La Côte d’Azur
Nice, St-Tropez, Naked people…oh my!
Now that I’ve caught your attention, time for a long, boring post about my vacation to the French Riviera last week….Ok, just kidding…I’ll try to keep it short and full of pictures…
Where to begin…so I arrived Wednesday afternoon in France. Thursday I slept a lot and packed my bags. Friday we were up and on the road at maybe 6:30 or 6:45…with a super special…amazingly awesome…nine hour drive ahead of us! I was not so excited at the time. At all.
We arrived in Les Issambres, a little town on the coast, at about 5 or 6pm. We were met by Pierre and Catherine, friends of my host parents, and their daughters: Lea (11), Marine (17) and Annabel (20) and Marine’s boyfriend, Quentin…whose name is pronounced totally different in French than English and I still can’t say perfectly. The house we stayed in was beautiful! It belongs to Paulette, Catherine’s aunt, who lives there in the summers.
Our first dinner was great- sitting out on the big patio, looking out at the hillsides and to the Mediterranean Sea…beautiful! French dinners can last for hours and hours…but its all very delicious and fun…we first have something salty or melon, then a main dish, then sometimes cheese and bread, fruit or yogurt and some tea or coffee. I could seriously write a blog just about the food. First night: olive tappenade, tomato gaspacho, vegetable quiche, and pancotta. If you’ve been paying attention…the grand total in the house is 12…11 of us upstairs sharing one bathroom and limited beds. More family bonding time I guess!
On the first morning, I recall waking up and looking outside. The glass doors onto the balcony were open and I could just barely see the mediterranean sea from my bed. It was beautiful and unusual and it made me stop and realize how far from home I was. But it was a good sort of realization. I don’t know how to describe it…anyways, breakfast in France is usually bread with butter jam etc etc, fruit, coffee/tea and juices. A lot of people eat yogurt but that’s definitely not my thing. The house has a pool so we swam and hung out. We went to the beach in the afternoon…the only downside to the Mediterranean is that the beaches are small and crowded cause all the sand is imported…theres usually only rocks in the natural beaches. But the beach at Les Issambres was fine and I was very excited for my first swim in the Mediterranean. Clement and Pierre set up the wind-surfing board and took it out for a while but there wasn’t enough wind.
The next day, Sunday, we got up early and loaded the cars for a day of hiking and beach-ing up the coast in the Saint-Tropez area. We got there really early to beat the crowds that come during the summer months…We carried our food and hiking gear to a little beach and had some breakfast.
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon hiking the coast and going to little wild beaches. The final destination was a large, tourist-y beach where we had dropped off a car with our lunch. We spent a few hours at the beach eating etc and the adults decided to hike back to the original beach to get the second car. I went with them and it was a good decision- we went up on the hills and the view was very nice. Eventually we got back to the beach where all the kids were waiting and had a bunch of pizzas on the beach for dinner.
The Nudist Incident
The rest of the week was filled with a lot of the same activities- beaches, relaxing and eating. We went back to the beach near Saint Tropez again later in the week…except this time there were a bunch of naked people there!! We got there early and it was just us…but three hours later the whole place was filled with people who weren’t clothed…talk about awkward. It was like there was an invisible sign or something posted that said “come forth all ye who wish to be naked” and we just couldn’t see it haha. My host family and friends were just as shocked as I was…I don’t think it is allowed where we were…and certainly not welcome. I’ll spare you the details. But it’s something we all laugh about almost every day now.
One afternoon (the same day as The Nudist Incident) we went into Saint Tropez. It is such a beautiful little city full of people and fancy boats/cars. I really enjoyed walking around the old town…especially eating gelato (tiramisu and chocolate…)
Another day we went to Nice-It’s about an hour up the coast from Les Issambres. We drove down the Promenade des Anglais, the famous front street in Nice, and made our way to the National Marc Chagall museum. I love Chagall (studied in art history) and the museum was beautiful. It had a lot of his religious works…not my favorites but still pretty good (there were some other really cool pieces I’d never seen too). We then went to the old town and had a little lunch of this yellow pancake thing I dont remember the name of but it’s a regional specialty. I took lots of photos of windows and houses. We did some shopping for olive oil and soaps and other things. I bought some soaps that smell great. We later went to Eze, an old village thats built up on a hillside overlooking the sea and wandered around the streets and had dinner. A story my host dad tells is how I ordered a 4 cheese pizza thinking its a mix of four types of cheese…but it turned out to be 4 times the cheese…just a lot of each type. It was funny at the time.
I went to the market in Sainte Maxime one day with my host family and friends, which was also very nice. We bought honey and walked around and I bought some sandals. There’s a popular brand of sandals called “Les Tropeziennes” that I had seen in a variety of shops all week and I really wanted to get some while I was in the area. Too bad I won’t be able to wear them until next spring…it’s already cold fall weather in Lorraine. Maybe I’ll brave the cold one day and wear em to school…
Something cool to note- it was decided that we would do cooking/cleaning etc in teams- three teams of 3/4 people were made up and each day, one team would do all the cooking and cleaning for the house. Cooking involves detailed menu planning (we had lots of recipes) and grocery shopping, etc…I’m tellin ya, the French are pretty pro when it comes to food. On my night, we made tabbouleh for lunch and dinner was olive tapenade with stuffed vegetables (called something like farsis nicois) that were really good. A big success for my team!
I was so sad to leave the coast but it was a wonderful week and I got to know my host family better, make friends with another family that lives in Thionville, get a nice “st-tropez” tan, improve my french and eat lots of good food. My host family is so nice and I’m so lucky to have them. The whole culture shock is wearing off–I don’t freak out every morning when the entire world is in French (except for the songs on the radio..)…speaking of which, my french is improving! Its gotten much better in the week I’ve been here. I can sometimes understand everything said in a conversation and other times when there are many people speaking…Im totally lost. But Im getting better and it’s exciting!