Notes before reading this post! A) These are all iPhone photos which still blows my mind because less than 10 years ago my shitty digital camera couldn’t take these pictures (we haven’t had a chance to look at the snappies we took on the big camera yet, but just imagine a lot more of the below with better resolution). B) There are happy little links throughout (some in the photo captions!) that will take you to even MORE photos on the Elderworld Tumblr.
So grab a glass of wine, kick back, and enjoy the next couple hours of enviously hating me…
I’m 31 years old and I’ve visited many places across the United States, but the extent of my travel outside of the country consisted of a cruise I took with Pete a couple weeks after I graduated from the University of Florida. The cruise was loads of fun and hugely memorable (drunken british accents, Belizean river tubing, getting engaged, stuff like that), but being that passports weren’t required and your exposure to any place was limited to maybe 5-6 hours, I never considered it to be proper world travel. After dreaming of exploring new places but never taking any real action, we finally decided last year to take our first big leap across the ocean together and commenced planning a trip to Scotland which is fully arranged for this September (thanks to Pete and his mad travel agent skills). Part of that planning included getting my very first passport which we made sure to do well in advance of the trip and it arrived just in time, because mid-May I received quite the surprise…
On a normal weekday workday, my boss asked me and a couple colleagues to head outside for a quick chat to talk about a new trade show idea. We go outside because we’ve got 16 people and a crap ton of stuff crammed into 1,800 square feet of office space and the walls don’t go to the ceilings, so any time you want to talk about anything you either accept that everyone will hear you or you “take a walk down the tracks.” So walk we did and he proceeded to explain to us that we had an opportunity to attend a trade show in Monaco but we had to make a decision in the next couple days. We fired off our normal slew of questions that follow any crazy idea proposition from the bossman, and were mostly satisfied with the answers, but then came the kicker. The show was happening less than one month from that day and bossman’s in-laws would be in town from London, so he who usually attends all shows would not be able to go. We now had to decide if we wanted to attend this show we’d never done before in another country with less than 30 days to plan and minus one of our key people. Brain racing, I quickly opined – send me! Part of the show was an investigation into doing business overseas and part of my job is to develop new business opportunities, so of course this makes sense! And guess what? I already have a passport! Ding ding ding, let’s do it! I thought they’d never go for it but quite the contrary – bossman’s eyes lit up and he was totally into it. A week later tickets were booked and I and my buddy slash colleague Shelly were prepping for a trip to Nice and Monaco. It’s over now and I still can’t believe it!
Clearly I couldn’t go to Europe for the first time and spend my whole trip inside a hotel doing conferency things, so we went two days early to get in some solid Nice exploration. I was a bit nervous about the whole affair – first time in a non-English speaking country, first time flying overseas, first time attending a conference of this sort – but much of that was quelled by the fact that Shelly had experience in all of the above. Thank goodness for her French skills for even though most folks we encountered also spoke English, it helped tremendously with their willingness to do so when we first approached them in their own language. The whole adventure was amazing, I’m officially in love with Europe (even maybe drunkenly tried to convince Pete that we should move there), and I am more excited than ever about our September trip to Scotland. So, despite the fact that I already blew up Instagram and Facebook with a million snappies, I’ll throw down a few (lot) more photos here and blurb it up with some highlights (let’s be serious, this post is going to be epically long)…
Our original flight pattern was RDU to BOS to Paris to Nice, but when we arrived at the airport to check in we quickly realized that some silly tropical storm was threatening to cancel all sorts of flights and proceeded to spend a very sad and stressed out 90 minutes with a Delta attendant trying to figure out what we were going to do. At the end of said 90 minutes, on the phone with her Delta customer service counterpart, her face lit up and she said OH! That is great news! To which Shelly and I responded with a happy little jig in front of all the other angry people in line and #francedance was born. Our new flight pattern became RDU to JFK to Nice and we arrived at the same exact time as our previous plan, with one less annoying stop. Huzzah! One easy bus ride and less than a mile of walking brought us to the Rue de Chateau, a cozy sloped alley in the hear of Vieux Nice.
The entry gate to the building that housed our third floor studio apartment rented through Airbnb.
Our apartment, maybe 40 square meters, super cute and stylish and close to EVERYTHING. (Stole this photo from the Airbnb site, everything else here we took!)
After checking in we took a walk to the nearest Monoprix to stock up on cheap amazing wine, delicious cheeses and butter I’d eat by the spoonful. On the way back we stumbled upon some cathedrals.
