Friday, December 30, 2016

ROUTE 66 Landmarks and Historic Downtowns- San Bernardino to Pasadena





Here are some Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley Route 66 landmarks not to be missed, again from east to west...

Picture courtesy of Flickr
Keith_Rock under CC BY-ND 3.0 license
Glen Helen Park, Devore - As you exit the Cajon Pass via Interstate 15, you're gonna go west on Interstate 215.  That large park in the hills just south of the freeway is Glen Helen Park.  It was here on two weekends, Labor Day in 1982 and Memorial Day in 1983, that Steve Jobs' partner Steve Wozniak spent a good deal of his Apple fortune to stage two huge rock concerts, the Us Festival.  Up to 375,000 people packed the huge lawn for acts such at The Clash, Tom Petty, Van Halen, The Ramones, The Pretenders, David Bowie, and many more.  The lawn quickly turned to dirt, then mud.  The heat was pretty much unbearable but misters and free-flowing water helped to keep things cool.  The area just over the hill is where much of the audience camped out for each of the three-day festivals.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Cogart Strangehill under CC-BY-SA license
Original McDonald's Restaurant, San Bernardino - Actually the second restaurant the McDonald brothers started but the first one using their name.  The owner of the Juan Pollo chain has bought the property and turned it into a museum.  A modern functioning McDonald's is just down the street.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Marcin Wichary under CC-BY license
Wigwam Motel, Rialto - As Route 66 heads into Rialto, the iconic Teepee shaped rooms appear with the inn's slogan, "do it in a teepee."
Bono's Restaurant and Deli, 15395 Foothill Bl., Fontana - Old locals sometimes call it "Fontucky," but it's here you'll find one of only six orange shaped juice stands left in the state.  The owner plans to put it back in business but for now it's just for looks.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Cliff Hutson under CC-BY license
  -  Downtown Upland - Turn left on Euclid then left again on 9th Street.  Old timey village with a gazebo in the middle.  Not the most lively place at night, though.  Try Caffe Allegro for some really good Italian food or come to the Lemon Festival in May.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Binksternet under CC-BY-SA license
Heritage Park, La Verne - This area was once covered in orange groves.  A small one is preserved here.  Saturdays, from January through March, you can pick oranges for $5 for a large bag.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Phu "Son" Nguyen under CC-BY license
Old Town, La Verne - Dating back to the 1890's, this little downtown...originally called Lordsburg...was the heart of a Brethren community.  It's surrounded by the University of La Verne, which dates back to 1891, and is Tim's alma mater (see below).

  -  Downtown San Dimas - Cute, Western themed downtown.  A ghost town at night.  Turn left on San Dimas Ave. to Bonita.
  -  Downtown Glendora - mid 20th century type of downtown, coming back to life with new restaurants, shops, and entertainment.  Turn right (north) at Glendora Ave...at the retro Route 66 Arco station.

Foothill Drive In Theater, Azusa - The theater's long gone...its land being used for the expansion of Azusa Pacific University...but the college has preserved the marquee.

  -  Downtown Azusa - At the corner of Azusa Ave. & Foothill (Route 66).  It has become one of the top stops on the Gold Line light rail for food and drink Try Max's for some great margaritas and enchiladas.

San Gabriel River, Irwindale/Duarte - Usually dry, this river drains Azusa Canyon (or San Gabriel Canyon) to the north.  The bridge that is a quarter mile to your north is an old Pacific Electric trolley bridge.

The cities you're now driving through have roots back to the Spanish land grant days...Rancho de Azusa, Rancho de Duarte, and Rancho Santa Anita which mostly became Arcadia and Sierra Madre.  A land speculator named William Monroe developed what became Monrovia in 1886.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Flickr user Living in Monrovia under CC-BY-SA license
  -  Old Town Monrovia - Turn right (north) on Myrtle.  Pretty and lively downtown area dating back over 100 years, probably second only to Old Pasadena right now.  Many restaurants, a movie theater, and shops.  A large variety of ethnic foods in a three block stretch: Mexican (Rudy's,  La Adelita), Cuban (Marengue), Greek (The Monrovian), Italian (Bellasera), Vietnamese (Pho Lemon), Chinese (Wang's) and more.  Every Friday night is Festival Night here.


