Whoops, it’s been over month since I’ve posted… I guess that’s bound to happen when life is a little crazy! 🙂 From February 17-20, a friend* and I went on a four-day mini-vacation, and it was fabulous. Not only was it an escape from the now-‘normal’ “work week”, but the things we saw and experienced were just insane. And besides food and local travel/activities, it cost less than $250!
Nice: We met at Orly Airport, just south of Paris, and flew to Nice (a short ~1.5hr flight) with just our backpacks. I’ve never traveled so lightly before, and it was the coolest feeling to just exit the airplane and leave. No waiting around for luggage, and since we were in the same country, no customs! By far the strangest thing about the whole flying experience was the fact that not once did someone check our identification. Our tickets were scanned twice, but no one even looked at the passports we had ready! Flying into Nice was probably the prettiest flight views I’ve had. Flying over the Alps, then out over the ocean as we rounded for landing, all in the gorgeously bright sun… Ah, time to go back already! :p Once we landed we found our way by bus into downtown Nice; our first stop was to oogle the beach, followed by a quick trip into the office of tourism. We hadn’t really realized how amazing our timing really was: Without knowing it, we’d scheduled ourselves to be there during the Parade of Lights and Flower Battle of the Carnival celebration! While we didn’t see the entirety of the Parade of Lights (we got there too late to buy tickets) we were able to see the tail end of it as it exited down the street. It was amazing! Drumlines, dancers, floats… The next day we explored more of the city and went to basically a farmer’s market, with tons of fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers. I think these are my favorite things in France, just sayin’. We decided since we liked the Parade of Lights so much we’d buy tickets to the Flower Battle (FYI this is sadly not where they fight each other by throwing petals in each others’ faces… it’s floats decorated in thousands of flowers, along with more drumlines and dancers). We bought standing tickets, and damn… we stood for 2.5hrs crammed up against hundreds of people on the side of the street! :p It wasn’t quite as awesome as the previous night, but it was still pretty cool. The people on the floats tossed out flowers to the crowd; my friend caught a really pretty flower, and I didn’t catch anything…but a girl in front of me, who’d caught a lot, gave me one of hers. Apparently the one I received is called a mimosa, and while it’s really pretty it shed everywhere!
Cannes: After the Flower Battle, we headed up to the train station (by tram!) to get our insanely cheap tickets to Cannes (I’m talking 5 euros each!). The train ride was absolutely gorgeous, with great views of the coastline, cliffs and surrounding villages. At times, we were quite literally >>thisclose<< to the water! Though as we got closer to Cannes (pronounced like can, by the way, since I still feel like an idiot for saying cans) things became a lot more industrial. Turns out that there ain’t much to do in Cannes outside of the Cannes Film Festival in May. Whoops! At least our hotel was gorgeous… and I’m going to tell you a little secret. I didn’t choose it because you just had to cross the street (or walk under it actually, as we later discovered) to get to it from the train station, nor was it the absolute cheapest accommodations (still incredibly cheap!)… Here’s why. And man, am I ever glad I did! This was easily the nicest place we’d stay during our trip, with mints on the pillows, champagne welcoming (which we forgot to drink, oops), and a rooftop pool with awesome views. We also found a really nice restaurant and had some delicious food. Our beds were super comfy, with even real pillows! (In France, pillows are square, and they are just not as comfy as the rectangular pillows I’m used to!) Up early the next morning, we walked around Cannes, ate some of the best pastries I’ve ever had for breakfast, and went to take the slightly more expensive (okay, like five times the price) train ride into Marseille.
Marseille: Let me just say from the get-go that Marseille and I met with mixed emotions. Right before leaving the train station, we walked out onto the terrace and saw some amazing views in the afternoon sun. The metro ride was simple and normal enough, but once we were out on the street in ‘our neighborhood’, as it would be for the night, I was a bit less impressed. Marseille is dirty. Really dirty. Then we checked into our hotel… and I swear it was a glorified hostel. Definitely the worst of all the places we stayed, but at 42 euro a night with separate beds and a private shower, I guess we can’t complain too much :p And I honestly think we were the only people in the entire hotel. The woman who checked us in told us that the Notre Dame de la Garde was only a 20min walk away, so we decided to head that way. Dude, lemme tell you something… she failed to mention how freakin’ steep of a climb it was! Halfway there I was dying for some hiking boots and trekking poles! Though once we got there, it was totally worth it. It was late afternoon so the sun was low in the sky, and everything was just perfect. We toured the museum, the basilica, and the terrace, and honestly I could have stayed there til the sun set (though it probably wouldn’t have been the best area to walk home from, lol). Thankfully there was a bus down (which we totally could have taken up) that took us down into Le Vieux Port (‘Old Port’ in French). We had dinner at Hippopotamus with the snottiest waitress in the universe, but it was really tasty so we didn’t care too much. The next morning we did some shopping/browsing in little shops along the way to the train station, and ate breakfast in the harbor next to a group of drunk people at 11am. The train ride home was about 3.5hrs long, but it was so much comfier than the other trains we’d taken. There was the cutest dad and son sitting across the aisle from us, so I was a mega-creep and watched them a lot. :p And of course it was raining when we got back to Paris… what a fitting ending to coming home from a few wonderful days in the sun!
Footnote on my friend: We had a discussion as to what she should be called in this post. Options included The Brit, ZOEG, and my preferred name — The Englishman. However, she decided it would sound like I was making her up if I simply referred to her as “my friend” and she thought that was funny, so here we are. :p
Of course I’ve done other things in the last month as well, but that trip was easily the coolest and most fun.
– Went to the Salon de l’Agriculture
– Visited the Musee de l’Orangerie
– I’ve discovered a love for zucchini, though I prefer the French word: courgette
– I have not eaten enough baguettes
– Made cheesecake (and it turned out pretty good, especially since cheesecake is notorious for being hard to make in France!)
– Had the most amazing sushi ever at a little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant called Ten Chi, on a street called rue de Maine, of all places!
– Toured the Pantheon, with tombs of Voltaire and Marie Curie (to name just a couple)
– Visited the Natural History Museum, where they have a stuffed moose on display from Greenville Junction, Maine!
– Spent the weekend at Center Parc, not far from the German border, in Lorraine. Swimming outside while it was snowing, several water slides (toboggans in French, so strange), a farm with lots of animals that you could actually touch and run around with, and riding around in a buggy in the snow at night.
Wow, okay, I guess I have done a lot! What a month it’s been! 😀