A Knife Fight In Aix

The south of France.  Aix-en-Provence.  Sounds pretty tony, right?   We thought so to, but were willing to give it a go anyway.  It is conveniently located near the intersection of two major highways and a central point for many of the things we wanted to see on our France trip.

Driving in, we were impressed by its majestic squares, shaded avenues, mossy fountains, and elegant mansions.  We checked into our hotel and went to dinner.  We went to Place des Cardeurs because it is a big piazza with lots of restaurants to choose from and outdoor seating.  It wasn’t anything fancy (he had a pizza and I had a big salad).

Right after our food arrived, we saw a scuffle on the sidewalk between the terrace where we were eating and the restaurant.  It was a Saturday night and a bit early for a bar fight, but hey, the local culture is different everywhere.  All of a sudden, one of the combatants pulled a knife out of his pants.

Film poster for Crocodile Dundee II - Copyrigh...

Film poster for Crocodile Dundee II – Copyright 1988, Paramount Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the scene in Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan says “that’s not a knife, THAT’s a knife.”  This guys knife made Paul Hogan’s look like a butter knife.  He had a machete.  What’s more, he was swinging it around.  The two guys (for the ease of explaining things, we’ll call them the Surly Drunks) jumping Mr. Machete both got slashed.  Waitstaff on the terrace borrowed cell phones and to cal the police.  By that point, we’d I’d stopped eating…for the rest of the night.

Our ringside seats. This all happened behind the vinaigre bottle. I didn’t want to attract the attention of the Surly Drunks and figured there were enough witnesses so I didn’t take any pictures.

Since it was two on one, Mr. Machete took refuge inside the restaurant.  We found out later that he was a local business owner; the area businesses clearly knew him.  The manager, servers and kitchen staff barred the door to separate (and protect) everyone until the police arrived.  The Surly Drunks outside were bleeding, possibly high, probably in shock and definitely not rational.  The Surly Drunks kept screaming for the him to come out and were talking a lot trash.  When he didn’t exit the restaurant, they tried, unsuccessfully, to force their way in.   The posse of servers, managers and cooks stopped them.  Angered by their failure, the Surly Drunks began breaking bottles and brandishing them.  They cut a cook before dropping the bottle in favor of hurling giant planters.   They threw some punches too.  He said they threw the punches like NBA players, not like hockey players.  Realizing they sucked at hand to hand combat, the Surly Drunks stopped throwing punches and started throwing chairs.

I’m not saying that police in the US always respond promptly (especially in certain neighborhoods), but we were astounded by how long it took the police to arrive in the center of town.  It took them at least 20 minutes to arrive.  Thank goodness the cooks had come out of nearby restaurants and followed the Surly Drunks so that the police could track them down.

The police arrived and went inside to interview Mr. Machete.  Paramedics came, tended to to the cook and took him away.  We’re pretty sure he had to go to the hospital for stitches because the slash on his neck was pretty ugly.

Cover of "Léon: The Professional (Theatri...

Cover via Amazon

Jean Reno plays and excellent French police officer in movies (Leon: The ProfessionalRoninThe Da Vinci Code,  French Kiss).  The police we saw didn’t appear to be as professional.   They seemed to be more like Louis de Funès in the Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez.  I saw them put evidence (multiple bloody shirts) in an old, balled up H&M  bag.  Obviously they do not watch CSI.

Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez

Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep! That’s the evidence in the H&M bag. Très CSI.

Go figure.  I saw more violence in the south of France than during the years I lived in Detroit.  Have a great weekend and stay safe!

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So I Got That Goin’ For Me, Which Is Nice

After Cannes and Antibes on our giant whirlwind tour of the Côte d’Azur, we checked into our hotel in Villefranche.  After dropping off our bags and trying to find a parking spot in the very steep and very crowded streets of Villefranche, we walked along the Boulevard Princess Grace de Monaco to Vieux Nice (old town Nice).

After so much time in the car, it was great to walk and move around.  It was a beautiful evening and the scenery was amazing.  These were the views we’d been hoping for in the south of France, a rocky coast with clear water and a gorgeous blue sea.

We stopped and watched this boxer workout.  It’s not a bad spot for a workout, I’d probably be distracted by the view.  I’m not sure who he is, but his t-shirt was in Russian.  Any ideas?

Nice’s harbor was peaceful and the boats were a bit more modest than in Antibes.

Being from the US, I’ve never really understood the concept of renting a space on the beach.  It’s common in the south of France.  Most of the beaches are rocky so I guess it’s nice to have a lawn chair that you don’t have to lug around and waiters who will bring you cold drinks.  Notice they even put down aisle-like mats so that you don’t have to touch the rocks!  I guess everyone has different ways they like to experience nature.  We have friends who like to tube down rivers with coolers tied to their tubes.  To each their own.