Photo coutesy of Wikimedia
Flickr user living in Monrovia under CC-BY-SA license
Aztec Hotel, Monrovia - A well preserved old hotel, now mostly used for apartments.  The lobby and gardens are very beautiful.  There's a bar and restaurant here but I can't vouch for them.  Tim and I used to get our hair cut here at the barber shop but he's gone now, I don't know what happened to him.

Past the Aztec, turn left on Mayflower and return to Huntington Drive and turn right, as you turn, notice the diner style McDonald's on the corner.  A plaque inside has a letter written by Dick McDonald  telling the story about how their first restaurant was actually here in Monrovia (approximately at Huntington Dr. and Shamrock Ave)  It was called the Aerodrome and was moved to San Bernardino and renamed McDonalds.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
TheBluZebra under CC-BY-SA license
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia - One of America's premiere horse racing facilities.  Home of the Breeder's Cup and the Santa Anita Handicap.  Seabiscuit raced here.  So did Spectacular Bid, John Henry, and many others.  It's not uncommon to run into trainers watching their horses run during breakfast at Clocker's Corner.  Racing in October and late December through April.  One of my favorite places to go.

  -  Downtown Sierra Madre - Turn north on Michilinda then right again on Sierra Madre Bl.  Quiet and quirky old section.  Probably the only city in Los Angeles County without a traffic light.  They have an old fashioned playhouse that puts on some pretty darn good shows.  Try Lucky Baldwin's on the corner of Baldwin Ave. for some great Belgian beer and pub food.  This is where the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers  was filmed.



Tournament of Roses, Rose Parade, Pasadena - Continuing along Colorado Bl. into Pasadena, once you pass Sierra Madre Bl., you're traveling on the Rose Parade route until you get to Orange Grove Ave. in Old Pasadena.
  -  Old Pasadena - One of the great urban renewal success stories.  Wildy popular with tons of restaurants, night spots, shops, and theaters.  Huge area.  Metro's Gold Line runs right through it.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Mike Dillon under CC-BY-SA license
Suicide Bridge (Colorado Street Bridge), Pasadena - Beautiful arch bridge at the edge of town that, yes, has been the scene of a few jumps.  It turned 100 years old in 2013.

We'll end the landmark list if you look to the north of the bridge...
Rose Bowl, Pasadena - This New Year's Day landmark has seen many classic games.  It can hold around 110,000 fans because most of the seats are wooden benches.  You can take a look when no games are scheduled by going through the south entrance.  UCLA now uses this stadium as its home field for football.

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: Answering The Call Of Mother Nature


For most people answering the call of Mother Nature is a pretty easy and fairly simple task to perform.   For someone like myself who uses a wheelchair to get around, answering the call of Mother Nature is not always easy but it's a fact of life that we all have to go bathroom in our daily lives.  Even those who are disabled like myself have to do it.  We just do it in a different way.

Still, there are times when I wish I didn't have to rely on my Mom, Dad or any other caregiver for help in performing a simple task that most people don't really have to worry about and is a no-brainer because when the feeling hits it can be taken care of fairly quickly and without too much hassle.

When it comes to going bathroom for someone like me who is disabled, it can be hard at times to go. At this point I'll try to do my best to continue our discussion of this sensitive and somewhat embarrassing  topic without being too graphic.


The first thing to consider is the equipment needed for such a thing.  The two most common items my Family and I use are a urinal for going number one and a shower chair for going number two primarily.  Sometimes I do go number one when I sit on the shower chair.


When using the urinal to go bathroom, the toughest thing that I have to deal with sometimes is working up a feeling.  Sometimes it comes and goes.  Other times it is really strong and I can go within a few seconds of being set up to do my business.

There are other times when it does take a while for me to go.  It is during those times when my hand gets stiff and tired from holding the urinal in place and I have to have my parents tie the seat belt on my wheelchair around the handle of my urinal so that I can take my time and relax when going bathroom.

Tim also uses his chair to take a shower

Even with this setup, I sometimes lose the feeling and I do tend to get frustrated on days when I'm having a hard time going, but I do the best I can to relax not worry about it too much and remember that there will always be a next time to answer the Call of Mother Nature.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP: It's Bargain Time in the Motherlode


I just hate it when wineries try to stick it to you when you visit their facilities. There was the time we went to a tasting room in Solvang with a $16 tasting fee...not applicable to purchase....that got you maybe two ounces of wine. Same with a winery in Temecula. Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley is famous for being the winery in the movie "Bottleshock" where an incredulous Bo Barrett asks his father if they now charge for tasting.

