Before I even got to Nantes in September, I had been thinking about what I would do during my fall break. My goal was to go to the south of France because I had heard of how beautiful and relaxing it was, but I didn’t know if I would be able to make it happen or if I would have anyone to travel with. Luckily, I found a wonderful group of people who wanted to do the same thing. So, come October 29th, my friends and I headed out for our trip. Our first stop was Paris for 3 days, then Marseilles for 2 days, then Nice for 3 more days, and finally Paris again for 1 more day. It was a hectic week with lots of travel and not a lot of sleep, but I wouldn’t change a second of it. Well, I might change our 6 a.m. trains to a little bit later in the morning, but other than that…nothing.
During our first weekend in Paris, we learned some very important lessons: always book tickets to famous Paris attractions wayyyy in advance. As in, weeks in advance. Not a few days in advance, and certainly not a few hours in advance—weeks. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our first night in Paris went fairly well—we arrived at the train station and attempted to navigate the metro system. Once we figured it out, it really was quite simple. I think Paris transportation is really intimidating at first, but once you realize that their trams are similar to all the other cities’ trams, just faster and more numerous, it’s really not that bad. We checked into our hostel by attempting to speak French to the man at the front desk and being met with a swift English response after the first “Bonjour”. That’s never too encouraging, but c’est la vie. After we checked into our hostel and got settled, we headed out for dinner and to walk along the Champs-Elysée before going to the Louvre for a student-night that apparently was going to let us (students) in for free. Does it sound too good to be true? That could have something to do with the fact that it was. Needless to say, we couldn’t get in for whatever reason. Either that night never existed, and we read old information, or the gates had just already closed. We’ll never know.
After that, we headed to the Eiffel Tower just to be our truest American-tourist selves. We watched it as it lit up the night on the hour every hour, and then we just stuck around and talked and laughed for more than TWO hours. It was freezing and I was only in a jean jacket, but it was one of the best times. I don’t know why we stood there for so long, doing nothing but watching other tourists pass by and waiting for the tower to light up for the third time, but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I think it goes to show that the best moments can come unexpectedly, whether you’re on vacation or not, so long as you’re with the right people.
The next day is when we really learned the lesson to book things in advance. We first went to the Sacre-Cœur, which was lovely…minus the pouring rain that blocked the view of the city that we so badly wanted to see. We then ate lunch at a kebab place which was yummy but…only had outdoor seating, and it was of course still pouring, because Paris. After lunch, we tried to go to the Catacombs, which we were all quite enthusiastic about. However, they were very much out of tickets for the day, and the next day, and the day after that. Dejected, soaking wet, and seeking asylum, we went to Saint-Chapelle, hoping to take refuge inside and see the beautiful chapel. I’m now taking guesses as to what happened next. Oh, did I hear an it was all sold out of tickets for the day and you should’ve reserved them in advance, you dumb tourists? Amazing answer. We then trudged on to Shakespeare and Company (a very famous bookstore and café in Paris), and stood in line for roughly ten years to get in (do I even need to mention that it was still pouring, or do you get the idea by now?). However, it was still a wonderful experience, and we met some really nice English-speaking workers there. After, we crossed the street to look at the Notre-Dame. It was really cool, but also a little sad, given that it was still under reconstruction from the fire a few years back.
After Notre-Dame, we walked along the Seine back to the Louvre and the Champs-Elysée to meet up with some other friends and one of their friends, who had actually lived in Paris for a few years. We walked and talked and then dined and chatted before following our Parisian friend to a bar in one of her favorite parts of town. It was a nice time, and I think we were all grateful for someone who knew what they were doing after a day full of wandering around the city and being left out in the rain by scary Parisians.
The next day, Sunday, we were a bit more successful. We had reserved tickets the night before for Saint-Chapelle, and spent a nice morning looking at the chapel then eating at an extremely yummy restaurant (I ate duck and tried bone marrow…and I…liked it). Then, we went to Versailles, where we had also booked tickets. Was it pouring the whole time we waited to get in? Absolutely. Was I safe and dry with my boots and umbrella? You bet your bottom dollar I was not. But it was an amazing place and an amazing evening spent with some of my favorite people, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Paris. That night, we hit the hay earlier due to our 6 A.M. TRAIN THE NEXT MORNING TO MARSEILLES, which meant a 4:30 a.m. wake-up. Being the smart and responsible adults we are, we went to sleep at around 1:30 a.m.
When we got to Marseilles (in the South of France on the Mediterranean), we were all pretty ecstatic. I was feeling pretty well rested, considering I slept on the man beside me on the train for most of the ride (why he didn’t wake me up, I’ll never know. I am not sure if I’m grateful or disturbed). Finally, it wasn’t raining, and it wasn’t freezing. Our Airbnb was beautiful and in the center of town, and we immediately changed into warmer weather clothes and spent that first day just walking around exploring the city, stopping to get a drink and a snack, before cooking dinner all together that night. It was genuinely the best meal I think I had over the trip, and everyone contributed, making it a really fun evening overall. The next day, Tuesday, we boated through the Calanques. The weather was pretty perfect, and it was incredibly beautiful. We spent our evenings in Marseilles watching movies together and lounging around talking until late at night.
Wednesday, half of us headed out on a train for Nice for a few days. So, check out part 2 if you’re interested in hearing more about what it’s like to have your 22nd birthday in the south of France…
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<p>Hey! My name is Clare Hogan and I'm a senior at Wofford College. I'm majoring in Psychology and French, with a minor in English. I hope to become a counseling psychologist one day, which is why I majored in Psychology. At school, I'm in a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and I love to participate in various events with that, such as dances, philanthropy events, and more! I adore reading and writing (hence the minor), hiking, playing tennis, and all things relating to dogs. Also, a fun fact about me is that I sneeze every time I eat chocolate (which is quite often)!</p>