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France at an end

August 27, 2008
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I’m in the midst of packing a shockingly empty suitcase in preparation to return to Boston after nearly two months abroad. Paris is not a good place to spend the summer, which is probably why the city has been so empty, though it makes wandering the streets and getting into restaurants much simpler. I still prefer to eat the evening meal before 9 p.m., which also lends to the lack of lines, and half the time I’m happy spending a euro or two on boulangerie goods and feasting picnic-style. I’m easy to please.

We didn’t make it to Scotland because last minute flights still cost too much even when exploiting government connection discounts, and although we had the potential to get affordable tickets to Spain I didn’t feel right making the trip when my mom’s sister passed away in the midst of our travel planning. While I was convinced not to fly 6,000 miles to the funeral, I didn’t really want to fly anywhere else either.

Southern France may be my new favorite place in the world, or at the very least a new addition to the top ten locations to spend the summer. My soon-to-be roommate was passing through Paris on her leisurely way to Ireland and I offered to arrange a trip south, to which she agreed so long as I took care of the French. We spent an amazing long weekend getting more tan than either of our inhumanly translucent selves has ever been. The first day there we braved the rocks and sat on a public beach for a while, where I felt obliged to stare at the sky instead of inadvertently looking at strangers’ exposed bits. We camped out on a private beach the next day, where we were provided with wonderfully comfortable chairs and tables and parasols for the bargain price of €13 each.

On our last full day before heading back to Paris, we left pretty early in the morning and took the train to Monte Carlo, where we wandered around looking for the famed casino that seemed not to want to be found. We passed by yachts the size of castles and fleets of Bentleys, Ferraris, and unimaginable displays of wealth that had us jaded by noon. We grabbed a quick lunch and then took the train back toward Nice, getting off at a place called Villefranche sur mer (recommended by one of the staff at our hotel) and enjoyed one of the best beaches of the trip. I went through nearly a whole bottle of waterproof 45 SPF sunscreen and still got more sun than I knew what to do with.

On our last day in Nice, we went to the Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, which was a beautiful place and had a lot of paintings I never thought I’d live to see in person. There was a huge group of Japanese tourists milling about the entrance and my brain became so befuddled that I asked for my ticket in Japanese. This was not the first time that happened–why are there so many Japanese people in southern France? It’s not exactly close to Japan, you know. I saw more there in less than a week than I saw during months in Paris.

One thing that surprised me about Nice was everyone automatically assumed we were British. I realize I don’t look French and don’t have the enviable summer bronze skin tones of the locals, but I certainly don’t feel like I look like and Englishwoman despite how many of them tend to flock to the area, and I speak passable enough French to disguise my nationality if given a chance to speak (which I wasn’t). I guess it beats being mistaken for a Russian prostitute, which was still the case in Japan the week before.

Next up: Boston, moving to a new apartment, starting my second year of grad school, and teaching my first college course.

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