Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind at the words «Cote d’Azur» — villas of celebrities, «Ferrari», flying from Nice to Monaco, and diamond necklaces on the necks of wives of Russian oligarchs. For a long time it was an unattainable reality from foreign films, however, after I started traveling and traveled more than thirty countries myself, there seems to be little that is unattainable. Now Cote d’Azur was for me more attractive and a bit mysterious place, the moment of meeting with which I unconsciously delayed, knowing that I will have to say goodbye to a long-established image in the imagination.
The first time I went there «for exploration», making a circle on buses for 1 euro on the route Milan — Lyon — Marseille — Nice — Cannes — Monaco — Genoa. Then I went alone, having food, accommodation and travel not more than 25 euros a day. It was March, the azure color of the water was eclipsed by rain and fog, and Nice looked like a voluminous black and white photograph. Then, in the spring, they were still just preparing for the opening of the season. In this behind-the-scenes city life for me there is always more charm than in the summer embellishment, but still I decided to return in the summer.
I want to talk about the July trip with my mother on the delightful coast of the Mediterranean Sea — from Genoa to Marseilles. We travel often and try to do it as budgetarily as possible. It all started with the fact that in early April I managed to catch an excellent share of the Hungarian Loukoster Wizzair — a 50% discount on the second ticket. I picked up convenient connections in Budapest, in order to have time to see also this city, and bought two tickets Moscow — Milan, Nice — Moscow. Their advantage was the price (about 10 thousand rubles for round-trip ticket at the end of June), and the downside is the opportunity to take only a small hand luggage. Since my mom is a big fan of shopping, on the way back we had to pay 11 euros for each flight through my private office in order to be able to fly with a suitcase. Therefore it is important to check the tariff rules and pay baggage through the Internet in advance.
We traveled all along the coast by bus. These internal transfers I paid back in April — so it turns out to save a few times. For example, from Milan to Genoa we went for 1 euro, from Marseilles to Nice — for 5 euros. The pros of this early booking, I think, are obvious, but the drawbacks are the impossibility to change or pass a ticket. In Genoa and Marseilles, I booked the apartments through Airbnb. Adventures began with the fact that even in Moscow, planning a trip, we decided not to stop in Milan and decided to immediately go to Genoa on arrival. So I signed with the landlady of our apartment in Genoa and warned that we would arrive a day earlier. She confirmed that the apartment would be free, and appointed a meeting on the street near the supermarket at eleven in the evening. We arrived earlier, quickly found the right street and, to pass the time, went to have dinner in a bar nearby.
On the slopes of the cape are seen villas, drowning in flowers and greens, below — a sea of such color, which is only in tourist brochures
When the time came to eleven, I left my mother with bags to finish the beer, and she went to meet the hostess to take the keys from her. Having stood at the supermarket until half past eleven and did not wait for anyone, I was slightly surprised and returned to the bar behind the phone. On the other end of the wire a soulless female voice politely told me in Italian: «Unfortunately, the subscriber is not available. Leave a message or try again later. » «Indeed, sorry,» I thought, and went to tell my mother that we, it seems, have nowhere to sleep.
I do not know what happened this weekend with not the most popular among tourists Genoa, but I could not find any free hotel at any reasonable price. The cheapest number was about 100 euros (and our apartments, by the way, 40 euros per night), and he was in a hotel near the airport, where he had to get a taxi. I, fortunately, speak Italian well, so I explained the whole situation to the waiter and asked him if he could give us a reasonably priced hotel nearby. Another twenty minutes later the hotel was looking for half the bar, talking from table to table.
Ten minutes later I chatted with a girl sitting next to a big company, and found out that she once taught Russian and that we have a mutual Italian friend with her. Another five minutes later her friend already called her friend, who soon came to the bar and agreed to take us to spend the night with her for 30 euros. And now we are walking along Genoa night, all the way up, and talking with Daniel about Dostoevsky, traveling, the Genoese ethnographic museum, and then we come to the house of the beginning of the XIX century with high ceilings decorated with stucco, library, where all the Italian literature is collected, and two lazy cats. And Daniela suddenly says: «Listen, you are in a difficult situation, do not need any money, just feed me breakfast in the morning.» The next day, early in the morning, the landlady called the apartment with a million apologies and an invitation to dinner, saying that she had mistaken the date of our arrival. We, frankly, already were not angry, because, despite the small stress, it was an excellent adventure.
In Genoa, we stayed for four days, two of which went to the towns south of Genoa, along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. The first day — in Portofino and San Frutuozo. You can get there by ferry from Santa Margherita Ligure station. Portofino — a small fishing town, located at the foot of the high promontory. Now it is one of the most popular, expensive and beautiful Italian resorts. On the slopes of the cape are villas, drowning in flowers and greenery, below — a sea of color, which is only in tourist brochures. We had quite a couple of hours to walk around the town, climb up the path a little and walk between the villas, but you can come for a whole day: the town is part of a national park and it has beautiful walking routes of varying length and complexity. You can walk for hours on these trails among the flowers and trees and look down on the sea, yachts and private private beaches.
On the second day we went to the famous place of the Cinque Terre («Five Lands») — these are five fishing villages located high on the rocks. Between them you can travel by train, ferry or on foot. If you ever want to go there and walk from one village to another, be sure to learn in advance all the routes, their length, complexity and time of passage. I have long wanted to walk along one of the paths, but in the first two villages we were unlucky: the trails were closed for restoration work. Therefore, in the third village, Manarole, I, finally seeing the entrance to the cherished path, cheerfully waved my mother’s hand, and we began to climb.
