lundi 11 avril 2011

Nice, Cannes and Paris vacation

Saturday - Cannes

I've had the most incredible and amazing weekend and that is only because of the kindness and generosity of some "strangers". It never ceases to amaze me how someone who doesn't even know you and who has never seen/met you before can be so nice to you, and would treat you as nice as your own family or long term friends would treat you.

Well I've been stressed with "this issue" (that is still ongoing so the stress is still ongoing too!) and anyway I decided to make a last minute decision to take a trip down south (as I stated earlier in this blog). I wrote an email to a friend of mine as I vaguely remembered that he told me he grew up down there. I thought maybe he could suggest some things for me to see or do, although I did not explicitly ask him this. I just wrote him a vague and short message thinking maybe he would be happy and/or excited for me, that's all.

What I did not expect was... He suggested that I could stay with his mother who lives in the hills of Cannes, in a beautiful town 10 minutes away. At the time of me writing to him I had already contacted quite a few Couchsurfers in Nice and Cannes about staying with them but had not received a positive reply yet so I was overjoyed that he said that and said "Yes! I would LOVE to stay with his mother!"

A few hours later I got a reply from him saying he had called his mother and that I could stay with her and she would love to host me. I also received a lovely email from her herself.

Now about this friend... He's French and I met him in Shanghai when we were both living there. I put a message up on a forum asking if anyone knew where I could buy such a such a product and he said that he had it and that he could give it to me since he didn't need it anymore. I thought that was very nice and we agreed to meet up. We only spent a few minutes with each other and then we never saw each other again! But, we managed to stay in contact over the last 3.5 years (!!) purely by email. I wouldn't exactly say it was a strong friendship but the fact that we're still friends and in contact says a lot I think... Anyway, he was the first French person I became friends with.

Then, around the time mid-last year (2010) when I was getting ready to move to France he contacted me asking me if he knew of anyone who could offer him a job in Australia as he was looking for a way to immigrate there. Since he's an engineer I put him in contact with my father and he went back and forth over several months weighing up all his options. In the end he thanked me but he said he decided to go with another company who said they could sponsor him but first he had to spend some time in Hong Kong. So he's currently still living in Hong Kong but he recently got his permanent visa for Australia and can move there after he marries his current partner so he can bring her over too.

I can't help but wonder if he was nice to me because I was nice to him and (tried to) help him out? It's funny how when you're nice to people without expecting anything in return, you eventually get it back. I really believe in karma and this is just one example, I think.

So, to say that I was tired when I arrived in Cannes was a complete understatement. I'd stayed up to almost 1am the night before stressing over this "issue" and then I had to get up at 6am to leave by 6:30am to catch my train. It was quite cold and I left a bit too late and basically had to run to the train station. It was still a bit dark when I left and the air going into my ears was really cold, giving me a splitting earache (which feels like someone put hot pokers in them) so by the time I arrived I was out of breath, sweating with a throbbing head/ears. I almost blacked out. "No worries!" I thought (in my Australian accent). I'll just sleep on the train. Easier said than done!

Seriously, I THINK EVIL THOUGHTS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO TALK LOUDLY AND NON-STOP ON LONG PLANE OR TRAIN JOURNEYS. Honestly, I just want to scream WOULD YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SIT THE FUCK DOWN?! God Damn it. Why do people have to keep getting up and walking up and down? What the heck is wrong with them? And a train is PUBLIC transport. It's not your own bloody private living room and the whole world does not want to hear your goddamn inane conversation at 100 decibels for hours and hours on end!

The first half of my 6 HOUR train ride was OK and I got some rest but the second half was just hell and I gave up.

Reminded me of Sydney...

Then, minutes before my train was due to arrive in Cannes (bad timing) I got:
1) an SMS from a guy in Nice who said he could meet up with me and show me the town.
2) a call from a woman regarding "the important issue".

