French Riviera- Ever Been There-a?
Aaaand the slacker of the century award goes tooooo: me. Hold your applause.
I guess I semi apologize for the absurd delay in blogging, but hear me out. After 12 days of traveling, two different countries, and more forms of public transportation than I’ve ever wanted to use in my life, I guess you could say I was a little worn out and relying heavily on people’s facebook picture stalking skills to piece together my spring break. I still, however, do not have the motivation to assemble that lengthy of a post and, have decided to instead entertain you with snippets and pictures. Let’s start with France, shall we?
Cue the awkward silence. Luckily we only spent a night here to let our bodies adjust to the copious amounts of traveling previously that day. I was willing to bet all of my limbs that the hostel we had found was in reality an underground slaughterhouse, and I was about to fall victim to this lunatic man’s wildest psychotic break. After a late night check in, I ventured out into the ghetto where I had a French “kebab.” I suppose after being spoiled so long in Granada, nothing compares, but how dare you take 20 minutes to roll up chicken and lettuce in a flour tortilla and call it a kebab. Shame on you, Frenchmen. As we walked back to our hostel, I made sure not to allow anyone to stop for pictures in fear of an almost guaranteed molestation. Who knew I’d actually be relieved to see our abandoned building again? If you’ve traveled to and/or live in Marseille and feel differently, you’re wrong and I ain’t sorry. Bye bye, Marseille, see you on the news I’m sure. There are no pictures. Step one to forgetting it happened.
Now this is France! I breathed quite the sigh of relief stepping off the train in Nice. The city was alive, clean, and most important-the place I was going to reunite with my best friends for the first time in over three months! Because I’ve waited so long to write this entry, my memory is a bit faulty, but I’m almost positive after our check in (to a much nicer hostel) we were right back out the door to wander about. After scoping out potential places to later visit, we were off to the train station to wait for Ally. When she finally came through the terminal with her luggage I could barely contain my excitement as I dropped my bag and virtually ran into her arms (and we all know how I feel about running). We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring until dinner and enjoyed “going halfsies” on some pizza and salad. I know what you’re thinking: how traditionally French of us. After a bit more night time exploring, all were in agreement that an early bed time was a good plan. Besides, Cara was joining us the next day and us girlies needed to mentally prepare being reunited!
At a fairly reasonable hour the next morning, the bunch of us set out to really soak in Nice and more specifically the Old Town, which was as close as I could get to physically walking through a postcard. As we made our way to the water, we were attracted to a large winding set of stairs optimal for viewing the city and water at the same time. Panting, we reached the top and were finally graced with that “we’re on spring break and living the life” feeling. It wasn’t Paris, but it sure was nice! Ba-dum-cha! Upon descending, the Mediterranean was right at our fingertips and we couldn’t NOT dip our feet in. Although the beaches of Nice are rock beaches notorious for leaving a white residue on every square inch of clothing, it was certainly worth it. If it wasn’t for the pain of the rocks jabbing into my ass, I would have stayed all day. It then dawned on me: I’d been in France for almost two days and had not eaten a crepe. So as you can imagine, our next stop was a cafe for lunch. A-HA moment of the trip right here,folks. Who knew crepes weren’t just a dessert? Certainly not I. That was until I had the cheesiest, most vegetabley crepe in all the land. Noms to that. I liked the direction this day was headed, and the weather was so beautiful that it was only right to do my second favorite thing- kill time sitting in a plaza, people watching and waiting for our other partner in crime.
As soon as Cara arrived, we were back in action. Obviously we wanted her to experience authentic French cuisine as fast as possible, and figured what better way than with a dessert crepe?! That’s right, two crepes, one day. I’M CRAZY! I’d say we spent at least an hour and a half in the cafe just catching up, attempting to flag down a waitress for more water for twenty minutes, watching a beggar be kicked out, and more! If my memory serves correctly, the rest of the day entailed slothing in the hostel until dinner in a quaint French restaurant in the Old town. We made the mistake of scurrying back after dinner for a promised pub crawl organized by our hostel owner’s son. Brief background on him: he was a super awkward 24 year old Italian boy who had a hunchback when he walked, but was funny as hell. I named him Chow, and knew we’d be great friends. Well anyway, we all got ready for this pub crawl and hung out in the main waiting area (which happened to double as Chow’s apartment) chatting with the other hostel guests and enjoying some complimentary beer. Next thing you know, Chow and these three Australian girls excuse themselves because they’re going to dinner…at 10 p.m. Perplexed was an understatement, but we realized we did not need his mediocre social skills to point us in the right direction, and so we head out in search for a bar all by ourselves! Venturing into the old town we came across quite the array of choices and settled on a place with live music (playing way too loud to even have a conversation with the person next to you) and what do you know, had some Strongbow with caramel, just in case the “beer” wasn’t sweet enough.
