the hordes of movie stars and the journalist covering the events, as well as to the flocks of gawkers, and aspiring screenwriters and actors hoping to make some sort of business contact.

Actually, the BikeAbouters agreed that they were happy to have missed it themselves.

Tech Fact of the Day: Monaco is yet another independent country

Monaco is an independent principality ruled by the same family, the Grimaldis (originally from Genova), since 1297. (The Grimaldi family, while not necessarily known by its last name, is always in the news. For example, Princess Stephanie is well known for constantly being harassed by paparazzi hoping to get one of the famous pictures of her topless on the beach.) Since 1911, it has been a constitutional republic and in 1993 was admitted to the United Nations.

Monaco, like other tiny autonomous or sovereign nations we have visited (San Marino, Vatican City, and the Order of Malta) is entirely surrounding by another country, in this case France. The official language is, therefore, not surprisingly, French (although a number of people speak Monégasque, a mixture of French and Italian), and most of the population claim Italian or French origin.

Even though it is only 1.9 square km in area (about ¾ of a mile), it is famous for being a luxurious tourist resort for the rich, and for its casino at Monte Carlo. Although none of the 30,000 citizens of Monaco are allowed to gamble at its casinos, they are free from any taxation. Monaco's lack of an income tax has attracted many of the world's wealthiest people who use Monaco as a tax haven.

Group Dispatch, May 31 - June 1
picture of Padraic

Wanting to arrive early in Menton, France, for our meeting with the editor of the "Riviera - Côte d'Azur Zeitung," click to view a photograph a German language periodical that covers the French and Italian Riviera for its German visitors and residents, we left San Remo (Italy) early in the morning. After a short sprint between rain drops and along the last remaining stretch of the Italian Riviera click to view a photograph, we zoomed down a long hill and into France. click to view a photograph

Though we quickly found the offices of the Riviera - Côte d'Azur Zeitung, we did not immediately find Petra Hall, our contact. Giving the vagaries of email, Ethan and Petra had agreed on a day, but never a time for the meeting, and so the BikeAbouters had appeared hoping that she would be there early. Well, luckily, as Ethan, with the caretaker, was in the process of trying to figure out how to get in touch with her via other means, Petra did indeed arrive... early. And so we all adjourned to a café next to the beach to conduct our interview over a proper French breakfast of croissants and coffee. click to view a photograph

Although we knew a little bit about one another and the work we were doing (for months, Ethan and Petra have been in communication via email), the face-to-face encounter was a real opportunity to learn more. We explained more about our journey, and ourselves and asked Petra about her paper, as well as about life on the Côte d'Azur. We were surprised to find out how many people subscribed to the Zeitung. It certainly attests to the quality of the monthly paper, as well as to the size of the German-speaking community living or vacationing on the Riviera.

After the interview, we returned to Petra's office to try to get connected to the Internet. We eventually succeeded, but it took much longer than we had thought it would. By the time we thanked Petra and said our farewells, the clock had struck 1, and we still had 75 km (47 mi) to ride.

To make matters worse, it began to rain. Sometimes quite hard.

Now, while the French Riviera may be one of the more lovely spots in the Mediterranean, for us, between the heavy rain, the narrow roads and the traffic, we had little chance to appreciate it. Even in Monaco (see the Tech Fact of the Day), where we had hoped to bump into Robin Leach while witnessing firsthand the lifestyles of the rich and famous, we saw only tourists fleeing a heavy thunderstorm. In fact, we spent so much time waiting out rain showers that by the time we reached Nice, we began to worry about reaching our destination before dark. For this reason, we saw nothing of Nice beyond the road along the coast, which included this impressively large and nice war memorial. click to view a photograph We did however tell ourselves that we would make every possible effort to return tomorrow, even if it was a Sunday.

Fortunately, at this point the skies began to clear, and the traffic thinned as we climbed away from the coast and towards Valbonne. Actually, the improved conditions and the pleasant scenery made the last 25 km (16 mi) of the day the most enjoyable. Or perhaps it was just the thought of a comfortable place to spend the next two nights.

As evening was setting in, we pulled up to the gate of a very welcome-looking house (complete with - yes! - a pool), rang the buzzer, and were enthusiastically welcomed by Joel (tomorrow's Person of the Day), Luke, and then Kate (today's People of the Day). We were very happy to meet them all (it had been a long, wet day), and in particular Joel, the person who had inspired our trip to Valbonne in the first place. Since before the trip began, Ethan and Corinne had been corresponding with Joel, an American-born reporter living and working in the area, who was most enthusiastic about BikeAbout and its mission. It was through Joel that a school visit had been organized and Kate had offered us a place to stay in her house.

So, after introductions, with our bikes garaged and bags stowed, we were encouraged to shower. Soon after, we were all upstairs and in excellent company gathered around an amazing home-cooked meal. It is rare that we have been able to share moments like these and we certainly cherish them. We talked all about our trip so far and became better acquainted.

The next day in Valbonne, we indulged in a lifestyle unfamiliar to us. We woke late, ate heartily, swam in the pool, relaxed over coffee at one of Valbonne's outdoor cafes, and watched movies from Luke's extensive video collection. In the late morning, we had briefly pondered what would be required to return to Nice for the afternoon, but the uncustomary ease into which we had settled and the enticing nature of the company (Kate and Luke were around all day since it was Sunday), the pool and the movie library made it difficult to imagine leaving. So, we didn't. That said, in between our strenuous activities, we did connect to the Internet and manage a little work on our dispatches... although not nearly enough.

Late in the day, Kate drove the whole BikeAbout team down to Cannes to meet Joel for dinner (see the Place of the Day for more about Cannes and our brief time there). Since it was Padraic's birthday (he's very, very old today), he got to choose the restaurant. A great enthusiast of French cuisine, he chose a quaint little... Tex-Mex place highly recommended by Joel. OK, honestly, ever since Joel had mentioned this particular cuisine, Padraic hadn't been able to get it out of his mind and saw this birthday excuse as an excellent opportunity for demanding Tex-Mex food. So, while Padraic voraciously devoured nachos and a burrito, the rest of the group continued the conversation with Joel about the magic of the Mediterranean, and made arrangements for the school visit planned for the next day.

Returning to Valbonne fairly late and knowing they had to rise fairly early, the BikeAbouters nevertheless decided that they had to see one more movie before collapsing, exhausted from their day off, into bed.

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