During my semester abroad in Italy, we have three weeks of independent travel where you form a group and plan trips around Europe. This past week was our first free travel and I went to Southern France and Barcelona, Spain. My group consisted of four boys and four girls ready to tackle our first independent travel with only a backpack to our name.
It was a great week full of fun, memories, and several cultural lessons. The boys handled booking trains and planes, booking hostels and mapping out our day. The girls were in charge of snacks and planning the days activities. I liked our job better. ;) We learned so many things on this trip from how expensive it is to how horrible I really am at directions and that staying positive is the best thing you can do for your group.
In southern France we went to Monaco, Nice, and Marseille. We spent a day in Monte Carlo which is a port city where the Grand Prix race is held. It is a beautiful and extremely wealthy city (the boys were so excited about all the fancy cars we saw). I liked the city but definitely wouldn’t want to live there. We all felt like we did not belong at all in our jeans, boots, and t-shirts. We walked around the city, ate Nutella crepes, went to a castle to see a beautiful view, went ice skating, and ate pizza for dinner. We left early the next morning for Nice, France.
I LOVED Nice. It was also a port city that was beyond beautiful. The coast stretched for miles and couldn’t have been more inviting. While planning activities, I suggested a picnic at the beach and everyone was actually really excited about it. Well, it turned out to be mine and others favorite part of independent travel. We went to the markets and got fresh bread, gouda cheese, and fresh fruit and headed to the beach. We got there and screamed when we saw its the beautiful ocean and coast. We sat close to the water, got our clothes soaking wet as we ran through the waves, searched for sea class, took pictures, soaked up the sun, and enjoyed the best moment of the week. We were there for a couple hours but I could have stayed all day long.
After the beach we hiked to a lookout point that also exceeded our expectations. The view got better and better the higher we climbed and some great conversations came about. If you ever are in France, I highly recommend the quaint and lovely town of Nice.
Next we went to Marseille, France for half a day before we had to catch a train to Barcelona. I don’t want to be too hasty to judge this town but it was our least favorite place. The streets were dirty, rats ran in the road, people were not very nice, and there were several encounters with creepy people. The weather was also cold, rainy, and windy so I am sure that didn’t help. I don’t regret going there, I’m just glad we only spent a couple hours in Marseille.
Tomorrow we are leaving for southern Italy and Sicily! I am hoping to post about Barcelona before I leave, but no promises. Today we had classes and tonight we are heading to a pizza restaurant to eat and hear live music. If the sun comes back out soon, I’m also hoping to go on a walk up the hill- the views are incredible.