For three hours we walked up and down the mountains, passing into the rocks, under the scorching sun, looking longingly at the fresh blue water, pouring far below. At the beginning of the road, we were met by joyful tourists in trekking shoes and with bottles of water, which descended and greeted us cheerfully. After about half an hour we realized that they were greeted, knowing full well what awaits us ahead. Three hours later, we also cheerfully welcomed the people going up. At the very end, already descending from the mountain path to the urban asphalt, we saw three cheerful and energetic Americans who were obviously thinking about whether to go or not to go. And I, trying to restrain myself on my shaking legs, blurted out: «Do not do it, do not go!» We, of course, all laughed, but then, having noticed them casually in one of the restaurants, I realized that they would go still changed their mind.
From Genoa, we had to go to Marseilles first by train, and then by bus: with an early booking trip cost us 20 euros per person and along the way it was possible to walk a couple of hours for Nice. But it was this time that we regretted that we had collected irretrievable tickets, because I managed to mix up the number! I must say that my mother and I closely watched the European football championship and went to watch matches in bars with Italian and French fans. And so, calmly walking around Genoa, I saw a Portuguese flag in the window and decided to remind my mother that the day after tomorrow it will be necessary to go to the match of Portugal with Poland. «Not the day after tomorrow, tomorrow,» my mother corrected me. And then I realized that today at nine in the morning we were supposed to leave for Marseilles, and we quietly walk through Genoa and did not even begin to collect things. In Marseille we left at five o’clock in the evening, running to the station ten minutes before the departure of the last train and spending 120 euros on tickets. But left, and thanks for that.
Marseille is the capital of Provence, a coastal city to the east of which the Cote d’Azur is leaving, and to the west is the lesser known but no less beautiful Blue Beach. The city is big and incredibly diverse: walking along it, I recalled Sicily, Malta, Tunisia, Israel, Rome, Madrid, Paris and Budapest. This city wanted to absorb, to remember in memory as it is, with a port, a fortress, parks, cathedrals, mountains, the sea, chaotic spots of blocks and streams of people. One native marselian gave us a local delicacy: a freshly baked croissant is cut along, there is put a slice of smoked salmon, and it is smeared with a thin layer of honey. I never thought I would eat that, but after taking a bite, I realized that this is the taste of real Mediterranean France, the taste of summer, where you sit on the terrace overlooking the city and there is nothing but the present moment.
The studio in Marseille cost, like in Genoa, 40 euros per night, but was much less: if the bed was laid out, it was already impossible to stand by the stove, the shower was separated from the room only by the curtain, and the toilet was in general behind the closet door. But there was a large terrace with a view of the city. In Marseilles, we stayed for four days, of which one was in the town of Aix-en-Provence, small but stunningly beautiful. It is there that you can fully enjoy the Provençal style, known for its paintings and books, with pastel-colored houses, flowers on the windows and a lavender smell.
The next day, we did not know where to get away from the unbearable heat, so we took a ferry ticket and sailed to the Friuli Islands. We did not have time to board aboard and sit on the bow of the boat in the sun, as sailors began to wave at us from the felling, and called to us upstairs. So we steered a boat full of tourists, and led him out of the port, and then, under the guidance of the captain, headed for the castle of If, where he was imprisoned in Edmon Dantes, and sailed to the Friul archipelago under the incomprehensibly taken Russian pop and the abrupt speech of Marseilles sailors.
Our last destination was Nice, from there we flew to Budapest, and then to Moscow. Since we stayed here for one night only, I chose the hotel directly opposite the airport, where there is also a bus terminal to which we arrived from Marseille. The number in the Ibis Budget cost us 60 euros for two with a pre-renewable reservation, which is very (very!) Cheap for Nice. We arrived at seven in the morning, left things in the hotel and went for a walk before settling. Walking along the English promenade from the airport to the city center, we were terribly tired after an almost sleepless night, and the heat in Nice was absolutely ruthless, so we decided to take the bus, return to the hotel and wait there.
I went to the bus first and, trying to portray the words «Deux, aéroport» («Two to the airport») in French with a card «p», I heard from the driver the answer in the purest Russian: «Here, hold, put on the right. And where are you from, what are you doing in Nice? «We reached the hotel in the end, but only after an hour and a half, because Paul (the driver’s name) said that he had the last working day before the holiday and invited us to ride along his route north-west of Nice and admire the Alps and the mountain river. He told us that he had come from Dagestan and for sixteen years he lived in Nice with his family. It turns out that he is the only Russian-speaking bus driver in Nice, but we, as you remember, know how to choose the right places.
Certainly, my ideas about Nice as a city of the rich have to some extent been confirmed. But it seems to me most important that I saw the other side: it’s also just a soulful, beautiful and open city where absolutely ordinary people live, where you can find inexpensive shops, get on public transport to the most beautiful free beaches, stroll along the waterfront along the smart hotels, get to know people. Not only Nice, but the whole coast from Marseilles to Genoa, including the Côte d’Azur, you can go around on inexpensive buses and trains, stop at apartments, buy food in local markets and in supermarkets, without spending money on cafes and restaurants.
From the great experience of traveling I made one important thing: the most important thing for me is the atmosphere of a city or place, it is she who determines how I will spend my time. And the atmosphere though depends to a certain extent on nature and architecture, yet it is created thanks to people. And if you are open to the world, the world opens in response — this is what my trip once again proved to me, in which strangers always helped in difficult situations, were friendly and hospitable, and even out of the hopeless, at first glance, position was the last one moment.