Photos are now available on flickr.
And the final route:
Not shown: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
I don’t know what to make of Google Fi. It works great at home, seamlessly transitioning between LTE and Wi-Fi when necessary. The signal is clear. I’ve never had any dropped calls. In fact, it’s worked fine along the coastal northwest from Vancouver to Portland, as well as in the SF Bay Area.
But when I went to Singapore and Taiwan, it didn’t work at all, even though both places are supported.
On this trip, it found a signal right away when I landed in Amsterdam. In Nice, it picked up a signal and kept it the whole week, in both France and Italy. No problem except in Monaco, but Google Fi isn’t supported there anyway.
When I drove to Switzerland, it connected me in Geneva and mostly kept the connection until I got to about Gstaad, then lost it for good. When I crossed into Germany, it welcomed me to Germany, then immediately welcomed me to France (!). When I passed back into Switzerland, it welcomed me to Switzerland and connected me, and I stayed connected all the way back to the train station, even standing in the same spot where I had been unable to get a connection 30 minutes earlier. Then I walked down to the platform and lost the connection. I haven’t had it since.
I’ve tried rebooting the phone. I’ve tried turning airplane mode on and then off. I’ve tried turning cell data and roaming off and then on. I’ve tried selecting each of the three Swiss carriers individually. Nothing works.
Ah, but then the train passed into Liechtenstein. I immediately got a text message that had been queued up when I was back in Zürich. Google Fi welcomed me to Liechtenstein and told me I was offline.
“Service outside the US” and “Calls to non-US numbers” are deselected. But the SMS worked, if only briefly.
But then I got to Austria and everything worked again. Two hours in Austria with no problems, then back into Liechtenstein with a spotty connection, then into Switzerland and it all goes away again.
I would like to have speaks with the Google people. I certainly hope they’ll be improving the service over time.
We departed Seborga at about 8:00 AM and I dropped off Lobo and Alcalde at the Terminal 1 Kiss & Fly of the Nice airport. There was no kissing, but they were able to fly anyway. Apparently the airport is flexible about these matters.
It took me awhile to get back on the A8, due to the strange and occasionally impossible guidance of the car’s navigational system. I was halfway up the mountain behind Nice before I finally got suspicious. I eventually made it out of the city through the selective veto process that had worked fairly well with Lobo’s GPS.
I managed to find my way back to the Starbucks in Monaco and got a Ristretto Bianco and wrote a post card to my mom. It already had Seborga and Italy stamps on it, but now I was in Monaco, so if I wanted to mail it, I needed a Monaco stamp. I started wandering around Fontvieille (in the opposite direction than we had gone before) and came across the Monaco stamp museum, which sold me a stamp and mailed the card for me.
I walked around a little, then took off for Chamonix.
I stopped for gas just outside of Monaco — €77.76 to fill the tank! Pulling out of the gas station, I nearly t-boned a Rolls-Royce. I wonder how understanding they’d be getting hit by an American in a rental car with Swiss plates. Probably not very.
But I made it back to the Grand Corniche and the nav system guided me through Italy for 4+ hours without incident, except for occasionally beeping to tell me that I needed a break. Like I’m going to take orders from a car. I did take one break to get a doppio macchiato and use the restroom at an Italian rest stop, but otherwise I ignored the break notices. Stupid car.
The nav system became hopelessly confused once I got into Chamonix, and Google Maps wasn’t any better. The car has a British accent and Google Maps has an American accent, but neither one can pronounce French, and some of the streets they guided me to do not seem to exist. I finally gave up and parked, then walked around looking for the hotel. It took me about two minutes to find it that way.
Hôtel Le Chamonix is across from this church.
The hotel is a creaky old wooden building that has just what I need and nothing more. My room is on the second (i.e., third) floor, but to go up the stairs I have to step over this dog.
I spent a couple hours wandering around the village (which is bigger than I was expecting), had pizza provençale sans anchois for dinner, located the t-shirt place recommended by Lobo, and returned to encapsulate the day in this blog post.
