Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Nice and other nice things

So two weekends ago was my fabulous (and much needed) vacay to the sunny south of France.  So as we planned to leave Monday morning and head to Nice for the week, because hey, class wasn't starting till the next week (or so we thought) we headed to the train station to plan our trip and buy our return tickets (80 euros), only to find out an hour after, that classes did indeed start the next day.  So in a panic, I called Elise ten consecutive times (to finally get a hold of her!]) and off we went back to the train station (mind you its a Sunday and the tram happily runs every 25 minutes..if it feels like it), to what we were hoping would be some kind, understanding lady behind the counter. Luckily, when we told her we wanted to change the date of the tickets, there were no questions asked and we were smooth sailing.

So Monday as we wished we had been waking up and en route to the plage, we sadly showed up to 8h30 morphosyntax class. Luckily the week flew by (as they seem to do here) and before we knew Friday had arrived and we were heading to the south, with only one minor problem that is.

See when the SNCF (France's train company) sets up a trip for you, they arrange the tickets, including all layovers, for you. So en route to Nice we had to change trains twice (soon to be three). The first time we stopped in Valence, about one hour from Grenoble via the TER (a regional train, somewhat equivalent to the GO train), where we had 40 minutes and weren't the least bit stressed.  That was, however, until we saw that the train to Marseille (our next layover) was ten minutes late. Doesn't seem like all that much of a big deal, until you add in the fact that we only had 14 minutes (now 4) in Marseille before needing to be on the next train.

So as we arrived at our second change, and what we thought would be our last, we had exactly 4 minutes to get off, find, and board the next train, Luckily for us, the conductor came on the loudspeaker to tell us that the connecting train to Nice would be on platform D, directly across from where we would be pulling in.

I guess what he forgot to relay to us was that the track number for the Nice train was actually changed and would now be on platform A.  Unknown to us, we climbed aboard the train stationed at platform D.  With a minute to spare before the train would depart, we were so proud that we had done it, the odds were against us but we had done it...except not quite.

It didn't take long to realize that we not in fact headed to Nice, but instead to Toulon, a city 2 hours west of there. After talking with another passenger, and then the conductor, we decided it would be best to stay on the train until Toulon (just over an hour). Then in Toulon, we would have to go to the ticket counter to see what we could next to get close to Nice.

Luckily, once again we encountered a very understanding woman at the ticket counter, who have us two new seats on the next train to Nice, free of charge. We were finally on our way.

Arriving in Nice brought back memories.  I had traveled to France and spent an overnight there in the summer of 2014, which is what made me so keen on getting back there while the weather was still warm.

Overlooking the French Riviera and the Promenade des Anglais

Out for a day cruise around the coast of Nice!

Despite the events that had occurred there this past summer, Nice still held a beautiful charm.  Walking through Vieux Nice, through the streets with small shops, restos, and markets, it felt as though we were in a movie.  Everything you picture about classic European style, is seen in the streets of Vieux Nice. Our studio that we had rented, not to mention, was on the top floor of one of these buildings that made up the old part of the city.  It was not even a 2 minute walk to the beach, nothing could beat the location, not even the fact that we slept in a bunk bed in the petit 10m2 loft!

After "setting in" somewhat in Grenoble, it was nice to take a break and feel like a tourist for a bit (never thought I'd say that). Grenoble is not a tourist spot whatsoever in my opinion, so the diversity of Nice in terms of tourists, not to mention the flow of Canadians there, was oddly refreshing.  Not to mention its always fun to take tourist pictures without feeling out of place, and frankly eat and drink like a tourist every once in awhile, while abroad.

Petite pause after climbing up 500 stairs...well worth the view!

Elise and I enjoying our last dinner in it really a meal without a glass of wine?!

After hours of lounging on the beach, a boat cruise, crepes, galettes (simply the word for savoury crepes), pizzas, and numerous glasses wine, the weekend in Nice had come to an end, and it was time to head back to what was now my reality.


Which leads me to my final mark of this blog, basically where I'm at now.

So I've been thinking lately (thinking is always good), its quite an interesting concept, leaving everything you know to just suddenly pick up your life again in an entirely new city, country, and oh wait, continent. I really don't know what exactly possess an individual to do so but I guess I'll soon find out. I was expecting to feel a lot more when I finally started to get settled here. Talking with a British exchange friend today, I think she put it very well; I feel as though I've literally been dropped in a foreign land, and I don't necessarily stick out but I also don't fit in either, and alas, I am sort of just floating here. No real direction, no one telling me what to do, just floating around, trying to make my way, and mumbling the occasional sentence in français. Its more difficult than I had originally anticipated. I can honestly tell you after having left home a month ago today, that life as an exchange student isn't everything it may be stereotyped or seen as. It isn't every picture of a vacationing student on the beaches in the south, it isn't the mountains, the hiking, or even the consecutive Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday late nights out on the town drinking with friends. It's being uncomfortable and awkward, being forced out of your comfort zone, it is literally feeling like you know nothing and are known to no one, at times.  It is perseverance, it is homesickness, it is a void for things you never even knew you cared about. It is long-distance, fb video chat, and and endless amounts of I miss you's. But what the life of a student abroad really is, is worth it.  No matter how many of the points made above would lead you believe otherwise, it will be worth least that's what we're told to tell ourselves anyway.

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