(Slightly delayed as internet issues meant I couldn’t post this yesterday) I write this sitting at the beach in the glorious sunshine on the French Riviera. I always try to get away at this particular time of the year, for my birthday. I’ve found as I get each year older that birthdays really aren’t that exciting nor something to really celebrate. Sure, I want to catch up with my family and closest friends but I want to do that most weeks so nothing special there.
Instead, I often decide to go away for a few days. This means that when look back on my birthdays, I do so with unique, fun, interesting memories of the amazing experiences I’ve had, rather than the focus being on another boring birthday. Some years I go away with friends and sometimes I go on my own.
This year, I’ve come to Nice on my own for 4 days. I love France and this is an area I had never been to before. Flights were cheap from the UK and I figured I’d at least get a bit more sun than at home – Wednesday was pretty nice and today is stunning but Thursday and Friday were very rainy (not cold though).
I love travelling because I love seeing new places, I love delicious food, and I love meeting new people. This trip has been the perfect combination of all of those.
I decided to stay in a hostel on this trip, not only because it’s so much cheaper than a hotel but because you get to meet new people too. The hostel I’m in (Villa Saint Exupery Beach) is in a great location, clean, has its own bar (with really cheap beer and cocktails during Happy Hour every evening) and pleasant, helpful staff.
Although I’m staying in Nice, I’ve also taken trips to Èze, Monaco, Antibes, Cannes and Île de Sainte Marguerite. Nice is a pretty cool city. Not too big and a nice mix of modern and old. On my first full day here I took a tour bus to see the city and also visited the Musée Matisse and the Musée du Sport. As it was my birthday, I also went to a posh hotel and drank prosecco then went for a really great dinner and then out to a few bars with the girls I’m sharing a room with at the hostel.
I wasn’t fussed by Monaco but I’m glad I have been there just to tick it off the list. I went to the Musée Océanographique and walked around the old area where the palace is, we also gambled a few euros at one of the casinos. We stopped in Èze on the way to Monaco and had a short walk around the castle on the hill. It’s such a tiny village but the views are spectacular so I’m glad we made the short detour.
Antibes is lovely. Exactly how I picture what a French town on the Côte d’Azur should look like. They have an amazing food and farmers’ market and I also visited the Musée Picasso, took a long walk through the old parts of the town and sat on the beach basking in the sun for a while.
Cannes was really busy and I wasn’t up for battling the crowds. It’s a nice enough town but I quickly headed to the port and jumped on a ferry to Île de Sainte Marguerite, a small island 15-minutes off the coast which is a nature reserve and home to roman ruins and a 17th century fort and prison. It was beautiful and so peaceful and relaxing. I visited the fort and they had a temporary photography exhibition from a Korean photographer who had been commissioned by the local authority to capture the island. The photos were absolutely breathtaking. The island is renowned for its eucalyptus trees and my favourite photo of the series could easily have been taken in Kenya, a place I adore. I couldn’t believe the similarity.
I have eaten truly delicious food the whole time I’ve been here. From freshly baked croissants from boulangeries in the old town, a 3-course perfectly French meal of salade niçoise, baked sea bass with courgettes and aubergines, and crême brulée, colourful and tasty macarons from a food market, to absolutely exceptional carpaccico du boeuf in Monte Carlo.
I have met fun, interesting people from Norway, Canada, the US, India, South Korea and more. People taking career breaks and travelling Europe on their own; university students studying in Prague or Florence for a semester and trying to see as much of Europe as they can every weekend; others just taking a short holiday like I am. What I love most is that it doesn’t matter what age, nationality, background or reason for travelling, I have had great conversations and experiences with people I would never have met otherwise.
If you have never traveled alone, I highly recommend it. I have had the most fascinating and memorable experiences all around the world from travelling solo, and this trip was just another one to add to my ever-growing list.
Suggestions for where I should go next please…