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Hayley Travels

Hello France, Goodbye France

FRANCE | Tuesday, 12 July 2016 | Views [389]

So far I have been traveling for a little over a month and during that time I have met so many awesome, interesting people from all over the world. Almost every one of them has talked about that one city that they've visited that they could picture themselves living in. I have heard places from Lisbon to Berlin. I've liked a lot of the cities I've visited but with MAYBE the exception of Sevilla, I've never really had that feeling. Until now. I am head over heels in love with Barcelona. I absolutely, 100% could see myself living there.


BARCELONA

I was only there for two full days because I'll be back in Barcelona for four or five days in August for an FC Barcelona game (coincidentally it's against Sevilla). But my two days were amazing. Aside from the crappy wifi, I liked my hostel. It was near some great museums and attractions and like two blocks from a metro station. I really didn't do much except for explore the city near my hostel because most of the things I want to see and do are a little ways away from my hostel and I'll have time for it during Barcelona Round 2.

My first full day was spent attempting to find Mercat de la Boqueria. This is an awesome market that is quite famous. If you go to Barcelona you have to visit La Boqueria. The directions I had to the market weren't great so I ended up walking around the neighborhood surrounding it for quite a while before stumbling on the market. La Boqueria is an awesome mix of food stalls and restaurant booths. I absolutely blew my food budget for the day at the market. Basically every produce stall has fresh squeezed fruit juice. It generally costs 1.50€. I had orange-mango, pineapple-mango, and raspberry-mango juice (I would have never thought of combining raspberries and mangos but it was delicious!). Most of the produce stalls also have fresh fruit cups. You can buy fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, seafood, cheese, and candies at the dozens of food stalls. But let's not forget the restaurants. There was a Latin American takeaway place where I got battered sausage and cheese on a stick. There were also these weird burrito cones that looked delicious. I had a cone of kettle cooked potato chips topped with iberico ham. I also had a bacon, cheese, and tomato crepe. There were so many other things I wanted to try!

My second day I went to the Archaeology Museum of Catalunya. If you don't know, Catalunya is the region in Spain where Barcelona is located. While most regions have a lot of pride, Catalunya goes above and beyond that. I heard Catalan spoken as much if not more than Spanish. Most signs were in Catalan first and Spanish second. The Catalan flag is displayed everywhere. But the big thing that sets Catalunya apart is that there is a very real desire by many Catalans to separate from Spain to create an independent state (this has been an ongoing issue). Anyway, moving on from the history lesson. The museum was fascinating but the signs were all in Catalan and Spanish. I spent awhile there and then walked around the nearby area. I don't know if it's actually called this, but I consider the area the museum district because the are about a dozen museums and theatres in the area. One of the most beautiful is the National Art Museum of Catalunya. It's up on top of a pretty steep hill, but good news! There are escalators to take you up (but not down). Even if you, like me, don't go to the art museum, still go to the top because the building itself is beautiful and you will have gorgeous views of Barcelona. Going down the other side of the museum will take you to a cool fountain that apparently does light shows at night.

Obviously I love Barcelona and I cannot wait to tell y'all about my adventures there in Barcelona Round 2!

 


MARSEILLE

Marseille is a beautiful city, especially if you are down by the port. I stayed in Vieux Port, about three blocks from the harbor. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of bars and restaurants near the harbor. Fair warning though: France is very expensive. I don't just mean with lodging (although I did pay 15€ more per night for Marseille and Nice than I did in Spain) and transportation, though. I went to a supermarket and spent three times as much for the same things I had bought in Spain. I went to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch my one full day there and spent 25€ on a cocktail and a quesadilla. The burgers there were almost 20€ alone and it was not as if the Hard Rock was an anomaly. I looked at the menus of at least a dozen different restaurants and the prices were all crazy expensive.

Also, another heads up: most people will only speak French. Yes, that seems obvious. And yes, it makes sense. But unlike in Portugal and Spain where they often have the English translation on signs/menus/maps and where people are willing to speak to you in English, that is not the case in France (or at least what I've encountered). Menus are all in French, signs are all in French, taxi drivers and servers basically only speak French. I, on the other hand, do not speak French. I know how to say hello, please, and thank you. Oh, and excuse me. That's all I got. So there was a lot of pointing and miming. But it's not a big deal.

I did have a wonderful time in Marseille however. Although, that had less to do with the plethora of things to do in Marseille (that is sarcasm - there are not many attractions in Marseille aside from tours and day trips) and more to do with meeting some really awesome people in my hostel. I've been really lucky because I have had some super interesting and fun roommates during my travels through Europe. So far I have met people from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Korea, Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. It has been amazing meeting these different people and hearing their stories.

 

 

NICE (and Monaco)

The Côte d'Azur (or at least the two places I visited) is absolutely beautiful. I really did not spend a lot of time in Nice. I had one full day there and mostly spent it in Monaco. Monaco is incredibly beautiful. There is plenty to see but you could easily visit in one day like I did. It's a twenty minute train ride from Nice and for a youth (12-25) it was 3€ each way. I mostly wandered around the city but I did do a couple of things. First, I went to Musee Oceanographique de Monaco. This is both an aquarium and a museum. Both parts were fascinating. The aquarium, for those that will not take my advice to download Google Translate or something similar, has more information in English. I recommend that at the end of your visit to the aquarium/museum you take the elevator to the top floor because there is a terrace with gorgeous views of the coast. I took the bus up to the museum, but I walked back down because there is a lovely garden with more beautiful views.

The second thing I did in Monaco was go see Casino Monte Carlo. I mean, if you didn't go see Casino Monte Carlo, did you even visit Monaco? I didn't actually go in because A) it costs money, and B) in my Old Navy tank top and Target shorts (both of which desperately need to be washed) I was severely underdressed. But the exterior is gorgeous and is definitely worth a visit. I spent about five or six hours in Monaco and could have spent more, but it was really humid and I was tired. Oh, and be warned: with the exception of Musee Oceanographique and Jardin Exotique, basically all of the attractions and sights of Monaco are downhill, which means after several hours of walking, you'll be exhausted and have to walk uphill. Do yourself a favor and pay the 2€ for the bus ride back up. Seriously. Do it.

Although I did spend most of my one full day in Monaco, I did do a couple things in Nice. I spent a little while walking around near my hostel. But my favorite thing is actually what I'm doing right now as I finish this post which I began several days ago: eating a picnic on the beach along the main promenade while the sun sets over the French Riviera. Does it get much better than this? I'm not sure but it seems unlikely.

 

Although my four days in the South of France have not been spent exploring or visit cool sites or museums (and have been a drain on my bank account) they have been very relaxing, which I definitely needed after five weeks of basically always being on the go.

For now I say so long to Spain and France, but the goodbye is not for long: I return to both next month as I visit Paris and then Barcelona for Round 2. Now: onward to Italy!

 

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