Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I don't even know where to start...

Okay. So this weekend was absolutely packed full of ridiculousness. I'm so exhausted, but ready to pour through the next 2 days of school and head out for my adventure in Italy with Anna. We're going to Venice and Cinque Terre. It's going to be INCREDIBLE. But first...I must share my adventures from last weekend. This is going to be quite the story, and I wish I was better at telling it because it's deserving of a good story teller. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those, but I'll do my best. The easiest way to do this is going to be to go in chronological order, so here we go...

I spent the weekend traveling with Scott, Patrick, and Brian again. We've become quite the group of travelers, and we work very well together. Sometimes we might get a little frustrated with each other, but that's mostly because Scott and I constantly bicker at each other. We still love each other though! Anyways, we ventured down to the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) this weekend to see the Grand Prix at Monaco, the film festival at Cannes, and take advantage of having a place to stay with our mutual friend Nehal, who is currently taking classes and participating in the film festival. She actually lives in a smaller city of the French Riviera called Juan Les Pins. We took an overnight train from Metz to Cannes, which wasn't as easy as it should have been due to me being who I am.

As usual, I was running late with packing and taking care of last minutes pre-travels things like dinner and homework. Long story short, I almost lost my dinner to the tragedy of placing a plastic bowl on a still hot stove top. I'm lucky if I don't have lung cancer from all the plastic fumes I breathed in. I was able to save dinner though, but the bowl was long gone by the time I got to it. Did I mention this all went down about 1 hour before my train left? And my dorm is a 30 minute walk from the train station; obviously, this was not a good situation to be in. I was able to inhale my dinner (along with the plastic fumes) and finish packing with time to spare. I still have to work on scraping the melted plastic off of my stove though..hahaha! My mom would be so proud of me ;) Love you mom!

So, that's how my weekend started. It might not have been the best start, but it was quite fitting knowing my tendency of doing stuff like that. After a little bit of running, I was able to catch up with the group on the way to Metz, and we made it onto the train in time. The ride their was pretty relaxed. I was able to sleep in my seat and felt pretty good about my safety as well as the security of my belongings. We looked out for each other, so nothing was going to happen to us. The only bad thing about the trip was Scott waking me up at 4 AM as he thought we were there. Let's just say we were still 3 hours ago. It's ok Scott! I forgive you. Sorry I was a little pissy about it!

Moving on...we arrived in Cannes and spent the day in Monaco because the Grand Prix was held there all weekend. We didn't have any tickets, but with a little bit of traveler know-how and sneaking under overpasses we were able to get a great view of the race! We went around a couple different spots and even made a friend with one of the security guards. Nothing better than seeing the Grand Prix for free considering the tickets cost a fortune!
video
We spent a few hours watching the race, and then decided to move on to exploring the rest of the city. Monaco is an incredible mix of culture, money, fashion, and history. I thought it was a beautiful city. It's on the ocean and has all sorts of coves packed with yachts and sail boats. We encountered so many neat things from a Japanese garden to exotic car dealerships to an old fortress and palace with a village next to it. We stayed in the city/country (it's one of those places that is both) for dinner and ate at restaurant in this small alley next to an old cathedral next to the palace. I can confidently say that we did a great job with Monaco. I had a great day in the city. I can't go over the beautiful views, expensive cars, amazing boats, and historical architecture. Seeing the Grand Prix was a nice perk too ;)
The next day, we decided to do something a bit different. We on a hike up to a medieval village called Eze which offers the best view of the French Riviera. I'll be honest; the hike was quite brutal. We went from sea level to about 430 meters above where the Jardin botanique d'Èze lies. It was totally worth it. The hike was beautiful, and it only got better the higher we went. The village itself is breathtaking. I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to walk along its narrow streets. The village was once a getaway for royal families and has one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. It would be a perfect romantic getaway or honeymoon location. At the top of the village, there is a cactus and rare plant garden that is unlike any other garden I've ever seen. Scott came through big time by getting us in for half price with a student discount. I would really like to go back to Eze someday for a few days of relaxation. I can't fully describe how much I enjoyed being there. If you're ever in the area, you have to go to Eze. I promise you will not be disappointed. Be prepared for a bit of a hike though!


The rest of the day and night we hung around Juan Les Pins and Antibes (a nearby city). We had a chill dinner and hung out at a pub exchanging stories and people watching. The French Riviera was packed with visitors this weekend because of the Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival. There was no shortage of interesting people there to humor us.

