I struggled writing about Florence. I had a wonderful time– it was pleasantly welcoming and ultimately I felt fairly at home there. I’m wondering though if I’m just becoming accustomed to the peculiarities of Europe- truthfully, it’s getting hard to correctly gauge what “feeling at home” means anymore. It’s now more an internal evaluation than a temporary emotion, and maybe I’m just getting acclimated to the constant immersion in foreign culture. Because I’ve been away from home nearly two months, it might just be getting easier to accept things I’m not familiar with. I think ultimately familiarity is the source of homeliness.
In Florence we went on a dreamy wine tour through two wineries in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. I got to experience many wines I’d prior never heard of, paired with balsamic vinegar aged in barrels for 12 years. Y’all. It blew my mind. True balsamic can actually be really rare in the U.S., and I’m afraid to go back home and read the ingredient label on whatever’s in my fridge. I also was introduced to various types of olive oil and truffle oil too, and my life will never be the same.
Because of the wonderful wine tour, time in Florence was so completely limited. We discussed skipping Nice, France, our next city to visit, to accommodate for what we felt was absolutely not enough time in Florence. We ultimately kept our itinerary the same, however, and continued on to Nice. I am so, so, so, incredibly happy we did so. Before arriving, though—
Backpacking around isn’t totally glorious. I know it looks like I always have a glass of wine in my hand laughing at my responsibilities waiting patiently for me at home, but in reality what I’m doing can be (is) rushed, and often sweaty, and consumingly exhausting. We opted for a night train route between Florence and Nice to be able to reserve daylight hours for exploring. Mistake. It wasn’t totally our fault that our route involved four different trains and three layovers at train stations in the dead of night, but actually yes, yes it was completely our fault. We waited too long to reserve seats on what would be a gloriously simple nonstop train, and this was our only nightly way to Nice.
A reality of backpacking. Sleeping in Pisa, Italy, 3:00 AM.
Because I’m averaging five hours of sleep on good nights over here in Europe, the thought of arriving in Nice the next morning fresh off that long, sleepless trek led me to my only option of delirium, throwing a fit about “having” to take my camera out and shoot the city of Nice. No, I was not interested in carrying my camera around Nice, because Florence just couldn’t be topped and now I’m in the wretched French Riviera instead of waking up in blissful Italy for another night. I gave into my destructive inhibition and left my camera, forsakingly, on the floor in the Air BnB. Second mistake. Nice BLEW ME AWAY. I quickly was taken hostage by Nice’s beauty, totally and completely entranced by its geographical composition, weather, and humans. Softly spoken French delicately floating in and out of my ears, the breeze flirting playfully with my long hair and white dress, the sun fragilely sprinkling freckles all over me. This was heaven.
Nice knew exactly how to remedy my exhaustion. I napped on the lawn of Parc de la Colline du Château, a historic lookout with a view that could make someone sick with height and admiration. I laid out on the pebble beach of Nice too, lulled by the sound of waves running through the rocks– a song so sweet it hummed me to sleep. For dinner we were recommended by our AirBnB host a local venue serving traditional French cuisine. A local in line directed to us to order socca, which we ate with our hands as we sipped Prosecco. It was charming and unique, and I was euphorically satiated.
It was so erroneously wrong to assume Nice wouldn’t be unable to wow me. This morning, waking up here in the most stunning place I’ve ever had the pleasure of gawking over, I knew I owed it time with my camera.
I’m on a train now, heading away from Nice, watching French farmland fly away from where this train is taking me. The sun is setting. Everything is golden. I’m so happy.