Break 1 – Paris

Sunday Morning Markets

Whether its flowers, food, fancy goods or flea market finds in Madrid, luxury shopping or international eats in London, Easter treats in Prague, creative crafts in Budapest, or crazy cuisine in Barcelona, exploring the concentration of cultural curio found in a market is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.  Though sometimes a tourist trap, most markets still have roots in the heart of the culture and provide an insider’s look into the lives of the people.  In Paris, Sunday morning sees hundreds of vendors set up in the city for the marchés aux puces (flea markets), so I chose one of the area’s many markets and set out to explore.

Porte de Vanves Flea Market | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

I had planned to visit Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, one of the biggest flea markets in Europe, but did not have time to travel far from the city center.  Instead, I went to the Les Puces de Vanves, a smaller market south of the Seine.

I arrived at the market around 9 a.m., which was still a little too early for the French.  After about an hour, all of the displays were organized, and a steady stream of visitors scanned diverse collections of items for potential purchases.

This flea market was not unlike many others that I have visited, with many similar novelties for sale.  Nonetheless it was a nice way to spend the morning.

 

Hot Chocolate Heaven

For a filling brunch before my flight, I made reservations at Angelina, a special, Parisian café recommendation from a friend.  Angelina is known for its hot chocolate, so I set out to discover if the praise met my high expectations.

Angelina | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

The meal was expensive, as I had anticipated, but offered plenty to eat.  The hot chocolate was very good, thick and sweet, though I still think Madrid’s chocolate con churros does the warm, rich drink the best.  The food probably could have been split between two people, but as solo adventures were the theme of this trip, breakfast was no different!  I enjoyed my fancy, French-inspired brunch, down to the very last drop of Angelina hot chocolate, and made my way back to Nice.

Overall, I had a great week!  It provided just the right amount of time with traveling friends as it did time alone.  I navigated transportation, ate in restaurants, and explored cities by myself.  Though I never doubted my travel knowledge and abilities, I did learn to enjoy my own company and be okay with spending time with me.

 

Travel Tips

  • Tune in to Podcasts.  My mom has recommended that I start following podcasts for a few years now.  It took my hour-long walk home from school in Nice to truly become interested in listening to dialogue instead of music, but I have finally started to explore the podcast world.  One of the programs I enjoy is Condé Nast Traveler’s “Travelogue,” which discusses the evolving travel industry from a traveler’s point of view.  While listening to the March 17 episode, “How Women Are Changing the Travel Industry,” I really identified with some of their comments and stories through the experiences and feelings I had on my Break 1 trip. The section from 3:53 to 5:47, specifically, captures my solo travel observations, but I recommend giving the entire episode a listen and checking out the rest of their conversations!

 

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Paris,

A.J.H.

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Barcelona, Spain

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A heavily edited photo of Barcelona, but my favorite of the trip.

 

The most important fútbol game in Spain, El Clásico pits Spain’s two largest cities against each other for the ultimate rivalry.  Each year, Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona fight for national bragging rights as the best Spanish fútbol team.  Because Barcelona hosted this year’s match, 16 people in my program and I made the trip to the opposing team’s city to see its attractions and experience its liveliest weekend of the year.

 

Day 1

With an airline delay, we landed an hour behind schedule for our first evening in Barcelona.  Though the flight was a disappointment, my friends and I took the quick and convenient 5,90€ Aerobus airport transfer to the city’s Gothic Quarter, arriving at the Sun and Moon Hostel, our residence for the weekend.  With limited hostel experience, I was not prepared for the lodging’s atmosphere.  We entered the building to loud music and were introduced to a bartender shortly after arrival.  Unsure of what I had gotten myself into, I soon learned that there are two types of hostels: the quiet, keep to yourself establishments, or the community-oriented, party hostels.  Though we were staying in the latter, it did not pose a problem, considering our exchange of quality for location and price, even with the many small, unexpected fees we came upon during our stay.

Friday night was the best night to go to Barcelona’s most popular club, Opium.  Contrary to its severe name, the beach-access disco had a diverse customer base and relaxed atmosphere.  With party-goes aged from early twenties to late forties, there was a place for everyone, be it on the dance floor, at the bar, or on the patio overlooking the sea.  Though we ended the night early in preparation for our busy next day, I could have spent hours listening to the rumble of the waves mix with the beat of the music from the club.