"No," Jim Barrett (in the movie answers). 

In real life, it will cost you a sawbuck and you have to buy at least $100 worth of wine before you get that back.

I'm more partial to the yet-to-be-discovered-by-the-masses wine areas where you will find down-to-earth winemakers, eager to intice you with their fine products and make you a deal when you decide to buy.


Watch the Video!


Cucamonga Valley, Mariposa County, and Lodi are examples of wine countries that have yet to go the route of the Napas, Temeculas, or Santa Barbara County's as far as gouging their visitors is concerned.


Still, our favorite is Amador County. Just a shade below the river where James Marshall found that fateful gold nuggett at John Sutter's sawmill, it's a sleepy, scenic area with blistering hot summers that are very conducive to growing the big, bold reds like sangiovese, barbera, temperanillo, and...the state's official grape...zinfandel.

You can find the state's oldest operating winery here, have a winemaker pour a taste while you scratch behind the winery dog's ears, eat at some of the state's best restaurants, explore some of the historic gold mines of the area (some of which are still commercially producing), see ancient Indian grinding rocks, and support those same Natives by throwing some money around at their casinos.

What you won't find is a lot of other tourists, especially if you come mid-week.

Monday is serious downtime for most in this area. Tuesday, a few wineries start to shake off the weekend cobwebs. Wednesday, a few more open up along with some restaurants and Thursday the county is winding up for another weekend with almost everybody up and operating again.

It's Wednesday. I already got a case of some very good barbera for just a hair over $100 at Amador 360 yesterday. Today, we'll go to the Shenandoah Valley and taste some more.


First stop is quirky Bray Vineyards. You'll find them easily on Schoolhouse Road by the yellow road signs with a silhouette of a farmer popping a wheely on his tractor, wine bottle firmly planted to his lips.

We start off alone with just the server (who turns out to be a winemaker I've spent a few years looking for) tasting their wares.  You can get "mystery wine" here, unlabeled bottles from their runs, at a discount along with growlers of wine filled from a tap.

Another lady comes in while we're there and she strikes up a conversation with my wife about where the best tasting rooms are around here.


We go outside, take some pictures, and pet the winery's dog.

It's up the road to Sobon Estate, the previously mentioned oldest winery (used to be D'Agostini), taste some more and trade an e-mail address for a 20% discount on an already reasonably priced mixed case.


It was to be Shenandoah Winery next but construction blocks our access so we end our day again with a trip to our favorite winery, Story, located way up a few winding roads at the top of the Consumnes River Canyon.

A case of their Gold Hill Zinfandel is procured for $99 while we sip. On this hot day, the biggest hit is their Miss Rose, which is a rosé made out of their mission grapes. It may be the best rosé I've ever tasted.


We grab a bottle and head outside to enjoy a picnic of bread and cheese on a very breezy day.

Alexandra, the lady we met at Bray, shows up next for some tasting and comes down to say hi.

"Wow, you were right. This place is amazing!" she exclaims to my wife.

She's on a reconnosance trip to find a place to take a group from work during an upcoming weekend and has settled on an Amador tasting safari ending with a picnic here at the stunning, grapevine covered canyon top picnic ground here at Story Winery.

As we sip our Miss Rose, chat with a new friend, and enjoy the stellar views, I realize my batteries are now pretty fully charged. Funny how everytime I come up to this beautiful, amazing, and laid-back place that happens.


Amador County is about an hour east of the state capitol of Sacramento. Everything mentioned in this post is wheelchair accessible. Good to great accessible lodging is available at the Best Western in Jackson, Days Inn in Sutter Creek, and...our new favorite...the Shenandoah Inn in Plymouth.  The Hyatt House in Rancho Cordova is also a good option with a 45 minute drive to Amador County and includes a full, hot breakfast.  All (except for Days Inn) have pools to cool off in the hot Amador summers with pool lifts.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 19, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP: Our Encounter with Fate


We've talked here about our trips to Sutter Creek and what was a wonderful steak house there, J&D's (NOTE: J&D's is now closed and another restaurant is open in the space). Well, one of the owners has become a real estate agent and the steak house is now Griffin's and we've yet to try the new place.

