Friday, April 29, 2016

Wandering Around Monaco

As Laura and Jennifer head over to Roquebrune Cap Martin to watch the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, I decide to spend the day walking around Nice and Monaco.  I start by walking up the steps to Castle Hill, Colline du Château in French, about 300 feet above the city, for sweeping panoramic views of Nice and the Baie Des Anges (Bay of Angels).

To the south is the port of Nice, with a small fishing fleet, ferries to Corsica, and the occasional cruise boat.  To the north is the Promenade des Anglais, the famous walkway along the beach with grand hotels facing the Mediterranean, separate lanes for walking, skating, and biking and, of course, the beach.

 Views of Nice from Castle Hill

After walking around on top for a while and admiring the views, I descend, walk along Promenade des Anglais, and cut through the town to the Gare de Nice-Ville, the main train station, where I catch the TER to Monaco.  The Monaco train station is one stop before the Monaco Country Club station where the tennis tournament is being held and just up the hill from the harbor.

I head out of the train station and down to the harbor, but find my way blocked and diverted by the temporary fences, reviewing stand construction and other setup activities for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix which has been held every May since 1929 (except during the Second World War) and, together with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, forms the Triple Crown of Motorsport.  The race runs over a narrow course up and down the streets and hills of Monaco, with tight corners and the occasional tunnel.  Apparently, it takes several weeks to set up and tear down for the event, which is about 6 weeks away.

 Setting up for the Grand Prix

 The reviewing stands (and start and finish lines) are being built at the harbor and I tire of working my way around the turmoil and head over to Monaco City, the historical old town city on a bluff extending into the Mediterranean.  Monaco City is one of the four French quarters of Monaco and contains the Prince's Palace, Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum, gardens, chapels, and residences on narrow streets packed with tourists.

 View of the port from Monaco City

I purchase a baguette sandwich from a shop in the narrow streets and sit in a park to enjoy my lunch.  However, I have company that wants me to share and I oblige, making a new friend in the process.

Please, sir, may I have some?

The stroll through Monaco City and lunch only take an hour or so and the crowds are large, so I head back down from the Old Town, cross the harbor, and walk up the hill on the other side to the Monte Carlo Casino, which is a large complex with a casino, the Opéra de Monte Carlo and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.  Parked outside the main entrance to the Casino are race cars for the upcoming Grand Prix.

 On display outside the Casino

Everyone is peering in the cars and taking pictures (as do I).  Then, I decide to get some elevation and walk from the Casino up the hilly, narrow streets for a trek around the modern city.

Modern Monaco on the hill, Monaco City across the harbor

There are stairs everywhere that provide steep short cuts between the streets for those of us on foot.  But, it gets later and I'm now close to the Gare de Monaco-Monte Carlo and head over that way to catch the next train back to Nice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters is part of the tennis tour, played in April on clay courts at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, next to Monaco. The Monte Carlo tournament was first held in 1897 and became part of the "Open" events in 1969.   This is the first major European tennis tournament in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Wold Tour Masters 1000

In 2015, Novak Djokovic was the winner and in 2016, Rafael Nadal, the 9th time he has won this title.

We stay in Nice and Laura and Jennifer take the TER regional train from Nice to the Monte-Carlo Country Club station, between Monaco and Roquebrune Cap Martin.  The TER drops them 600 meters from the entrance and only stops at this station during the tournament.  Walking to the station in Nice, we see a steady stream of players and spectators heading the same way.

The venue is intimate and the spectators are close to the action, with spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean.

The TER arrives

And stops right at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

 Nestled between the hills and the sea in Roquebrune Cap Martin

                     Monfils                                    Rafael Nadal                  Good view of Nadal

                         Isner on the practice court                        Practice courts

                                         Tsonga                                               Nadal

  Practice courts are right on the Mediterranean

Match Play!  Great competition in the best venue!  And, if you can take a break and look away from the tennis, the Mediterranean is in the background

 The stands are small for an intimate experience

For lunch, a very civilized baguette sandwich and glass(es) of champagne.

 Lunch at the tournament

After a day of great tennis, it's back on the TER and a quick return trip to Nice.