Wanting to make the most of our weekend in Barcelona, a few friends and I had preordered tickets for the Sagrada Familia, one of the greatest religious structures of all time.  I had heard about and seen images of the incredible work that architect Antoni Gaudí had done, but nothing could have prepared me for the first-hand experience.  The church towers over you, so much so that the views of the entire facade are better seen off-site.  The intricacy of the facade was impressive, but the interior blew me away.  Tall, geometric columns glowed in all colors from the dream-like luminosity of the stained glass windows. Though the great number of visitors made the structure seem less like a place of worship and more like a circus, it made the religious house that much more of an dramatic offer to Catholicism.  It’s partial completion adds to its grandeur, making me wonder what the experience will be like when it is finished.  Plans anticipate that 2026  will be the end of major construction, so I hope to get the opportunity to one day return and see Gaudi’s vision complete.

Continuing with the morning’s Gaudí theme (not difficult to do when in Barcelona), my friends and I walked from the Sagrada Familia to two famous Gaudí-designed houses: Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.  We did not have the time (or money) to enter the buildings, so we admired them from the outside.  The colors of Casa Batlló radiated down the street, with gentle turquoise and bright green glass making the facade dance like crystal-clear water.  Casa Milà was more understated, but equally as curious.  Though at first it blended in with the surrounding structures, standing below the skeleton-like building revealed more geometric intricacy, similar to that in the Sagrada Familia.

On route back to our hostel for an afternoon rest, we traveled down Las Ramblas, one of the busiest streets in Barcelona, lined with souvenir shops, food vendors, as well as formal stores and restaurants.  We had been warned of the excessive pickpocketing on this popular street, but I never once felt targeted or suspicious.

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Located on Las Ramblas is another one of Barcelona’s must-see specialties, La Boqueria.  This half outside/half inside marketplace is comparable to but bigger and better than the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid.  La Boqueria boasts sweet snacks, fishy dishes, meaty meals, and fresh, fresh fruit, all available to eat in or take out.  Over the course of our two hours wandering the market, we gnoshed on chocolate covered strawberries, samples of gourmet cheese, and, our favorite, fruit juice smoothies.  Feeling adventurous, I first tried a dragonfruit, or pitahaya, juice, that went down sweet but left a terrible, sour aftertaste.  My second try, a juice mix of strawberry and pineapple, was a success.

After a quick rest at the hostel, we were ready for the game!  General public tickets for El Clásico went on sale at 11 a.m. on the day of the match.  Thinking I had a chance, I logged on to the website hoping to secure admittance to the game.  At 11:02 a.m., I was a customer in a queue of over 5,000 fútbol fans, or in other words, never getting a ticket.  Accepting the inevitable of viewing the game from outside of the Camp Nou stadium, I wore my Real Madrid scarf with pride through the streets of Barcelona as our entire group took on the ambitious task of finding a bar in which all of us could watch.  The size of the group ended up being a non-issue, because the pub that we waited in line for for over an hour reached full capacity before we even got to the door.  Slightly panicked, with only a half hour until kickoff, we rushed to find another place to watch, leaving all hopes of comfort behind and sights set only on finding a screen.

Split between a small café and an even smaller bar, my group of friends slid in where we could and watched Barcelona dominate the first half.  They started strong, had greater possession of the ball, and took more shots… but they didn’t score.  The second half brought Barcelona luck with a goal in the 56th minute.  Real Madrid, however, responded with an incredible scizzor-kick goal by Benzema in the 63rd minute, followed by a tag-team play by Bale and Ronaldo in the 85th minute to clench the lead.  As the Barcelona fans (just about everyone besides my friends and I) grumbled in disgust, we cheered in victory to our final stop for the night.

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My view of the game…

Recommended to us by other students studying abroad in Barcelona, the Dow Jones Bar was unlike any establishment I’d ever visited.  Sure, it was dark, played bad music, and was outfitted in wooden decor like most other bars, but, as the name implies, the Dow Jones Bar had a schtick; it was a stock market bar.  Screens hung above the bar sharing the how much a drink was currently worth with its corresponding percent increase or decrease— Fireball up 1.3%, Guinness down 3.8%.  You paid based on the fluctuation of the worth of the drink, so you had to watch carefully when to buy.  To add to the fun, there would be an occasional stock market crash (“crack”, in Barcelona), when all drinks were sold as originally priced, but just for a few seconds.  Though the bar itself is a relatively quiet way to spend an evening, the concept is definitely worth checking out.

