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Spring Break in France

Author: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: March 2003

The next day was better, particularly my frame of mind; we'd been so frazzled over getting lost yesterday. I tried the cathedral again and was able to get in, though it appeared that the cloisters were closed. (Amazing how much one's travel experience is impacted by when you go.) I walked around the old town a bit more too, and treated myself to some Haagen-Dazs ice cream: one scoop of caramel pie and one of vanilla macadamia nut, with rainbow sprinkles! The pleasure was worth the 4.55 euros (ouch) I paid for it. Aix definitely wasn't my favorite stop on our trip -- there wasn't all that much to do since we couldn't really get out of town into the countryside -- but I was able to see a bit more of its charms on that second day.

We took a rather scenic train ride from Aix to Nice, part of it along the Mediterranean coast, and arrived uneventfully at our next hostel, the Belle Muniere (sp?). We were put into a room with three Australians, two girls and a guy. It was a pretty nice place, though they charged you two euros per shower -- what a racket!

We headed straight out for the beach and the Promenade des Anglais as soon as we arrived. It should be noted that Nice doesn't really have a "beach" as such -- it's all stones, with a waterfront promenade. Still gorgeous though, with lots of lovely palm trees. We ate dinner at a Chinese place, which was a nice change from all the croissants and ham/cheese baguettes we'd been subsisting on.

The next day we took two separate day trips, neither of them far. First we took a bus ride to Eze Village, winding along steep rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. The bus let us off right at the base of the village (the train would've let us out further down, leaving us to hike some 40 minutes uphill). The village is basically on a big hill, so we immediately headed upwards, trying to keep track of where we were in the maze of narrow streets. There was an exotic garden at the very top, filled with cacti and home to a ruined fortress. From there we got some amazing views over the sea and the coastline.

Then we went on to Monaco, where everything was really built up, and the weather seemed to change almost immediately from clear and sunny to windy and overcast. We looked at Prince Rainier's (ugly) palace and went through a church/cathedral, and then wandered kind of blankly, not really too impressed (the part of town we were in wasn't really that pretty, or as ridiculously opulent as we'd expected from reading guidebooks). We did the requisite visit to the Monte Carlo casino, however, and that redeemed our afternoon a bit. We found it and were marveling at how few tourists there were there when we realized we were actually around the back; when we made our way to the other side it was like a whole different universe, with all sorts of traffic and tourists and activity. One random and unpleasant thing happened here; an old man came up to us, kissed us each on both cheeks, and then copped a feel of my friend's chest before she could respond. Lovely.

When we got back to Nice, we sat out on a bench overlooking the sea for a while, watching the waves, the seagulls, and this stupid but very cute and enthusiastic dog who kept chasing the pebbles his mistress threw and never managing to find them. His tail was wagging hard though -- A for effort!

We stuck around Nice the next day, climbing up Le Chateau to see the park and waterfall there, and then walking quite a ways to get to the Chagall Museum, which was fabulous! I wasn't really familiar with his work at all before I went, but I walked out with a bunch of postcards -- well worth the visit. We walked back to town and had chef salads for dinner somewhere. After, we wandered around Old Nice and stumbled upon this incredible gelato place -- I've never seen so many flavors.

During our last day in Nice I made my way alone by bus to St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a little peninsula not far from Nice. The town of St. Jean was simply gorgeous, with brightly colored flowers, orange trees, palm trees and lots of beautiful villas. I walked all the way around the peninsula, looking out over the rippling blue waves and spotting a few topless ladies bathing on the beach. I even managed to get myself sunburned. There was only one more thing I wanted to see in Nice when I got back there, but I'd underestimated the amount of time it would take to walk there -- so I only had time to snap a quick photo of the Russian orthodox church before I had to go sprinting back across town to meet my friend. I got lost in the old town and ended up being late, turning my whole mood from relaxed/happy to tired/irritable/sweaty/stressed. But we did manage to catch our train to our next destination, so no harm done!

This is really long, so I'll continue in Spring Break in Italy and Spring Break in Ireland, both separate trip reports also on this site.

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