Still recovering from the tragic loss of my GoPro, we carried along the French Riveria towards Nice. Before we got there we needed a quick pit stop to refuel the van and ourselves and the small town of Toulon was the perfect place for it. As the keen fans of rugby that we are the Stade Mayol was obviously the first place to see once we had arrived and the home of the triple champions cup winners lived up to expectations. Located on the edge of the harbour the stadium is nestled right in the heart of the town and much to our delight, next door to a Chinese restaurant. Once again, just like Stonehenge and the Nou Camp, we failed to get into the stadium- this time because it was closed- so we enjoyed a fantastic tour of the car park and a rather fractured view of the pitch from over the fence. The next best thing turned out to be the Chinese next door where the all you can eat buffet was more than welcomed by our travelling stomachs.
We thought that the calorific food from the far east would come in handy as we headed for the mountain bike trails just outside of Nice. And they would have come in handy, had we ever found these trails which still illude us. After aimlessly driving about the hills overlooking the coastal city, asking police officers and once again pointlessly relying on Bani’s navigational abilities we conceded defeat to the phantom bike routes and searched for a spot to stay at for the night. Our blind wanderings miraculously led us to what happened to be one of the best places we camped at. At the summit of the hill which we had been haphazardly staggering about on for far too long we finally turned a corner which threw us out onto a lay by with perfect views over the mountains, instantly we knew this was the place to stop for dinner and a few games of cards.
On the ensuing day after a quick trip through Nice to have stroll along the promenade and find a launderette to decontaminate some clothes we made our way over to Monaco. And it was hellish. Before we even made it to the border of Monaco the tailpipe of the exhaust decided to plop off on the motorway making the engine sound like a V8 as it echoed through the tunnels. But that was the least of my troubles. In our naivety we planned for an easy drive through Monte Carlo, to easily park up and explore the city-state and whip around the roads used for the Grand Prix. As soon as we entered, the traffic jams began. Surrounded by luxury cars such as Rolls Royce’s and Bentley’s I was sweating over the repeated hill starts as the fancy motors got too close behind me in the long queues and the hunt for a space to park was ridiculous as there simply was no parking. I am still befuddled as to where all these vehicles kept sprouting from as nowhere for them to be kept existed, everyone must of simply been driving around doing the same thing- angrily passing through. It took us 4 hours to drive the 13 miles between Nice and Monaco due to the ridiculous jams and the fruitless pursuit of a space. In that time we had done repeated laps of the same roads, and even ended up in Italy on a few occasions as we made our own circuit to replace the current F1 version which we had to give up on getting to, on one lap we ventured off hopefully to somewhere we thought might have a space but ended up stuck on a narrow lane surrounded by angry pensioners as we tried to back out before completing what felt like a thousand point turn to escape their wrath. By the time we had given up and settled in the nearby town of Menton I was close to killing Bani, smashing the van and walking home after I had wasted most of the day fuming behind the wheel of the van, stuck in the boiling weather being instructed by an imbecile, all whilst reeling over the loss of the tailpipe.
Having just about calmed down by the following morning we opted for the train into Monte Carlo to finally marvel at the mega yachts and casinos. Maybe the previous days disgruntlement’s had taken their toll and I had already made up my mind about Monaco, but I was rather unimpressed with all the shabby buildings and fishing boats. There was the odd super yacht that took the breath away and occasional profound hotel but the overall feel was, well, tacky. With that brief excursion out the way we carried on with our plan, and as quickly as the old van would take us, got back on the road and headed for Pisa, Italy.