 

Day 2

The next morning, following more suggestions from Barcelona study abroad students, my friends and I went to Brunch & Cake for brunch and cake.  We chose to dine at their waterfront location, Brunch & Cake by the sea, to later visit the beach.  Though the menu options were limited, I got scrambled eggs on a massive sunflower seed bagel and, paired with a strawberry smoothie, enjoyed every bite.  Falling into the trap of the restaurant’s tempting name, I split a piece of red velvet cake with a friend.  With just a hint of cream cheese flavor, the icing made the treat, and it was some of the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had.

We walked off our meal at the Platja de Sant Sebastià, a beach full of sunbathers and surfers enjoying the sunny day.  This was also the base of the Port Cable Car, a gondola ride providing views of Barcelona and transportation to the Montjuïc hill.

A few friends and I had tickets to the monitored Monumental Zone of Park Güell (the park itself is free) two hours from the time we got in line for the cable car.  We hoped that the process would be quick enough to do both.  It wasn’t.  After waiting way too long for what ended up being a tourist trap (seriously, it’s so bad, do not go on the ride and save the 11€), we were late for our Park Güell time slot.  Because some of Gaudí’s work in the park has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, a section of the park receives a limited amount of people at a time.  My electronic ticket would not scan past our time slot, so being late was going to be a problem.

We took a taxi from Montjuïc to Park Güell and ran to the first worker we could find, my arm extended with the ticket.  Over there, the worker directed.  So we ran towards the area where she gestured and waited in a short line to speak with another worker.  That window, the next attendant said, and we approached our third worker.  Holding my breath in anticipation, I presented my ticket.

“What do you want me to do with this?” the park employee asked.

“Scan it?” I replied, confused.

“What time was your ticket for?” he requested.

“2 o’clock….” I reluctantly responded.

“40 minutes ago!?” he confirmed, as if I were crazy for even trying to enter. “This is the exit,” he finally clarified.

My friends and I explained to him that this is where we were directed, not knowing that our first direction of “over there” meant the overlooked entrance around the corner.

“So you were waiting in this line the whole time?” he half asked, half declared, developing his own understanding of what happened. “I apologize for the misdirection and will notify my colleagues at the entrance to let you in.”

Fortunately, they accepted us into the park, even though we were late and it wasn’t really their fault.  I know that this was my one “Overly Ambitious (read: Stupid) Traveler Forgiveness” pass, so I will try to avoid the close calls from now on.

Park Güell was beautiful, and it was worth paying for access to the iconic Gaudí monuments and designs.  Less intellectual than the Sagrada Familia, the park was simply pretty, serving to aesthetically please.  Gaudí knew how to make things that people like to look at!

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After rushing around that morning and pacing through the park all afternoon, my friends and I rewarded ourselves with Chök treats.  Usually donuts aren’t my thing, but I was willing to make an exception for the Chök concoctions.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to, for the little sweets shop served many options.  Settling on a kronut, it wasn’t the best dessert I’ve ever had, but I didn’t run away from this member of the donut family.

We left Barcelona to return to Madrid with Vueling Airlines.  Because we did not know the date and time of the soccer game before we booked our flight, we scheduled a 10:30 p.m. departure.  With Vueling, we took off an hour later than planned and had the least pleasant flight accommodations that I’ve encountered so far.  Though we did make it back to Madrid for the last metro train, I am extremely dissatisfied with my Vueling experience and will try to avoid flying with them in the future.

 

Destination Locations

 

Pau, Amor, Barcelona

A.J.H.

Spring Break – Düsseldorf/Easter

Düsseldorf, Germany

It was important to me that I returned to Madrid on Saturday to properly recognize and celebrate Easter on Sunday.  With this restriction, there were only two flights from Florence to Madrid in our price range, and both had long layovers in Düsseldorf, Germany.  Düsseldorf, then, became our sixth and final city!

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Views of Rheinwiesen State Park from Altstadt, across the Rhine River

After some difficulty with the cab drivers at the airport, prompting the information desk attendant to advise us not to let “those bastards toss us around,” we secured one of the sleek, black, Mercedes Benz taxis, operated by a woman who had to be older than 70.  She brought us to Altstadt, or the Old Town, honking the horn and grunting German frustrations along the way.

Altstadt is a pleasant part of Düsseldorf located on the Rhine River waterfront.  Crowded with people, from bikers and runners to families and elders, the Rhine Promenade was the perfect place to take a travel break.  The Altstadt district also boasts the “longest bar in the world,” (which should be clarified as the longest avenue of bars in the world), so we strolled down the street in search of a restaurant where we could relax.

