Living in France was more than a life-changing experience. Rather, it was a series of surreal moments and personal growth and new challenges, often on a daily basis. I have always been independent, but living in France gave me the opportunity to try something completely new: traveling alone.
I taught English during my second year working in France, and a benefit of working for the education department was the paid school holidays. I lived off rice and beans while teaching to afford to travel during all the breaks! That February, after carefully consulting a map and the train lines in France, I decided to travel to two unexplored cities (Toulouse and Marseille) and one old favorite (Nice) before meeting up with family in Paris.
My first stop was Toulouse, “la ville rose.” It took three trains to get there, and by the time I was checked into my hostel, I had only a little energy. That first night I relaxed by visiting Bapz, a darling tea room recommended to me by friends. Decorated with vintage dresses, old hats, parasols, and other charming items, Bapz embodied the tea room of my dreams.
The next day I explored the city, stopping whenever something caught my eye. My favorite was the Church of the Jacobins and its cloister, with the tomb for St. Thomas Aquinas. The day was mostly gray with light rain, but while I was sitting in front of his tomb, the sun emerged from the clouds, allowing the colored light from the stained glass windows to dance upon the walls. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
I splurged on brunch at Bapz. I couldn’t help myself!
I made a friend N from New Zealand at the hostel. That night and the next day, we toured the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation, wandered around the city a bit, and enjoyed several good meals together… including a snack at Bapz!
After three nights in Toulouse, I once again caught an early train, this time, to Marseille. I arrived just in time to meet my friend K from undergrad for a picnic lunch at the beach! I met up with her again that night, which resulted in my first (and only) motorcycle ride. You have not lived until you have seen the streets of France from the back of a motorcycle.
The next day, I took a quick trip to Aix-en-Provence to meet up with E, a friend of mine from church. The weather was gray again, so we mostly window-shopped and dined.
My last full day in Marseille was low-key and spent with my hostel roommate (and new friend!) T. She and I toured the Natural History Museum, but otherwise just enjoyed the sunshine.
Marseille wasn’t the best of French cities, but my next destination was—and is—my second-favorite city in France. This was my third trip to Nice, and definitely not my last! Being the meticulous planner that I am, I managed to be in Nice during Carnavale.
My first full day in Nice was very relaxed. I bought tapenade, bread, and fresh strawberries from the famous Marché des Fleurs for a picnic lunch by the beach (in the rain… still awesome). The highlight of the day was definitely the parade for Carnavale. I bought a standing ticket, so I was right in the middle of all the action. It rained the entire time, but that’s why I had my rain coat! At the hostel that night, I (surprise) made a new friend, another American teaching English. T and I ended up talking for six hours straight!
The next morning I was ready for something new, so I ventured on a day trip to Saint Paul de Vence, the birthplace of impressionism. Beautiful sights, beautiful art, amazing history… I was in heaven. I ran into T at the hostel again that night, and we spent another six hours talking.
I dedicated my last day in Nice to the art museums I had missed on my two previous trips. I loved the Musée des Beaux Arts, but I was largely unimpressed by the Matisse museum.
I hated leaving Nice, but I only had an overnight train between me and Paris, the City of Love… Which you can read all about here!
Guest post by Belle Vierge. A fellow feminist who loves to travel! Find her here: http://www.findingmyvirginity.com