Travel Tip: On the road in Barcelona, Spain

Local hangout in Barcelona

I have a friend who loves to travel alone.
One evening not too long ago we were discussing his recent trip to
Barcelona when he casually mentioned something he has done for years.
I think it’s a great idea.
Each time he visits a new city he will locate a bar, cyber cafe, or small restaurant near his hotel.  Nothing fancy, just someplace that feels comfortable.  Then every day at around the same time he’ll stop by for coffee, a meal, or to check his email.
After a few days he will invariably have become friends with at least one kind waiter, bartender, or even owner.
He assures me this little bit of extra effort has enriched his travel experiences more than he could have ever imagined.
I think it’s worth a try.

Traveling between Nice and Paris?

Consider booking a ticket on the TGV (bullet train).  Comfortable and convenient, the trip lasts about five hours and the train reaches speeds of up to two hundred miles an hour.  From Nice you’ll hug the coastline to Marseilles, then turn North for the final leg into Paris.

For information and booking visit Rail Europe at:
(click the British flag at lower left of main page for English)

French Riviera Road Trip: Essential tunes for navigating the upper corniche

Click here for information on the French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

1) Artist:
The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main Street
“Exile on Main Street” was actually cut at four different studios, one of which was in the basement of Keith Richard’s rental house, Villa Nellcote, in the south of France.  Recorded during the blistering summer of 1971 in Villefranche-sur-Mer, “Exile” is classic, down and dirty Stones.  Just listen to “Ventilator Blues” or “Casino Boogie” and you can practically feel the sweat dripping off the walls.  Today fans can find Villa Nellcote easily enough, but will have to settle for a photo by the front gate.  It’s not possible to enter the grounds.

2) Artist:
Take your pick
Bono, lead singer of the mega-super-group U2, has quite a connection to the south of France.  He owns a house on a small strip of beach Continue reading

Movies to watch before traveling to the south of France….

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief”

One surefire way to increase your excitement about an upcoming trip is to watch a movie set in or near your destination. Listed below are a few of my favorite flicks filmed in the south of France.

To Catch A Thief (1953)
Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, the French Riviera.  Need I say more?
A stylish, timeless classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Great footage of Le Bar sur Loup, Tourrettes sur Loup, Gourdon, Monaco, Nice, Cannes, Eze, and more.

And God Created Woman (1956)
The one that put St Tropez and Brigitte Bardot on the map.  Watch it and you’ll understand why everyone was so gaga about Brigitte.  There is also great post war footage of St Tropez before it became an international tourist destination.

French Kiss (1995)
Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan star in this feel good chick flick shot in Paris and the south of France.  Plenty of scenes filmed on La Croisette and in The Hotel Carlton in Cannes.  The nearby village of Valbonne is also prominently featured.

Ronin (1999)
The ultimate European thriller starring Robert DeNiro as a bad-ass ex C.I.A. agent for hire.  Lots of footage shot in Cannes, the village of La Turbie, the old port in Nice, and in the hills behind Le Bar sur Loup.

La Pizza: The best pizza in Cannes, France

It takes quite a man, resolute and in possession of a strong character,  to walk out of a restaurant and proclaim to the world, “that was the best damn pizza I have ever had and ever will have in my lifetime.”

My friends, I am that man.

I first visited La Pizza in Cannes on a cold, gray December afternoon in 2000, and to this day, can remember exactly what I ordered.

One slice of cheese pizza
A fresh, green salad
A glass of Italian red wine

It’s easy to remember my first order because at each subsequent visit to La Pizza (approximately 12 to 15 times) I have never ordered anything but:

One slice of cheese pizza
A fresh, green salad
A glass of Italian red wine

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and let me tell you the pizza at La Pizza ain’t broke!

Now, if you want to go to a restaurant where the waiters are always convivial and make you feel welcome from the moment you step inside the door, then by all means DO NOT go to La Pizza!  But if your main objective is tearing into a wondrous slice of pizza smothered in fresh cheese and spicy olive oil, then this is the place for you.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll actually branch out and add a topping or two to my cheese slice or ask them to put an egg on my salad, but not today my friends.

Not today.

La Pizza
3, Quai St Pierre
06400 Cannes, France
tel. 33 9 61 01 57 31

Dining in France: 12 Tips


1) Good food, like good wine, plays an important role in the lives of the French.  Along the Cote d’Azur dishes follow the seasons and almost always include olive oil, fish, and fresh local vegetables.

2) The French view lunch and dinner as experiences to be enjoyed and not rushed.  It’s not uncommon for a meal to last two hours or more, but once the visitor becomes accustomed to the pace, dining takes on a flavor and enjoyment all its own.

3) The French, in general, are much quieter and more reserved than Americans, especially in restaurants.

4) It’s not necessary to tip 15 or 20 percent in restaurants.  The service is always included.

5) It its acceptable to leave a small tip if you’ve been particularly pleased with your meal.

6) When you wish to order at a restaurant, close your menu.  This will indicate to your waiter that you’re ready.