Aiming to fill our stomachs with hearty German fare before our next flight, we chose, at random, Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel, for lunch.  Restaurant in the front, brewery in the back, and filled with people, it seemed like a good option.  I ordered pork schnitzel, which I had never tried before, because it sounded like German thing to do (and it is one of Julie Andrews’ favorite things— has she ever led you wrong?).  The schnitzel, as it turns out, is simply breaded meat, and mine was most certainly frozen before it was served to me.  The side of roasted potatoes, however, was delicious, definitely the best potatoes I’ve ever had.  Corresponding with our get-in/get-out sprint to make the most of our layover, our waitress was also a no-nonsense lady, embodying the stereotypical German way.  Like the taxi driver, she was one of the best women to work with on our hasty schedule.  After paying for our meal (and 6€ for a bottle of water!), we headed back to the airport and flew home to Madrid.

 

Easter

With a long week of travel preceding my Easter Sunday, I was happy to slow down and appreciate the special day.  While away, I had missed most of the traditional Spanish, Semana Santa proceedings, but there was one event left for Pascua.  Performed every Easter in Plaza Mayor, the Tamborada del Domingo de Resurección is a drumming display that symbolizes the trembling of the Earth as Jesus died on the cross.  A different representative group is chosen to play every year, but the musicians customarily don purple, the color of Lent.  I was entertained by the joyful cadences and was impressed by the group’s professionalism, especially considering the age range of performers.  Though it seemed like I was surrounded by more tourists than madrileños, the encompassing presence of God was what mattered most.

After the Easter drums, my roommate and I enjoyed brunch at a restaurant that I had had my eye on for weeks.  La Rollerie, just outside of Plaza Mayor, had attractive decor and an alluring menu.  Too cold to dine outside, we ate in the whitewashed front room adorned with fake but festive flowers and fruit.  I ordered La Rollerie salad of fried Brie and teriyaki vinaigrette, and my friend and I shared the cheese fondue.  Though pricey, the dip was worth it, as we almost ate the entire dish, bread bowl and all.

To end our Easter Sunday, we stopped in La Mallorquina.  One of Madrid’s most popular bakeries, La Mallorquina’s two-story building is always crowded, and so for me, avoided.  For this special occasion, however, we took home a mona de Pascua, or a Spanish pastry bread holding a hard boiled egg, served only on Easter.  I did not eat the egg with the pastry, and my experience has me questioning if anyone actually does…

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Though a holiday church service, preferably closed with the Hallelujah Chorus, is my typical Easter Sunday, I did my best to experience Pascua like the madrileños.

Fun Facts

  • The mother of the girl that I tutor is from a small village outside of Madrid.  When I asked her what she did to celebrate Easter, she explained that she revived a fading Spanish tradition with her family.  The night before Easter, she, her siblings, and their children filled an outfit of old clothes with straw, just like a scarecrow.  This being symbolized Judas.  On Easter, they burned the straw man, punishing him for his betrayal.  I found it an odd practice, especially to promote among children.  Perhaps this is why it is no longer as common as it once was…

 

Destination Locations

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.

Nice, France

Tout a commencé avec français. 

Incremental exposure to French language and culture sparked my international curiosity and called me to come abroad.  In elementary school, I participated in a lunch-time French club, where I was introduced to the basic words and phrases of a language that seized my attention.  My official French studies began in middle school and have not stopped (aside from this short break in Spain).  Though I’ve adjusted my lingual learning throughout my education, I do not have a passion for the other languages and cultures as I do for French.  University logistics dictated that I study in Madrid before France, so after years of fantasies, studies, and patience, I was beyond eager for the opportunity to visit the country that I had never been to, but that already had my heart.

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The University of Maryland operates a study abroad program in Nice, France, which I intend to take part in next spring.  A friend from one of my French classes is participating in the year-long version of the program and invited me to spend a weekend with her while we were both abroad.  I would be able to preview the city, learn about the program, and have my own personal tour guide in Nice.

 

Bonjour, France!

After getting off of the plane, I stood at the gate for a moment, taking in the ocean views from the Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport.  I was finally in France!  After locating my my friend Olivia, we made our way to her apartment via scenic bus ride, a default privilege whenever one travels along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.

