Monday, March 14, 2011

Best Vacation Part 1: Nice and Monaco

The beach in Nice - a nice (hah) break from Normandy in February
Last week I got back from an epic two-week long adventure with some of the other assistants here.  Right after I got off work on the last Friday, I jumped on a train to Paris and then changed to another train that would take me on an overnight journey to Nice. I was so excited! I hadn't been on a sleeper train since I was about 3 years old I think... it was a bit cramped but then I woke up to this view in the morning:

Good morning, French Riviera!

A quick stop in Cannes
I got off the train and met my friend Megan, who had arrived the night before. The first thing I noticed about Nice was all the color.







And I just about flipped when I saw palm trees! Oh how I missed palm trees! The whole city really reminded me of being in Southern California... the sunshine, the trees, the laid-back feel of it... the beach was different though. Little pebbles instead of sand.
It made such a cool crackling sound when the tide went out.
One of the reasons we decided to go that weekend was that it was the start of CARNAVAL! I'd never experienced Carnaval in Europe so I was excited to see what it was all about. We got some good seats for a couple parades... one was called "La Bataille des Fleurs" (flower battle!).

CONFETTI!

Then Megan and I climbed a big hill to get a better look of the city. It was just as the sun was setting and it made everything extra gorgeous.





Me and Megan
Then later we saw another parade!


Megan had a cool mask so I tried to make one too :(

In the morning we headed to Monaco with one of our new friends we met in the hostel. By the way, the hostel where we stayed in Nice was the absolute best one I've seen. It was called the Villa Saint Exupery Beach, if anyone is interested. Amazing!
We weren't originally planning to go to Monaco but it was only 20 minutes away on the train for about a 5 euro round trip! We'd be crazy not to go. So off we went.

Notice our first class seats.
As we got there it started to rain, but it was still gorgeous. I was thinking about Grace Kelly all day... what it must have been like to be a pretty American girl and leave everything to come be the Princess of Monaco at age 26. We didn't get to see her tomb since that part of the cathedral was being worked on.



We had to pay a visit to the Casino Monte Carlo! This was the big fancy part, where they didn't allow cameras inside... it's for the big spenders. Next door there was a much more modern building with the Salle des Jeux Americains (American game room), where there was free entry and slot machines. I'd never gambled before so I thought the Monte Carlo would be as good a place as any to start (and finish). I didn't understand the games at all and before I knew it I had spent 10 euro in about 2 minutes flat. I made Megan leave right then so I didn't spend any more... Pretty dumb but hey, it was the Monte Carlo! And I didn't derive any pleasure from it whatsoever so I don't think I'm in danger of developing a gambling problem.

Faaancy cars
I wouldn't mind staying in this hotel... right next to the Monte Carlo with a great view.
After our little Monaco excursion we headed back to Nice to catch another sleeper train back to Paris. Before that we had a really good dinner (and I had my 2nd salade niçoise of the weekend) with some new hostel friends.
:)
Right before we got on the train I had to show one of the palm trees some love. It may be a while until I see one again. :)

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