Nice, France was already proving to be a reprieve from what was starting to become dreary and lonely Paris. I was on day 3 of my first ever solo trip, exploring France’s sunnier south on a long weekend during my study abroad program in Paris. Day 1 had consisted of sitting on the beach on a warm October afternoon and feeling so grateful that I called my parents to brag about it, and later teaching (in French!) my very kind and respectful Couchsurfing host, Guilhem, how to salsa dance at a Latin bar.
On day 2, Guilhem and I had gone on a hike in the hills that was so peaceful and good for my soul; At the top of the hill was a spectacular view of the whole Nice area and the entire coastline. It was rather cloudy but still a breathtaking sight to see.
Finally, on Day 3 when Guilhem had to go to work, I set out for some solo sightseeing.
This is when I decided to hit up a new country: Monaco.
Although Monaco is technically its own (extremely small) country, no one checked my passport upon arriving there. When I got there, I was astounded by how beautiful it was (it was cloudy again but I didn’t care! It was still warm!). Right along the sea were giant cliffs (and buildings), and I felt so blessed again to be able to see scenery like this.
However, that was the extent to which Monaco was interesting; the culture of the city/country itself seemed to be just wealth. What with designer shopping, five star hotels, casinos, and more Bentlys than I had even seen in my life, Monte Carlo didn’t have much to offer a broke student such as myself.
So what’s a girl to do next with a couple of hours to kill?
Oh, just spontaneously go to Italy.
Yep. Monaco is close to the Italian border, so that’s where I decided to go.
However, once on the train over to the border town of Ventimiglia, the panic started to seep in. I thought to myself, Self, what the hell are you doing? You can’t just casually take a train to Italy like you can with Monaco. After today, you will have technically been in three countries- that’s crazy! And you don’t know anything about Ventimiglia, and you really don’t have that much time before the bus to Guilhem’s house stops running…
Thus, upon disembarking at the termini in Ventimiglia, I was sufficiently freaking out.
Therefore, I told myself to just calm down, go outside and walk around for a little, and then I could go back to the train station.
However, when no one checked my passport upon disembarking, I was reminded about the Schengen agreement/fact that no one seems to give a shit in Italy. I thus walked a few blocks down to the beach, my brain readjusting to all of the signs being in Italian instead of French. I then arrived at the shore and sat down on the pebbly sand. The sun was about to set.
It was beautiful.
I was okay with being alone, but the moment became even more magical when a group of Italians asked me to come hang out with them.
Although we didn’t all understand each other, they were really cool- and we sat and watched the sunset together. It was such an incredible moment, and I really didn’t want to leave. I almost wish that I had just gone to Ventimiglia in the first place and skipped Monaco because it was so pretty and so much fun. And to think that I was freaking out so badly about coming there.
I realized how in love with Italy I was.
However, I did have to leave soon after that, because Guilhem’s house was kind of out in the boonies and the bus running there stopped pretty early at night. So I hopped on a train headed back to Nice and in the process met another really interesting person. He was a guy who lived in Antibes, France but was telling me (in French!) how he goes back and forth between France and Italy a lot, as well as regularly going to Tunisia, where he grew up.
Eventually, I made it back to Guilhem’s place just fine.
(I also did all of this without having a smartphone?)
And that day turned out to be one of the coolest days of my life.