Tuesday, July 31, 2012

French Riviera

French Riviera

Barcelona > French Riviera
Day 10

Today was pretty uneventful.  It was another long day on the coach riding from Barcelona to the French Riviera.  With the whole credit card situation still fresh on my mind, it seemed to skew the portion of the trip where I was stressing…a lot more than I would have liked.  We stopped in Arles, where, Zac explained, was the place that Van Gogh was for about a year, right before he was taken to the mental institution.  I was always appreciative of the artwork Van Gogh created, in the same way I am to any artist that puts their heart into their craft, and liked that he was a little nutty as well.  It was in the National Gallery, just about 2 weeks before arriving here, that realized how much I really loved his work and colors and technique.  It is crazy how art can do that.  One day, it is just the starry night, and the next one of the most incredible pieces you have ever seen.  Not that I saw it, but I still loved being able to walk around the place that Van Gogh had set out to make his utopia, away from the chaos of Paris, especially since I had had such a recent infatuation with him.  The town was very quaint and they must have had a farmers market or fish market of some sort right before we arrived there because it REAKED of fish and there was a gentleman that was hosing off a particularly fishy area.  There was a charming merry-go-round and it really didn’t seem like much, although Van Gogh painted over 300, including a few of his more famous ones, here, using the still standing cafes and scenery as inspiration.  A few of the girls and I went over to a little road off the main street to grab some food and souvenirs.  I was not in the mood to eat, after smelling all the fish, but I did buy a precious little lavender satchel to put in my luggage (which about now did not smell like the clean laundry detergent smell it had in the beginning).  Grabbed my usual postcards, a few which had Van Gogh’s paintings on them and went to sit in the sun where the rest of the group was.  It was a very pretty sunny day, but I was literally having such a prissy moment because I could not get over how bad it smelled.  Back on the coach we did our usual sleeping and chatting.  The boys had recently gotten REALLY into playing monopoly on Bethany’s iPad, which was pathetically really entertaining to watch.  We drove around the coastline of Côte d’Azur, which was breathtaking.  This was really when the phrase, “Just around the corner,” got its sarcastic meaning in the group.  Zac CONSTANTLY said it about the location of landmarks and had said it about the location of the perfume factory (we were set to visit in the morning) in respect to our lodging location… which is, was NOT just around the corner.  In the past, he had said this about places we were walking to, so I had a bit of a sarcastic fit, at the time thinking we were going to have to walk there in the morning, which was easily a 20 min drive, and brought to the attention of the entire bus that whenever Zac says, “Just around the corner,” that he is a big liar.  This became a joke through the rest of the trip.  We arrived at our UPGRADED lodging @ Hotel D' le Albatros…which was so beautiful and lovely.  It was a legit hotel and (I think because out room had been SO TINY at the Chateau) Zac gave us a 2 story villa!  Emma, Kate and I were living the life in ours, which also featured the coveted washer!  We had a dry rack and a balcony outside the second floor we could dry everything on.  In the hotel, there was also free Wi-Fi, a pool and wonderful service.  After a wonderful dinner, I grabbed my phone and headed to the lobby to try and deal with the credit card drama.  The front desk attendant was French, but had gone to Sweden to learn English and told me out front that all his French friends have no desire to learn English.  He was super cute (he totally looked Swedish) and put my soul to ease a little, talking to me about life when the Wi-Fi started acting up and eventually shut down, even letting me use the hotel phone to call home (which my parents, OF COURSE didn’t answer).  I must have looked like I was loosing it or maybe he was just the first kind French person I had met at that point because he was such a breath of fresh air and although I didn’t get everything resolved, I went right to sleep and slept well.

