Here Comes the Sun (Winter Vacation in Provence)

That title is semi-ironic because I took two separate trips to the south of France during my two weeks off in February and I only got lucky and saw sunshine on one of them. First, a fellow assistant and I decided to spend a quick three days in Nice! I had never been to the south of France so I was quick to jump at the opportunity. And it’s been so cold and cloudy here in the Rhône-Alpes that I was eager for some sunshine.

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Le Promenade des Anglais

Nice was a beautiful coastal city. It’s smaller that Paris, Lyon, and Marseille so it feels manageable to navigate even as someone who’d never been there. We walked along the Promenade des Anglais, ate dinner in the Vieille Ville, and watched a gorgeous sunset. The next day, we took a day trip to the medieval city, Èze. No offense to Pérouges, but Èze was the best. Gorgeous and quaint and with beautiful gardens at the highest point of the city with the most breath-taking views of Provence. We even saw a group of American high schoolers who were so friendly and chatty (I’m sure that if we lived in Paris, we’d be so sick of American tourists, but to us to have very few Americans around, it was a welcome breath of fresh air). After, we looked at each other and said, “Americans are so nice!” Not that the French are mean, but they don’t smile at strangers and aren’t overly warm. Americans are generally so friendly and that’s a welcome change!

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Provence from the jardins à Èze

After exploring Èze, we spent the afternoon in Monaco. It was everything you’d expect it to be, with some surprises. Everything was luxurious. Yachts, luxury cars, upscale shopping, chic bars and restaurants. I couldn’t believe that it’s as overpopulated as it is. Property value is clearly through the roof so every inch of the country is built up with condos. Also, we couldn’t believe how many police officers we saw giving tickets. It seems like a small thing and it was totally bizarre, but in two hours, we must’ve seen eight officers giving out parking tickets or traffic violations. If anyone has any insight on that, I’d love to know.
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After all this, we celebrated Carnaval in Nice! The most well-known Carnaval in Europe was apparently toned down this year after the November attacks in Paris, but it was so over-the-top to us! We arrived and bought masks and saw people lining both sides of the street. We found a good spot and waited for the parade to start. To our surprise, once the parade started however, both sides merged into a giant mass of people. The parade came straight through the crowd! No barriers or anything. And it was 10pm and there were children everywhere. We thought, “this would never happen in America.” The theme of Carnaval was very anti-government with floats against NSA spying, people in Anonymous masks, and some pretty graphic scenes (including a computer having sex with a man…) It was certainly a sight to see. We came home covered in confetti and silly string after an incredibly entertaining evening.

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The queen of the tabloids 

After this quick trip, I welcomed one of my dearest friends who’s doing her master’s in Paris and we enjoyed chatting in an indistinguishable mix of French and English while I showed her all of the fun things that are part of my little life here in Bourg and Lyon. She loved it and I was so happy to have a friend from home here with me. I’ll cover my second trip south another time as this is already long enough. Now I would kill for some warmth and sunshine and rain and snow still prevails here reminding me that spring isn’t quite here yet.

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