Bonjour à tous !
I apologize (again… I know I’ve been really slacking lately!) for the delayed post, but better late than never, right? Anyway, here is a quick run-down of my unique combination of Easter break travels.
Destination 1: Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco had been at the top of my list since before my arrival in Lyon. I’d been inspired by other Elon students who I saw had traveled there while abroad in Europe. So why not return to Africa while flights are 150 euros on EasyJet?
However, as expected, Morocco was completely different than Ghana. There was a significant difference in the atmosphere. Since it is an Islamic state, there were multiple mosques throughout the city, and a city-wide prayer five times a day, which could be heard throughout the whole city. I would say Marrakech seemed more developed than Ghana, especially in the new part of town, which had some big-name American brands, including a really nice Starbucks. There was also some Spanish influence, in some of the architecture and designs in the city. Also, a good amount of Moroccans speak French. So there were a few different cultures all happening at once.
I went with my friends Jessica and Devan (definitely not a place we would have traveled to without a guy). Our first adventure was camel riding, which I had also been really looking forward to. Then we explored the city for a bit, visited some of the mosques (although we could not go inside since we are not Muslim) and enjoyed some Moroccan food – couscous and chicken skewers. The following day we toured the major park, went shopping in the “souks” (markets) where I practiced my bargaining skills, and explored the new part of the city.
I even picked up some Arabic while I was there. My friend Jessica went to high school in Bahrain, so she spoke it with some of the waiters and hostel staff, teaching me some along the way. And despite the summer weather, we wore long sleeves and jeans every day, since we didn’t want to disrespect the more conservative dress code.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we went on the roof of the hostel and watched the sunset. The views up there were unforgettable, and once the sun set, the stars were just as beautiful, and bright. As always, the photos don’t do it justice… but here are some pictures of the sunset:
Destination 2: Grotte de Choranche, France
This was a trip organized by our program. We traveled to rural France, to the inside of a mountain where there was a cave. I’d never been in a cave before, so it was a pretty cool excursion for me. We had lunch outside, on the side of the mountain, which had a pretty nice view… even though it was raining! Later, we took a tour of a place that makes Chartreuse – a type of green/yellow alcohol that is popular in Europe. Even though I was unaware that this was part of the trip, it was interesting to see. We also got to taste the alcohol at the end of the trip… and I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but hey, I tried it!
Destination 3: Marseille, France
First of all, let me briefly explain the planning of this trip. I went with my friends Jessica and Cameron. We took the train to Marseille, spent a day there, then took another train to Nice. We stayed in a hostel in Nice for 3 nights, and took 2 day trips – Monaco and Cannes.
So Marseille marked the beginning of our “South of France” tour. It was a cute little city, and easy to walk around. We didn’t need to take public transportation at all – despite the fact that I was lugging a 15+ pound overnight bag around the city – got in a good work out though!
Destination 4: Monaco, Monaco
Monaco was really cool, and not just because it’s one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of approximately 30,000. It had a beautiful “Old Port” with almost as many yachts as habitants, each with a net worth greater than any amount of money I will probably ever make in my lifetime. But they were nice to look at. Another exciting part of Monaco was the Monte Carlo Casino (pictured to the right and below), where I gambled for the first time, and most likely the last time. I stuck to what I knew – blackjack – yet still lost about 20 euros! Needless to say, I stopped while I was ahead. Although I wasn’t extremely prosperous in my first gambling experience, I guess it’s not so bad to have been in Monaco for it. And it doesn’t hurt that there’s a bit of history attached to it – when gambling was outlawed in France in 1857, the Monte Carlo was built one year later.
Destination 5: Cannes, France
Cannes was one of my favorite trips so far, and I’m sad we only spend one day here. BUT thankfully I convinced my parents that they would like it, so no need to worry – we will return in a couple weeks! It was sort of similar to Nice, but had different tourist-y things to offer. My friends and I took a ferry to one of the islands off the coast, Île Sainte-Marguerite, which was cool. It had a small museum, sort of similar to Alcatraz, but not as big. However I got some pretty cool pictures there. There was also a lot of influence from the Cannes Film Festival (although that doesn’t start for another couple of weeks), as a lot of the gift shop items and cute market items had a film theme. And of course, the city itself was beautiful, and had a great atmosphere for walking around. I also had a croque madame for the first time in Cannes – basically a grilled cheese with ham, and a “fried” egg on top (not the same as a regular fried egg – I think more poached? Sorry, I’m no egg connoisseur). Now, if you don’t already know this, I don’t normally eat pig products (they used to be my favorite animal when I was younger so I stopped eating them and I just developed the habit) however I’ve decided to branch out gastronomically here, you know, for the experience and all. But let me just say that croque madame was one of the best meals I’ve had in all of Europe. So if you haven’t already gone to France and ordered one, I highly recommend it.
Destination 6: Nice, France
Although we had been staying in Nice each night, we didn’t actually experience the city until the last day (Monday). We had a few frustrations (mostly obtaining snacks/coffee) since it was Easter, and if you don’t already know, France basically shuts down every business in the country on religious and public holidays. But we finally found a little cafe that was open and got our obligatory pastries and cafe lattes. Much like the other cities, we mostly just walked around and enjoyed the aesthetic beauty of the city – buildings and homes of every color, against a clear blue sky, decorated with palm trees and colorful flowers dangling from every balcony. And when you look to your right? The crystal blue Mediterranean Sea. I was appalled at the shade of blue in the sea – it doesn’t quite compare to the Atlantic ocean! As we strolled along the “Promenade des Anglais”, I realized I needed to move here ASAP.
Again, I’m sorry this is over a month late! It’s harder to write about these long trips so I never have enough time/good enough wifi connection to finish them (plus in my defense, I got halfway through this one and it all got deleted, so I may have had it sooner otherwise!). Anyway, look out for my spring break post next! Then Barcelona…. And my final trip with friends: Annecy, France, which I will be waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to visit.