When we went, there was a Happy Hour where you could try a local wine for $3 a glass. We had a red that was sublime. I asked the server what it was and he said a temperanillo. 

But who made it?  It took a little prying and finally he told me. It was made on the side by a waiter at Taste, another restaurant in nearby Plymouth.

He said I could try to find the guy there...who's name he didn't know...and maybe he'd sell me some. Almost sounds like a drug dealer behind the 7/11 but what the heck, I'd give it a try.

We went to Plymouth but Taste was closed and so ended my adventure to find the underground wine of Amador Country...for now.

Fast forward to June, 2014. We're back and in Plymouth. Taste is still closed so no hope of finding the waiter but we're tasting at Amador 360.

Amador 360 is a tasting room on Highway 49, which serves as sort of a catch all for wineries in the area that are too small to invest in a tasting room of their own and the staff to run it.

I came here because I saw a great sale on Parallax Barbera they had here but we might was well take advantage of the tastes being poured today.

We're sampling barberas, old vine zins, and then the owner pulls out a couple of sangioveses. 



"This one is Fate," the owner tells us (printed as F8 on the label). "It's made by a waiter at Taste on the side."

What? Again? I've found the wine, except this time it's sangiovese.

"He makes a different wine each time, you should have tried the temperanillo."

Well, we did but I guess we missed the boat on buying more. Nevertheless, the sangionvese is also excellent so I buy a couple of bottles while I have the chance.

I'd finally found the underground wine and the dealer who I can get it from. Sounds like a drug transaction but, no, it's completely legit.


The next morning we're at Bray Winery in the nearby Shenandoah Valley. A bucolic place with winery cats and a dog. Hundreds of award ribbons line the walls and we enjoy a quiet tasting of the wines.

I notice a tattoo on the arm of the gentleman pouring for us..."F8"...in the same font as the label on the wine yesterday.

"Are you involved with Fate wines?" I ask, pointing to his tattoo.

"I am Fate," he replies.

No way...after two years, I'm finally catching up with the phantom winemaker I've been trying to meet.


His name is Thomas Allen and he tells me that he buys grapes from different wineries up here. He's friends with the Brays and they let him use the winery equipment off-hours to make his wine.

My video camera focus was on the wrong setting, but if you can stand a little blurriness, here's the man himself with a quick explanation of his wine:

Watch the Video!



About two thirds into the tasting, Thomas disappears into the back room and comes out with a couple of glasses of wine, half-full, definitely more than a taste.

"Here, try this. It's my next release, coming out in August."

We do, it's delicious.  I remark that the wines are exceptional but they're not expensive ($12-$15 range).

"I think wines should be affordable. I make enough, I'd rather people like my wine than think they spent too much money"

We need more encounters with Fate in today's wine industry.


Thomas sells his F8 wine through various restaurants in Amador county and you can buy it retail at Amador 360 either in person or online. Here's a link to F8's wine at Amador 360.

It took awhile but I'm glad I finally tracked down the mysterious underground winemaker in this great wine region.  I'm sure Fate will cross our paths again someday.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Cocktail Hour - Hurricane

Below is the video for the Hurricane but read the recipe at the bottom for an extra ingredient that made it much better.
The Hurricane is the classic New Orleans drink.  Sold in take-out windows so you can drink while perusing the French Quarter, it's a very tasty thirst quencher.  It's also quite potent.  Many of the recipes I found called for up to six different spirits (yikes!), so I experimented a little before coming up with this lighter version...that is if you can still call something with two shots of rum in each drink light.

In the video above, I used a different grenadine than I usually do.  It was weak and wouldn't hold its color so the drinks came out orange.  In the recipe below, I added cranberry cocktail.  It not only gave the drink its usual red color but also boosted the taste considerably.

HURRICANE - Two Drinks

2oz - light rum
2oz - dark rum
1 1/3 oz - lime juice
splash of passion fruit syrup
1/2 oz simple syrum
1/2 oz grenadine
2oz - orange juice
1oz - cranberry cocktail

Mix all ingredients in a shaker 1/3 filled with ice.  Strain into two old-fashioned glassed half filled with ice.