French Riviera
Day 11

We all got up and quickly showered before breakfast in preparation for the day!  Off to Nice to play in the Mediterranean Sea, stopping only first at a real perfumery (the one that was just around the damn corner, but I was happy we were driving there).  The breakfast, like everything else at this accommodation was perfect.  Normally before going to the beach, I would have been fasting for at least 3 days, but the damn baguettes and croissants were too good for anyone to pass up.  The Fragonard Perfumery was actually very interesting.  They make everything there and we got to see the process in which they make essential oils, turn things into perfume (or eau de toilette) and finally bottle or make soap.  They let us try 5 different perfumes and explained how real perfume is in these aluminum cans, because it doesn’t allow the perfume to age, as opposed to glass (if you ever have an old perfume or eau de toilette and it has turned to a brownish color, it is because it is not aging properly and in the wrong container) and see how the different fragrances change on a persons skin.  I always thought I would like a citrus scent, but it was the fruity one that was so nice on, and because the factory does not market or is in any other store, perfume (usually VERY expensive) was the same price as eau de perfume or eau de toilette (what most department store sell).  Score for us!  I loved the scent so much, that even though I was on the tiniest budget ever, I decided to get a little bottle (not the smallest, but close) for 30 €.  I wish I was able to get a bottle for all my friends for Christmas, but who knows what it would have smelled like when it was on their skin, so it is probably for the better.  On the coach we headed down the beautiful coast to the beaches of Nice.  This was one of the places, I really had no idea what to expect of, but it completely blew my mind.  Zac had suggested paying for a lounge chair on the beach at a café, because the beach was pebbles.  Well actually the beach was rocks.  They were smoothed over rocks from the water, but rocks non-the less.  Emma and I took 2 chairs that were right next to the water and I had a lovely older woman next to me that was topless and liked speaking to me…with her boobs staring right at me.  No biggie.  I got a tropical little drink (although I felt like I should have been drinking champagne, but who am I joking, like I had the cash flow for that) and a cheese baguette sandwich.  The setting was so beautiful; that it feels like calling it beautiful is cheating.  It was so much more.  It was the first really warm, sunny, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day.  The water, although it was a little steep to walk to and I ended up scooting on my tush to, was cold and salty.  My first time swimming in the Mediterranean and I could feel myself tearing up every now and then, because I had always felt this sea calling out to me.  The water was crystal clear and was saltier than the Atlantic, Pacific or even the Gulf.  I tanned up and enjoyed the French here, much more than in Paris (I think the sunlight made them happier people here), and it is really the only reason why I had a good experience with the people of France.  After an afternoon of sunbathing and playing around on the first day we really got to relax, we took our happy butts back to the coach pick up to go eat dinner at the hotel, get ready and head out to Monaco!
            Emma, Kate and I got ready in absolute record speed, even though we all had to shower and get dolled up for our fancy night out in Monaco.  I had received word from my dad, that he had Western Unioned money and I could pick it up in Venice, which was our next stop, so I decided I would splurge a little and spend the 25€ it cost to get into the Monte Carlo Casino.  I was on a hunt to find a rich European husband here…or at least pretend to have money!  The streets of Monaco were so windy and narrow, but the bay was filled with bazillion dollar yachts, the girls and I had fun pretending which was ours, like we were 5 years old, except we were expressing how exactly we would get and KEEP a man with a yacht like that…if you know what I mean.  This coach ride was when I heard for the first time about the conspiracies with the monarchy there and Princess Grace’s death.  Not surprised that she was supposedly killed, but that I didn’t have any knowledge about it before.  We could see the castle on the top of the hill, looking over the harbor with our beloved yachts in them.  We got off the coach and walked up the big hill till we were standing in front of the Casino.  We took a group picture in front of the casino, right at sunset, and the group split into the ones who wanted to spend the money on getting into the casino, or the ones who wanted to go into the free places.  We were all prepared to check our cameras before entering the casino, but it was a quiet Sunday night and they did not make us check anything.  The casino was so opulent and awe inspiring.  It is what people dream of when they think of the word opulent.  There were chandeliers with crystals that sparkled and gold everything and beautiful wall embellishments, even the bathroom were a giant mirror.  Literally.  The doors, the walls, everything was a mirror.  The toilets were even amazing!  We all got some drinks (I got the cheapest wine on the menu, only 7€, which surprised me) and went out on the balcony.  For some reason, I thought this was the opportune time to ask Zac, “So do you think they conspiracies about Princess Grace and the monarchy were true?”  I didn’t think it was possible for someone’s eyes to get as big and expressive as his did, as he whispered, “Megan, you cant talk about that kind of thing here.”  I had a moment of, “why the fuck did I say that here,” then a moment of absolute panic, thinking of microphones in the columns I was standing next to, then fear of secret agents coming in and tackling me off the balcony onto the beautiful $500,000 cars below me.  Good move, Megan.  Turn the dumbass comment filter on please.  After that, I decided more wine and any other alcohol I could get my hands on would be a good idea.  If they were going to kill me, might as well go out in style/drunk.  Luckily, the secret agents must have been on holiday, because here I am, still alive, writing a blog.  We ran into Bethany, who had lost like 200€ in roulette and was at some slot machines, relatively calm about it.  I started playing the slot machine next to her, and had a moment where the machine started making a lot of noise and lighting up after I hit something and we all thought I was winning the jackpot!...come to find out I just won like 10 credits.  I felt like such a jackass, and Emma and I walked our happy, tipsy asses out of there, down the hill in heels and onto the coach for a long, quiet ride back to the hotel.  I needed some good sleep anyways.  Tomorrow was what I had been waiting on my entire life…Italia!!

Au revoir France.  Ciao Italia!

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