The first time I saw the Mediterranean Sea on Promenade des Anglais through the Nice airport shuttle window dangling in a packed bus, I smiled. The afternoon sun was shining bright… the sapphire blue sea even brighter as if demanding everyone to feast on it.
I couldn’t believe a few hours ago I was on an easyJet flight, fuming for the whole duration. An airline official had refused to let us board unless we paid €100 or adjusted our carry-on luggage (even with the inclusive Flexi ticket that allowed more bags on-person).
But the glimpse of this infinite horizon of the French Riviera proved quite therapeutic to calm my nerves.
20 minutes into the ride, we reached our stop just before Nice Old Town (Vieille Ville) and got out. As we crossed the street, the checked-in luggage’ handle that extends broke completely (thanks for nothing, easyJet!). Luck wasn’t on our side!
Soon, we were sprinting through the ancient alleys of the Old Town to find our Airbnb rental while pulling a 20-inch luggage bag like a handcart through conversations, chaos and excitement.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to find our home, I met up with our host, Isabelle — an absolute gem of a person — only to realize I lost my parents to the sea of people. Then again, they weren’t far behind and stuck together until I rescued them.
If I had to describe Nice Old Town in one word, it’d be ‘animated’. There’s this constant flow of happiness and anticipation flowing around you, that you can’t avoid even if you closed your eyes. The aura of this old yet modern locale is endearing, almost becoming hypnotic.
You instantly become a part of the local community that’s embracing history with the essence of life.
Once we settled in our sixteenth century Airbnb house, my dad and I explored the charming Vieille Ville and set out to walk along the Promenade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more serene stretch of Mediterranean Sea bordering a bustling European city.
I sat there for hours and just stared at the horizon melting into the sea… believing that I was the only person left on earth for a fraction of a second. The waters carried a calm and light breeze with them, enveloping me like I was weightless.
Before long, my dad came, and I had to say goodbye this view to catch the last bus back to the Old Town.
But there was a small problem.
The bus stops weren’t there anymore. Repairs were being done on our side of the road. So, we ran up and down the pedestrian walkway to figure out which one was still in use. We talked to locals in signs and gestures to find the closest stop, only to see three buses go right past us.
Fortunately, we found a guy waiting on the road and assumed he stood at a temp bus stop. 10 minutes later, we got on the last night bus going back to our home.
We needed to fix the luggage bag or risk pulling it with threads to our next destination — Venice, where we had a slim-to-none chance of repairing it. We did the stupid thing of taking the bag to the only Samsonite boutique before leaving for Monaco the next day.
So, we show our broken bag to the manager who tells us she can’t verify our purchase through the warranty card, that she must contact the Belgium HQ (WTF?) to see if it has the part, and that it’ll take 2-3 weeks for the bag to be fixed at HQ and sent back to Nice.
I said ‘No, thank you!’ by scraping as much politeness as I could, and we left to catch our bus to Monaco.
Little did I know we were going from one disaster to another!
It was May 1, 2017 — the International Worker’s Day in France when the local workers take a day off to celebrate and rally for their rights.
Bad choice to go on a day trip as most of the government-run public transports, intercity buses and trains were canceled or majorly delayed.
We wasted two hours waiting for the bus that never came and instead got on the train to Monaco.
We reach Monaco and are psyched to see this elegant country. But the curse of Worker’s Day followed us there too. There wasn’t a single public transport in operation.
We explored the whole country on foot, hiking up and down its steep slopes while our eyes and mouths drooled over the sheer grandeur of Monaco’s scenery.
Who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten to see such amazing sides of Monaco if we’d opted to take the public transport.
Our last day in France led us to the most picturesque, out-of-a-fairytale commune in Côte d’Azur called Èze standing atop a mountain. If there’s one place you should visit along the breathtaking French Riviera, make it Èze. You won’t regret it!
The moment I laid eyes on the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding southeastern French coast, my heart and mind were overflowing with so much happiness and gratitude that I didn’t know where to look first.
Here was a horizon as far as my senses could perceive, radiating even on a cloudy day. And all I could do was hold on to the emotions I felt from the bottom of my heart, so I don’t ever forget the sensations on my skin and soul.
. . . .
The 72 hours I spent visiting the top cities in French Riviera was nothing short of being under a crazy spell. I faced many difficulties, and I saw a ton of beauty to make up for them. The biggest lesson I took from my French Riviera excursion is: Everything happens for a reason.
I know I only scratched a surface of this magical region, and I can’t wait to go back and immerse in the depths of its history and culture.
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