A plate of gratin de la fruit de mer, butter rice and a glass of 1.5 euro rosé (yes, wines are that cheap in France, cheaper than a cup of cappuccino) were staring at me. On my right, one yacht after another were calmly resting against a colorful backdrop of yellow, orange, red, and blue. I felt like I was part of a movie. Any moment now, James Bond in his Aston Martin would speed by chasing after a Russian spy.
I was having dinner in one of the restaurants along Quai Lunel on my last night in Nice.
After a whirlwind week of Madrid, Toledo, Granada, and Sevilla, I gladly returned to France even though that meant facing another 20-hours’ train ride from Seville to Avignon. No disrespect to Spain, it’s just a personal preference or perhaps I didn’t give Spain much chance to prove itself, but returning to France did feel a little like returning to civilization for me.
Avignon was my first stop on my Provence-Côte d’Azur leg of the trip and it was there that I celebrated my 4th weekend in Europe. Yeah, it was the halfway mark of my 2 months’ Eurotrip. By then, I was already fully at ease at being in a foreign land alone. I slept soundly at nights, no longer worrying what train strikes tomorrow might bring. I wandered the streets alone, map tucked in my back pocket, barely concerned that I could be lost. I shopped for frozen dinners at the supermarkets, bought fruits from the local markets and strolled into laundromats with the locals. I spent my 4th Sunday in Europe lazing on the grass atop Rocher des Doms, overlooking Pont d’Avignon. “Sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse, sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse tous en rond….” was playing an infinite loop inside my head by the time I called it a day.
On the other hand, Nice with all its modernism was a stark contrast to Avignon with its feel of medievalism. Avignon’s intact city walls was like a Yin to the Yang of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. Cobblestone versus paved, quaint little inn on a back alley versus sea-facing 5-star hotel, middle ages versus 20th century. My train ride from Avignon to Nice could have been a time travel indeed.
I had kicked off my 5th week by donning my bikini and joining the throng of tourists sun-tanning by the Mediterranean sea. A couple of days later, my peeling skins garnered a few “ouch” from fellow travelers on the breakfast table.
Sighing, I turned my attention back to my gratin. Nice had been the perfect place to start the second half of my Eurotrip. It reminded me that Europe wasn’t all about history and old architectures, but there’s also a glitzy and glamorous side to it.
Tomorrow, I would leave for Milan. I gently swirled the rosé inside my wine glass and silently toasted myself to an incredible one month. Goodbye ‘bonjour’, it’s ‘buon giorno’ for the next 2 weeks 🙂