We so busy sightseeing that we missed lunch and hadn’t eaten more than an apple since breakfast 12 hours earlier.  Oops.  By the time we arrived in Vieux Nice, we were ravenous.  We headed to the Cours Saleya which has been Nice’s main market square since the middle ages.  Filled with cafes that spill out onto the square, there were plenty of options so that we didn’t have to wait for a table.

Luckily for us, France is a great place to be hungry.  We had a wonderful meal and gorged ourselves on French specialities.  I had salad (Niçoise, how could I not when in Nice), oysters (they don’t serve them with Tabasco Sauce), and bouillabaisse.  Near the sea, I felt pretty confident that the seafood would be good.  It was better than good.

Vieux Nice is a tangled mishmash of ancient streets and alleyways.  Strolling through them was a perfect way to end our amazing day in the south of France.

Yes We Cannes-ed

We just returned from our whirlwind trip to the south of France over the holiday weekend.  While we didn’t do much relaxing (there wasn’t much time as we were busy sightseeing everyday), we managed to see an incredible amount in a long weekend.  I picked him up and we headed out of Geneva.  Being a holiday weekend, the roads were pretty crowded (translate this to mean we hit a giant traffic jam and took back roads through the middle of nowhere France for about an hour in the dark), but we made it to near Orange where we spent the night.  Driving late into the night had an upside, we woke up in the south of France.  We woke up to this beautiful view of olive groves in the morning.  Yeah baby!  Let the vacation begin.

After downing more café au lait than anyone should be allowed to drink, we were on our way to the Côte d’Azur.

Cannes is home to little film festival, the Cannes International Film Festival.  It is held for two weeks each May.  During this time, the city is packed with film producers, celebrities and paparazzi.  We decided to drive through Cannes and see what all the fuss was about.  Having faithfully watched Entourage on HBO and seen the Cannes episode, he wanted to hang with Turtle.

Cannes is built around the Bay of Cannes and its palm lined seafront drive.  We drove through Cannes toward the beach, passing tons of cafes, luxury boutiques and hotels.

We drove past the exclusive hotels lining the Boulevard de la Croisette across from the beach gawking.  We weren’t the only ones.  It took about an hour and a half to drive through the town.  It wasn’t calming, but we didn’t mind.  We were busy people watching.

Although celebrities like Eva Longoria, Sean Penn, Sasha Baron Cohen, Gerard Butler, Jennifer Connelly and Alec Baldwin were in Cannes, we only saw tourists gawking and film types barking into their cell phones.  I guess that’s not entirely true, we also saw a few bodyguard types in suits with earpieces.

We saw signs of ridiculous wealth everywhere.   Like Geneva’s Auto Show, there were some insane cars.  I especially enjoyed how this one was parked next to a “No Parking” sign.  I guess you can do that if you have a Rolls.  If you do get towed, you can probably afford to get your car out of an impound lot.

It was hard to get good shots of the harbor, but it was filled with enormous yachts.  Sorry these shots don’t do it justice.  We decided that the best place to stay in Cannes is on a yacht off the coast and away from the crowds.  If it is good enough for Puff Daddy (or whatever his name is now), it is good enough for us.

Although it wasn’t relaxing, the sheer scale and craziness of it all was a sight to see…once.

P.S.  Cannes sister city, not surprisingly, is Beverly Hills.   Too perfect.

Visiting Ancient Rome In Orange, France

Magglio, the Luger and Sneaky Pete took a road trip to the south of France with us.  After stopping at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, we headed to Orange, France.  It is a town in Provence that is famous for its Roman amphitheater and its triumphal arch (Arc de Triomphe) built by Augustus.   It was a cute, convenient place to stay on the way further south.

Signs of the town’s Roman heritage are everywhere.

Just in case you weren’t informed of the city’s Roman heyday, they have these bronze medallions the sidewalks to let you know.  The pigeons did not seem suitably impressed with their home.   In the photo below, they seem to have been using this alcove for their personal loo for centuries.  That is one giant mound of pigeon poo.

The amphitheater is really well-preserved.  It is a similar size as the one in Arles, but better preserved.  It has wonderful acoustics and is still used for concerts.

We took a nice walk around the amphitheater before having dinner inside it.  Sometimes restaurants in amazing locations are gimmicky, overpriced or have bad food.  In the amphitheater, we had a wonderful meal in this amazing venue.  Amazingly, most of the people there were locals.  We couldn’t believe that we were eating inside a Roman amphitheater…very surreal and way cool.

The Luger and Sneaky Pete at the dinner table

After dinner, we took a stroll through town to see the arch of triumph.   Having done the research, this is how I explained why it was built.    Orange was a major crossroads.   People were passing through this town that once ruled over Holland and England.  In 25 A.D., in honor of the Gallic Wars, Augustus built this arch in honor of Rome’s victory in the Gallic Wars.   Essentially, it was a giant billboard that said “look what we did to these guys, do you want a piece of this?”