A Travellerspoint blog

Nice

This was definitely a work week

sunny 21 °C

It's now a little more than 2 weeks since we've been in France, and it feels more like a month. No wonder, we are on to our 4th place tomorrow in Antibes for a week. Why Antibes, you ask, when I just got a job in Nice? Well, a couple of reasons. Luke has found a company there that he would love to work for in Antibes; ultimate is centred in Antibes; and it's a cumbersome process sorting out where we'll be living and when, finding the best price for our bleeding bank account. Feeling originally that we'd made the rounds in Nice without much luck originally, we felt we should spread ourselves out and look further afield. So I will commute from Antibes for my first week of work.
Well, just after we booked our place in Antibes, I got a lucky break with a job. It's lucky because the timing was just right: a teacher they'd had wasn't working out for them, and another had visa problems.
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Knowing that we'll be in the area for a long time now, it feels less pressing that we "tourist it up", as we like to say. We spent much of the week looking into jobs and places to stay for the following week; looking for jobs on foot (in this heat!) is exhausting; our feet are quite tired.
But, we found a place in Nice with a family with a young daughter; they are very generous and great to stay with. We have our own wing of the apartment to ourselves, and they like to have us eat dinner with them, so we contribute a bit to the meal and we have great food and conversation each night, not to mention lots of wine. Goran, our host, loves to serve les aperitifs, each day before dinner - little snacks, often salty, to munch on with some wine. In the evenings, there is jazz on the stereo, and we eat at 8 pm after snacking for an hour or so. It's been a very enjoyable stay, just like the last. At the moment, Luke is battling it out with Goran over a game of chess. So far, Air BnB is the way to go! IMG_4515.jpg

So, Antibes tomorrow, where we can spend the weekend at the beach - Juan les Pins! So excited to see that beach again! Sandy, rather than pebbly or rocky beaches! Yes we will! We will add some pictures of Nice soon :) Now the search is on for a permanent place to live. Yes, it's been only been 2 weeks being transient, but it's becoming quite a chore to find the next place; really looking forward to settling for good!

Thanks for all the warm thoughts, guys! Really excited that things are working out like we hoped!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 10:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

Marseille

sunny 25 °C

On Saturday, Sept. 29, we ambitiously lugged our heavy suitcases to the station on foot - repacked carefully to distribute weight! The weight of checked luggage on the flights has to be under 50 lbs - now we could switch some things around. To the subway on crooked cobbled streets we wheeled the suitcases, down the steps and awkwardly through the narrow wickets; changed at another subway - up more steps, and down some more - to finally emerge at Gare du Lyon, ready for our train. It makes me tired just reliving that.

Next to us on the train was Pauline, a girl from Marseille returning home. She was great company and answered many questions for us about things like cell phone companies, where to live, etc.. The train was a high speed one, getting us to Marseille in 3 hours. In Paris, we'd arranged an "Air BnB" for Marseille - this is a vacation rental that people can post themselves, often where you stay with the owner in their extra room. We are staying with Emy and Mikael, a young couple who are exceptionally kind, and when they discovered we were moving here, got right into helping us any way they could. They live close to the train station, and in an apartment on the 3rd floor. Their apartment is an interesting design: the rooms are all connected on one side by a hallway, and on the other by the balcony - so you can access each room from the balcony. Probably common here because it's so warm.

Honestly, our first impressions of this city weren't so nice. There is graffiti everywhere - and not the nice artistic kind, but the defacing kind; there is a fair amount of litter, and garbage bins remain out in the streets for emptying; many of the buildings are in various states of disrepair and many are quite dirty. We were not in the Old Port tourist area, but nonetheless, we were a little surprised. The next day was Sunday, and despite the rain, we made a point of walking around to explore. Our impressions didn't improve, but then we've been told that the rain makes everyone from the South sad and so they stay home. Also, there are no shops open on Sundays, so it's difficult even to stop while out walking in the rain for a coffee or a bite to eat. This was discouraging.
With Monday came the sun though, and our spirits brightened. We toured the Old District and walked around some of the nicer waterfront areas, though unfortunately the waterfront is under major reconstruction right now and is quite torn up. Since the sun was out, we decided to head for the beach, where we also wanted to check out one of the only parks, it seemed, in Marseille. While this park lacked a formal field, it had green space - something we both felt we need, having spent so much time in highly dense and populated cities for the past week. We finally got to throw a disc! :D

This week, we got into a great habit of buying groceries for dinner and a baguette for sandwiches the next day for lunch; this meant we could stop at a bar (or bars) during our day for drinks :) Wine of course, is so cheap! IMG_4362.jpg IMG_4325.jpgIMG_4440.jpg
Over the week, we visited some of the sites in and around Marseille, including:

  • Notre Dame de la Major - an enormous cathedral in front of the main port in Marseille. It wasn't open, so no going inside, but the outside structure was quite photogenic even though it wasn't in a super nice part of town.

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  • Notre-Dame de la Garde, on the top of hill in the centre of the city that provided an absolutely stunning 360 panoramic of the city and the coast. The church itself was a marvel, with the floors and ceiling done elaborately in mosaic. This was the prettiest church we've seen so far, the interior being very colourful from the floor right up to the ceiling, with models of boats hanging in rows along the sides. We were pleased with ourselves that we made our way here via public bus rather than taking the silly tourist choo-choo train to this spot. This is the Isle d'If (The Island of If - with the prison on the island being the setting for the Count of Monte Cristo. This is the view of the island from the top of the hill. IMG_4411.jpg This is the Notre Dame de la Garde as seen from town.