Since I was then in a tunnel I couldn't respond to either of them and then I had to get off the train, and then my friend's mother (C) was there waiting for me, warmly welcoming me.

She was talking and asking me various things and telling me about Cannes and to be honest I was distracted as hell because I really wanted to respond to both of those people but I thought it'd be a bit rude since we'd just met for the first time and she was so welcoming and happy to see me, etc and talking at a million miles a minute... So I just forgot about it for while...

My first thought was when I arrived was.... I feel like I'm back home in Sydney! The weather, the sun, the sea, the plants/trees/flowers. It all seems so familiar. The only thing that's really different (as always) are the houses and the architecture. I couldn't have been luckier with an 18°C day, sunny and a light sea breeze.

As much as I wanted to explore and see the city I actually wanted and needed to sleep. My head felt like mush and I actually felt like I'd been on a plane and passed through different timezones or something! So she took me back to her house (about 10 minutes drive away) and we had lunch. Then I rested for a bit (actually I tried to but I was so hyped up and pumped up and soooooo excited to be there that I couldn't!). I told her I really needed to use the internet and a printer to sort out this "issue" and I felt soooooo bad that I had to bother her with that and I felt so annoyed that I couldn't enjoy my holiday in peace. The whole time I couldn't really relax because I needed to sort out this "issue" and that was the reason why I had to cut my holiday short and go to Paris.

We had some problems connecting my computer to the internet and couldn't figure out why and she said she'd call her son. We ended up talking to him (in Hong Kong) on Skype and it's funny because I have NEVER spoken to him on Skype before! I don't even know his account username. And the first time I ever talk to him on Skype is at his mother's place! I spoke to him in both French and English and he said that my French had really improved.

It's funny... I remember the very first email I ever wrote to him in French well. I said something about "votre photos" and he corrected me and said that I don't need to "vous" him and to call him "tu" and that because photos are plural I need to say "tes photos". I'll never forget that!  Ahh... How far I've come in my French! :D

We didn't get the problem solved but I managed to solve it myself sort of by accident by trying a few different things with the buttons on the LiveBox. Hurray! I could finally get online to email the person about "the issue".

C and I had some tea around 4-5pm and then I really had to go and get some rest before her soirée! I knew there was no way I could stay awake if I didn't.

I slept till just before the guests arrived, at 7pm. God that sleep was heavenly. You have no idea how much I love staying over at strangers'/friend's places when they give me my own nice big room, with a big bed, and nice fresh clean crisp sheets. OMG it's heavenly compared to when I'm living in a tiny tiny room with a single bed. Every time that has happened I seriously don't ever want to leave! Also I often sleep better at other people's houses because it's much quieter than where I am at the school.

So her friends came over and they were all lovely. A lot of the time when you're at a party with people you don't know they often don't bother to include you in their conversation but they really made an effort with me, even offering to speak to me in English (but I said I preferred to speak French).

We had a delicious seafood Paella for dinner followed by a frozen dessert from Picard. Since my friend's mother is divorced and lives alone and has a busy social life (like all single people I know!) she doesn't have much time to cook so the Paella was bought and pre-made by a shop but it didn't matter because it and the dessert were both still delicious.

Her friends had been out sailing all day so were understandably very tired and it finished relatively early at around 10-10:30pm.

Sunday - Nice

The next day we were off to Nice! It worked out perfectly because by going with them I didn't have to worry about transport (lots of time and money saved - yay!), I get to spend time with them AND do my own thing because 2 of her friends (a couple) who had also stayed overnight at her place and her were going to see the opera.

Unfortunately, because I forgot to reply to this guy's SMS he told me he had changed his plans and was now doing something with some friends. I was a bit disappointed but had no hard feelings. I had so much fun exploring and walking around everywhere until I was even more exhausted than I thought possible. It was warm and sunny. C, being so motherly towards me, told me to bring my coat in case it got coat and I was annoyed I was carrying my winter coat in a backpack all day long when all I wanted to do was to put in a t-shirt. I was sweating like crazy in my long-sleeve top! I kept thinking and feeling I was back home in Sydney. It was a weird yet happy feeling and made me more homesick than ever. However I was extremely content to be in the beautiful south of France and was in no hurry to go back home yet.

