France    Andorra    Spain    Monaco    Italy    Switzerland   

In March/April 2004 we flew to Paris, France. Our goal for the 2 1/2 weeks was to primarily get to the French Riviera. Before getting there, we went to the Principality of Andorra and also Spain. After the French Riviera we went to the Principality of Monaco, with a little detour through Italy and Switzerland to get back to Paris. That's my kind of detour.

Sandwiched between France and Spain is the Principality of Andorra. Since it's in The Pyrenees, it has a very dramatic backdrop and the scenery is spectacular. Even though it's a small country we still spent a couple days there. The few towns this little country has were very crowded with skiers this time of year. This explained the difficulty we had getting a hotel room.

Since we were focusing around the Mediterranean we were able to see the northeast part of Spain, including Barcelona. The Pyrenees spill over into this region of Spain and the rolling hills seem to go on forever. It had beautiful scenery and red soil similar to the Arizona landscape. We were surprised by how much industry and business there was in the area surrounding Barcelona. But, we were really impressed the 3 days we spent in the city of Barcelona. The city was immaculately clean with tree-lined streets, beautiful buildings, friendly people, a lot to see and do, and a great metro system. Overall, it was just a pleasant atmosphere throughout the city. We plan on going back there again and spending more time in the rest of Spain as well.

Driving along the Mediterranean in France and the French Riviera we saw all the 'hot spots' such as Marseille, Cannes, Nice, St. Tropez, and more. This was where you are supposed to 'be seen', however it was not as scenic as we would have hoped. A lot of the beaches are private, but generally you could walk along the shore in some places. If it was summer the weather would have been warmer, but from what I heard the crowds would be unbearable. Since we like to see and do things, not just lie on the beach, it was a good time of year for us to go. We had perfect weather, sunny and nearly 70°F (21°C) during the day. We planned to spend 4 days in this region but only spent 3 and added an extra day in Italy. We saw 'the spots', we were seen at 'the spots', took some pictures of 'the spots', and moved on out of 'the spots'.

As you cross into the Principality of Monaco the coastline changes. It turns rocky with very dramatic cliffs and crashing waves. This was really neat to see. Even though it wasn't a beach area, Monaco had a really nice park like setting along the water and near the palace. Monaco was very clean and had police on what seemed like every other corner. As you might expect, we didn't win anything in the Monte Carlo Casino.

At this point we needed a way to get back to Paris. One option was to go back through more of France (ho, hum...). The other option was through Italy and Switzerland (yee, haa!!!).

With the time we had left, we were able to see the western top part of the 'boot' of Italy (more like a 'boot strap' actually). Even though we didn't see the touristy spots like Rome or Venice (sounds like another trip), we were able to see a part of Italy that may be overlooked by many tourists. Besides, we like to go all over the place anyway. One of the towns we stayed at in the foot of the mountains, Cuneo, wasn't even in the travel book I had. In this really nice town, we had our first taste of Italian pizza. Between gelato, pizza, gelato, pasta, and gelato we ate good in Italy. In Torino, a much larger city, we walked through the square and down the main pedestrian shopping district. In the more northern town of Aosta, we saw some Roman walls, arches, and the ruins of a small coliseum. The 'peak' of the Italian portion of the trip was going to Cervinia and seeing The Matterhorn. From there we continued in Italy to Courmayeur, before taking a 7-mile long tunnel under Mount Blanc on our way toward Switzerland.

Unfortunately, the 1-day we had in Geneva, Switzerland was cloudy. This was only bad for pictures. Geneva is a modern town with only a small old town area. We've been to big cities that have more of an old town area. It just felt too modern, but I'm glad we went to see it. There are a lot more sights we want to see away from the city along Lake Geneva but we didn't have time this trip. We'll go back eventually (and another trip is born).

We spent our last afternoon and evening going into Paris. We had packed everything up the night before so we had the last day free. We just spent that time roaming around the Eiffel Tower area again.

France flag .gif2k France map .jpg23k
France - france2004_000.jpg8K

Auvillar, France - L'Eglise saint-Pierre (Church of St. Peter) dating from about 1186.


France - france2004_001.jpg11K

Collioure, France - Collioure is a quaint fishing village.


France - france2004_002.jpg8K

Pont Du Gard, France - Us in front of an old Roman aquaduct.


France - france2004_003.jpg8K

Marseille, France - An amazing coastline.


France - france2004_004.jpg10K

Cannes, France - A billboard photo of us on the beach in Cannes.


France - france2004_005.jpg9K

St. Tropez, France - Surf, sand, and lots of sun tan lotion.


France - france2004_006.jpg9K

Nice, France - Nice was nice (that one never gets old).


France - france2004_007.jpg12K

Eze, France - Get on your walking shoes and canteen to see this town.


France - france2004_008.jpg10K

Paris, France - For those who really need to see it (again, and again, and again).


Andorra flag .gif3k Andorra map .jpg22k
Andorra - andorra2004_000.jpg10K

Encamp, Andorra - Along the French border, one of the few ways into the country.


Andorra - andorra2004_001.jpg9K

Andorra le Vella, Andorra - The capital city just starts and ends. Any larger it wouldn't fit.


Andorra - andorra2004_002.jpg8K

Andorra - Us in the Andorra countryside.


Spain flag .gif2k Spain map .jpg25k
Spain - spain2004_000.jpg8K

Spain - Somewhere in the countryside, we knew where we were at the time.


Spain - spain2004_001.jpg10K

Barcelona, Spain - In Barcelona the Plaça d'Espanya is a good place to start.


Spain - spain2004_002.jpg11K

Barcelona, Spain - The Christopher Columbus monument.


Spain - spain2004_003.jpg12K

Barcelona, Spain - The Sagrada Família temple is probably the most famous landmark.


Spain - spain2004_004.jpg10K

Cardedeu, Spain - Shopping!


Monaco flag .gif1k Monaco map .jpg21k
Monaco - monaco2004_000.jpg9K

Monaco - The palace is on what is known as 'The Rock'.


Monaco - monaco2004_001.jpg9K

Monaco - See the boats, water, and money?


Monaco - monaco2004_002.jpg9K

Monte Carlo, Monaco - We got more money out of the fountain than the Casino.


Italy flag .gif2k Italy map .jpg25k
Italy - italy2004_000.jpg9K

Cuneo, Italy - A very nice town to stay in and shop in.


Italy - italy2004_001.jpg10K

Torino, Italy - The Palace in the main square.


Italy - italy2004_002.jpg9K

Cervinia, Italy - Us at the base of the Matterhorn, as close as we got to the peak.


Italy - italy2004_003.jpg9K

Aosta, Italy - You think they could fix up their ancient Roman ruins for tourists.


Italy - italy2004_004.jpg9K

Courmayeur, Italy - Why did we drive 7 miles under Mt. Blanc? To get to the other side.


Switzerland flag .gif1k Switzerland map .jpg19k
Switzerland - switzerland2004_000.jpg8K

Geneva, Switzerland - The Jet d'eau (Water Jet) rises 425 feet.


Switzerland - switzerland2004_001.jpg10K

Geneva, Switzerland - Good place to shop.


Switzerland - switzerland2004_002.jpg9K

Geneva, Switzerland - Some of the old town near the water.