Saturday morning, Cara, Ally and I stumbled across an amazing market on our way to the beach where it would have been nearly impossible to leave empty handed. Strolling up and down the street with our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we picked up the essentials: baguette, cheese, and strawberries. We brought our snack to the edge of the beach, sat down on the last bit of concrete before the rocks and sand, and became elated with our decision. The cheese I bought tasted like a less tangy version of sour cream in a more solid form. I have decided to name it “The Perfect Compliment for Strawberries.” Once we were bored, we began another round of aimless wandering which ultimately led us to another market full of art and jewelry. Note to self/everyone else: don’t buy jewelry at a market unless you like things that tarnish immediately. As the time flew by, I became increasingly more excited knowing that at 4 p.m. we were scheduled to make our way to the holiest of holy places: The Monte Carlo Casino. If I had an endless supply of money, you could bet your life that I would have lost it all at the casino. I’m somewhat embarrassed that I’m only 20 years old and addicted to slot machines, but that’s what you get when you spend a significant amount of your childhood at the arcade on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. The bus ride to Monaco, which is technically another country, was about 40 minutes and had some gorgeous views. As soon as we stepped off the bus, I felt my wallet becoming lighter. Between the Rolls Royce, Bentley and Maserati parked outside, I knew this place was going to be legit. There was a 10 euro entrance fee, but I like to think that because the bus was virtually free, that it evens out. I willing paid my portion and made my way in, telling myself that I wouldn’t spend more than 30 euro on slots. Surprisingly I stuck to it! Of course the one time I was up (which mind you couldn’t have been by more than 7 euros) I lost it. Still, it was a good time, and satisfied my craving to throw away money while simultaneously gaining a cool experience. After we had all lost a bit of money, we had a master plan to stop into a grocery store, pick up our own food and cook our dinner using our mini kitchen in the hostel. Well this turned out to be a sitcom. Here we had a package of chicken, a lemon sauce, and an industrial box of couscous. Pot-check. Oil-check. Utensils-check. Working stove-NO CHECK. I was either about to give my friends food poisoning from raw meat, or cave and ask Chow to use his stove. I chose the latter half solely because I had no idea where the nearest hospital was, and wasn’t about to take a chance. Chow welcomed us with open arms and even insisted that we stay to eat our food. As a sign of our appreciation we let him keep the remaining 60 servings of couscous. Chow bid us farewell for the evening by extending a small bouquet of flowers in our direction and telling us to pick one, well, except the pink one, that one was his favorite…(there’s always a catch). As tired as we were, there’s always room for dessert. That being said, the three of us got re-dressed and took a walk down to Pinocchio, a chain restaurant with the best ice cream sundaes this side of the Mediterranean Sea. A perfect way to end a perfect weekend if you ask me!
Saying goodbye to my friends was not easy the next morning, but I tried my best to put on my big girl panties and suck it up. Dragging my 25 pound suitcase to the train station at 7 am was a pretty awful feeling, but we were heading to Italy, so I couldn’t complain! Or could I? I’d managed to avoid the stereotypes of rude French people all weekend, until now. The five of us approached the window and asked for our ticket to Ventimiglia, Italy, where we would then catch our next train to Genoa. However, we were very bluntly told there were “no trains” to Italy. “That’s impossible” I retorted. I had done the research for this over and over, and now I was embarrassed and panicked in the train station. Again, the woman behind the counter repeated “there are no trains to Italy,” as we became increasingly confused. Were we at the wrong station? Was this woman an idiot? I needed to find out. Less than five minutes later, we were informed by another worker that there was a strike on Italian transportation that day. GO FIGURE. At this point, not only was I livid with the woman who made me believe I had made a horrible mistake as opposed to informing us the trains weren’t running that day only, and aggravated that yet again Europe decided to fuck with my travel plans. Disheartened and not anticipating lugging my suitcase around anymore, we trudged back to our hostel and begged Chow to make room for us for one more night. That little hunchback complied, and there we were in Nice for one last hoorah. With one more day and nothing better to do, we hopped on a bus and took a ride over to Cannes. No, there was no film festival going on, but there was a pretty beach and yet ANOTHER market. I’m finding a theme in this country. Ideally at this point I would have been indulging in pizza up to my eyeballs, but if there was one place I had to be stranded for a day, I suppose the south of France wasn’t too shabby.
Stay tuned for part II…