This picture reminds me of California or Hawaii

Pebbly beach

Another (bad) thing that reminded me of Sydney was... I found my allergies returning! Strange. Or maybe not so strange.  Because I noticed that the trees, plants and flowers were very similar to what we have in Sydney I also happened to notice my allergies starting to flare up (which I never got in the whole 6 months+ that I've been here!) Prior to that unfortunate event I actually thought that I would LOVE to live in Nice. In fact, I would die to live in Nice. It is gorgeous and and a good size. It has wonderful culture and restaurants. And of course the beach/sea. It's unfortunate that the beach is made of pebbles and not sand though.

One of the first things we did after we parked the car in the underground carpark was walk through a farmer's market. Now of course I'd been to markets before in various cities in France but for the first time... I don't know why... maybe because of the warmer weather... I could really smell everything. I could smell the olives, the tomatoes, the oranges, the strawberries... My nose was being assaulted by the most delicious of flavours and taste sensations I was probably almost salivating. It was just heavenly.

First time I noticed these funky tomatoes ("coeur de boeuf" / heart of beef)!

We walked through several gorgeous streets of Nice (you know the typically French ones with that are narrow and cobble-stoned) before settling down in a big restaurant (La Claire Fontaine) overlooking Place Rossetti, a fountain and an old church. It all looked so Italian. Even many street and building names were Italian!

This is what I ordered:

Farandale des Mais 
Assortiment de pissaladière, tourte de courgettes, beignets de courgettes et d'aubergine, farcis niçois, poivrons au four.

It was beautifully presented and totally yummo (and something I had never tried before!)

After hearing great things about this well-known glacerie (ice cream shop) I was dying to have some! I only very rarely eat ice cream and so when I do I wanna make sure it's GOOD. I was told they have 100 flavours including cactus! I wasn't game enough to try it though. I did however want to try about 20 different flavours... I opted for the pina colada flavour since it's a taste I really like.

Then they took me to the Place Masséna (photos below) and then went to the watch the opéra. Now, because I didn't manage to reply to that guy in time we couldn't meet up and I was a little bit disappointed but not overly. Afterall, I had MORE than enough things to do in the 4 hours that I had. In fact it would be a race against time to see everything since Nice is quite big and I was only going on foot.

I was actually still pretty tired but had to forget about that and just keep walking and walking and walking... I felt so stupid to be carrying around a big winter coat when I was sweating like crazy.

I passed through a gorgeous tropical looking park with a carousel.

I did a bit of research the night before and wanted to go to the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l'image because 1) I love photography and 2) it's free! Whenever I'm visiting a city I like to still keep costs down and do as many free things as possible and there is usually always some kind of museum or art gallery that is free. Plus it was such a beautiful day I did not want to spend it inside so it would've been a waste of time/money to go to a bigger museum/gallery.

I saw the photos of German August Sander and a cute collection of old cameras right in the lobby of the building. It was enough culture for me because I wanted to make the most of the great outdoors!

I kept walking and walking wanting to get back to the sea again not realising just how big Nice was and how the map I had on me was really crap. I'd taken the wrong map with me when I left the house that morning and this was a bus maps which didn't show clearly all the little roads. That's when I got a bit lost and a random elderly gentleman came up to me and offered to help me! That was the FIRST time anyone in France had offered to help me when I was lost. Sure lots of times if I asked someone to show me where something was on the map they were polite and helpful but this time it was different!

And let's not forget the two random people who offered to take my photo for me (with my camera). That has NEVER happened before either. (Then, later, when I left Cannes, a young man offered me his seat at the station and that has never happened before either).

It really is true that the people down south are more easygoing and friendly.

Park with lots of people playing Pétanque


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