France

ENTREVAUX

Took a train up through the mountains to visit Entrevaux, France... a medieval village that still has a drawbridge and mote around it. It was kind of like Game of Thrones meets Beauty and The Beast, but with crepes.

The little village consists of dark and narrow streets and it's been around since the 5th century when it was called La Sedz-Glandèves. The current village was built in the 11th century and it was fortified around 1542 when King François first declared it a Royal Town in the Kingdom of France. I was there in the off-season so it was really quiet and one of the few beings I met was a dog who lured me into a creperie (brilliant outbound marketing).

Dressed completely inappropriately for a hike, I hiked up the 5,000 foot hill (mountain? Let's call it a mountain) to reach the top of the Citadel that stands above the village and was last used in World War I as a prison for German soldiers. I took in gorgeous views of the valley of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the multi-colored Entrevaux rooftops from up there. 

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It was a nice little day in the French countryside. 

THE MAMAC

The one rainy day in Nice called for a visit to the Musée d'art Moderne et d'art Contemporain. 

I wandered around listening to this which really elevated the whole gallery experience (particularly this song with the work by Juliao Sarmento). On the way back, to get out of a torrential downpour I ducked into an open pub and found an American ex-pat behind the bar who gave me all sorts of recommendations and info for day trips outside of Nice. He told me stories of how he met his Belgian wife and why he still hates the French even after living there for 10 years. It was an extremely informative unplanned happy hour. 

AROUND NICE

My week in Nice proved to be lovely for lazying around on the rocky beach, strolling through the flower market, big nights out with fellow travelers, running along the coast, easy day trips and many cappuccinos on sunny terraces. 

I stayed at Hostel Meyerbeer Beach which was one block from the beach and perfect for socializing. One of the dudes in my room turned out to be an intern at Cramer 15 years ago (!!) and I got an English kid to make me a traditional English dinner called "Toad in the Hole" which was deliciously hearty. It felt like Thanksgiving compared to my recent apple + brie combo meals. 

Geoff , Cramer Alumnus

Geoff, Cramer Alumnus

Traditional English dinner, by Rupert. 

Traditional English dinner, by Rupert. 

Most nights consisted of games in the hostel, followed by wine on the beach and then we would meander over to Wayne's, a dirty dive bar in the center of town that felt very out of place in Nice but made me feel right at home. I was very happy to discover that House of Pain is universally loved as our diverse group (American, French, Australian, French Canadian, Finnish, German, Columbian + British) went wild and all jumped on tables to dance to this song

Local liquor/cookie store owner who every time I came in told me I was "looking more African" (tanned) so obviously he was my favorite person in all of France. 

Local liquor/cookie store owner who every time I came in told me I was "looking more African" (tanned) so obviously he was my favorite person in all of France. 

When planning my time in the South of France I originally had a different destination in mind but after less than 24 hours in filthy, crowded Marseille I said "screw this, I'm going to Nice". After reflecting on how insanely absurd it is that I can say something like "screw this, I'm going to Nice" and then hop on a train, I hopped on a train and had a fantastic week in Nice. I constantly feel very lucky and also like a complete jerk for getting to have experiences like this... but I'm certainly enjoying it. 

NICE, FRANCE

Nice, France deserves it's name. 

Within an hour of arriving I was on the beach, swimming in the French Riviera and very, very pleased. Nice is super clean, warm and colorful. It has tight, winding alley-ways around the Vielle Ville (Old Town) and a vast turquoise ocean that seems to curve over the horizon. It's really quite nice. 

VERSAILLES

Took a day trip and visited the Palace of Versailles, the official residence for the Kings of France from 1682 to 1790. It's extravagant and massive to say the least, with a style that reminded me of Rebecca King's decor (lots of florals). The entire property is larger than the island of Manhattan AND modern day Paris. 

Walking around the palace gets a bit boring after awhile (all gold everything, chandelier after chandelier, French royalty had some money to throw around, WE GET IT) but the gardens outside are really where it's at. You can rent boats, ride bikes, eat ice cream or just lay next to the Grand Canal and work on your tan (like I did). 

PARIS

Paris is magic. 

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Paris consisted of tartines at Amelie's cafe in Montmartre, a night bike tour and cruise along the Seine, a long run through the Jardin Du Luxemborg, macaroons at the Sacre Le Coeur and living off brie and chocolate. If you eat a block of brie in the USA you feel sick, but if you do it in Paris you feel fantastic and Parisienne. It might have something to do with pasteurization but let's go with magic. 

Also, if you every find yourself in Paris and don't know anyone or the language... I recommend that you go to the nearest bar that is vaguely related to the language you speak (Cafe Oz), buy a beer and pretend to watch whatever sport is on the television (soccer). Within 15 minutes you'll get asked what team you're rooting for and from there, you'll have 7 new French friends to get beers, kebabs and mojitos with. Everyone will get a good laugh when you explain that you don't give a shit about soccer. Works like a charm. See above.