Nice Nice Nov 18

I made it to France, and my first stop was the wonderful city of Nice. It was nice. Nice was nice. Nice Nice.

Before I talk about Nice, I have to talk about my train ride over from Italy. It was painful in more ways than physically being on the shoddy Italian trains. It began with my interaction with the lady at Pisa’s train station.

The day before I left Pisa, I went to the train station to buy my tickets to Nice. Knowing that the trip from Pisa to Nice was difficult – I did my research on raileurope.com:http://raileurope.com – I went to the information desk to ask for the trains I could take. The man at the information desk gave me a list of train numbers and when they would leave. I took the list and my Eurorail pass over to the lady at the ticket counter. She barely spoke English and I my Italian consists of pointing and English nouns. Luckily, the list was all I needed. She only printed out a seat reservation from Pisa to Genova and a seat reservation from Genova to Ventimigilia. These two cities were both in Italy so I figured that she could only print these two reservations. I asked if I needed to buy the two remaining reservations – Ventimiglia to Monaco and Monaco to Nice – in France. She said no and pointed at my Eurorail pass. I had no idea what she said so I proceeded to ask her in a different way. After the third try, she screamed no and told me to leave in the meanest possible Italian I’ve ever seen or heard. It was scary. I was confused and figured I would have to buy the reservations in France or Ventimiglia. Being yelled at is always fun.

The next morning, I hopped my first train at 9:00 am. It’s a Eurostar train which was extremely nice. I also had a first class seat which means comfort all the way to Genova! When I arrived at Genova I made my first mistake of the day – I deboarded the train at the wrong Genova stop. It was one stop too early – Genova has four train stations. Luckily, my next train – at the next station – was supposed to leave in one hour and thirty minutes.

It took me twenty minutes to realize that I was at the wrong station. At that point I began to panic. Panicking is never a good idea. In Italy (and most other EU countries), the intercity trains will stop at many small cities on it’s way to it’s destination. When buying a train ticket you choose the train that takes you through the city of your choice (or it stops at the city of your choice). The depature screens will only show which station it stops at in the end but it does not show the cities in between. So far, this sounds reasonable right? Right. Well I didn’t know this and thought all trains just stop at the final destination since every train I took had it’s final stop at my destined city. It took me another five minutes to realize there was a board describing all the stops that each train would stop at. But, like I said, I was panicking. I wasn’t sure which train ticket I should buy and when I tried buying a ticket for the next station the ticket machines errored out on me three times. I really should have known better since the next Genova station was only five minutes away and no one in their right mind would create a train route specifically for two adjacent stations.

At this point, I gave up at the ticket machines and lined up to talk to a human. Now, in my head at this moment and until the moment I reached a human I was trying extremely hard to find a way to communicate that I deboarded at the wrong station and the correct station was the next one over. Also, I was trying to find a way to communicate that I needed a ticket to some station that would take me to the next station. Oh, and I was panicking at the same time since my train at the next station would leave in thirty minutes. When I reached the ticket counter, all I could do was point at my reservation I purchased the day before with the boarding station as the next Genova station. I pointed and made some weird noises until the man at the counter said I should board the next train. Again, I was panicking and I had no idea what he said. I asked him if I needed to buy a ticket and he said no. Again, I was panicking, so I asked him again where I could buy a ticket and if he would sell one to me. He yelled out no and told me to go. I thought the woman yesterday had some mean Italian, but this old man blew her out of the water.

So I left the line without a ticket and looked around the station a bit. I finally saw an information desk, so I headed over there and luckily the woman at the counter spoke English. I was saved! The woman at the information desk tells me that I need to purchase a ticket in the same direction as the next Genova station. There were a few options she gave me. I went back to the ticket machine and booked the next train that would stop at the next Genova station. This next train would leave in ten minutes. Guess how long it took me to book this ticket from the ticket machines? Nine minutes. The problem was the credit card reader on the ticket machine. I’m normally used to credit card readers where you insert and remove quickly. These ticket machines were the complete opposite. You insert your card and it clamps down on the card. It takes a few seconds to read the card and then releases the card at which point I could remove the card. I was inserting and removing the card like I normally did and it kept saying it couldn’t read my card. It was only after five or six minutes did I realize the clamping action.

Anyways, I bought my €3.50 ticket and looked up at the depature board to see where the platform was for my train. Of all the trains I could have chosen, I chose the one with a weird platform. My still panicking mind searched all around for this platform labeled 1T. The station had signs for platforms 1-10 and the train leaves in a minute. I asked a conductor and he pointed me around platform 1 to platform 1T. As I laid eyes onto my train on platform 1T I saw the doors closed. I have the worst luck traveling by rail.

