The Beginning of the Escape
Since falling in love with Colin Firth’s storyline in Love Actually, where he escapes to the French countryside to write, I have always wanted to do something similar. I can’t remember now if I actually watched that film immediately after it was released, but for as long as I can remember, it has been a dream. He was alone (bar the romantic venture) and he was learning how to be ok with it, which was exactly my objective.
France has always fascinated me. It was a hub of some of the greatest artists and writers of La Belle Époque. It is one of my favourite countries for film, the French have an undeniably recognisable style when it comes to filmmaking and I am enamoured with it. And of course, it is the veritable world centre of romance. The language, the people and even the buildings all exude a level of seductive romance.
Picture the scene then: I am tired, struggling to find the motivation to keep writing, and my original flight to Nepal is cancelled due to airline bankruptcy. Sad that I could not spend the 2 weeks with my friend in Kathmandu, my mind suddenly changed its tune. Now would be the time to fulfil one of my all-time dreams. I would escape to France and give myself time to write.
Being driven to Luton by two of my best friends, after having woken up at the ungodly hour of 3am, was an apocalyptic feeling. The roads were dark and empty bar the odd car going the same way. I was nervous at the prospect of what would be my first ever flight. It was as if I was being driven to my death. But also quite exciting given that if I survived my first flight, I would find myself in the south of France for a week! I waved off my two friends; like saying goodbye to parents as I left Britain to live out a new life. Then came the airport, which proved to be far far easier than I could have ever expected. Maybe it was the time of the morning or the location of Luton, but it was not that busy and security was less daunting than imagined.
After walking toward departures with around 90 minutes left until the gates opened, I sat down at a Frankie and Bennys for breakfast. A Mimosa and a plate of Eggs Florentine gave me a boost of energy. Once the hours had sped by, I sat down on the plane and began to find my excitement rising.
I had never been inside of a plane before, I had never travelled on my own before and here I was doing both.
The aeroplane seemed bigger on the inside, and I started wondering how on earth we are advanced enough to create these big hunks of metal and make them stay in the air. Once I had gotten over the sickly feeling of reaching 33,000 feet in the sky, I marvelled at the views from outside, ready for my week to begin.
Finding my way to the flat I was renting through Air BnB for the week was an average level of ease. By that, I mean that I got stuck the first route I tried to take. All was going so well until I stumbled upon a fence and attached to it a sign that read “Interdits Pieton” which roughly translates to “pedestrians prohibited.” Thus I walked back to the airport to reroute myself and arrived at the flat successfully. I waited a short amount of time for my host to arrive and had already been greeted by many a polite “Bonjour”. I had a wonderfully light-hearted and joyous host (I’ll link at the bottom) who gave me a tour of the flat and with that, I was ready to begin.
The First Couple of Days
My first day I settled into the flat and allowed myself time to rest from the early awakening. I grabbed my notebook, a freshly made coffee and sat on the sofa out on the balcony. The sun was shining on the streets of Saint-Augustin (just a few miles out from the centre of Nice) and I was feeling inspired. The writer’s block I was suffering from back in Essex was wiped clean, and the words began to flow onto the page as they had done before. I was writing poetry, I was journalling for the first time in my 24 years, and I was thinking of extra things to add to my novel. It was a beautiful, and liberating start to an eventful weeks holiday.
My first day was largely unexciting on the surface when writing about it again, but it was everything I wanted from that day. I wanted to feel comfortable, after removing myself from my comfort zone. If I was to enjoy my solo travelling in a country I had never been to, after taking a plane I had never taken before, then I wanted to at least make myself comfortable for the first day and I did. So once my sleep gave me the rest I needed, Saturday saw me up and ready to go. I wandered down Le Promenade Des Anglais (The Walkway of the English). I was ecstatic and in love with the colour of the ocean, the appearance of trams (which I had never seen in real life) and the pure happiness of the faces of the French. The sheer amount of runners and cyclists gave me the impression that the French prioritise their exercise a great deal, which was inspiring but suddenly made me wonder whether I should join in their passionate running. I did not. I carried on walking, noting a stall offering fresh pressed orange juice and trolley next to it, and so SO many local rustic patisseries. My second day was as typically French as I was hoping for, and Nice was proving to be a delightful epitome of culture.
Not to forget as well, just how colourful the buildings are in Nice. From the walk from Saint-Augustin to Nice to even further along, the buildings range from a stunning yellow to more conservative blues and greens. There is never a dull building. Shutters are as common as blinds and curtains in England, and every piece of architecture you see reminds you of a time passed.
Once I reached what I would call the centre of Nice, I stopped to watch the ocean a little longer, and then wandered through the streets surrounding Masséna Square. Right in the centre is a statue to Apollo, quite aptly the god of sun stands lit by the brightest star in our universe. While it may have caused some arguments in the 1970’s and before, it stands as a symbol of the beautiful weather that follows Nice and of its artistic beginnings.
My day came to an end after having taken myself to Charlie’s and co, a wonderful little coffee shop along the quiet Rude de Lépante. I sipped my Macchiato du Caramel along with a delightful Nutella Muffin adoring my surroundings in total tranquility. As the coffee ran through my body, I thought if this was solitude, then I could certainly learn to enjoy it more. It was a perfect start to a perfect holiday.
Ludmila’s Air BNB Profile: https://www.airbnb.fr/users/show/2884001
Charlie’s and Co: https://www.facebook.com/charlies.andco/
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Also let me know any of your experiences with The French Riviera!