Nice: Highs and Lows

I told you about how amazing and magical France was, but I missed out telling you about the things that happened to us in Nice that brought us crashing back into reality.

We got robbed.  : |

Well, not all of us. But two from the group. We were staying at the Novotel in Monte Carlo and took a train to Nice in the morning with the intention of checking out the Cours Saleya (because I was fascinated by it and I was deciding the itinerary for Monte Carlo and Nice).

We got off at the station, walked out, and came to a tramway. We decided we’d take the tram and get off at the stop closest to Cours Saleya. It took us a while to figure out how to buy the tickets (since everything was written in french).

Tourists are so invasive no? :P

While some of us were busy trying to figure out the ticket thing, the rest were waiting by the side patiently and apologizing to the locals who came by for crowding their ticket booth (and I was taking pictures of course :P). The tram we finally got into was super crowded (almost like the Bombay trains, but not as bad) and that’s where it happened. Apparently they were very quick and skillful and they got in and out before you could say HEY! 

One of the girls lost 40 euros from her handbag and one of the guys lost his wallet that contained everything from his driving license to credit cards as well as ALL the money he had left for the trip except for a 100 euros which was in our “bank” (we keep a fund for common expenses such as eating out and museum tickets etc). He spent a fair amount of time at the police station, waiting with a bunch of other people who were also robbed. When asked if this was quite common, the cops laughed at him and said ” It is the season for it! You need to be careful!”

The robbery kinda put a damper on things for a bit, but Nice is too charming a place for you to stay mad at it for too long. Besides, you live and learn don’t you. No use moping about it and ruining the rest of your time there.

It was a hot, sunny day and we were quite tired out by the events of the day thus far, so we were looking for a nice cool place to have lunch at. We found a lovely little bar & restaurant at Cours Saleya (I forget the name). It had dark wood interiors and was nice and cool after the heat outside. We cooled off with a lovely cocktail of fruit and champagne that was tangy, bubbly and completely addictive (but too expensive for multiple orders).

I ordered a salad as a starter, which was lovely and so filling I couldn’t even put a dent on the mains!

“starter” that ended up being my main dish!

 

Of course, by the time the others were done  with the mains, I was ready for dessert! Now, when you order 2 scoops of ice cream in Dubai, that’s exactly what you get – two simple scoops of ice cream.

But this is France! Even their vanilla, if you think about it, is french vanilla (sooo much more delicious than regular vanilla!), so when they came with my order, my eyes almost popped!

fee fie fo fum, to what do I owe this treat so white and crimson! :P

Two massive scoops of ice-cream topped with whipped cream, in a jar! You had to dig through the cream to get to the ice-cream!

and it was good!

 

After that, we were too full to do much. The Cours Saleya is along the Promenade des Anglais, and we went to beach for a bit and swam in the ice-cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We headed back in the evening. I was all sticky from the seawater and smelling of the sea, but so was everyone else around me, and somehow, being together in our sea-smelliness made it okay!

On the way back, we came across a very interesting parade… but that kinda deserves a whole different post!

So until next time, au revoir!

 

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Once Upon a Time in the 14th Century…

Bordeaux was warmer than Paris when we first arrived at the train station… but as we drove towards our chateau near Nerac, the storm clouds got bigger and the temperature dropped further down.

On our way back in time

I felt like we were driving backwards into time, to a medieval land where soldiers rode around on horses in suits of armour protecting princesses in castles that had moats and drawbridges! :D

at the entrance

Our castle didn’t have a moat, but it was from the 14th century and had everything else you could possibly ask for from a medieval land, including suits of armour in the hallways and stuffed animal heads placed in different areas of the building (that spooked the hell outta me when I had to walk alone in the shadowy silence, with their glassy eyes staring).

We picked lots to choose rooms, and while everyone else got rooms that were brighter and more modern, I got the room which still retained its old-world decor, with wood-paneling and faded green brocade wallpaper and a fireplace.

my room

It was massive, I could’ve done my morning jog around the place! And it was beautiful, but a bit dark and spooky at night, especially since they only had lamps to light up the room and no other light fixtures! But towards the end… I found it cosy instead of scary and was happy to nestle under the covers in the four-poster bed and read the book I’d taken from the library (of course the chateau has its own library! :P).

View from my room

The chateau is nestled in a 450 hectare estate that has all sorts of animals roaming around free. One day I was woken up by an unfamiliar cry and when I looked out the window, I saw a peacock strutting around the lawn below! We also had wild horses and deer roaming around freely, which added to the magic of the place. I felt like I was living in a fairy-tale.

view from the garden

The sun begins to set only around 9pm there, and it felt strange in the beginning to have dinner when the sun shined on us like it was afternoon. But the long hours of daylight meant we could spend more time enjoying the surroundings.

This one time I walked into the woods to explore a bit. Very soon I came across an old cottage.

creepy place in the distance

…an abandoned glass factory

I knew from what the caretaker had mentioned before that it was an old abandoned glass factory. It looked creepy, so though I took a few pictures from the outside, I didn’t want to venture in alone.

I walked on ahead, and pretty soon the castle itself was far away and all I could hear was the sound of the leaves in the wind. The trees were really tall, so I didn’t want to stray from my path and wind up getting lost, so I stuck to the path and kept going.

a walk in the woods

From the picture below , you can see that it slowly rises on ahead, so it was uphill all the way, and I was hoping to kinda reach the end of the rise and see what lay beyond.

endless

But the path just didn’t seem to end. Then I came across a footprint of some animal, and a little ahead, a bone that’d been stripped clean and lying there so long it was growing weird stuff on it. I looked back and saw that the chateau was just a speck in the horizon. I decided to turn back and head to relative civilization where I wouldn’t be chased by a wild boar or worse!

