Highlights of Nice, France

Nice, France Highlights:

Due to the large Catholic holiday on August 15th, I decided to hunker down and spend a whole week in the coastal city of Nice. I would only recommend that much time if you are in the mood to relax and enjoy the weather, casino and local bars. Considering it was the beginning of my trip, I didn’t want to spend most of my days lying on the beach but still found fun things to do while I was there.P1020718

Vieux Ville- The “old city” in English, this was my favorite part of Nice. I walked through narrow streets filled with small cafés, souvenir stands and specialty shops selling Provence lavender, soaps and artisanal cookies. The gelato and pizza stands were outnumbered only by the tourists that shuffled along the cobblestones with cameras in hand. At the center, the streets opened up to reveal a large open market. In the morning, the stalls are filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish. In the evening, the food is replaced by watercolor paintings, purses and jewelry for sale. The perimeter of the square is lined with restaurants and outdoor tables under awnings boasting the freshest fish and cheapest wine. 

Beach- Crowded and pebbly. I would recommend waiting until evening, picking up a cheap bottle of wine and finding a spot on the shore to watch the sunset.P1020807

Matisse and Archaeological Museum- Not only are both museums free, they are necessary stops in this French city. The Matisse museum is well situated in the middle of a large garden, perfect for picnics and dog walkers. I spent about an hour in the museum looking at the Matisse collection before heading over to the Archaeological Museum to see stone ruins of ancient Roman baths as well as the smallest Greco-Roman amphitheater, well persevered next to the museum’s entrance. Near these two museums is another church with beautiful botanic gardens and an expansive view of the city. P1020794

Main Square and Fountains- The main center is perfect for families with children. The wide network of water jets are built into the ground and erupt without warning, shooting plumes of water high into the sky, disappearing as quickly as they come. Kids can also plan in the massive jungle gyms shaped like water creatures located to the east on the way toward the contemporary art museum (also free). I spent over an hour writing on a park bench, listening to the sounds of splashing feet and high pitched giggling. P1020708

Park- I found a large patch of green in the northwest corner of my Nice map. Feeling adventurous, I somewhat skillfully navigated the network of local buses and made my way to the center of supposed patch of wilderness. My excitement in finally finding the location was replaced with disappointment finding the gates closed with a sign indicating the park was closed for the entire month of August. No one in Italy works in August including the wilderness.

[Finally, my French blogs are done. Next stop: Italy!]

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Day One: Milan

On my first evening in Italy, I sit outside my room on the 3rd floor balcony that overlooks the Viale Andrea Doria. Straight ahead, a neon yellow sign proudly displays GRAND HOTEL DORIA high above the old stone rooftops. The moon is almost full. It is the same moon that will shine down in America, hours from now and miles away. P1020438

I sit here in comfortable solitude as I piece together the events of the day. I remember my seat mate on the airplane, Chelsea, who drinks a glass of red wine while finishing the last tantalizing chapters of Gone Girl. She is kind, a graduate from UVA Law, who just finished the Texas bar exam and is finally taking a well-earned vacation with two of her law school friends. She is the kind of girl who saves her brownie from dinner for a late night snack and asks me questions about my upcoming trip. Chelsea and her two friends will later “adopt” me into their friend group as we navigate the bus system, train station and correct destinations. Thank you to those young women. And thank you to the New Jersey father who used his precious cell phone data to look up the directions to my hostel and allowed me to write each one down so I wouldn’t get (too) lost.

P1020429Thank you to the Australian girl, Kelsey, who is occupying one of the six bunks in my room tonight. Dinner was great. Your 24-year-old confidence as a traveler and explorer of the world is inspiring. I hope you get to reunite with your Irish boy sometime soon.

Milan: 

“Few Italian cities polarise opinion like Milan, Italy’s financial and fashion capital.” Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe (Travel Guide)

Milan is first and foremost an international city. I was surprised by my lack of culture shock, more closely resembling my slight discomfort in New York City than the more isolating awareness I usually feel in a foreign land. People of all races, heights and body types weave their way through busy crowds and frantic shoppers. English is written on signs and spoken by a number of business owners.The buildings here in Milan, however, have more character and less height than the Manhattan skyline. Piazzas with fruit trees or bike rentals are sprinkled throughout the city. Pedestrians, mostly women, enjoy their multi-colored gelato with long extravagant licks.

P1020446And the shopping! Go down Venezia Buenos Aires (located along the red line) to get an idea. I walked for 25 minutes past store after store selling shoes, sunglasses, perfume, clothing and more. Prices ranged from incredibly cheap to high-end luxury goods. It took all the willpower I hate to only purchase a pair of sunglasses. P1020452

For food, I suggest checking out Milan’s Happy Hours. These deals usually run from 6pm-10pm. For the price of one drink (cocktail, beer, wine), you have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet bar. Tonight I sampled a variety of dishes include seafood paella, pizza, pasta, salmon, roasted potatoes, olives, cheese, fruit and chocolate cake for dessert. The bill? Only €9.

For culture and art, Milan is probably most famous for Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the Duomo di Milano, both located at or near the center of downtown. The Last Supper will require advanced reservations so book ahead.

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