The crisp autumn days haven’t quite descended upon us in the south (of the US). I am desperately clinging on to every remaining moment and memory of summer; which began with a few glorious weeks in the south of France. I was not expecting to fall in love with Nice or the French Riveria, in fact, I almost decided not to go there for I presumed that the glitz and glamor might overshadow its charm and authenticity. I came to discover (after a lot of convincing to go by my friend Lucinda who spends a month in Villefranche every year) that it’s only a part of the picture. The French Riveria intertwines old-world charm and history with affluence and luxury like no other. It was everything I was scared of expecting and better, much better 🙂
Traveling to France and Italy teaches me to slow down, savor the simple pleasures, and enjoy life a little bit more. For that reason, slow travel is really my cup of tea. I try not to dine and dash, spend a couple of weeks to immerse in the culture, imbibe all of the sunshine, the good food, and wine, the shops, and cafes and more importantly understand the people and their ways of life.
This time, I rented a cozy Airbnb with a balcony on the fifth floor of a building in Rue Bonaparte, Nice for two weeks and planned to stay at my friend’s Lucinda’s apartment for another fortnight. (she offered to let me stay in her apartment the whole time for free, how wonderful is she?!) The best part of setting up camp in Nice was that I could take a train or hop on to a bus and reach a nearby town or village in about an hour, hell even Italy is just a stone’s throw away. Even though at face value, the different towns presented themselves as just another old cobbled town up a hill, each one had its own character if you cared to dig deep enough.
My days there were spent doing exactly that 🙂 I explored and over-indulged in all my favorite things; sunrise strolls in the cobblestone alleys of the Vieux Ville (Old Town) in Nice, day-trips to the other sun-dappled towns dotting the shores of the Mediterranean sea, soaking up the sunshine on the balmy beaches of the Cote d’Azure, (the Azure Coast), hiking to villages and villas perched on cliff tops, warm conversations with locals, and eating one too many flaky croissants, chickpea pancakes (called soccas), and juicy sun-kissed fruits and vegetables. You meet so many amazing people when exploring at your own pace too. For example, some friends of mine recently went on a trip to Marseille and ended up bumping into a group of glamorous marseille escorts while out on a boat. My friends told me that they had a fascinating conversation with the escorts about the adult entertainment industry, the sex-positivity movement, and the importance of safe sex. This just goes to show that you never know who you might meet on your travels! Sometimes it is the element of surprise that can make your trip that little bit more special. For me though, one of the highlights was a day trip to Cannes that ended with watching a movie at the open-air theatre in the water, with my toes in the sand and a view of the pink-hued sunset behind the screen and bolting to get on the last train to Nice, missing it and jumping onto another RER illegally w/o a ticket [the billeterie-machines were not selling any more tickets and FWIW the tickets cost 300Euros, not our fault :P) and getting away with it. So glad Clara and I didn’t end up in a French jail.
I must admit, most of my shenanigans went down with one or two glasses of rosé in each hand (C’mon, when in South of France, do as the French do riggght?) and in the company of Lucinda, her friends, new friends from CouchSurfing, chief amongst them was Clara (we became inseparable), my sweet Airbnb host Fabine, the owner of Brazillia (ironically my favorite restaurant in Nice was a Brazilian cafe) and the several other wonderful French people I met.
Bonus: My French just got soo much better and some of the locals I met exclaimed that I spoke really well. Ofc, they were either exaggerating to be kind or just a bit stunned that a foreigner could speak w/o a strong accent but whatever the motive, I’m not one to shy away from compliments 😛 (haha!)
Here are some photos from the Riviera and I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Although I do paint a rather rosy picture of the south, the picture doesn’t come without blemishes. Staying for a couple of weeks made me understand the struggles the common folks go through to make ends meet. France is an awfully expensive place to live. Several organizations had strikes almost every day, it became a running joke between me and Fabine (my Airbnb host); she’d dutifully warn me of “les manifestations” before I stepped out every morning morning, so I began to ask her “Whose turn is it today?”. I had another roommate, a French-Irish boy who worked as an electrician and planned to move to Australia because it became increasingly hard for him to pay his bills. C’est la vie, eh? I hope the government and the people manage to smooth out the kinks in the coming years.
With love from the South of France,