We have dinner in Nice and pick up our luggage and head to the airport.  Our tennis doesn't end at the tournament.  At the EasyJet check-in line, we watch a player who lost to Djokovic (Laura and Jennifer's last match before heading back to Nice) try to change his ticket home (apparently leaving earlier than he thought) and negotiate the fees.   We feel bad for him, to be ousted and then have to pay more, but EasyJet is not as sympathetic.  A half hour later, we're checked in and heading to security, he's still discussing it with them (negotiations continue).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sunday in Balboa Park, San Diego

Balboa Park in San Diego is 1,200 acres (1.9 sq. miles/4.8 sq. km) of open space, green belts, museums, gardens, attractions, restaurants, theaters, and the San Diego Zoo (a personal favorite).  I could spend a whole day at the Zoo and not see any more of the Park.  Or, at the Museum of Art or the Natural History Museum or the Air and Space Museum or the Japanese Garden or the Botanical Garden - there is just so much to do!

Today, I'm heading over to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion for their weekly concert. The Spreckels, founders of a transportation and real estate empire in San Diego, donated one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs to the City of San Diego in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal (competing with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held at the same time in San Francisco). The organ contains 4,725 pipes ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet and is housed in an ornate pavilion in Balboa Park.  The organ has been played in a free weekly concert Sunday afternoon at 2 since 1917.

But first, I have to brave the Sunday afternoon traffic heading into Balboa Park.  I ark outside the park and walk in past the Lawn Bowling Area, where the San Diego Lawn Bowling Club (organized in 1931) plays most days of the week (and also gives lessons). 

Lawn Bowling Area

After the Lawn Bowling Area, I walk along El Prado, across the Cabrillo Bridge and into the park.  I can see the Zoo in the distance, but, here, am immediately surrounded by museums:  Museum of Man, San Diego Museum of Art, Timkin Museum of Art, Mingei International Museum, and the San Diego Art Institute, Old Globe Theater, and Botanical Garden.  After passing several of the museums, I enter the Plaza de Panama, open and welcoming, surrounded by all these great things to do and see.

Plaza de Panama, surrounded by museums

From the Plaza, I can see the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, just one green area away.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion across the green belt

I walk over to the Pavilion and take a seat for the hour-long concert.  The organ produces a tremendous sound and what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!  The San Diego Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams, is not playing today and we have a Family Day Concert with guest organist Alison Luedecke, along with several of her young students.

Sitting in the Organ Pavilion for the concert

 Viewing the organ up close afterwards

Slight aircraft noise accompaniment
After the concert, I wander out of the park, admiring the gnarled old trees in the green areas.

 Gnarled trees

There is so much to do in Balboa Park that I could (and have in the past) spend days wandering.  But, today it's a quick trip for the organ concert, then back up to Carlsbad for the evening and, then, time for this long weekend to come to a close.  But, before moving on, I'll share one more picture from the park - a serpent sculpture playground just off the Plaza de Panama.

 Serpent sculpture for play

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walking Along the Beach in Carlsbad

We're staying on the beach in Carlsbad, about 35 miles (24 km) north of the San Diego airport where we had parked for our walk along San Diego Bay.  Carlsbad is a seaside tourist resort occupying a seven mile stretch of the Pacific Coast.  Carlsbad is also home to the Legoland California Resort theme park, which we haven't seen.

Our hotel, the Cape Ray Carlsbad Hilton, about five miles south of Carlsbad, is across the road from South Carlsbad State Beach and, even though it is still chilly, we get the true Southern California beach experience. We start with a walk along the beach into town.  What great views of the ocean and surf!

 Walking to Carlsbad

As we get closer to Carlsbad, we start to see more people on the beach, the surfers south of town and the volleyball players closer in.

 Surfers in the water

 Volleyball on the beach

And, even a stray sea lion resting on the sand with a few admirers keeping their distance.

 Sea lion at rest, people watching

Walking back, we see that some of the lifeguard stations are deployed, but unoccupied, while others are waiting for the warmer weather to be stationed around the beach.

 Life guard stations on the beaches

Ready to go when beach season truly begins

It's time to walk on the beach!  We find a path down from the road and walk across the soft sand and occasional rocky patch for an eye-level perspective of the Pacific.  It's truly quiet and calming.  But, we have to walk back the way we came to find another path back up the bluff to the road.

 Down on the beach

As we get closer to the hotel, we walk through the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, where people have brought their RVs or are camping in tents, spending the weekend at the ocean.  Everyone seems to be having a great time, preparing the barbecue, kids playing in the street, people visiting their friends and making new friends, heading down the stairs to the beach - they're all in for a relaxing time.

 RV parking / camping in the state park above the beach

Our day is coming to an end and we watch the sun set over the Pacific, joining the people from the park and others who just pull off the road and get out to watch the sun descend into the ocean.

The sun sets

 Tomorrow, another adventure in San Diego.