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Eze, France & Apricale, Italy

Eze, France & Apricale, Italy

I again took to the shores of the Mediterranean for an off season adventure on the Cote d'Azur. I again stayed in Menton and spent considerable time soaking in the sun and taking in the views of the bay of Menton. This was my 5th trip to this area of France but my first renting a car (train strikes!) so I took advantage of that rental to visit some farther out of the way locations then normal:

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La Turbie

Not particularly far from Menton, but kind of complicated to get to via public transportation, I had wanted to take a peek at the Trophie of the Alps built during the time of Caesar Augustus to mark . Hard to get a glimpse of up the Trophie without paying the entrance fee - easy to get a glimpse of from slightly out of town approaching. There were wonderful views down to Monaco and across towards Italy. 

Tête de Chien (Dog's Head)

Just outside of La Turbie we drove to the area known as Tête de Chien  (Dog's Head) which is what the rocky spot high above Monaco looks like from below. Once again amazing views back toward Nice

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Eze

Next stop the little town of Eze. I have passed this town several times on public buses in earlier trips to the area, the bus would stop, tons of people would try to get on, they couldn't and some would be left behind to repeat the experience on the next bus. So I had never stopped. The guidebooks all say stop, its so charming and walkable and must visit so we checked it out. It was fine - a LOT of climbing, really crowded, for my money on small hill towns in the areas I have to go with Sainte-Agnès, but the views from the exotic garden at the top of the town were quite stunning.

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

The town next door - we explored the fantastic walking path along the sea - wow. 

San Remo Italy harbor

San Remo

Taking advantage of the car we drove into Italy several times. The farthest east we drove was the beach town of San Remo, on a rather unbeachy day. I was impressed with the fishing fleet.

Ventimiglia

I visited on the famous Friday market day, but also on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, when the character of the town is much different, quiet and laid back.

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Ligurian Villages - Dolceaqua, Apricale, Pigna, Castel Vittorio, Isolabona

I did a lightning round of small villages in the Nervia Valley in far western Liguria. Dolceaqua is the most famous (famous for its bridge) it was jam packed with tourists and buses so we did a drive through of town and moved on to Isolabona, up the narrow road to Apricale, backtracked and then headed up to Pigna and Castel Vittorio. My favorite: Apricale.

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Monaco Grand Prix

One last place I visited that was not out of the way, but was quite the special occasion, was Monaco for the Grand Prix. Well not quite the Grand Prix itself, tickets were insane, but I went on Saturday, for F1 Qualifying and the F2 Race and feel that I got my full taste of Formula One and the glitz of the Grand Prix. FYI I was in section Z1 which I highly recommend - 2nd cheapest ticket price, general admission but I easily got a seat, in the shade, right next to the track with a good view of a straightaway and turn. 

bay of menton france at night

Another beautiful and relaxing trip to the Cote d'Azur‎! Hopeful it will generate lots of drawing and painting ideas. 

Menton, France & Ventimiglia, Italy

Menton, France & Ventimiglia, Italy

I've been to the French Riviera before several times, zipping up and down the coast to visit museums and tourist spots. This time, I decided to mix it up, and hang out for a laid back week on my balcony in the town of Menton, the pearl of France, famous for its lemons, and the last coastal town in France before the Italian border.

Beautiful sunshine, warm weather, great views and truly delicious meals.

I went to the next town over, Ventimiglia, which is in Italy for their famous outdoor market. Great lunch, good deals and a truly beautiful cappuccino. 

Menton, like much of the Riviera, is right on the water with steep mountains behinds (and very curvy roads). I decided to make my way into the mountains to the little town of Sainte-Agnes. 

Back on the ground in Menton, I visited some of its famous gardens.

I had the chance to do a lot of sketching and drawing while I was in Menton as well...

Which turned into some huge paintings

Cinque Terre & Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre & Italian Riviera

A lovely relaxing vacation along the Italian Riviera. We home based in Rapallo, feasting on shellfish, grilled fish and pasta genovese. 

rapallo italy from boat with water

We took the cable car up the mountain to the Santuario di Montallegro, built over 450 years ago on a supposed spot of a visitation from the Virgin Mary.  What a view from the top.

I wanted to visit the Cinque Terre and debated about the different ways of getting there - for us, the ferry was the best option. Leaving right out of the Rapallo harbor it made stops at Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore. A great way to see it all easily in one day. 

I finally wanted to swim in the Mediterranean - so we hit the neighboring beaches in Santa Margherita Ligure. The official report - refreshing! 7 out of 10 on the cold scale - with Maine being a 10 and Costa Rica being a 1. 

Our final day we again took the ferry to the beautiful town of Portofino. 

Portofino, Italy

I was also able to do a lot of sketching while on vacation...

view all my photos here

For my recommendations on restaurants: check out my Trip Advisor reviews

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

I write this marking my third trip to Venice (with the hope of many more returns). It was the very first city I visited on my very first visit to Europe when I was 16 and despite being a total tourist trap once can't help but quote Indiana Jones, "Ahh Venice". 

It has also been rather rich for me artistically. 


Sicily, Italy

Sicily, Italy

I had a wonderful off season time in Sicily. I flew into Catania and spent most of the trip in Siracusa, in the ancient part of Ortigia in a converted church overlooking the Ionian Sea. With my little Fiat we turned the nearby ruins, as well as the Baroque towns of Ragusa, Noto and Modica. We discovered the delights of Nero D'Avola wine (from neighboring Avola), saw the "grand canyon of Sicily". I headed north in the shadow of Mt. Edna (which was smoking the whole time we were there) to Taormina. Then, west across the island to Agrigento, who's roads were clearly designed by MC Escher, but had wonderful ancient Greek temples, stopping on the way to see the Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina. 

painting of a piazza in Siracusa, Sicily by me

painting of a piazza in Siracusa, Sicily by me

Lucca, Italy

Lucca, Italy

Loved Lucca, walked the old medieval wall that surrounds the city, paid homage to Puccini, had a heck of a lunch- all in all a great afternoon (and one of the few sunny ones we had in Tuscany)

Naples, Italy

Naples, Italy

Why does everyone try to scare you about Naples? The drivers are like maniacs, the garbage is a problem, you WILL get pickpocketed or scammed in some way, blah, blah, blah.

I really like Naples. Parts of it were really beautiful. The people were super nice, and honestly the food was more delicious and cheaper than the other places I visited in southern Italy. 


While in the greater Naples area I also visited Pompeii and wow. Its hard not to be impressed by all the Romans had accomplished, the technology was unbelievable. 

Amalfi, Italy

Amalfi, Italy

Really this is describing the whole Amalfi Coast drive I took between Naples and Salerno - I made base camp in Sorrento and stops in Positano and Amalfi. 

What a beautiful place!! And one of the most exciting/scary drives of all times (my apologies to everyone behind me)

Pasteum, Italy

Pasteum, Italy

Home to awesome Greek temples and great buffalo mozzella- from here head south to Anna's pizzeria in Agropoli for the best pizza I had in Italy. 

Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Milan was beautiful. The best parts were:

  • seeing live flamingos in someone's courtyard.
  • grapefruit AND kiwi gelato 
  • climbing to the top of the duomo
  • risotto! 

Como, Italy

Como, Italy

Well we didn't see George Clooney but Lake Como was beautiful anyways! The weather was supposed to be rainy but the sun came out and the skies cleared up as soon as we got to town.

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Really we traveled around Tuscany quite a bit, visiting Florence, Pisa and Siena.