March 26 marked the beginning of my travels and my first official solo travel. I walked through a gray and drizzly Bologna, neon orange backpack stuffed and on my back, tote-bag in hand, to the train station, where I caught a bus to the airport, and from there I boarded a plane to Paris.
Yes, you read that correctly, my travel plans began with spring time in Paris. I have been to Paris only once before as an awkward middle schooler, complete with braces, a younger brother, two parents, and two grandparents as travel companions, so right off the bat I knew this experience would be drastically different.
The flight was fairly short, but getting to the hotel was most definitely not. It took nearly an hour to get out of CDG – I had to wait in line to buy a metro ticket since I didn’t have 10 euros in coins and the machine would not accept my credit card. After about 40 minutes on the metro I got off at Notre Dame and attempted to find the hotel. Easier said then done. Armed with the address and the map, finding the hotel was still an hour long endeavor, since the street the hotel was located on was not printed on the map. Eventually I found it, checked in and deposited my bags – which at this point were so heavy to carry, I was convinced they weighed more than my full-grown golden retriever right after she had eaten far more than just dog food.
I walked around, across the seine and ended up in front of the Louvre. In the golden light of the setting sun I spotted the Eiffel Tower. Despite having seen it before, the sight nearly took my breath away and I made it my mission. I walked forward through the Tuileries, back across the river and onward. I arrived just as night was setting in and rewarded myself with hot chocolate buried under whipped cream which I drank directly beneath the tower. Later in the light of the glittering tower, admiring it from across the street, I indulged in a nutella-almond crepe before making my way back to my hotel.
The next day I spent meandering around Ile St,Louis – a place I would describe as the epitome of Paris magic. I shopped, wandered into bakeries and then took myself out to a delicious lunch. Later I walked back along the left bank to the Sorbonne and the Luxembourg gardens. In the late afternoon I returned to the hotel and gathered my things before making my way to the train station to catch a train to St.Pierre des Corps.
My train was was easy enough to find, but once aboard i ran into some trouble. About halfway through the train broke down. I and no wifi and no way to communicate to the people I was meeting that I would be late. After about 20 minutes I took the plunge and turned on roaming data. For those who want to know: it worked…for about 4 minutes before shutting off (which gave me enough time to send the appropriate messages). Fortunately my train was not stalled too long and I arrived only 30 minutes late. Upon arrival I was greeted by my friend Rebecca and my dad’s friend Peter, who was hosting us at his vineyard for the weekend.
The weekend at La Meslerie was truly exceptional. Peter and his partner Juliette are two of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met. Juliette is also a phenomenal cook – she made lamb one night for dinner and it was probably the best meal of my entire 9 nights in France. Their 3 year old daughter is one of the most enchanting and playful little girls. While we were there, Peter took us on a tour of the vineyard and showed us where the wine is made and stored. We did a tasting of still-fermenting wine, as well as of several different bottles. In case you were wondering, the wine from La Meslerie is utterly fantastic. If you even sort of like white wine I would highly recommend it. Our weekend also included a trip to Chenonceau – a gorgeous Château nearby – and a trip to the town of Ambois, where we visited Clos Lucé – the Château which served as a residence fro Leonardo Da Vinci. The grounds at Clos Lucé were almost fairly tale like, complete with live peacocks wandering around.
After two marvelous days, I returned to Paris. After checking back into my hotel (and feeling successful because I knew how to find it this time around), I took myself out to dinner at Cafe Flore. The next day (monday) I walked across the city, up to Sacre Coeur and Montmarte and then to the Orangerie where I gazed at Monet’s water-lillies for a very long time. Truly, nothing compares to Monet. After a wonderful Parisian day, i decided to throw myself a Parisian picnic. I bought wine, a baguette, cheese, and a small chocolate cake and camped out with it in the hotel.
Not fully getting my Monet fix at the Orangerie, I decided to spend the next morning at the Musee d’Orsay. The impressionist floor was well worth the hour long wait for museum entry. After much Monet-gazing, I finally left and headed down the Champs Elysee over to the Arc de Triomphe and then over to the Latin quarter. For my last night in Paris, I took myself out to dinner again. The food was delicious, but the real star was the Crème brûlée I ordered for dessert.
I don’t know if words can fully explain my Paris experience, but I will say this: In some religions you make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in others to Mecca, but in mine: Paris.
On Wednesday morning after checking out of my hotel I double checked my train ticket to Nice. April Fools to me! The train was scheduled to leave from Gare de Lyon not Montparnasse. Looking at a map and my watch it seemed do-able. I had about an hour. I walked onward and slowly became more anxious as the minutes ticked forward. I tried and failed several times to hail a cab. Towards the end of the hour I was running – a nervous ball of anxiety, absolutely certain i was going to miss the train. To my intense relief I walked on board at 9:14 and at 9:17 we were pulling away, bound for the south of France.
Immediately after checking in and dropping my bags off in Nice, I wandered down to the waterfront. Everything was beautiful and blue. The water was a brights shade of aqua and glittering in the sun. People were lying out on the beach in swimsuits (note: I did, during my time in Nice see people swimming, but it was probably only in the lower or mid 60s while I was there). I walked down to the port and back to the beach. After taking myself out to dinner I walked on the beach some more in the twilight before going back.
The next day I walked around the old city and the open air market. I bought myself marzipan and raspberries, which I promptly brought down to the water and ate with and oceanfront view. Afterwards I climbed up “the rock” to a small castle perched on a boulder. From their I got amazing views of the city and the ocean. behind the castle was a park and a waterfall.
I spent the next morning wandering around the city and the oceanfront again before meeting up with Rebecca and her friends who just arrived in Nice for their vacation. We did some shopping and then went out to dinner. Dinner started late and became a very long two hour affair due to slow service, but the food and the company were both wonderful!
The next morning I made my way to the train station and proceeded to take three trains – Nice to Ventimiglia, Ventimiglia to Milan, and Milan to Bologna – before returning to my apartment for a short break after my first week of travel.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.