French Fabulous, Beaches & Ports (Nice, Marseille)

19 May 2013

Nature was the first instance of creativity. The beautiful coastal landscape between Italy and France is an inspiration to me about how much we have been given by God to work with here on Earth. To exercise our creativity to greater extents, develop innovative processes, and use the beauty of the earth to better people and places, I believe is what is expected of all of us. Go out in the world and get inspired. Make this life the best it can be. We all have the power to change things, to make things better. We all have the ability to create and innovate, which in turn will build our world into one that is not passive, but active. As I have journeyed two short weeks in Europe, I have seen some of the most inspiring places and structures in the world…but what good does this do me if I don’t take that inspiration and run with it? So I will run with it, and you run with it too! Get inspired and have fun exploring all the possibilities and opportunities that you have to change history…we are the next chapter.

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As we drive down the Italian Riviera into France, my eyes have been glued to the window… Our train goes right along the coastline, like within 5 feet of the water! It is absolutely beautiful. The water is so blue and the sun is shining so bright, today is going to be a good day!

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We left the train station at 5:39 in the morning for milan which got us in at 8:55 just in time to catch our connecting train leaving for Ventimiglia at 9:10. Ventimiglia is a coastal city right on the border of Italy and France. From there we will take a short train over the border to Nice where we will spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach (the best sunday activity to do when traveling in my opinion). We have been going, going, going for so long it will be nice to have some down time in the trains and on the beach. Quite the change up from our usual 12 hour days exploring the cities! We won’t have time to rest long though, because after today we will have another week of jumping from city to city in Spain and France. I am quite excited!

Below are pictures from our evening stroll in Marseille.

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Today is Sunday, so we designated it as a travel day. We need to get all the way from Venice to Barcelona in the next two days, so it was perfect that we could spend a Sunday relaxing on the trains. We have a stop in Nice for a few hours before we take the train into Southern France and later on to Spain. Out of all the places on the French Riviera I have heard that Nice is the place to go. It has beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes, Nice is quite “nice” as they say!

Well we stayed in Nice for a couple hours, but the wind was blowing like CRAZY so we did not actually get in the water…and as my mom warned, topless women were everywhere! We passed through Monaco, which is it’s own country. Technically if you count Monaco and the Vatican, I have been to five new countries in the past 2 weeks! The Italian and French coast are absolutely gorgeous. Right now we are on our way to Marseille in Southern France and the train ride is beautiful! The sun is just about to set and everything has a golden glow about it. It almost looks as if Halos from Heaven are being poured down on everything. The coast is different here. It is very rocky and steep, with cities dotting the hills and valleys and greenery filling in everything in between. France is different than Italy, a lot different. The people are so proper…even the landscape looks sophisticated and put together. They grow a lot of grapes in the countryside between cities, al aligned in beautiful rows…

I purchased a Global Train pass when I was home in the states that gives me access to all the Intercity and Regional trains throughout Europe for one-month. The pass seems a little pricey at first glance, but I am telling you that it is the only way to go. As a student traveler (18-26 years old) they give even greater discounts on the ticket price, assuming you are willing to ride second class. I paid about $600 for mine, and it has been well worth it. We are just finishing day 7 and we have already taken 15 + trains (each train ticket ranges between $5 and $70 depending on the distance)

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There are perks and drawbacks to looking lost.

We arrived in Marseille at about 7 in the evening. We didn’t know much about the city except that it was a port city and one of the largest cities in France, second only to Paris. We tried to get information for hostels because we had no one to stay with there, but a lot of French people don’t want to help English speakers….so besides giving us a map, they were’t much help. We hadn’t made it two blocks from the train station when a young German couple approaches us and asks if we need help. I guess we looked really lost and confused…so they pointed us in the direction of some good hostels and hotels. Not 5 minutes later after they had left, they came back to where we were standing (as we were still lost and confused and hadn’t moved) and offered to let us stay with them in their flat. We were so relieved to have a place to stay…even better that it was free and that they fed us dinner. Sam and Ann were so wonderful to us. Although it did get a bit uneasy when Sam pulled out the wine and offered to share it with us, which of course we said no to. He persisted for a little bit, probably thinking it odd that we were turning down perfectly good wine-but respected our choice to not drink it. Germans are known for their love of alcohol, so I understood that he was just trying to be kind and ensured him of his graciousness despite declining his offer.

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After a delicious dinner of baguettes, brie, salami, and peppers Sam offered to take us out on the town for an evening taste of Marseille.

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Little did I know that Marseille had been chosen as Culture Capital of Europe for 2013! We got to sneak in on a huge concert with French singers, actors, and the largest stage/screen set up I have seen. They actually had a giant lit up boat hoisted out over the stage replicating the Titanic…I was not aware that France had relation to the Titanic, and because everything was in French I couldn’t understand a thing! I will have to look that one up later. We viewed Notre Dame, the huge Cathedral on top of the hill, the new port, the old port, two new castles (new as in 17th century), and the night life of one of Europe’s most “cultured” cities. It is interesting to note that people are what make the culture. People manipulate earth’s elements, as well as their own perceptions and thoughts to create a so called “culture”. Because everyone things uniquely, a variety of cultures exist throughout the world. Marseilles was chosen as the culture capital of the word because it’s people were creative which led to great innovations such as their massive shipping companies, harbors, ports, and ships. Marseille is the city that keeps France in contact with all the goods it imports from outside it’s borders. Marseille keeps France alive.

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Chateau D’if is an island prison of the coast of Marseilles that is famous for both the real and fictional prisoners it holds. Count of Monte Cristo is a fictional book that uses the Chateau D’if as one of its main settings. I haven’t read this book but from the bit I have heard about it, it is going on my reading list ASAP. If you have read the book and have any comments on why I should read it too, leave them below!

I like making comparisons, so if you are familiar with Alcatraz…it is considered the American Chateau D’if.

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