7) If you find yourself becoming frustrated because the waiter has not brought your check, remember, the table is yours for as long as you want it.  He will not bring the check until you ask.  When you are ready, simply get his attention and say
“l’addition s’il vous plait.”

8) Most restaurants have their own house 
wine (la reserve).  It’s usually hand picked by the owner and of a high quality.

9) Menus usually comprise three or four courses: the entree (first course), main course, cheese, and dessert.

10) Coffee is always served after dessert.

11) An aperitif comes before your meal and a digestif after.

12) Having a drink while standing at the bar in a cafe or Brasserie is less expensive than sitting at a table and drinking.

Thoughts on travel


I love to travel.

When I’m not traveling I’m fantasizing about trips I hope to take in the future.
I think my love of travel may border on the obsessive.

So be it.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to realize how important travel has been in my life.  I’m absolutely certain it has made me a better person.  If you want to learn something about yourself, your friends, or even your hometown, then hop on a plane and go somewhere you’ve never been before.

If, upon returning, your perspective has not changed even a little bit, then maybe traveling really is not for you.

To quote one of my favorite lines, “An ass does not go traveling and come back a horse.”

Alpes Maritimes: The country auberge


I want to let you in on a little secret:
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat and drink well, really well, in the south of France.  Usually the Michelin starred establishments garner all the attention, but I am here to tell you that devoted foodies are really missing out on something special if they choose to snub their noses at lesser known country kitchens.  I’ve eaten in many restaurants in France over the years and there is simply no substitute for the Mom and Pop operations.  This is certainly not meant to be disparaging to restaurants that have worked hard to earn their stars.  In fact, ask me about my experiences at one, two, or three starred establishments and I will regale you an entire evening with stories about the incredible attention to detail, the perfectly choreographed presentation of each dish, and the mind blowing service that reaches a level that can only be referred to as intuitive.
You’ll hear at least one or two quips about the speed at which a server almost impaled himself on the back of a chair while rushing to light a customer’s cigarette (pre-smoking ban of course), and certainly there will be a mention Continue reading

Nice Flower Market


If you love markets then this is the one not to miss.

Located on the pedestrian only Cours Saleya in the old town, the bustling Nice flower market is held every day of the week (except Monday) from 7 a.m. until around 1 p.m.  Arrive by mid-morning (at the latest) and shop for flowers, spices, fresh fish, produce, and much more.  This is as much a social event as it is a market, so save plenty of time for people watching and a glass of chilled rose’ at one of the cafes with outdoor seating.  Also, don’t miss the best socca in the south of France at Chez Theresa (located in the middle of the market).


For a simple, delicious, and affordable lunch, try Continue reading

Three days to kill on the Cote d’Azur?


For most of us, the Cote d’Azur evokes images of pure, unadulterated decadence, a place where the beautiful, multilingual, and staggeringly rich live the good life.  We imagine scenes right out of Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous, with endlessly flowing champagne and a nonstop array of rock stars and topless beauties, their perfect bodies glistening in the Mediterranean sun.  In some areas along the coast that fantasy may still exist, but travel a few miles inland and you’ll discover a charming, affordable region with beautiful medieval villages, friendly people and world class cuisine.
The next time you find yourself with a long weekend in the south of France, let the tourists have their rocky beaches and crowded motor ways, the real fun is due north, just beyond the French Riviera.

Tourrettes sur Loup, located a few miles west of the town of Vence, and only thirty minutes from the Nice airport, is the perfect place to call home base.  Literally hanging off the side of a cliff, this stunning village is known for its arts and crafts, and for producing more violets than anywhere else in France.  Check into one of the six splendid rooms at the newly renovated Auberge de Tourettes at the edge of town.  The tastefully decorated  hotel is simple and comfortable with large, modern bathrooms and spectacular views.  Steps away, the town center is Continue reading

Money: 3 tips

Current currency rates can be checked at:

1) The best way to access your money in France is by using ATM’s.  They’re easy to use, easy to find, and offer a better exchange rate than banks or money changing kiosks.  Just make sure your pin is comprised of four digits and does not begin with a zero.  Contact your bank or credit card company to ensure that the card will work in Europe and to confirm your daily withdrawal limit

2) Credit cards almost always provide the best exchange rate, though there is a foreign transaction fee, usually 1% – 3%.

3) American Express and Discover cards are not as widely accepted in Europe as they are in America, so if possible bring along another card, preferably a Visa or Mastercard, and always inform your credit card company of your travel  plans.

The Hotel Rex in Nice

The Carlton it is not, but if you need a stylish, comfortable, and spotlessly clean room while in Nice, the Hotel Rex is an outstanding value.  Ideally located just steps from the recently renovated Place Massena, this tiny, 2nd floor hotel is a delight.  The beach and old town are a quick five minute walk away, Internet hook-up is available by the front desk, and the owners are very nice (they’ll be happy to make restaurant suggestions and even call in a reservation if needed).

Caveat: You have to walk through a front building and up several flights of stairs to get to the Rex, so beware if you’re carrying a lot of luggage.

Rooms from 40 Euros per night.
3 Rue Massena
06000 Nice, France