We walked into three different cathedrals and each was just as grandiose as the next.
Then came lunch, our first legit meal in France, and after striking out several times in a row since it was that weird time of day when most places are closed between lunch and dinner, we found a place that would feed us and we sat outside devouring caprese salad, pizza and bread. Everything tasted like perfection which I’m sure was at least in part due the surroundings. Fueled up and running on holy-shit-I’m-in-France adrenaline, we set out to walk and shop and explore.
Place Masséna and Jaume Plensa’s Conversation å Nice. These seven statues represent the seven continents and apparently light up at night in different colors but sadly we didn’t catch that.
Street after street of pretty colored buildings and magnificent mountains in the distance.
We went into all sorts of shops on this main strip of clothing stores, but ironically made the most purchases at H&M. We basically closed the place down and in fact the angry fitting room attended was the only rude person we encountered on our whole trip. She was quite displeased with the my non French speaking American ass still trying on clothes at five minutes to closing, but I honestly didn’t know the store hours. Her haircut was stupid anyway. We also bought stuff at another Monoprix (it’s like French Target i.e. the happiest place on Earth), then dropped our goodies off at the apartment and headed out for dinner.
More awesome structures. Pretty much nonstop cool shit to take pictures of.
Our intended restaurant was unfortunately undergoing renovations so we found a lovely place with outdoor seating (i.e. every place in Nice) and had another fabulous meal. We also took pictures of each other taking pictures of our meals. Nerds.
After dinner we walked over to Fenocchio and got nutella crepes and I died of happiness. Also note bags under eyes. Three or so hours sleep on the flight over and a day full of adventure were not friendly to the ol’ face.
We walked back to the apartment, eventually went to sleep, and stayed in bed until noon the next day. Vacation rocks.
Post first day in France bathroom happy selfie wearing Shelly’s pajama shirt because I packed a million things but no pajamas. Nerd.
Once we finally dragged our jet lagged behinds out of bed we went for a run on the Promenade des Anglais, the road that runs along the coast. The warm temps and low humidity made for outstanding running weather and clearly the scenery was top notch. Post shower, our next adventure was a “hike” up beautiful, old, tree shaded steps and pathways, past a waterfall to the Parc du Château. Nearly 1,000 years ago a castle was erected at this spot, but in 1706 it was razed by the ranks of Louis XIV. Today it’s a popular tourist spot with stunning panoramic views of Vieux Nice and the Baie des Anges, and a few benches perfect for a picnic. And we did just that – with our scrumptious cheeses and wine, we snacked and chatted the afternoon away in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever experienced.
The view! Gross.
The top of Tour Bellanda.
Pard du Château selfie.
After the parc picnic we walked and walked and walked some more, stuck our feet in the Mediterranean, took pictures of doors and windows and alleys, ate decadent pastries, did a little more shopping and eventually headed back to the apartment for some more eating before dinner and more eating.
On the street just before our apartment we heard from a window above a very French man singing a Maroon 5 song very loudly. Shelly sang along.
Dinner our second night was at a restaurant called La Rossettisserie and was just as lovely as every other meal. Especially lovely was the moment a random man walked in wearing a French Maid costume and proceeded to not only go around the restaurant kissing people on the cheek but also lift up his skirt to expose tighty whiteys and dangling fake balls. When in Nice? After dinner we went to Fenocchio again, this time for ice cream and I swooned over the most vanillatastic scoop of dessert I’ve ever consumed.
Oh look! More pictures of us taking pictures of food.
Post ice-cream selfie.
The final day was all about the market. Oh the market! How I wished to spend hours buying every piece of produce and every bottle of olive oil and every loaf of bread and every stem of flower. It was like our local farmers’ market on steroids. We bought things and tasted things and walked around a bit more before we checked out of our apartment and boarded the bus for our big tradeshow adventure in Monaco.
Ginormous figs putting my little Mebane figgy tree homegrown figs to shame.
All the rad and wonderfully awesome flavors of salt – yes salt! – you could think of.
Sunny buildings around the market.
I bought this bouncy giraffe for Norah at an adorable French toy shop.
And the final ride down in the apartment building elevator with all our crap. Shelly kindly sporting Pete’s hat I bartered for so it didn’t get squished.
I won’t go into too much detail about Monaco other than to say that the tradeshow went smashingly well and we had almost as much fun as we did in Nice (minus the excellent food). Here’s a little panoramic snappy from the 7th floor pooldeck of our worky hotel:
Scotland is only a few months away and I can’t. freakin’. wait.