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  • Les Calanques - a hike we did along the coast with many small inlets and bays (calanques) that you hike around. The coast, of course, is breathtaking with unobstructed views of islands and ridges with rough rock formations all the way along. We hiked for a little less than an hour and came across a small village, so we stopped for a drink. The food smelled so good that we decided to order some. The spaghetti bolognese was the best we'd ever tasted - too bad this place wasn't a little closer to where were staying! With a long way to go, we reluctantly moved on and further down the trail, found a private little calanque for a swim and sunning on the rocks :) The hike was scented the whole way with pines and wild rosemary, and we continued hiking through the afternoon in the sunshine with golden views of the coast. IMG_4483.jpg90_IMG_4496.jpg90_IMG_4493.jpg

I had thought I'd left the map at home, so we weren't exactly sure where we were headed, though the directions from the tourism office seemed pretty clear. It turns out, we were off. At 4:30, we found a family on the trail with a map and we discovered that we'd missed a turn (there were no signs, only coloured paint) and so we found a road, hitchhiked our way to civilization where we got a bus and finally made our way back home, very tired. While waiting for the bus, I was rooting around in the backpack and discovered that we had the maps with us the entire time. Sometimes getting lost is part of the fun ;) Thanks being adventurous with me Luke! 90_IMG_4489.jpg(And great suggestion Kent - absolutely beautiful hike indeed!)IMG_4503.jpg

  • Aix-en-Provence - a town about a half-hour bus ride from Marseille, but older, it seemed, with many street markets, fountains, and cobbled squares. Quite a pretty place to wander through. We boarded a bus in Marseille with the last of our cash, and suddenly we were worried - could we get back with only visa? It turns out, we could pull out cash from the machine with our bank card....no charges yet :)

90_IMG_4463.jpg These musicians serenaded our bottle of wine in one of the squares.
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On Friday night, Emy made us a traditional meal from her region of Dijon, called Boeuf Bourguignon. She had the aperos (sort of like appies) our with drinks before the meal, she made a point of getting a good couple bottles of wine for the meal, and did the liquors after dinner with desert. She had a couple of friends join us in the meal, and it was a great evening with many laughs. Luke made sure to defend Canada against jokes made about alcohol consumption - it was a valiant fight.
The next day, we boarded a train to Nice, where we hope we'll be successful finding jobs this coming week.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 23:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

Arrival

Exploring Paris

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport without a place to stay. We left it a little last minute, but Luke wasn't concerned. At the airport, we brought out the phones, found some WiFi (thanks McDonalds!), and create a list of hostels in Paris where we wanted to stay. With no luck booking online at that point, the lady at the info desk at the airport helped us make a couple of calls, and on the second call, we had ourselves a room! We made our way to the train and navigated our way into the city. At the enormous Gare du Nord, we thankfully got a cab to our hostel even though it was within a kilometre - carrying a year's worth of gear was awkward and very heavy.
Without having had much sleep on the plane, we were quite tired, but took only a short break before heading out to explore our neighbourhood of Montmarte, in Paris.
We were in awe of the cobbled streets, the boulangeries and pattiseries and brasseries everywhere, the 7 story buildings along every street, all with wrought-iron balcony railings, and the streets that seemed to have a pattern of triangles, rather than rectangles (like home). Finding our way around was tricky. After a mid-afternoon break, we set out to see Sacre-Coeur, the basilica that towered above our neighbourhood. It was magnificent, and even more so approaching it. The architecture was stunning, and I'm feeling this will become a recurring theme. As I write about it a week later, I can think of at least 5 other structures (churches, every one) that have also impressed us in the same way.
Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

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We forced ourselves to stay awake as long as 8 pm before finally crashing for a 13 hour sleep - we woke up just in time for the last 10 minutes of breakfast being served downstairs in our hostel. Nice timing.

On day 2 in Paris, we took the metro to Place de la Concorde, found that it was pouring when emerged, and then meandered our way though the Tulleries toward the Louvre, and then across the river into St. Germaine neighbourhood. We were transfixed with everything, and it didn't seem to matter which direction we took. Every street seemed to have something to look at (maybe just because it was new, and looking at how cars were parked seemed novel to us). We took a break in a cafe and paid 12 Euro for a coffee and a hot chocolate - very nice ones, you can assume. Our wanderings took us all the way along Blvd. St. Germaine, to Notre Dame, where again, we were in awe. The magnitude and detail on building was spectacular.
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Birds outside Notre Dame

Birds outside Notre Dame

Notre Dame, detailed statues

Notre Dame, detailed statues

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Street Sweep

Street Sweep

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

On our third day wandering through Paris, we went to Gare du Lyon to purchase our train tickets for the following day, and then back into the centre of the city to explore some more. We took the subway to Chatelet Les Halles, which happens to be a station that emerges into a 4-story underground shopping mall. We found a shoe store for Luke, whose shoes were falling apart. He bought 2 pairs :) When we finally emerged into daylight, we came across another immense and stunning cathedral, Saint Eustache Cathedral. We wandered in the side door; it didn't seem to be an attraction (like Notre Dame is), and yet it's size was staggering - taller than our forests at home! Right in the middle of the city, and barely noticed by many who come to see Paris.

After meandering through more streets and taking endless photos of the photogenic Seine and its bridges, we took the subway to Charles de Gaulle E'toille, where the Arc de Triomphe towers above a massive traffic circle with 12 streets branching from it. This structure is absolutely massive, and as Luke said in the photo on FB, you feel like ants underneath it. We had a great day for a climb to the top - beautiful sunny day with great views in all directions of the rest of the city.
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We took a break back at the hostel for a little while, and then headed back to our favourite neighbourhood (by St. Michel) for dinner and drinks. We found a lovely spot and had a 3 course meal and of course, some wine. Walking through Paris at night is just as magical, with lights on every bridge and the Eiffel Tower and many other buildings all lit up, it is beautiful.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 14:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

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