On January 16th one of my best friends from home, Sara, came to visit me! We both wanted to travel somewhere, and after a lot of research, we decided on Nice, France! It is a place we both wanted to visit really bad! So on the night of the 16th, I picked her up from the airport and the next morning we were off to the train station. We took a train from Bordeaux to Marseille, and another to Nice.
We got to Nice at night and walked to our hostel in the rain. We had reserved two beds in a six person all female room. Upon checking in we were informed that we were upgraded to a private two bed room with a private bathroom for the same price. What a good way to start off the trip! We threw our bags in our room and headed off to find some food. We came across a little kebab place, ordered something random (not completely sure what it was) and sat down. A waiter brought our food to us and we started eating. As the food was in our mouths, the waiter realized he brought us the wrong sandwiches. He came over, smiled at us, and took away our plates as we were "mid chew," and offered our food to someone else. The other table obviously didn't want it, so he returned our food to us...how thoughtful of him. We laughed, finished, and set off to walk on the beach at night. As we got closer and closer to the sea, we could hear the large waves crashing on shore, it sounded like thunder at first. When we finally reached the sea, I was practically jumping up and down I was so excited! My favorite thing to do is swim, and I am obsessed with water. I have always dreamed of going to the Mediterranean, and it just didn't seem like it was real. So, for my amusement, we sat up on a cliff for about two hours and watched the waves in the glow of the city lights.
We woke up the next day to dark clouds and a constant down pour. We decided to stay in Nice and find things to do indoors. First we went to the Marc Chagall National Museum. Marc Chagall is a famous Russian-French painter known for his works in surrealism and neo-primitivism. Sara and I went to buy our tickets and were asked where we were from. We told the woman we were from the United States and she smiled and asked if we could help with the grammatical formatting of a sign in English that they wanted to put on the desk. Sara and I read the three sentences and told them how to correctly format them. As a thank you, they gave us free access to the museum, which was very cool! Next we went to another art museum: Matisse Art Museum, and right next to it was an archaeology museum that we also visited. This museum had ancient Roman ruins and bath houses. After that we went to a beautiful church on a hill that was built in 1662. It was still raining, so we went shopping for food and made supper at the hostel.
The next day, on the 19th, we took a train ride about 30 minutes to the west to Cannes, which is famous for the Cannes Film Festival in May. When we got there, Sara and I got very yummy pizza for lunch, walked around for a while, and looked at a lot of incredible yachts in the harbor. Then we went on a boat ride in the sea and went to an island called Saint Marguerite. It is a small island that is known for its old prison, Fort Royal, that was built circa 1624. This prison held one of the most famous prisoners in history: The Man in the Iron Mask. After more than 300 years of research by countless people, this man is still unknown. The prisoner was put in a mask and held in complete isolation for three decades until his death by direct orders from King Louis XIV. So the million dollar question still stands: Who was this man that the king himself went to such great lengths to make sure his identity would remain a mystery? We may never know! The picture I have below is me standing in his cell. It was incredible to have gone in that prison cell. It was almost difficult to process! The rest of the building, built on an ancient Roman cistern, is now the Cannes Museum of the Sea. Here we got to see a lot of artifacts from ship wrecks in the area and Roman ruins.
As we were walking back down to catch our boat, we couldn't help but laugh at the complete lack of people on the island. It is off season, and it was raining pretty hard, so we were two of probably ten people on that island. Sara and I were the only two visitors the museum had the entire day! It was actually kind of creepy (perfect horror film set up) exploring an old prison while it is raining and dark out and this so called "famous island" is virtually deserted...hmmmm So it was back to Cannes for more exploring and then another train ride to Nice.
(Cannes from Saint Marguerite)
On Monday the 20th, we woke up to sunlight! Finally! So we took a 20 minute train ride to the east to the little country of Monaco. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, only bigger than the Vatican City. It is about 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide- similar to the size of Central Park in NYC. It has just under 40,000 residents, making it the most densely populated country in the world. It is nestled along the Mediterranean Sea on the French Riviera in the Alps, making it one of the prettiest places ever!
Sara and I started off our day by walking along the sea looking at the beautiful city, mountains, and boats. Our plan was to go to the Oceanography Museum first. We walked along a man made path that was built in to the cliffs over the sea. As we got around a bend, we saw a really cool view of the back of the museum sitting on a cliff over looking the water! Once inside the museum, we went straight to the large aquarium and watched fish swim for half an hour. *Relaxing* When we were done with all of the exhibits, we went to the roof of the building and saw yet another spectacular view. The cool thing here was, from the top of the building, we could literally see the entire country. That is extremely rare if you ask me!
As we were going back to the first floor to leave, we saw that there was a room with a large tank of sharks and you could...wait for it...pet them!! Yes, pet them...like a dog. The museum's mission is to change some of the fear that humans harbor against sharks. I mean, if you are swimming in the ocean, seeking out a shark to cuddle with probably isn't in your best interest, but they really aren't that bad of creatures. These sharks were about two feet long and would swim right up to you to be petted. Some even did an excited little dance to get you to play with them! As we were standing there, one shark did sneak up on me. I was waiting for a shark that was coming on my left, but there was also one closing in on my right. Sara said "One is coming your way," I turned to look and jumped! There is still something about a shark swimming at your hand that makes you a little jumpy! And of course...Krysta now wants a pet shark...oh boy ;) (Picture above is me petting sharks!)
After we left the museum, we went to the Cathedral of Monaco. This also over looks the sea and is really pretty. Just down the street was the Prince's Palace, but it wasn't open to visitors, so we just took pictures of the outside. The House of Grimaldi has ruled "with brief interruptions," since 1297! That is quite the reign for one family. The picture of Sara and I above is the view from the Palace!
Then we took a bus and went across the country (hehe) to the Monte Carlo Casino!! This casino was one of the very first major casinos and remains one of the most famous and prestigious casinos in the world. If you are a James Bond fan, this casino was used in the filming of some of the franchise's movies. It was opened in 1865, and an opera house was added in 1878. The style of the building is baroque and is gorgeous. The extravagant designs of both the interior and exterior are nothing short of amazing. I have always heard that a real "touristy" thing to do is to take pictures of the incredible luxury vehicles that the casino goers park out front, so we did just that. The place was crawling with Lamborghinis! We hiked back down to the sea and looked at a lot more yachts, which were also spectacular. Then it was time to go back to the train. We had a really great day there!
The next day we were on a train heading back to Bordeaux. Both Sara and I had been really busy for the last month, so we decided to stay in Bordeaux and just relax. I know what you are thinking: Hard life right? ;) Both of us are pretty dang good cooks, so we had a lot of fun making food. I showed her around Bordeaux. We went shopping on Sainte Catherine, visited my favorite cathedral, went out with some of my friends, explored, tried French pastries, had drinks at the opera, and went to a circus! Sara will be studying abroad in Australia this semester and I won't see her until August, so it was awesome that we could travel together first! Her flight left at 6:05 on Monday morning. The problem was, I don't have a car and public transportation doesn't start until 5:30 a.m. We looked at calling a taxi, but they were very expensive. So we went to the airport on Sunday night and managed to keep ourselves entertained until it was time for boarding. Always an adventure here! Now it is back to real life! Well, kind of...
Thank you all for reading!
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."