For dinner, Olivia brought me to La Claire Fontaine, and we both got pizza.  Though we were in France, she informed me that there were Italian influences in Nice because of its Mediterranean location.  I took the heavy rain that began during dinner as a sign to extend my stay in the restaurant and finish my entire personal pizza pie, one of the best I’ve ever had.  Once the rain slowed, we dashed across the street for dessert.  Continuing Italian influences led us to Fenocchio, a gelato shop that my friend claims is the best in Nice.  I wouldn’t argue with her assessment.  The shop boasted endless flavor options, and my cup of white chocolate gelato was delicious.

As thrilled as I was to have been in France, I was much less enthusiastic to speak.  My French was embarrassing.  Originally eager to finally use French after only practicing Spanish for the last two months, I thought that this trip would be the perfect opportunity to exercise my skills.  All of the confidence that I had developed in my French speaking abilities, however, disappeared when I attempted to talk in Nice.  I could not think of much of what I wanted to say, Spanish slipped out nearly every other word, and the French accent that I had worked so hard to develop was nonexistent.  I know that I can credit this to my immersion in Spain, in addition to a complete lack of use of French, but nonetheless, it was frustrating.  I will do my best to practice my French while in Spain, even if only mentally, with hopes that it will come back to me in French class this fall.

 

Day 2 – Monaco

With so many other destinations accessible from Nice, Olivia brought me to the Principality of Monaco.  A 45-minute bus ride for 1,50€ brought us right into the center of the little land of big boats, fancy cars and people looking to spend money.  Taking in the impeccable grounds, beautiful buildings, and happy visitors relaxing in the sunny, 60-degree weather, I felt like I was in Walt Disney World.  From the landscaping to the sky, the town felt staged.  Everything was perfect, too delightful to be true.

Strolling past green lawns and luxury shops, we arrived at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.  Though I expected more grandeur after all that I’ve heard about the famous gambling hub, it was still a stunning structure.  Even more underwhelming was the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, but the views from the courtyards of the royal residence were impressive.  Upon the same hill as the palace is Princess Grace Kelly’s grave, in the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, along with the other monarchs of Monaco’s past.

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Casino de Monte-Carlo

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Prince’s Palace of Monaco

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Views from the Palace courtyards

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Grace Kelly’s burial site

For me, where Monaco lacked in architectural richness, it made up for in linguistic diversity.  Similar to Nice, but even more so, Italian influences intermingled with French flair.  Though it has been a year since I have studied Italian, after 5 years of study, I was pleased to find that I could still understand some of the language that I saw and heard.  Studying in Nice would allow me to practice my French, as well as some Italian, keeping my language studies well-rounded.

When Olivia and I returned to Nice, we picked up a local snack called socca.  Socca is, essentially, a crêpe made out of chickpea flour.  Though I had never had chickpeas before, the socca tasted just as I imagined.  Served warm with only salt and pepper, it was slightly bland, but tasty.  It is not something I’ll ever be craving, but it was a nice lunchtime snack.

As the day progressed, we decided to pair our salty socca with sweet cupcakes.  Emma’s Cupcakes was luxe yet inviting, and though we could have spent the day in the shop, we took our treats to go. Sitting on the wall of the beachside Promenade, Olivia and I took a break from our miles of walking and enjoyed the sea, the sunshine, and our cupcakes. Similarly to those in Spain, the French cupcakes were not as delicious as I’d hoped. Though the Europeans can deliver delectable, flaky pastries, they are unable to master a squishy, moist cupcake.

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With plans to watch the sunset, Olivia and I walked along the Promenade, stopping on the beach so I could observe the shore of stones, instead of sand.  How does anyone enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice!?

We waited for the sunset at Castle Hill, the highest point in Vieux Nice, or Old Nice.  Unfortunately, weather and natural landscape took away from the overall effect of the experience, but the views of Nice were perfect.

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Funny side note:  While on Castle Hill, Olivia and I were shocked to spot a boy in the ocean!  Despite what the sunny photos may convey, it was chilly and windy, especially near the sea.  He stood in the waves for about 10-15 minutes, seemingly unaffected by the frigid temperatures of the winter water.

On the walk away from the viewpoint, after sunset, we found ourselves behind Crazy Ocean Boy!  Something had to be wrong with him, seeing as he was soaking wet wearing shorts and a T-shirt while his friends were dressed appropriately for the weather.

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Crazy Ocean Boy, toting his wet bathing suit and towel in a plastic bag.

