Over the long weekend, I took a l’il trip to Nice in the South of France. This was my first time really exploring somewhere outside of the Parisian area, and it was so vastly different yet incroyable! Another first was that I had never before taken an entire trip by myself, so that was quite an adventure as well. I arrived in the afternoon to perfect 75 degree weather and sunshine- a very welcome break from the Seattle-esque conditions that Paris endures in the fall. With a few hours to kill before I had to meet up with my Couch Surfing host, I sat in a cute café and wrote before walking a block away to the beach. And my oh my, was it gorgeous! Nice sits on a cove, with a long, lamp- and palm tree-lined street called the Promenade Anglais hugging the coast. The architecture is very art-deco and cute, and it actually reminded me of home. Nice, I decided, is like southern California, if in southern California everything was in French and the beaches were lined with cafés. I thus sat on la plage and watched the sunset over the perfectly light blue bath water that is called the Mediterranean Sea. I was so excited about my life and felt so blessed that I actually called my parents at that moment to brag about it.
Afterward, I met up with my host, Guilhem, and we went to a bistro to have a glass of wine before having dinner at a fabulous charcuterie (a meat restaurant, pretty much). He didn’t speak English, and so it was really fun to be able to get to know someone while practicing my French. He then took me to a salsa club! I hadn’t danced salsa since I was in the U.S., and it was so fun to finally get my dance on. I taught Guilhem how to salsa- in French. That was a first, and I was quite proud of myself for being able to do so! I was also very proud of my student for catching on so quickly.
The next day, Guilhem and I went on a hike in the hills outside of Nice. It was completely peaceful and so good for my soul to be hangin’ out in nature. At the top of the hill was a spectacular view of the whole area and the entire coastline. It was rather cloudy but still a breathtaking sight to see.
Later on, we explored this town called St. Paul, which is an ancient village dating back to the 13th century. It was cute but is currently only occupied by expensive shops and art galleries. However, we did have a delicious lunch of crêpes to treat ourselves after our hike!
The next day, since Guilhem had to work, I decided to do a little exploring on my own, which started with hopping on a train to Monaco! Although Monaco is technically its own country, one doesn’t need a passport or anything to go there. When I arrived, I was astounded by how beautiful it was (it was cloudy again but I didn’t care! It was still warm!). Right along the sea are giant cliffs, and I felt so blessed again to be able to see scenery like this.
However, that was the extent to which Monaco was interesting; the culture of the city itself is just wealth. What with designer shopping, five star hotels, casinos, and more Bentlys than I’ve seen in my life, Monte Carlo didn’t have much to offer a broke student such as myself. So what’s a girl to do next with a couple of hours to kill? Oh, just spontaneously go to Italy.
Yep. Monaco is close to the Italian border, so that’s where I decided to go. However, once on the train over to the border town of Ventimiglia, I thought to myself, “Self, what the hell are you doing? You can’t just casually take a train to Italy like you can with Monaco. After today, you will have technically been in three countries- that’s crazy! And you don’t know anything about Ventimiglia, and you really don’t have that much time before the bus to Guilhem’s house stops running…” Thus, upon disembarking at the termini in Ventimiglia, I was sufficiently freaking out. However, I told myself to just calm down, go outside and walk around for a little, and that I would be fine.
And guess what? I was just fine, of course! I was reminded that no one gives a shit in Italy and that they don’t have customs or a border patrol. Furthermore, I just walked a couple blocks down to the beach, and it was stunningly beautiful! I sat down on the pebbly sand, sufficient just chillin’ and watching the sun start to go down. However, this group of Italian people my age came over to me and invited me to hang out with them. They ended up being really cool, and we all watched the sunset together! It was such an incredible moment, and I really didn’t want to leave. I almost wish that I had just gone to Ventimiglia in the first place because it was so pretty and so much fun. And to think that I was freaking out so bad about coming there.
However, I did have to leave soon after that, because Guilhem’s house was kind of out in the boonies and the bus running there stopped pretty early at night. So I hopped on a train headed back to Nice and in the process met this really interesting guy. He lived in Antibes in France but was telling my how he goes back and forth between France and Italy a lot, as well as regularly going to Tunisia, where he grew up. Also, he didn’t speak English, so that was fun! In being spontaneous, that day turned out to be one of the coolest days of my life.
Now, here is my secret: I like the South of France better than Paris. It’s just, like, more chill altogether- the weather is warm and sunny, it isn’t a crazy, hectic city, and the people are a lot more open. Another secret? Shh… I think I like Italy a little bit better than France (sorry Brillault family!).