Spring Break Part 1: the French Riviera

Bono-giorno!

French Riviera: Nice

After a long night of traveling, I woke up on the train Friday morning to the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever seen.  Out the window to my left, there were beautiful, cascading mountains – some snow-peaked – in the distance.  Out the window on my right, the Mediterranean Sea summoned me with its surrounding palm trees, beaches, and the bluest water I have ever seen.  Or so I thought.  Stop after stop on the train, I became more and more anxious to see what lay ahead.  Finally, we reached France.

I hopped off the train and found myself in the cleanest city I have ever been in.  In a short walk, we arrived at our hostel, Villa Saint Exupery Beach.  This was a great hostel to stay at if you’re looking into Nice – it’s clean, super close to the beach and the rest of downtown, and the staff was very helpful.

After getting ourselves together, we quickly scurried down to the beach.  Now this was the truly the bluest water I have ever seen.  The crystal clear water was calling my name; 10 degrees warmer and I would have thrown myself in head first.  The front section of the water was so tropical with its vibrant, bright shade of blue.  Beyond that, the water was a deeper blue.  The beach was unique on its own.  I remember my mom referring to the beaches in Nice as the “killer beaches” from her trip backpacking across Europe when she graduated college.  Finally, I can put this into perspective.  Rather than traditional sand, the beach was construed of beautiful, smooth, grey stones.  It was a nice change of pace not to have sand in every crevice when walking and sitting down.  But I can’t imagine it being too comfortable to sprawl out on and catch some rays in the summer (however, I’m willing to test this hypothesis).

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The coast of this city is so picturesque, but my camera simply couldn’t do it justice.  The palm trees, bubbles being blown by street artists, people roller-blading, the beach, the crepes: it was perfect in every way possible.  The vibrant blues and rich greens from my surroundings will be memories I will never forget.  This was a relaxing portion of the trip; we enjoyed the scenery, explored, and took a million pictures (pics or it didn’t happen). Nice is a fairytale, and I hope to return one day when I can ball out as a professional.

After a relaxing and aesthetically pleasing two days of exploring and taking in the scenery, we ended Saturday by attending Nice’s Carnival.  As we stood in the crowded, closed streets surrounded by bleachers filled with excited spectators, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  With all that has been going on in the world today, I had a moment of fear being at such a crowded holiday event.  But my worry was quickly put to rest as we went through extensive security checks before entering the outdoor arena.

We had no idea what Nice’s Carnival was in comparison to Venice’s Carnival.  It didn’t help that everything announced was in French.  But all of a sudden, giant floats with dancers and various themes started cutting through the crowds: it was a float parade.  Confetti shot from cannons in the bleachers; little kids ran around blowing confetti into people (and their faces) as part of tradition.  Beyond the parade, a beautiful, lit-up ferris wheel towered.  The floats were incredible and must’ve taken months to construct.

Not only were they fun to watch, but it was an opportunity for political messages to be expressed. For one particular float, a camera crew made its way through the crowd documenting spectators’ reactions.  The laughing stock of the world: Donald Trump.  The audience laughed as dancing bombs and cannons approached, followed by a huge Trump with his signature dumb-founded look on his face.  Proceeding this float, the Statue of Liberty stood tall with her torch lit, and the world on fire.  And guess who was holding the world on its back, saving it from destruction?   China.  It was sad and embarrassing to see, but I couldn’t help but give a nervous laugh.

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French Riviera: Monaco

For only 3 euro and a 15 minute train ride, we found ourselves in the 2nd smallest country in the world (often mistaken for being a city in France).  1/3 of the residents in Monaco are millionaires, and it has the highest GDP per capita in the world.  I have never seen so many Bentleys, Lamborghinis, or Ferraris in my life.  In front of the Monte-Carlo Casino looked like a car show; some cars even displaying “please do not touch” signs in the windshield.  That’s when you know.

Monaco was even cleaner, and not surprisingly, fancier and more expensive than Nice.  Sparkling under the sun in the harbor sat yacht after yacht, one bigger than the next.  I can’t help but wander what the insurance is like on these fancy boats.  Especially the ones with a car and another boat parked on it.

After taking a foot ferry across the yacht yard to the other side of Monte-Carlo, we walked up to a beautiful panoramic view that overlooked the city, ocean, and boats.  It was breathtaking.  On this side, we wandered through beautiful gardens, a charming town, and the Prince’s Palace.

Watch out, French Riviera – one day I will return.

Ciao for now!

Xxx,

Natalie

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