Ready for dinner, Olivia brought me to Le Blue Whales, a recently renovated diner.  She explained that even though I was in France, I had to  try one of their burgers.  Though it is an American food, it was crafted by French hands, and that made a delicious difference.  It was easily one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, which I attribute to the house sauce.  It added a cool, flavorful compliment to the warm, juicy meat.  If any visitor of Nice is wary of spending a meal eating American food, burgers at Le Blue Whales is worth it!

The walk across town helped to digest our meals as we prepared to end our night with one last excursion.  Olivia told me that the Ferris Wheel in Place Masséna had been set up in the fall, but is not erected year-round.  Closing down Nice’s Carnival festivities, the ride was set to be removed the day of my departure.  I convinced my friend to take the Ferris Wheel up for nighttime views of the city.  Though distracted by the incessant, Nicoise wind (Olivia explained it is caused by the meeting of ocean and mountain air) and the teetering of our little gondola, we enjoyed yet another perspective of Nice.

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Day 3 – Èze

The town of Èze was on our agenda for Sunday morning.  On the same bus route to Monaco, just a closer stop, Èze is a mountain village located on the Mediterranean coast. Once we arrived, we quickly set off and began climbing through steep, narrow streets and tiny shops and restaurants to arrive at the top of Èze’s most accessible seaside cliff.  To experience the best views, we paid 4€ (2,50€ with my ISIC) to enter the exotic Jardin d’Èze.  Guiding you up the steps to the top of the cliff were cacti and other succulents of many different kinds.  Earth goddesses were also scattered among the plants, accompanied by prose of womanhood, love, and life.  The views of the French Riviera from Èze were even more brilliant than those from the night before.

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Goddess Isabeau: “Le sol me retient/ Et alors?/ J’ai la tête au ciel.

Though the ground keeps me rooted, my mind is in the heavens.

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Wanting to be well fed before my journey back to Madrid, Olivia and I got brunch at Café de la Place.  I desperately wanted a good, French, quiche lorraine, one of my favorite dishes, but the Quiche of the Day was ham, and I have had quite enough jamón in Spain!  I opted instead for the mini-brunch for 15€, where I chose three dishes from a list of about 10 breakfast staples.  Of my trifecta of choices, my least favorite were the pancakes, which were slightly undercooked.  My fruit salad was tiny, but refreshing, and lightened the rest of my meal.  The “egg muffin,” or breakfast sandwich, was fantastic, competing with Le Claire Fontaine’s pizza and Le Blue Whales’ burger for best fare of the trip.  Where I got fruit salad, Olivia got French toast, which I was curious to taste because of its name. The dish served at this restaurant was very eggy, and consequently soggy, leading me to favor American French toast.  We finished our little late-morning meals, leaving just enough room for one more treat.

I could not leave France without a crêpe!  Olivia recommended the restaurant Lovebio, the best crêpes that she’s had in Nice.  I was surprised at the choice because of the limited menu options and high prices, but nonetheless, I got a Nutella crêpe with whipped cream.  As it had seemed, the crêpe was not as tasty as I’d hoped.  In fact, I liked my crêpe from Madrid better than the French one.  I wonder if I do not appreciate the form and simplicity of a true French dessert, or if I just had a crappy crêpe.  Future French travels will tell.

Crêpes aside, I hope that further exploration into France reveals a stronger sense of French identity (because if I know anything about the French, I know that their ego exists, loud and proud).  During my visit, I was unable to recognize the Nicoise as people of France.  Though my judgements could be inaccurate due to the short length of my stay, it seemed as though there were too many tourists for Nice to retain its French character.  My expectations for French immersion may have been misplaced on this Mediterranean town.  As much as I appreciate the diversity of cultural influence in Nice, it wasn’t the France that I was looking for.

Visiting Nice, no matter what your motive, is like going on vacation.  With wide streets for strolling, where people feel the mountain/ocean breeze reach their senses, while greenery soaks up the Mediterranean sun, the city demands to be enjoyed.  Though I wasn’t there long, Nice affected me, as all seaside destinations do.  The beach-town vibes gave me joy in a way that city sensations simply can’t.  Yet as much as I felt at home in this French town, after the constant activity of metropolitan Madrid, I am unsure if I would like to study in Nice for an entire semester.  Forgetting future decisions, Nice is a beautiful city, with great food, great views, and a great summertime feel (even though I went in March).  Overall, my first trip to France was a success.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Nice

A.J.H.