After so much hustle and bustle, we decided to take it easy for our last day. We headed over to Cannes to walk around the city and check out its famous La Croisette (a street of beautiful beaches and high end designer stores like Gucci, Armani, etc.) and old village. Everything was super expensive! I'm not exaggerating; we found a cell phone that cost about 32,000 euros. SO RIDICULOUS

After we were done with Cannes, we went back to relax in Juan Les Pins before it was time to head out. Scott, Brian, and I hung out in the park for a while and even did a little arts and crafts project. It was fun, male-bonding time. Anyways...on to the last part of my weekend story...this is where things gets a bit messy.

Our return trip home was not exactly what we had planned for. We took a train to Cannes where we were supposed to be overnighting to Metz just in time to get back for class. Well, we get to the train station and can't find out train on the list of departures. This is incredibly weird to us. I decided to go ask somebody what was up. The response I got was quite unexpected. It turns out the French train operators or whatever decided to go on strike. What did that mean for us and our train home? Well, it meant there was no train. We were stuck and had no way of getting back. There was a train that was running an hour late to Paris that we could have tried to get on, but that was a bad option considering everybody was trying to do the same and the train went to a station in Paris that was a LONG walk away from the one that would take us to Metz. So, what were options? Well, we really didn't have any way of getting back via train. There wasn't another train we could get on and waiting for the next day was hopeless because of the strike. Flying back was out of the question as well. We knew we had to get back to school by the next morning. We had homework to turn in of course! So...we went with our last resort: driving. Yes, we drove back to Metz. Here's a link showing what exactly that drive looked like:

Nice to Metz Driving Route

The story only gets better from here. Did I mention that all this went down around 9 PM last night? We made up our minds that driving home was the best and pretty much only option. I talked with a worker in the station and learned that we had to go to the airport in Nice to get a car. We hopped on the next train, hoping that this wouldn't all be in vain. We got to the Nice airport, which was a bit of a walk from the train stop of course, and went to every car rental dealer looking for a car. We finally found one through Europcar, the last place we stopped. It was definitely a blessing. I won't get into the actual details of how we acquired a car rental; it's too much to describe, but I encourage you to ask me in person. I promise it's a good story.

So, we had a car. What's next? Well, we thought it was an 8 hour drive home, which didn't seem too bad. Oh, I forgot to mention that I'm the only one in the group that can drive a manual. What is every car in Europe? ...a manual. Thanks for teaching me mom! Obviously, I couldn't make it through an 8 hour overnight drive, but we decided that I would make it as far as I could and then teach somebody how to drive when I got tired. Thank goodness Brian is a quick learner. It would be nice to be able to say that everything went well from here on, but that would be cutting the story short. Unfortunately, the navigation system was set on "shortest distance" as opposed to "shortest time." The shortest distance route between Nice and Metz is through the Alps, which is NOT an easy or quick place to drive through. Of course, we didn't figure this out until it was too late. We drove through Italy, Switzerland, and Germany on our way back. This makes us sound quite stupid, but come on what do you expect. Driving in Europe is not the easiest thing to do, especially in our situation. Also, it's obvious why Europeans don't drive. It's super expensive with all the toll booths and high gas prices. We spent 23 euros to go through a tunnel in Italy! Brian kept asking the guy why we had to pay that much, but we never got a satisfactory answer. Either way, we were determined to make it back on time and pushed on through every obstacle that presented itself. Driving through the Alps was a bit of a challenge. I had quite a stressful time trying to keep our little Fiat from flying off the edge of the road into a gorge, while also trying to force it up the mountains as I floored the gas only to continue slowing down. It was quite the adventure. I will never forget that drive.

Brian and I took turns driving all night. We were both extremely exhausted and had the help of Scott and Patrick to keep us awake.We made it back to our dorm at 10:05 AM. Class starts at 10:15 AM. Yes, that all really happened. I could share even more about the experience. But I'm exhausted now and hungry. I'm going to sleep well tonight. I'm never doing that again. Trains are my friends :) ...but not the stupid operators who go on strike >:(

4 comments:

  1. holy crap, you guys drove back? You guys are brave...lol. Sounds like you're having a blast. Reading your blog makes me want to go back so badly! Enjoy Cinque Terre this weekend-that was definitely one of the highlights of my trip last year.

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  2. Wow, this was a great adventure! Thanks for the shout outs! I guess I really did prepare you for the big bad world :) , you can clean up and drive a stick shift! Yeah Josh!! Love you

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