Monday, 8 November 2010

Toussaint - Nice is nice!

It's amazing how quickly the time is going here, I have already had the Toussaint holiday! That's a week off at the end of October, leading up to All Saints' Day, for those not in the know. Most of my friends went home for this week, but I went to Nice! My dad's cousin Ann Marie arrived in Lyon on the evening of Saturday the 23rd, and I met her at the station. That was a nightmare in itself, because I had no idea which platform she would be coming in at, and Part-Dieu, Lyon's central train station, is busier than New Street! We eventually found each other though, and we went to a cafe by the station. The next morning, I met Ann Marie at her hotel. I foolishly decided to walk, which was a big mistake. I crossed the river and then got incredibly confused and lost! I couldn't phone her because I didn't have any credit on my phone! I eventually found a taxi though. Once we finally met up with each other we walked to the old town. We both loved wandering the cobbled streets and hopping around the cafés! We found the most amazing shop which sells all sorts of funky patterned things, from ashtrays to hairbrushes! We visited the Cathédrale St Jean, which is very impressive both inside and out! We each lit a candle for my granny. We also went up to the basilica at Fourvière, which is a gorgeous white building on a hill. It looks like a castle, and is even more beautiful on the inside! I'm not religious but I always feel moved when I go to pretty churches and cathedrals! That evening we had dinner at a pizza place at Place Bellecour, and for some reason launched into an academic snobfest, because of me being a student at a high ranking university, and her having a degree from one - she has an MA in History from Trinity College, Dublin. We met at Part-Dieu on Monday morning and got on the train to Nice. It took us 4 and a half hours, so I'm glad I decided to book us into first class! We arrived at 3:30 and after checking into our hotel, which Ann Marie had stayed in when she went to Nice 11 years ago, we went out and explored a bit. We found all sorts of restaurants, and a very convenient market store where we bought some white wine and crisps. I had a vocab embarrassment while in this shop: I asked the shopkeeper for a corkscrew, but said the wrong word! I asked for a "tournevis" - which is French for screwdriver! I should have asked for a "tire-bouchon." Curse those second year vocab tests! Thankfully we did manage to ask the man to open the wine for us. We found a lovely Italian restaurant near the hotel, which we went to that night. I had lasagne and Ann Marie had spaghetti bolognaise, which in her words was "bloody amazing!" The next day, we went to the old town. You may have noticed a pattern here: Ann Marie and I both love old towns with cobbled streets, quaint cafes and unique shops! So we did our usual thing of wandering around, looking at the shops and cafe hopping! We found a shop which sells chocolate covered olives! Strange or what? In the afternoon we had a picnic on the beach and watched the planes landing, while trying to guess where they were coming from! It was fun because every plane took a different flight path. Our restaurant of choice on Tuesday evening was a place near a church called L'Abbaye (The Abbey) where I had steak and AM had mussels. She loves them! It was so hot there because there were heat lamps. We were roasting! On Wednesday, we went to Monaco and Monte Carlo. It was the best day trip ever! We saw the famous casino although we didn't go in, and we had drinks in the Café de Paris! We paid €11 for a coffee and a lemonade! I took a coaster from there and it is now blu-tacked to my wall! We also walked on part of the Grand Prix circuit, and went on a boat across the harbour. Then we went on a tour bus and got to see loads more! We visited the Prince's palace, which is one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen! I wish I could have taken photos in there, but we weren't allowed. After arriving back in Nice we went to yet another restaurant! Ann Marie and I had a very interesting conversation about what I want to do after uni, and when I said to her that one of my options was going into teaching, she pretty much begged me not to waste my skills on a class of 40 odd kids! She told me that she messed up by not making good use of her degree, so she wants me to take time after I graduate to really think about what I want to do. So I promised her there and then that I would live my dream because she didn't get to live hers. The next day, we had planned to go to Galeries Lafayette, but it was closed for stock taking. We both thought this was completely pointless, because stock taking can be done out of hours, there's no need to close the shop to do it! So instead we wandered around some more, and went on a tour bus. I really enjoyed that! We had a very surreal experience while on the bus - we got caught in the middle of a strike! We had heard that there would be a protest from 1:30 to 4:30, and because of this we were stationary for about half an hour! While the bus wasn't moving, a protest van passed us, with 3 people on it and a man speaking through a megaphone telling people to come to the protest. Yet another strange French experience to add to the ones I've already had! We got to see loads on the bus though, including a beautiful Russian church. That was the only church we didn't visit in Nice. We found one called La Chapelle de Sainte Rita, or Saint Rita's Chapel. I had to take a picture of a design in the window, because my granny's name is Rita! Ann Marie suggested that I use this picture to make a Christmas card for her. So that's what I'm going to do! For our last night in Nice we went to an American style steak house. We returned to Lyon on Friday morning, and arrived at 2:00. We had another look around the old town and then went up to see the Opéra and the Hotel de Ville. Ann Marie absolutely loved this - the Hotel de Ville is one of the most impressive buildings in Lyon! We sat in a café outside it and watched the people go by. It sounds weird but I love people watching! There's a fountain in the square which Ann Marie said was like Rome's Trevi Fountain. Amazing :) That night we went back to the pizza place at Bellecour. A perfect end to a perfect week! I always love holidaying with Ann Marie :) On Saturday morning we met at Part Dieu and went to the shopping centre there, which I like to think of as the French Bullring. We had drinks in the cafe at Galeries Lafayette, and then went to some homeware stores to look at the Christmas decorations and other things. After that we went to the cutest café ever, it had all sorts of novelty clocks on the wall, including a digital one which was showing the time in Sydney. Why that was, I have no idea! We got back to Part Dieu in plenty of time, but we were waiting for what seemed like forever for Ann Marie's platform to be shown! There were lots of delays, not only departures but arrivals too! Eventually the platform did show up, and I said goodbye to Ann Marie on the platform. I had the best week ever in Nice, and I would definitely go back!