Journal Entry #7 — Spring Had Sprung

Emily on the beachWe journeyed north by train. I read Hemingway and was awed by the way the water seemed to go on forever. The sun always smiled the same way it did in my kindergarten drawings. I examined the geometric precision with which the vineyards had been arranged — I was rendered speechless. I was sitting next to my girlfriend Emily in a comfortable train car, surrounded by high-schoolers returning from spring break. I couldn’t focus on reading The Sun Also Rises to save my life. All I wanted to do (and all I could do) was pull out my camera and review the hundreds of pictures I had snapped while in Nice Côte d’Azur for a three-day weekend. It was Sunday morning and we were headed home to Strasbourg, but Emily’s sun-kissed skin served as a reminder of an unforgettable 72 hours in the south of France.
Monte Carlo casino in MonacoThe arrangements for our trip to Nice were made almost a month in advance and, if I’m to be honest, it was almost by default that we chose to go to Nice on April 12. Flights to London had proved to be too expensive and there were no suitable hostels reservations in Interlaken, Switzerland. Thus, we chose Nice. When our trip rolled around, however, the mid-March cold snap we had suffered through had me on my knees praying for a 70-degree day and a cold drink. Nice promised to give us both.
Seven of us Centre students departed from Strasbourg at 8:14 p.m. on Thursday after our last class for the week. We took a French night-train to the Nice-Ville station, with arrival on Friday at 9:36 a.m. As we pulled into the station, some of the natives seated nearby stripped off their coats. Others slipped off jeans and sweaters to reveal bathing suits. I thought they had lost their minds. At one point, Emily elbowed me and asked, “Do they know something we don’t?” Yes. They did.
We understood that we would be stepping onto land much warmer than that from whence we came. But we had no clue that, from the moment we left the train, our journey would be worthy of a Travel Channel mini-series.
We stepped out of the train station and the heat strangled us. The strength of the sun made our winter coats look ridiculous. Between exiting the station and walking to the main drag, the members of the group shared a telepathic moment — our first destination would be the beach.
After dropping our bags at the hostel, we hustled to the Promenade des Anglais and allowed ourselves to be swept up in the beauty that is the Mediterranean Sea.
I’d never seen a sea more blue, a sky more calming, or a sun more bright. I’m confident that God worked overtime when he created the French Riviera. He maketh me lie down under exotic palm trees. The beach runneth over with rocks — a marked improvement over the sticky sand-filled beaches that I know from home. Surely this place was filled with goodness.
Emily & CJ in NiceThe next day was even better. I woke up around 6 a.m. and decided to chase the moon along the coast. I ran past the early morning street-sweepers, excited dogs walking their owners, and a group of middle-aged bicyclists. I took note of the sailors and fishers out in the sea. I laughed at the collection of young travelers who, from the looks of it, had come to the beach after a long night of partying. The waves were beautifully powerful — they pushed inland and purified the shore. My eye wandered to a tiny airplane descending onto the landing strip at the Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, which sticks out because of its placement at the southernmost tip of the city, flush with the Mediterranean Sea.
I came to the conclusion that as travelers, we’re looking for some sort of supernatural shock. Either we want to see a place that has customs and social norms that are alien compared to how we live and act, or we want to see a place that is more sublime than our wildest dreams. To put it plainly, we want to see something different.
That’s why we allowed Nice to captivate us. Everything in Nice was more than my feeble senses were used to — the smells from the beachfront restaurants, the feeling of the sun on my skin, the way in which the water never ended.
I used my second day in Nice to do even more of what I did on day one. After breakfast the group decided to hike through the Old Town en route to Castle Hill. From its famous waterfall, we had a panoramic view of the city center. If I hadn’t fallen in love with the city the evening before, that spring day would’ve been as good a time as any. It was perfect.
I swam in the Mediterranean Sea. I dried off in the sun. I rented a pair of roller blades and scooted down the coast, hopping over curbs and whizzing past pedestrians. We ate a beach-side meal of king prawns and rice. We rode to Monaco by train, walked on the game floor inside the Monte Carlo Casino, and ventured back to Nice. We awoke the next morning, gathered our belongings, walked to the beach one last time, and boarded a train back to Strasbourg.
Leaving a place you love is hard, and I thought that my return to Strasbourg would be less than amazing weather-wise. I believed that I’d be met with cold winds that would cause me to long for Nice. To my surprise, this could not have been further from the truth. It seemed that the sun had decided to follow us back to Alsace to remind us of a week well-spent in the south of France. Nice was nice, and spring had sprung.
by CJ Donald ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-France study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in France.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): Emily walking back to the shore after a dip in the Mediterranean Sea, the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco, and Castle Hill overlooking Nice in France.

By |2013-04-22T10:34:29-04:00April 22nd, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - France|