The other time I explored the area was when a couple of the guys from the group arranged a scavenger hunt around the castle. We were divided into 3 groups, each group was given a set of pictures taken on our cellphones, and we had to seek out the places where those pictures were taken using the riddles they wrote for each picture as clues, and replicate the pictures with us in it, to prove we’d been there. The first team to do that would win. They blew the whistle and we were off, running around in different directions, trying to figure out how far ahead or behind the other teams were, conspiring against each other and whispering and pretending to be lost… it was the most fun I had at the chateau (though my team came in second!).

We were there for 5 days and most our of time was spent eating or drinking. In fact, I think most of our time in France was spent around a dinner table! (You can see evidence of this in my newly expanded waistline! *sigh*). We would go out to the village (about a half an hour drive away) to have those legendary 3 hour long french meals we’d heard so much about.

wine-tasting

We went wine-tasting, and to the local chocolatier where I fell in love with (among other things) a preparation of crystallized orange slices half dipped in dark chocolate! I wish I had pictures, but I was too overwhelmed by the taste to think of capturing it on camera!

We left on the morning of the sixth day at four friggin thirty in the morning! We had a long drive ahead of us and we wanted to get an early start. It was too dark to see the castle we were leaving behind, which I suppose was just as well. It felt like I was driving away to another time altogether, leaving behind an era that was more wild and more dangerous maybe… but infinitely more romantic.


Of France- Paris

Ah Paris!

I love the way they tie their scarves around their necks! I love how graceful carrying a baguette around can make one look (I think you have to be french for this. I would look ludicrous carrying around a loaf of bread like an accessory!). I love the french architecture, and the weather, the rains, the green of the trees framed against the lovely gray skies, the sound of their language, the street musicians that fill the atmosphere with beautiful soul-lifting music, the food, the complete abandon with which they make out in public (I swear, at the Luxembourg gardens, we saw a couple who might as well have been having sex! There was never a moment where the expressionGet a Roooom!! would have been more apt!)… everything!

We were in Paris only for 2 nights, and we did the usual Eiffel Tower – Louvre .. etc. What we did different was… we went around the city in vespas! :D  We were a bunch of brightly dressed tourists, in 6 vespas (with one couple with the kids in a cab, leading the way), and I guess we were quite a sight, cos there were actually people on the road taking pictures of our little procession.  For a change, I guess we the tourists, got clicked! :D

entourage of shiny vespas

This was on our second day there. The first day, we traveled like the locals, on the metro. It was fun, trying to explain where we wanted to go and how many tickets we wanted to buy! But everyone was very helpful, contrary to what we were warned, and we managed to gesticulate our way through. :)

communicating without words :)

The Eiffel Tower almost killed me! I actually climbed the 700 steps to the second floor summit and then took the lifts up to the top. I would not recommend that you do this, cos you will wake up the next day and while the rest of your body is raring to go, your legs will refuse to comply, and forcing it onto the floor will only cause even more pain, with the balls of your feet being all sore and tender from your adventures the previous day.

they number the steps so you know where you are, and how much more you have left!

The Luxembourg gardens are lovely, and when we  got there, I heard beautiful music playing- violins, my favourite! And the cello too.  I followed the music to a pavilion and found performers were children! The parents were sitting in the audience, listening proudly. We wandered off, tired after our herculean climb of the Eiffel Tower, to a nearby cafe where we ordered wine and sat there, enjoying the music and the scenery.

the orchestra

I expected Paris to be proud and snobby. I expected it to be stylish and flamboyant. Instead, I encountered subtly chic and graceful people who were friendly and helpful.  I was pleasantly surprised, after everything I’d heard about their refusal to speak English and rudeness to foreigners and whatnot. My french was as bad as their English, but we managed to make ourselves understood just the same. The willingness to communicate more than compensated for the language barrier, and as I got on to the train to Bordeaux, I wished I had more time to explore Paris.

at a cafe at the Luxembourg gardens

I’ll have to go back, for sure. I just don’t know when.

Tour Eiffel

Next Post: The Chateau

Pour la France, et au-delà!

Paris-Bordeaux- Marseilles- Monte Carlo- Nice

We’ve been planning this trip since Dec 2011!

The tickets were booked in Jan. The hotels and chateau booking done by Feb and the itinerary fixed and tasks assigned. (I’m in charge of where to eat while in Paris and our itinerary for Monte Carlo and Nice :D).

I’m dyyying to try out all the cheese and wine and everything else french I can get my hands on (food-wise :P) once I’m there!

The town we’re staying at in Bordeaux is renowned for their foie gras.  The 13th century chateau we’re staying at while we’re there is nestled in a 450 hectare estate, half of which is untamed forest with foxes and wild hogs running around. The place has its own stables, a stream where we can play around in when we’re tired of the pool, and a vineyard, among other things.

I’m slightly worried about the chateau being so old and possibly haunted, so I’m gonna make sure I drink enough wine to not be worried about any other kind of spirits bothering me in the night! ;) Other than that, the only thing that slightly worries me is my complete lack of knowledge in french! I only know oui! and merci beaucoup! What will I do there without Google Translate?!

By the time you read this, I’ll be in France already. Hoping this little sojourn turns out to be as awesome as we imagine it to be.  See you on the other side of this holiday!

Au revoir!