Friday, May 23, 2008

ROAD TRIP: Nice, Monaco, Cannes, Antibes and Aix-en-Provence

I met Erica and Sarah at the airport when they came to visit me here in France. The first mission that we had while they were here, Roadtrip! It was myself, Erica, Sarah, Kristen, Katie, Danielle, Jess and Cathy. Erica, Sarah and myself caught a train from Gare de Lyon to Marseille and then from Marseille to Nice. We had an hour layover in Marseille so we caught some lunch but of course the train was late so it turned into a two hour delay. When we finally arrived in Nice we caught the shuttle to our hostel and met Kristen, Jess and Cathy.

The first night in our hostel we drank some sangria and just hung out in the common area at our hostel. It was nice just hanging out and talking the whole night, really relaxing.

Our first full day in Nice, Thursday, we all decided to take a day trip to a beach about an hour away called Cap d'Ail, located on the Mediterranean Sea. The beach was gorgeous. It was set in a cove with clear blue water and sail boats. The beach was mostly a rock beach but there was a little part on the left side with sand. We met a couple of girls from the U of M that were staying at our hostel also that came with us. They actually went to the same school in Florence as Maggie. We layed at the beach all day and it was PERFECT! The weather was hot and there was just a little bit of wind to cool off once in a while. We tried to go swimming but the water was just too cold. Eventually the heat got to us and it was necessary to go for a swim. It was freezing at first but after a few minutes of forcing ourselves to go under it was great. The water was clear and you could see your toes no matter how far out you were. Of course, being in France, it was necessary to lay on the beach topless. Nobody else felt this way but I did. I did not want to regret not going topless like last summer. You know what they say, when in rome.

The second night in Nice we were way to tired to do anything because we were laying in the sun all day so we just got back to the hostel and bought one of their amazing pizzas for 5.50€. The onther girls waited up for Danille and Katie who were supposed to be arriving around midnight but Erica, Sarah and myself went straight to bed since we were in the other room.

The next morning, Friday, we were so excited to have Danielle and Katie there with us because the whole group was finally all together! That day we all went to Monaco, which is its own sovereign state located just east of Cap d'Ail. The country is gorgeous and is considered the worlds second most densly populated country in the world and also one of the richest in the world in comparison to its GDP. It was the week before their annual grand prix so all of the streets were lined with rows of tires and cameras being set up to film the race. It was too bad that we weren't there the next week becuase it would have been really cool to see, the track was throughout the whole city. We visited the Monte Carlo Casino, which is in the city of Monte Carlo. The casino was beautiful but we did not go in because there was a dress code and it cost 10€ just to go through the door. The rest of the day was spent at the beach in Monte Carlo. It was a rock sand beach again and there was this cement peer on the side for the scuba diving boats docked. There were a lot of kids jumping off the peer into the water, it must have been at least 15 feet. The water was a little grosse because there was seaweed floating in it everywhere. We jumped off the dock a few times and the first time it was SOOO COLD. It was our first time in the water for the day but we thought it would be less painful just getting over the inital pain of the freezing water if we just jumped in. After laying on the beach for a while we jumped on the bus, only 1€, and headed back to Nice.

That night we all hurried back to the hostel to make dinner with the two girls that we met who went to school in Minnesota. We had a spagetti feast with an enormous salad. We had so much spagetti left over we could have fed a tiny village. After dinner we all got ready and had a few cocktails at the hostel before going out for the night. We went to Waynes Bar that night and met up with a bunch of other girls that were in Nice from our school in Rouen. The club's dance floor was basically a room with tables everywhere which people were dancing all over. They played typical American club music, which worked out great for us, and of course the occasional Grease showtune. We walked a while to get to the train station so that we would not have to pay as much for a cab which brought an end to our night.

Saturday day we took another day trip to Cannes and Anitbes. Once we got to Cannes we went straight to the beach and layed out while Katie met with her cousin who lived there. The weather was great, but a little windy. Cannes was setting up for its annual film festival which was the following week so there were large tv screens everywhere with structures being built for grandstands or screening areas for movies. This film festival is one of the worldest oldest and most prestigous in the world and brings big names from all over the world. Since we were a week early we did not see any stars, though that did not stop us from searching. After the beach we toured around the city a little bit and then jumped on the train and headed to Antibes.

Antibes is famous for its "old city". The city is lined with an old wall around the coast with old looking buildings looking almost castle like. Once you get on the inside of the wall the city seems so much more lively with little shops and tiny roads paved in bricks. It was a different vibe in Antibes, though there was not much to do there it was beautiful and we were content enough just walking around and seeing the old houses and the coast.

That night was our last night before our adventure road trip so we did not feel that going out was the best idea. We spend Saturday night packing up the rest of our things and read or watched movies in our rooms. It was nice to have a relaxing night and after our showers I wanted nothing more than to curl up and read a book.

We all woke up around 8 am on Sunday to get ready for the roadtrip. Danielle, Katie and myself were in charge of heading to Europcar and Hertz to pick of the cars while the rest of the girls headed to Casino grocery store to pick up some snacks for the day. We had two cars, a stick and an automatic. They both were really nice cars, the standard had a new build in GPS system and the automatic was an SUV of some sort. Danielle and Katie ended up driving the whole way because it was going to be too expensive to put more drivers on, and one of the main reasons for our roadtrip was because it would end of being cheaper.

We had printed directions in both cars from Nice to Rouen and the trip was supposed to last about 10 hours, that was a lie! We stared off with Erica, Sarah, Danielle and myself in the automatic and Katie, Jess, Catherine and Kristen in the other car.

The trip was going good, dancing and singing to music, getting caught in traffic and being able to roll the windows down and get some fresh air. We stopped in Aix-en-Provence on the way up to Rouen because we heard it is just beautiful. Once we got there it reminded a lot of us of Rouen. There was a market in town which had jewelry, natual soaps, spices and other sorts of crafts and other random gift like things. Sarah and I bought a ring with pressed flowers in it. Each flower meant something different and we got a little sheet telling us the meanings. We ate subway for lunch and Katie and Danielle took theirs to go and we headed back on the road.
We stopped at a rest stop in Lyon because there was some discrempicies in the directions. We took one route which ended up being about an hour quicker because the route from the other car went through Lyon and had to deal with traffic while we went right around it. So we ended up waiting at the rest stop in Lyon for over an hour waiting for the girls. The funny part of that was that their car was the one with the GPS so we were proud of ourselves for finding our way.

Our car stopped at the gas station before we got to Lyon and attempted to find the pump for deisel. I asked a guy who pulled up on a motorcycle where the deisel pump was and he was completly confused as to what I was talking about. After me running to the pump trying to explain to him what I was "trying" to ask him, he asked the other girls in the car "is this a joke"? Of course it is impossible to find because it was not called deisel, even though he told me otherwise. Once we found it we thanked him and he laughed as he was putting his helmet on and riding away. The best part was finding out how expensive gas is in Frane, around 50€ for a half of a tank.

The tolls became sort of a game because you don't know the prices of the tolls until you get to the booth so it became a guessing game. The first one was only a couple of euros so it was quite a surprise when the tolls rose into the twenties, and the game was not fun anymore. Then the game turned into how badly could France rip off the general public with polls the closer one gets to Paris.

The road trip ended up taking about 14 hours in total with the stops and everything. It wasen't like we had anything else to do that day though so it was fine. We finally got to Rouen around 1:30 am and we were all exhausted! We all had such a great day and it was the perfect ending to a great trip!



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