Cheers!

-Darryl

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Cocktail Hour: Ales for the Holidays - Trader Joe's Holiday Ale Taste Off 2016


It's time for our annual Trader Joe's holiday ale taste off. Be sure to watch the video below, it's the first every live Cocktail Hour broadcast we've ever done.

Watch the Video!

The store contracts with Unibroue in Canada to make it's Belgian style aged ale for each year's holiday season.

We skipped last year because we found out from Trader Joe's that you're supposed to age the ale a year before drinking so we've got our 2015 ale to taste alongside the just released 2016 version, which I have an extra to age for next year.

First, let's taste the younger. Tastes just like every other year, like a bitter Mexican Coke with a lot of foam. Good taste, not overpowering bitterness.

Now, the aged 2015 version. Much less foam, at least half as much and a slightly smoother taste reflecting the year of mellowing. I could taste more of the Mexican Coke flavor, maybe more notes of caramel on the back of my throat. Tim didn't notice.

That's it for this year's test. We'll do it again for 2017.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Cocktail Hour: The "King" of Beers?


Let's admit it...life's too short to drink bad beer but now Budweiser has a new variety that they claim has...wait for it..."Taste!"

I guess that means that for all these years Budweiser never really had any. Can't argue with that.


Watch The Video!


Anyway, Tim and I had to put this to the test. On a nice, sunny Southern California afternoon, we decided to settle it. I went to our local liquor dealer, got a can of original Budweiser and a bottle of the new Budweiser Black Crown, a darker amber 6% alcohol beer.

Watch the video above to see the results.



Never say we don't take one for the team here at The World on Wheels...

Cheers?

Darryl

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Cocktail Hour: Trader Joe's Holiday Ale Tasting - 2013


It's time for our annual taste of Trader Joe's holiday ale. This year, I missed grabbing the usual holiday ale and got the second ale, the Belgian blonde instead.

Brewed each year for TJ's by Unibroue, the ales are corked and ageable.


Watch the Video!



The blonde this year is like a Leffe with a little more heft and carmelization.

Check out the video above for the full tasting.

Cheers!



Darryl

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ROUTE 66 - Southern California Roadhouses






There are great landmark restaurants along this stretch of highway that runs from San Bernardino County into Los Angeles.  Here are some of our favorites, going from East to West...


Photo courtesy of the Sycamore Inn

The Sycamore Inn, Rancho Cucamonga - Delicious and expensive steaks served in the classic style.  This place has been here since 1848.  I love the location, on a few wooded acres in the middle of suburban sprawl.  An inexpensive ($10-$15) menu is served on the veranda and in the bar if you don't want to go with the expensive, fancy dining room.


Photo courtesy of Flickr
Chuck "Cavman" Coker under CC BY-ND 3.0 license

The Magic Lamp, Rancho Cucamonga - Across the street, this rambling and quirky tile roofed building is stuck in the 70s...in a good way.  The sign is a kitsch classic with the Aladdin lamp belching flames into the night sky.  Red leather and steaks are the order of the day but save some room for the delicious crab cake appetizer.  A lower priced pub menu is served in their bar, with couches arranged around a circular fireplace.

La Paloma, La Verne - Decent but uninspiring Mexican food in this adobe building.  Come instead for their lively and fun happy hour in the dark and cave-like bar...every day of the week!


Photo courtesy of Flickr
savemejebus under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Pinnacle Peak, San Dimas - Cowboy steak house in Bill and Ted's hometown.  Suprisingly good, inexpensive, and very casual...most excellent, dude!  Be prepared to wait on busy weekend evenings and don't wear a tie!




Clubhouse 66, Glendora - A new roadhouse has opened up along the stretch of Route 66 in Glendora.  Very good, nice drinks and the best outdoor patio of the bunch.  While they've got great steaks, fish, and chicken, I really like their Tijuana Tacos appetizer.

Golden Spur, Glendora - Another good red leather steakhouse.  Not quite as good as the Sycamore Inn or Magic Lamp but they do have some great early bird specials.





