Currently I am in Annecy, France (pronounced Aaancy), sitting in my Airbnb apartment where I’ll be spending the next entire month (can you believe it). I spent my day in quite possibly every grocery store within 5 miles, looking for two seemingly simple ingredients – black beans, and salsa. What I forgot was the french’s lack of desire for Mexican cuisine. Or anything with spice. There is one brand “El Que Pasa” which is basically the equivalent of Dorito brand Mexican condiments. however, even this brand is nearly impossible to find, finally after health food store, budget stores, bulk stores, regular ole stores, I found a precious jar of El Que Pasa salsa (medium flavor, because the french wouldn’t dare put their taste buds through the torture of anything hotter than “slightly mild”). Unfortunately my search for black beans in ongoing and I hope to have further positive updates on it. For a quick general idea of what its like to travel alone, its long periods of monotone feelings, and big smacks of intense sadness/stress/worry, BUT hold out, because the next big smacks feel like your dreaming, and they make every step of it worth it. I’ve just finished a good spurt of crying and decided that validated a post. The salsa stress was just all too much, it’s been pouring all day and the cherry on top – my bank wouldn’t let me withdraw 250 euros to get a bike (meaning I walked all day in the rain carrying a giant bag full of groceries). After hours of my precious mother making phone calls, waiting, emailing, etc, the bank finally changed my withdrawal limit, WOOHOO thank! you! mom! SO I got my bike, and could finally lug my groceries back home. Getting home, I was so completely depleted from the day and soaking wet that I just collapsed and cried. Which I find I do often, mostly on transition days, but its not always entirely bad, many times I just find myself so overcome with emotion and overwhelmed with all the beauty in new places that I cant hold it in. I’ve also found that anxiety almost completely disappears after a good cry, so I am in full effect, an utmost supporter of a solid cry. and you should be too.
Thats enough dreariness, the past week has actually been maybe one of the happiest weeks I’ve had since traveling. Last Wednesday, I arrived back in France from Ireland, which was possibly the best thing to happen yet. Felt a bit like coming home, I cant explain how much I had missed the sun. I flew into Marseille, on the coast of France, where I would be meeting Abby! We had roughly thrown the plan together just a week in advance and splurged on an AirBnB together. Before I go into the positive parts of Marseille, I want to state that it is simply not a safe city if you are a solo female traveler. The city was essentially founded by the mafia and some streets are still completely run by herds of dangerous men. Even in the main port tourist area, men still lurk in corners and have no issue calling or grabbing at you. Having said that, please try to go, just find somebody to go with you. The old port is stunning, as is the architecture, especially in Le Panier district. I was there for three full days, the first I spent with a german girl helping her get her phone fixed in an apple store (long story) and patiently awaiting Abbys arrival. The second day was by far the best. We took the bus (line 58) from the Castellane Prada stop to cassis, I’m telling you that because if you ever go, getting to cassis is weirdly hard to navigate. Take the bus, 100%, not the train. Its cheaper and a much prettier ride. Once in cassis we hit the Friday morning farmers market to stock up on picnic goods – bread, olive tapenade, cheese, fruit, tomatos, and a cucumber. Then we hiked into El Calanque national park, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. We walked through giant cliffs, ports and Calanques or little coves filled with water so blue, I don’t even have words for it. Do not miss this. Wherever you are in France, make sure you take a day to spend in El Calanque. The third day we explored the city of marseille, primarily the Cours Julien area. Its an upcoming and super cool little area of marseille thats filled with street art, lots of different cuisines, and so many vintage stores. Theres also a little market in the main square. We did most of our eating at the apartment but we did have a few spots that I’d recommend. For cheap and good pizza – pizza charlies, for the best navettes (little orange blossom flavored biscuits) – Les Navettes des Accoules, and finally for super reasonably priced but delicious espresso – Maison Geney in Le Panier. The best thing to do is wake up, buy your navettes, and walk right around the corner to get a coffee (I like cafe allonges) to dip your navettes in. Then if sitting outside, literally reach over to your right and buy a grapefruit from the fruit and vegetable stand to wash down the coffee/navettes. To sum up, I loved marseille with all my heart, its so beautiful and the surrounding places are incredible, but just be safe and don’t go alone. In terms of safety, I will note that the train station/bus station is not a safe area at all, especially while its dark. So when planning your trip, make sure you arrive and depart in daylight. we had some complications on the last day and abby ended up having to take a taxi for 70 euros to the airport at 4 am, which scared me and all the parents (especially because something was wrong with her phone so she could never let us know she had made it). My last thing to say about my time in marseille, is just what a difference having a friend can make. Being able to share experiences with somebody is just as important as doing things solo. I’ve so missed close company, and it was very needed, and to give myself some credit, I think it was very deserved.
The first day I arrived in Nice was hard, transition day, and saying goodbye to abby made it especially rough. So I’m skipping the details of that day, except that I did see Matisse’s house and its spectacular, as are the surrounding areas. It’s Colorful, covered in plants and the weirdest mix of english/roman/Mediterranean architecture. I had one full day in Nice and I think I physically radiated happiness. I lucked out being there on a Monday because the daily produce market gets turned into a giant flea/antique market. Everything was beautiful, but my favorite stalls were the linen and cloth ones that were filled with white fabrics swaying in the wind. I treated myself, and bought a nice little wooden pocket knife for baguettes, tomatos, etc and a french print of three woman. I love them both. I spent the morning walking around the old town of Nice which is filled with boutiques and most importantly – street food. My personal favorite was Socca. It is hands down one of the best things to enter my mouth. Its so simple too, just a thin pancake made with chickpea flour and ALOT of olive oil added throughout the baking process. Its served hot and fresh in a white paper sack (to go) or on a plate as a appetizer (to stay). I chose to grab a tomato and socca to go and ate it in a square. Tomato + Socca = perfect pair. The last thing that made the day so wonderful was a stop at Pizza Pili which is just a little hole in the wall selling 7 euro giant take away neoplolitan styled pizzas. I got a pizza and walked it down to the pebble beach right in front of old town Nice and watched the sunset. It can be hard to be really super ecstatically happy alone, but this was one of the times where I just beemed with contentment. Everything was perfect in just that moment. Oh also, icecream. Specifically dark chocolate sorbet from Gelateria Azzurro.