Fulfilling my Childhood Dream Of Visiting France
Did you ever watch Madeline when you were younger? Or read any of her stories? The little French girl with the bright red hair was my idol growing up. Everything about her inspired me from her loyalty to her friends to her bravery. I hoped to one day experience an adventure of my own that was as story-book worthy. Madeline also triggered a love of France, which stuck with me through the entirety of my adolescence when it became a full-fledged obsession after I discovered Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. I wore berets–possibly the least cool thing for a ‘90s kid to wear–and in the summer, I went to an awesome French camp in Minnesota.
Though I spoke the language and yearned to experience the culture first hand, my dream of visiting France never came true.
That is, until a few weeks ago.
One of the best things about living in Europe is that traveling to and fro is pretty easy and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, either–if you do it right! The only thing you really need to account for when planning your trip are the public transportation strikes, especially in Italy and France where strikes are almost a weekly occurrence. Interesting tidbit: I did not even consider the idea that there could be a train strike on the exact day I was supposed to arrive in Nice. Which, of course, means that there was. I, along with my travel companions, was stuck on the border of France in the Italian city of Ventimiglia, essentially 40 kilometers away from Nice, making it an expensive taxi ride.
Had I been alone, I honestly don’t know what I would have done, but if there is one thing you need to know about going from Ventimiglia to Nice by taxi it’s this: the cost was 150 big ones, but it was well worth it. Why? Because, for one thing, the taxis in Ventimiglia are MIA until one in the morning and even then you have to call one to come get you. The second reason is that there were a lot of shady people claiming to offer taxi services. Unless your completely normal car has a bright pink moustache attached to the grill, I’m not getting in.
Italy was not coming through for us and so it was France to the rescue! Out of the clear blue, a legitimate taxi pulled up to the train station and as the person in the backseat exited, the cabby called out, “Nice! Anyone here going to Nice?” Five shouts of, “Oui!” could probably be heard throughout the town as we got to our feet and put our luggage in the trunk. Forty-five minutes later, we were walking the streets of Nice.
There’s something really exciting about rekindling an old flame, even if the flame I’m talking about happens to be a country. Nice reminded me of all the reasons why I fell in love with France years ago. Walking along the Promenade des Anglais and looking out at the glittering sea was something I will not soon forget. I could not stop myself from saying how beautiful everything was.
From there, we walked inward to the Rue de la Prefécture for a taste of an open-air market. Wandering through the different booths selling fruits, vegetables, fish, and sachets of lavender only made our group hungry. During breakfast I tried my first pan au chocolat and café au lait. Living in Italy, I am absolutely spoiled when it comes to coffee and sweet things at the morning meal, but I was not left for want after these two simple treats.
Feeling revived, we decided to tackle a hill on the western side of the port, which promised more incredible vistas. Each lookout offered a more spectacular scene than the last and it was hard to know just how many pictures were too many pictures. Beauty-overload will do that.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon were spent in a way the French would be proud of: an outdoor restaurant in optimal people-watching position, a little white wine, followed by a leisurely stroll around town. For one euro and fifty cents, we decided to take a bus from Nice to Monte Carlo–definitely the best use of my pocket change yet. The amazing views of the sea, the palm trees, and the cliff-top houses are the things of old Hollywood films and I feel lucky to have seen them for myself.
As we made our way back to Italy, I couldn’t help but miss France, otherwise known as my first love.