The Hat, Glendora and Upland - Though, not technically roadhouses, historic locations or even fancy restaurants, The Hat is a southern California food landmark, starting from a still-standing greasy spoon stand in Alhambra in 1951, it has expanded in the last couple of decades into a mini-chain in the area.  Not to be missed are their juicy and messy pastrami dip sandwiches.  Be aware that a "small" order of fries here will feed a small family.  The burgers and chili here are also top-notch and a very good deal.


The Derby, Arcadia - Another installment of Route 66's high-end, expensive steak houses.  It is really good.  It was opened by Seabiscuit's jockey and contains a wealth of horse racing memorabilia due to it's location just down the street from Santa Anita racetrack. For The Derby on a budget, come in for their happy hour in the bar or for lunch.

Tops Burger, Pasadena - A year younger than The Hat, nevertheless Tops is..as their web site says...a bit of an institution here.  Your basic Greek burger joint, the food here is good and inexpensive.  Worth a stop by itself is the incredibly delicious Kobe bistro burger.

Don't go hungry along the Mother Road...stop in at any of the places above and have a delicious bite of history.

Darryl
Copyright 2010

Friday, November 4, 2016

Classic Trip: The French Riviera



The Sky Mirror, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Now that school is over, the traveling can recommence. For a graduation present, we took him to Europe for a two week trip. Coming along on the trip was my mom and my wife’s brother. My mother is in her 70’s and a slow walker so this added another wrinkle to the proceedings.

Watch the video of this trip!



It’s day one and we’re flying to Nice, France via Frankfurt, Germany. Altogether, it’s 15 plus hours, not including arriving early at the airport to see if we can finagle seats together for our group. We are flying on Lufthansa, who does a great job with assistance onto the aircraft but not so well seating us together. The gate agent says two of us are in one row (emergency row, 2 seats) with the rest “one row behind.” That row actually turned out to be 5 rows back and on the other side of the 747’s cabin. Luckily, the people who showed up were amenable to a trade so we ended up together.



Having been to this part of France before, we know that accessibility is an adventure so we left the power chair at home and used a manual. It can be stressful enough with the manual chair…a power chair would present some huge obstacles to overcome unless you are prepared to spend big to do it, like renting a ramp-equipped van.


We like to use A-T-S shuttle service who uses tour guides in their downtime to provide airport transfers. This means you get a nice, big van to take you to your hotel instead of trying to squeeze into a taxi. It’s just a bit more but your driver is waiting at the gate, is very friendly, and a font of local knowledge. A half-hour after landing and we’re at our apartment in Cannes.
Not a hotel this time, it was very hard to find an accessible hotel room for a decent price. The closest was the Citadines…which we used the last time here…who wanted around $450 per night for the five of us.


Using HomeAway.com, which allows you to specify “wheelchair accessible” housing when doing a search of direct-from-owner vacation rentals, we were able to find suitable lodging at an apartment just two blocks north of the heart of town. Still, this was around $300 per night but when divided by 5 people, the cost was pretty manageable. The apartment consisted of 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, and two terraces. The entire building is step-free but there was no roll-in shower. The bathtub was normal size as was the shower and each had the showerhead on a hose. At just under 1000 square feet, we had plenty of room.

Also on site were two swimming pools.

The first day we made the 10 minute walk over to the Marche Forville, which is the big local market here in Cannes. Unbelievable food is what awaits you here. Fresh produce…much unavailable in America…meats, sausages, seafood, cheeses, olives, eggs. It’s all here and we stock up for three days worth of breakfasts plus some fruits for snacks.

 

Grasse

Next, it’s time to take the train to nearby Grasse, which purports to be the perfume capitol of the world. The train station in Cannes (it’s called a Gare in French) has three platforms, one of which is accessible. When a train is arriving on one of the unaccessible platforms, the staff at the station only requests that you contact them half an hour ahead of time at the information booth for help. The baggage handlers will take the wheelchair passenger to an off-limits area of the station where a ramp is installed to cross the tracks to the platform. All other passengers walk down stairs to take a tunnel to the platform.

Today, our train departs from the accessible platform and it’s a quick ride to Grasse. In Grasse, the depot is at the bottom of the hill while the town is at the top. Busses are available to take you up, most accessible via the back door. It is a Euro for each passenger, so make sure you have change…there is no place at the depot to get it unless you buy something at the expensive snack shop.