I walked back down to the ticket machines and purchased another €3.50 ticket for a train that leaves in 15 minutes. I hopped on board and in five minutes I was at the other station. Finally! At this station I noticed that my train was delayed 30 minutes. All that time panicking was for nothing. I had plenty of time!

To help make up for the mess I was in, my train from Genova to Ventimiglia was a cabin train. I haven’t been on a cabin train yet, so this was fun. The cabins had six seats and mine was in first class. I shared the cabin with two other people, so it was very spacious. I talked to one of my cabin mates and found out she was American/Swiss who lives near Nice. She designs interiors for yachts. That’s right, designs yacht interiors for rich people. I was blown away with this information. I didn’t even know this job existed. Anyways, we had a great conversation on the way to Ventimiglia. Also, did I mention the route to Ventimiglia was on the coast so I had a perfect view of the mediterranean? The railroad gods were forgiving me!

When I arrived at Ventimiglia, my new friend and I went to buy tickets. She bought her ticket to where she was going and helped me buy tickets for Nice. I knew I had to take a train into Monaco and then another train to Nice, so I talked to the man behind the ticket counter. I also passed him my Eurorail pass. At that point he started speaking all types of Italian that went over my head. Luckily my friend translated and said I didn’t need a reservation because I had a Eurorail pass. I could hop on any train I wanted except for France’s fastest trains.

After realizing this, I finally realized what the woman at the ticket counter back in Pisa was trying to say. She was saying I didn’t need reservations in France, so she couldn’t print tickets! It’s all so clear! France is much more relaxed in terms for Eurorail passes than Italy. Both Italy and Spain require train reservations.

We both boarded the next train into Monaco and were on our way. Since I told her about my troubles in Genova, she told me there was only one station in Nice. So after we parted ways in Monaco, I hopped a train into Nice. Sadly, my railroad traveling troubles were not done. We came to the first stop into Nice and I hopped off thinking since it said “Nice” that I was at the station – also my friend said there was only one station. It wasn’t a station and was just a stop. At this point, all I could do was laugh at myself. It was one hell of a day. I waited for the next train and arrived at Nice’s proper station. Finally, after nine hours of traveling, I made it to Nice!

Nice was a beautiful city. I stayed at an awesome hostel that wasn’t full so I met most of the travellers there. I spent most my nights drinking beer and talking about differences in cultures. I became good friends with an Argentinian, a Brit, a Nice native, and an Aussie. There were also some Americans and Canadians, but I’m used to those people so I didn’t care about them. It was truly a relaxing stay in Nice.

Other than talking with the travellers, I went scuba diving! I didn’t have a license but the folks running the scuba diving event allowed people to dive without a license. Awesome!

I arrived at 2:00 pm and they took me and a two others out around the coast an hour later. The other two divers had their licenses and I think they were just practicing. Before arriving at the location, one of the instructors told me what I had to do. There were two main things: first, I was to breathe in and out of the respirator continuously; second, as the instructor pushes me down every few feet, I would have to pinch my nose and blow air out to help pop my ears under the pressue. It’s the same thing you do when you’re in an airplane and you need to pop your ears.

When we arrived at the diving spot, the two other divers and the instructors went in first. I had to wait twenty minutes while they helped the other two below. After twenty minutes, I suited up and hopped in. They had my gear in the water so all I had to put on were the wet suit, goggles, and flippers. Once in the water they put the vest and tank on me. After that the instructor adjusted my goggles and told me to practice breathing with the respirator while looking down into the water. When I put my head under it was extremley scary and exhilirating at the same time. The blue color I saw underwater was something I’ve never seen before. It’s something you have to see for yourself to believe. Cameras would not do it justice.

After a few minutes breathing and looking, the instructor pushed me down into the water. We slowly descended until near the bottom – which was probably 40 feet under. From there, the instructor guided me in a circle from the boat. It was so beautiful. I spent the entire time looking at the floor and the life in the water. As we finished the circle, I looked up, and a huge school of fish swam pass me. It was surreal to be in the middle. I’ve seen documentaries of schools of fish swimming past the camera, but this is a whole new level of awesome. When I reached the top, I couldn’t stop smiling. The two other divers were also happy for me! They saw how happy I was and we talked all the way back to the dock. It was a fantastic experience. I have to get my divers license now after experiencing this.

3 nights of Nice was the perfect solution after a long and horrible day of travel. I had fun with so many travellers. Two of them weren’t travelers but lived in Nice. And they both offered to put me up next time I’m back! I had the opportunity to scuba dive which was something I’ve always wanted to do! Finally, the weather was awesome and was the main reason I left for Nice in the first place.

My gear!