We decided to get an early start, and were on the road to Cannes by the crack of 9:00. Lobo failed to find the Cannes Starbucks mug he wanted, due to the fact that they had never existed, and then we wandered around for a half hour or so before finding a cafe/boulangerie to procure croissants and espressoses.
This was across from a farmer’s market, where Alcalde treated us to fried zucchini flowers, which are a real thing that I’m not making up. He also bought some peppered goat cheese.
That was the high point of Cannes. Then we drove to Nice. We saw some Brazilian guys with musical instruments discussing something with the local police. They appeared to come to some understanding and walked down the street, occasionally glancing back. When the police were no longer in sight, two of them started playing their instruments. The other two were apparently capoeiristas, and did flips and martial arts moves whenever there was a break in the crowd.
We walked around and looked at things for a while, then looped around and ate lunch right next to where the capoeira dudes were, but they were gone. We can only hope that they stayed ahead of the gendarmerie.
We had some very good pizza, and we learned that when you say sans anchois, you pronounce the final s in sans, because you gotta do the elision before a vowel.
Continuing down whatever corniche we were on, we discovered that the GPS that was built into the car was in fact not that hard to turn on after all, thanks to Alcalde’s quick-thinking techno-wizardry. So now we had three navigational systems to choose from. Lobo started to set the car’s GPS, then switched to the radio and immediately found the Village People. Then we started singing pop songs in Inspector Clouseau voice and things sort of went downhill from there, made worse by the goat cheese, which was becoming more aromatic by the minute.
But we made it to Monaco anyway, and eventually found parking and wandered around in an area that wasn’t really the area I was thinking of. Alcalde and I had a little trouble with a recalcitrant escalator, but we eventually outsmarted it. I bought some Gérard de Villiers novels that I can’t actually read, and we headed back to Seborga, windows open in a futile attempt to air out the car.
Then we picked up some groceries at the market in Seborga and went back and watched Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghouls. A day well spent.
After a leisurely breakfast, we went to Monaco with no clear plan in mind except for Lobo to get a Starbucks mug and then wander around. We parked in a car park (garage) right next to the Starbucks, which I think was the same one I parked in 16 years ago. You basically spiral down into the center of the Earth or until you find a parking space, whichever comes first.
But we found a space, and we got mugs, and we wandered, starting with the yacht harbor.
We found some signs for the yacht show that had ended a couple of days earlier. They were just throwing them out!
We saw yachts…
…and a cathedral…
…and a tiny police car…
…and the palace, where we weren’t allowed to take pictures.
We were too early to get into the casino, and Lobo probably wasn’t dressed well enough anyway. And there was supposed to be a tourist information office that would stamp your passport with a Monaco stamp, but it seems to be gone. Still, Monaco is good place to wander around on a sunny day.
We left Monaco at around 4:00 and drove to Èze, which I remembered from the 2000 trip. Lobo had gone there a few years earlier, except that he didn’t actually go up to the castle ruin at the top. His wife and daughter went, but Lobo just sat in the car because he thought that his wife was just going to the restroom, and that his daughter had gone to look for her. He sat there for two hours until they came back and told him all about it. Seriously.
Anyway, he wanted to go, so we drove up there…and then he said he didn’t think that was really the place. Maybe it was La Turbie. So we drove there. La Turbie doesn’t have a castle, but it has a Roman ruin. The park with the ruin was supposed to close at 5:00, but it was 4:20 and it was already closed. I still don’t know if that was the right place.
But it was still a good day, and we drove back to the house and watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which made it even better.
UPDATE: Of the many noteworthy aspects of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the song “Just Hanging Out” is a standout.
Charles walks in with the beer and his baby says HEY DEAR!
Can you go and talk to Melvin, he’s making out at the pier
So little Susan hears the music then she starts to groovin’
And all the fellas jump up to see, how she is movin’
I fancy that I’m seeing a certain similarity of style between this sculpture and the fat man on a fat horse that I saw in Monte Carlo 15 years ago. Can’t quite put my finger on it.