 


In Grasse, a little exploring leads to a medieval square with many restaurants competing for your Euro. We pick a café which had a special (look for the “plat du jour” boards) of entrecote for 10 Euros. This is a rib-eye steak with a sublime sauce service with frites and warm salad. Eating this outside on a warm day with a delicious glass of French wine was quite a way to while away some time.


After lunch, wandering out the square via a narrow little street, we visit one of the famed parfumeries where big jugs line the shelves and the nice lady inside will create a unique fragrance just for you. At the end of the street, there’s a centuries old water fountain to splash your face with for refreshment and the large Fragonard parfumerie where everybody ends up to shop or see their museum.


We decide to walk the mile-or-so down the hill to the depot which was not one of our brightest decisions. The sidewalks are narrow, bumpy, have a way of just ending mid block, and are “beautified” by someone who thinks planting trees right in the middle of your already narrow path is a neat thing to do.

We do make it down with some major work and get back to Cannes where we enjoy a light dinner and some wine on our terrace.

 


The next day is for Monaco. Being jet-lagged, we find it almost impossible to get out early. We make the 11:30 train (non-accessible platform today) and get to Monaco just after the changing of the guard at the palace. I’d seen this before, so it was no big deal, but it would have been nice if the others on the trip could have seen it.


Monaco is nothing if not ever changing and the exit from the train station is completely different from the last time we were here. This is due to large apartment buildings being constructed there, changing the streets we had known from before. No worries, we find the elevators taking us down to street level and quickly make our way to the Place de Armes, the plaza at the bottom of the stairway taking up to the royal palace.

 



I had pushed my son’s wheelchair up this path before, but today I’m not feeling well and we take the bus up instead. Again, most busses are accessible here via the back door and the fare, as it is everywhere we went, was one Euro.


At the top, you’ll swear you’re in Disneyland with the narrow, shop-lined streets and the palace at the end but remind yourself, this is the original that Disney copied. The post office near the palace is a great place to mail postcards home with that exclusive “Monaco” postmark. It’s also a good place to get money at the ATM and to see the picture of Princess Grace walking a young Princess Stephanie to school on the street you are now standing on.

 


After taking in the spectacular views of the entire country (the size of a small town in the U.S.) from the palace, we eat lunch at one of the many eateries up here in the small palace neighborhood. Then, the same bus takes us all the way across the country (a five minute ride) to the famous Monte Carlo casino.


It’ll cost you 10 Euros to enter, you must check your bags (and leave a tip), must be dressed properly, and not bring a camera…but you too can enter this palace of gambling and pretend you’re on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If that’s a bit much for you (and it is for me), you can visit another casino next door that is made for the commoners.

 


There is a beautiful fountain-filled plaza out (see the picture at the top of this post) front with the cars of the pretty people parked out front. On the slow day we were there, we counted four Ferraris, three Mazaratis, several Bentleys, a Rolls Royce, and too many BMWs and Mercedes to count. One of the Bentleys had a parking lot scrape along its side that I dared not imagine how much it would cost to fix.


After three nights in Cannes, we had to say goodbye to our huge apartment and move into two
small hotel rooms in Nice. This was due to an early morning flight we would take to Munich and we didn’t want to gamble on getting a taxi so we moved to the Campanile Airport Hotel just across from the departures terminal.

We took the time to visit the museum of archeology where the ruins of an ancient Roman bath have been unearthed.
Roman Ruins in Nice

It takes two accessible busses to go from our hotel to the site. The museum is accessible but the ruins less so. A guide tells me there is two steps to negotiate to get to the main bath house and sends me to a more accessible route that only has two steps. Ah yes, welcome to the French way of doing things.


This is not to say that anyone we met in France was rude or arrogant. Everyone we met was gracious and nice, making this the third time that the French stereotype has been shattered for me. In fact, we spent a good part of that afternoon getting to know our guide (who was also a security guard at the museum). It turns out he was raised in Naples, can understand English very well but cannot speak it without many problems. We took turns learning Spanish and English words from us and French and Italian words from him.

I always say, the best part of any good trip is not what you see but who you meet along the way.
The ruins are a nice way to spend the day and, if you have time, the Matese Museum next door is also worth a visit. One last French dinner in Nice overlooking the beach and then it’s off to bed.




Stay tuned for part 2 where we travel to Bavaria and Beyond!

-Darryl
Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick

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