After two weeks of lovely vacances, these last few days have been a bit of a struggle..but what a fortnight it was! So much happened that I won’t be able to fit it all into one post, so I’ll try to just give you the highlights:
1. Sheffield – I spent my first weekend in lovely Sheffield, but I already waffled about that in my previous post, so have a look at that here if you haven’t already!
2. The ‘rents arrived in Toulon on the Tuesday evening, during one of our typical monsoon-esque rainstorms and stressed by the French’s lack of driving competence…welcome to my world! However, they were armed with lots of important things like teabags and winter clothes (even though it’s still averaging 20 degrees here…).
We spent the first day ‘sightseeing’ in Toulon, i.e. we ended up going to the VOST (Version originale sous-titré for you non-francophones) of Skyfall, which turned out to be my favourite Bond film! The next day (on Toussaints day) we headed up to Aix-en-Provence for a wander around the markets, grabbing as many free samples as possible (mmm tapenade!) It was a beautiful little town which I’ll be returning to in a few weeks when everything is actually open, for some Christmas festivities!
On the Friday we were determined to make the most of the sunshine and I was determined to make the most of having a car, so we headed up into the Haut Var region, stopping at lots of picturesque, provencal villages along the way; Cotignac (where there are houses built into the cliffs), Sillans-la-Cascade (where there’s a…you guessed it, huge waterfall), Aups, Aiguines (with gorgeous views of Lac de sainte-Croix ) and finally Moustiers Sainte-Marie with it’s beautiful chapel on the hill. Being so out of season,our last stop was the only one with a number of other people there: you can see how tourist places suffer in low seasons!
Before my parents (and brother) left, we also managed to try a French version of Indian food. My advice? DON’T DO IT: unless you have a taste for spinachy yoghurt…
3. The day after my parents left, I headed two hours east to Nice with some other assistants (one of whom had spent a semester in Nice a few years back, so acted as our brilliant tour guide), prepared for some gorgeous weather. We weren’t disappointed as the sun shone for us the entire 5 days! We did sooooo much stuff and met some of the best people ever in our hostel, so here are my highlights:
– Nicoise food: the best thing ever! Beignets, farcis and daube sauce over gnocchi (gravy-like sauce: I was in heaven!) will definitely be making an appearance in Sheffield next year!
– Fenocchio ‘s ice cream: the best ice creams and sorbets I’ve ever tasted, we ended up going back. They do every flavour possible including beer, tomato and basil, coca cola and cactus… My personal recommendations are green apple sorbet, bailey’s, white chocolate and cherry (grotte) sorbet.
– Monaco: THE most bizarre place I’ve ever been. It felt like Duloc from Shrek…There were barely any people there and it REEKED of money! We spent hours trying to find Monte Carlo casino and were directed from the yachts, past ferraris, into some lifts, just to find ourselves in a maze of streets. However, we did go to the casino and had a cheeky flutter on the slot machines (unfortunately, no photographic evidence of this!) and spent nearly 60euros between 6 of us on drinks in Monte Carlo (14 euros for a pint of Heineken!).
– Antibes: has to be my favourite visit of the trip. So many gorgeous buildings, the sea, a really cool sculpture made of letters (see photos) and…GEOFFREY’S OF LONDON an extortionately overpriced supermarket of all real British foods, a.k.a. heaven! I limited myself to mincemeat (to make mincepies), baked beans and prawn cocktail crisps (which later got demolished as drunk food, woops!)
– Grasse: another beautiful town where we had lunch in a restaurant that played heavy metal to its diners… Famed for being the perfume capital of the world, we did a (free) tour of the Fragonard perfumerie, which we left poorer and smelling amazing. FOTD: It takes 10 years to train to be a ‘nose’: a perfume expert who can recognise every scent that goes into a perfume!
– Wayne’s Bar: we spent two of our evenings here, persuading our fellow hostellers to join us. Basically, it’s a British ‘pub’ with a ‘dancefloor’…the dancefloor being a couple of rows of tables! The fact that this would never go down in the UK made it an even more fun night, especially as we got to DANCE for the first time in France! (Dancing does not exist in Toulon, and if it did, you would just be surrounded by sailors…)
– Colline du chateau: We didn’t end up seeing much of Nice itself, but we climbed up this hill and got incredible views of the city!
– And finally…Hostel Meyerbeer Beach. If you find yourself in Nice, definitely stay here! I can’t recommend it enough! We had such a good time, met some amazing people and it was so homely!
Okay, so that’s the end of my whistle-stop recount of my Toussaints holiday, sorry it was so long and slightly rambling!
Next time…Marseille and Thanksgiving!