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Southbound



Just four days after returning from Annecy and Geneva we were off again, this time to Nice. Though it was already the first week of October we were optimistic about the weather still being warm, and were so excited to get going.

I went with my friend Laura and a bunch of other fellow exchange students, which was great. It was nice to be in a large group (there were 11 of us total) because we could easily divide into smaller groups based on what everyone wanted to do. We also got a nice upgrade at our hostel to a four person private room (instead of the traditional dorm-style room with bunk beds) which was a welcome surprise.

We left our residence bright and early (well, dark and early) on Friday morning to hop on the metro and catch our train that was leaving Lyon at 6:35 AM. When we got to the station we were a little surprised to see that the large schedule of trains only showed two leaving Lyon (both headed to Paris) that morning. There was also a message to the side – “Due to a violent act against an SNCF conductor expect major delays.” This was a little worrying. It turned out that a passenger had attacked a conductor on the train from Lyon to Strasbourg, and thus many of his fellow conductors were exercising their right to take the day off. This caused delays throughout the region, but we certainly weren’t in a rush and so we found a spot to sit and wait.

Finally a few hours later we were able to use our tickets to take the train to Marseille, where we could connect to Nice. When our train arrived in Marseille we were told to stay on to go to Nice. Then a few minutes later we were told to get off, since there were not enough conductors. Less than five minutes later, an announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us to get back on the same train. We obliged and were all settled in when we were told, half an hour later, that this train would no longer be going to Nice. In the end, we spent a couple of hours in Marseille (the part we saw seemed nice!) before catching a train that would finally take us to our destination. It was packed with people and it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to get seats at first, but then one person in our group came across an empty cabin. Eight of us settled in for the two and a half hour journey to Nice. Finally at 4:00, almost 11 hours since we had left home, we arrived! After spending the day in grimy train stations we perked up when we saw the clear blue water of the Mediterranean and felt the warm salty air. That night we explored the city, dipped our toes in the sea (verdict: cold, but still warmer than a Nova Scotia beach in the middle of summer), and enjoyed a nice group dinner at a restaurant in Vieux Nice. The next morning we planned to wake up bright and early, since there was lots of exploring to be done.

On Saturday morning we woke up, scarfed down the free breakfast at our hostel, and got ready for a busy day. Our first stop was the market in Vieux Nice. Markets in France are always fun, and we enjoyed going to a new one. There was lots of fresh produce, a few bakery stands, and some more interesting things for sale, like flavoured salt (rose was one variety), herbes de provence, and lavender. One thing that threw me off about the market in Nice was how tourist oriented it was. That may sound a bit hypocritical, since technically I am a tourist…but living in Lyon (which gets relatively few foreign visitors) I found it weird to hear so many people speaking English. Over the weekend we also saw lots of women jogging in Nice, which you very rarely see in Lyon. (I’ve stuck out like a sore thumb the few times I’ve ventured out on a run). This little bit of culture shock made me realize how settled I’m getting in Lyon, and how even the things that seemed unusual to me before (like no joggers) now seem perfectly normal.

Instead of turning this blog post into a novel I’ll just give the highlights of the rest of the weekend.

-We took the public bus to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a little town on the coast (that reminded me a little of Chester, NS) and spent some time at the beach. I swam for a bit and the water was really nice, though very salty.

-From Villefranche we took the most beautiful/nauseating bus ride I’ve ever been on along the coast to Monaco (about half an hour away). We only spent a few hours there which was enough for me – it was nice to visit, but the casinos, fancy cars, and yachts were a bit much for my tastes. When we were taking pictures on the steps of the Monte Carlo I heard an American woman mutter to her husband, “I feel like a friggin country bumpkin!” – too funny.

-The next day four of us spent the day in Vieux Nice browsing in shops and getting lost in all the little streets. We made the trek up to the “château” (actually the ruins of one) overlooking the city and were rewarded with a stunning view. We also stumbled across a band concert in a square and had time for one last beach visit.

-Because it was actually cheaper than taking the train, we went back to Lyon by plane, on the discount airline Easyjet. I was kind of wary of flying with a discount airline, but though it was a little odd not to have assigned seating on a plane  I was actually really impressed.

We arrived back in Lyon thoroughly exhausted, but there was no rest for the weary – it was back to class on Monday morning. I had a great time in Nice and can sincerely say it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Our first night

 

Looking over Monaco

 

Nice from the château



The BEST holidays

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