Thursday, April 16, 2015

London to France

Viva La France! 

 Aloha, Nicole here! I was fortunate enough to travel all over France during my study abroad in London and I would like to share with you my traveling experience.

First of all,  traveling in London is very easy. There are about five airports...the  main one being Heathrow. Then there is Luton, Gatwick, and Stansted, and also London City (which is actually the main one for London). Each are about an hour away from central London and there are tube (under ground train), coach (bus), or trains that will take you directly and at cheaper options than taxis. Coaches are the best option because they are most comfortable and range from 10 pounds to 12. Trains are great too if you have a one that goes directly to the airport, which most do.

Second of all, there are various of airlines offering cheap tickets...most of my tickets were round trips and cost $200 or less. You can look at skyscanner for the cheapest flights or Easyjet. *Let me warn you that sometimes flying with the cheapest airline isn't always the best. Also because these are small airlines you have to pay for extra baggage or if you prefer to sit next to someone. If you don't want to pay for that no problem!* Easyjet is my favorite because it is easy and comes with an efficient Iphone app where you can save your boarding pass and put in information of your passport for easy check in. Easyjet also has great offers on tickets for certain times of the month. An airline to avoid: Ryanair. Ryanair is quite cheap and also allows two carry on bags while Easyjet only allows one carry on. The thing about Ryanair is that you must always arrive early and remember to get your boarding pass signed from passport control. If you arrive late then they will charge you 50 euros and tell you that there is no room for your baggage in the airplane because the people in the front has taken up all the space with their two bags. This happens a lot and it's a thing they will do on purpose.

Third of all, you can find cheap hostels or use an efficient website called AirB&B. AirB&B is a bed and breakfast sort of thing. People, yes regular people, can list their houses or flats for a low cost. It is cheaper and more cosy than staying at a hostel or hotel because you have a private room and a kitchen and t.v. It may seem sketchy but its best to find listings that has a lot of pleasant reviews. Also make sure if you want to be staying a couple nights with the owners who actually live there. There are options for the whole flat or just a private room.  Most people are extremely friendly and give lots of privacy. I've stayed at two AirB&B places because I preferred privacy and local advice and it was great!

Places I traveled to:

Yes, I am a little bit in love with France. Particularly the south of France which is on the Mediterranean waters...also known as the French Riveria. And of course there is no place more romantic than Paris.

There is something about France that is just a beautiful mystery! At first I was absolutely terrified because of all the horrible stereotypes about French people being rude or mean blah blah blah. I took french for four years when I was in 6-7th grade and 10-11th grade. So it's been a while. I found that the French do not care if you are American or French or Spanish, they treat everyone the same way. I also found that the French do not judge. They spoke to me in French and they were patient with me even though I could tell they struggled understanding my pronunciations. Here is a tip!!!! ALWAYS greet people and say Bonjour. It is like how you say hello or smile to strangers in Hawaii. Learn about their culture and participate with them and don't get mad when they can speak English but refuse to do it. You are traveling to their country to learn about their lives and history!

Staring with the South of France: Lyon, Nice, Cannes, Monaco. 

1. Lyon was a spontaneous trip. It isn't a well known tourist destination but I had to go with my flat mates because The Kooks (a band from England) were playing in that area and we are both really big fans, obviously. Took Easy Jet to Lyon and stayed at a hotel known as Hotel Camponile, this is a chain hotel in the best locations because they are always situated near train stations or airports! Stayed for three days and two nights. There are beautiful museums of film and photography and lots of art museums.

Le River Seine 

A roman arena...or what's left of it 

Me with my two Argentinean girls. 

The Kooks!!!!!

2. Nice, the French Riviera. There are no words for me to explain how much I love the French Riviera. If you like luxury and the ocean and yachts and sun...well this is the place for you! I chose to visit Nice with a high school friend because it was perfect Easter/Spring break location. There is 71 miles of beach. One downside is that there is no sand it is all pebbles or stones known as gallets. So you have to bring a beach blanket and beach shoes to walk on the beach. The thing about Nice is that people go here to relax. There isn't much to do besides enjoy the great food, crepes, the beautiful parks and the ocean. Life is very relaxing here and I felt like I was in Hawaii - if I closed my eyes. (At this point I was extremely homesick and I told my friend that if I didn't see the ocean soon I would be so depressed.) *Note: However Nice is really close to Monaco and Cannes...two other great beach locations which you can explore in a day. 

Nice, the Cote d'Azure beach promenade. This view is from a famous Chateau on a mountain that is an easy climb with a bunch of look out points.

During April 1st, Europe is still a bit cold. I think the weather was about high 60's. But the sun never felt any better. 

 I mean look at the color of the water! It's beautiful.

 This is one marina behind the Cote d'Azure. Look at those boats? I am in love with boats because my Grandpa had a boat and it reminded me so much of my childhood memories. The atmosphere of Nice is one of my favorite types: relaxed, chill, happy people, and beautiful scenery.

3. Cannes (pronounced Kan),  my friend wanted to meet her room mate here so we used an app called Blahblah car which is like Uber, kind of. It's for people who just want to make a little bit of extra cash. They post their trip, for example, Nice - Cannes at 9:00 to 5:00 round trip. My friend and I did this and met a really nice guy who was working there for the tourist seasons. Our trip cost 8 euros for both of us. Great fast ride and cheap as well. Cannes was an interested place after Nice. I didn't find it as exciting because there are high end shops like Prada and Dolce & Gabana right across from the beach promenade. In other words, Cannes is for rich old people who can bask in luxury. After eating crepes and gelato, my friend and I took a trip to a small island known as Saint Honorat where monks have lived for 160 years tending a vineyard and holding church seminars(?) I am not religious so I don't know anything about this. The trip cost 16 euros round trip! Now this little island changed my mind completely about Cannes. It is magical and private. I suggest going here with your boy friend or girlfriend. You can walk the whole island in an hour and sit at various benches with a view of the ocean - cozy and private. There is also a beautiful abandon monastery that reminded me of a castle and upon entering it I felt like I was in the video game Skyrim.
The church where monks hold sermons and the public is allowed and take their boat to have mass. 

The castle on the reef. Tres magnifique! 

Cannes actually has sand. The water was still freezing cold but it was lovely to sit and relax on the sand. There are also many expensive beach restaurants. I suggest only having drinks there. 

 This is a view of the church on island Saint Honorat from the top of the abandon monastery which you can explore freely.

4. Monaco is known for their Monte Carlo casino. Another high luxury place. It seems like Lambourghini's, Mercedes, BMW, and Mercedes allowed only. Also they hold the grand prix here. Monaco is the most beautiful place I have ever been to in France because not only is it by the ocean but it is also very well kept. There are tropical plants every where and people are constantly keeping the parks and roads clean. Everyone is well dressed and looks effortlessly cool. The yachts are absolutely beautiful. We also stopped for some gelato here. We took a bus from Nice it was 14 stops.

Me tanning them legs!

Although Monaco is its own country, this marina resembles the one in Nice. The Grand Prix course wraps around here this marina. 

This is an ocean observatory on top of a mountain where a most beautiful Aquarium sits. I recommend this Aquarium because they have student discount and help pass the time. There are four floors and two areas where you can touch sharks and turtles. 

This is a beautiful street on top of a mountain. The buildings in France are all beautiful, colorful, and quaint. If you love architecture like me then you will go crazy. 

 This is another photo from the Aquarium in Monaco. You can see all the airplane marks in the sky.

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