The next morning, we woke up at 4:45am. I didn’t realize everyone was waiting for me to finish my shower, but apparently Clare woke up to Kyle yelling at me to hand him his face wash, which I either ignored completely or couldn’t hear because of the noise from the shower. Anyways, Jenny and Clare took an Uber with the big bags, and Kyle and I took the metro from whatever station was nearby to Gare de Lyon. After meeting up with Jenny and Clare plus Juju and Kira, we headed off to Marseille on our OuiGo train. After arriving, we passed an hour waiting at the McDo in the station before Anna arrived on a later train. I don’t think I’ve ever had the feeling of being unsafe or manipulated in France than during the one hours we waited in the train station for Anna. The beggars there had balls. While we order from McDo’s kids would come up behind and add items to our orders and proceed to beg us for anything and everything, even after yelling “no” at them many times. Like these kids are going to become adults without understand what consent means…but a tip for other students: ignore the empathy within you that says to give them anything just because they are kids. They are apart of gangs, so you’re not a bad person for ignoring them. Anyways, we had booked two separate Airbnbs because Anna, Kira, and Juju were planning on staying in Marseille the whole week instead of going to Nice. Because they had an early check-in we decided to hang out there for the afternoon before we walked around Le Vieux Port and Le Panier (the original neighborhood). The harbor and the salty ocean breeze was taking me back to Santa Barbara, and I started to feel like I was back home. A couple of apéros and drinks later, we did some MonoPrix grocery shopping for a dinner, which turned out amazing! With everyone working together, we enjoyed a dinner of spicy Italian sausage pasta, two types of bruschetta, balsamic brussel sprouts, and gin tonics. After dinner and some dancing, we gathered in the living room to have some very personal conversations which ended in crying for many of us. This was much more than a moment of bonding for us. We became like family. We talked about insecurities and loss…adult conversations. After many hugs, we said good night before Jenny, Kyle, and I checked into the other Airbnb. The next day, we woke up early (after many snoozed alarms) to check out the Notre Dame cathedral on the highest hill in the city. After trekking up the hills to the cathedral, Jenny and I both agreed that Marseille was San Fransisco but in France. From Notre Dame, there was a stunning 360 degree view of the city and the ocean. From the highest point of the city, we quickly descended to Le Vieux Port to catch a 4 hour-long boat tour of the Calanques. Sailing on the Mediterranean was a surreal experience, looking out over the crystal clear water to the natural coves along the rugged coast of the South of France. Traveling in the South had put everyone in a vacation mood, so much that Kira and I had even dared each other to fall overboard “by accident” in order to get an opportunity to swim in the ocean. Luckily for the boat’s crew, the weather was slightly too cold for such a move, although the dares were quickly escalating. Although we restrained ourselves from jumping overboard, the ocean decided to come onboard while Kyle and I were reenacting the classic Titanic scene in front of an audience of French vacation goers, soaking both of us.
The next morning at 11h00, after having breakfast bagels (which were amazing) at the Kyle-Jenny-Micah house, the “Nice Gang” left on the one-hour journey from Marseille to Nice. The on-and-off rain in Nice was not going to ruin our stay in Nice, even though we had a slight argument trying to figure out the most effective way to get from the station to the Airbnb (which was perfect). Although the old wood staircase and corridor outside of the door to the apartment retained years of cigarette smoke, inside was a completely different story. There were two French doors with a tiny balcony each leading to a view of our neighbors down an alley which was overgrown with ivy climbing the walls of the apartment. Between the couch bed (which was shared by the boys) and the loft (for the girls), the Airbnb was home. Because of the weather, most of the outdoor activities were postponed for the next day (Clare’s 22nd birthday), so I booked a tour of a chocolate and candy factory in the port where expanded our gastronomy vocabulary. This turned out to be on of the many highlights of our stay in Nice, although an unexpected one, because both Kyle and Clare turned out to be huge fans of chocolate. The next morning, Kyle and I woke up early for Clare’s surprise birthday breakfast, which included both of us sneaking out to Carrefour City for early morning grocery shopping and me running two miles to and from the Starbucks to buy her classic “mocha blanc.” By the time the girls climbed down the ladder for breakfast, the morning sun rays were softly dancing through the French doors to the spread of pain au chocolat (or known as chocolatine in the South), scrambled eggs, chorizo sausages, orange juice, and hot chocolate inside on the dining table. After a hearty French-American breakfast, we walked off the calories by trekking nearly 10 miles by foot to Villefranche-sur-Mer (a beautiful Italian town not far from Nice on the ocean). The walk took Kyle and I back to California, driving along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) 1 from Malibu to Santa Monica. Villefranche-sur-Mer was stunning to say the least…from the beautiful Mediterranean architecture to the sparkling blue ocean, the vibes were immaculate. Between the beachy mood and the warmth of the sun, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean any longer. The water was more than refreshing. The water was energizing, maybe even life-giving. For Clare’s birthday we cooked quesadillas because everyone was missing homemade Mexican food and because a birdy (one of her friends from home) told us how she likes them. Happy birthday, Clare! Anyways, the next day was mostly a relaxing day of walking down Boulevard d’Anglais and visiting the different sights from a museum to a Russian orthodox cathedral to a château. From the château, we watched the sun set while dancing to the music from a random musician who was playing an accordion. A surreal experience. The colors of the sky painting red, orange, and yellow streaks from the ocean to the city below. This memory is a forever happy one. The next day, we returned to Paris for one last weekend there before returning home to Nantes. Home. That’s funny…calling Nantes home, but that’s what happens when you study abroad: you find a new home.
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<p>My name is Micah Doctolero and I'm studying in Nantes, France during the Fall 2021 semester. I'm a first-generation college student studying French and Management Information Systems (MIS) at Santa Clara University. Exploring the outdoors, whether the beach or the mountains is one of my favorite pastimes back home in California. I'm a 20-year old with a knack for discovering new places and meeting new people!</p>