In France, dog culture is part of everyday life. You see them in cafés, dressed up, carried in handbags, sitting in restaurants and pretty much everywhere. In fact, the hotels we were staying at both offered dog-friendly accommodations that included dog beds.

If I didn’t think Air Canada was more than capable of killing my dog (legally liable or not), I might have been half-tempted to bring him along. But on the flight back, I was relieved I did not fully entertain this thought. There was a crazy dog lady whose loud but limited conversation with the staff behind the counter (“I can see dog now?” said repeatedly à la Latka Gravas) that left me little hope and much irritation.

Her dog never made it to the plane.

“Tenk you veddy much.”

In Nice, we were surprised to see how many dogs just roamed the streets free like cats. What this means for pedestrians is that dog poo is left pretty much unchecked. As a tourist this leaves the dilemma of trying to take in the constant marvel of one’s surroundings while watching very carefully where you’re putting your feet.

And let me tell you that a day you will rue is when you step in doggy poo.

A view from the palace wall

A view from the palace wall

Cokebaby and I managed to evade several piles during our first few days. It was on our day trip to Monaco where my misstep took place. And it happened as soon as I stepped foot off the bus. Welcome to the world’s most densely populated sovereign country. *splat*

Thankfully, there were enough puddles and curbs to rid myself of any prolonged afternotes.

Now our little excursion (a 30-minute and 1€ bus trip) was not for the casino or even the palace. Our plan was really just to explore the principality, check out the old city, and take in the exotic gardens.

It was our goal on this trip to just take it easy, see some key things, but not overexert ourselves to the point of site-seeing exhaustion. So, after checking out the beautiful marina with all the luxury private yachts, we had a bite to eat at a waterfront paninerie (yes, it’s a restaurant that specializes in paninis). That’s where we had our first taste of pastis (a delicious an anise-flavored apéritif).

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

While having lunch, I took a peek at the Rick Steves’ Provence & the French Riviera guidebook that we brought with us. That’s when I discovered the most wonderful little overshadowed treasure. The Cousteau Aquarium (aka Oceanographic Museum of Monaco).

Having fond childhood memories of watching the various Jacques Cousteau TV series, I attribute part of my love of wildlife to him. Also, The Life Aquatic is among one of my favourite movies. So, off we went to check out the aquarium.

It did not disappoint. The building itself is magnificent, with carvings all across the front of aquatic life. Inside was a wonderful trove of all sorts of creatures, a lecture hall, whale exhibit, and a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of the city.

We even found a red hat to bring back with us as a souvenir! No undersea adventure is complete without that hat. Day = made.

Coming up this week: our excursions to Avignon and Nimes. Inlcuding, how we survived a random transit strike. Vive La Republique! Next week, I’ll wrap up with a tour of French cuisine and our gluttonous last day in the south of France.