(Sorry for so much jumping around in the timeline! I unfortunately got super behind with blogging while in France and wanted to catch up on the most recent festival stuff while it was still fresh before going back to cover the rest of my time abroad. This entry takes place the week after we returned from our weekend in Paris – so late March, I believe!)
Last fall when I was back at Chapman, my good friend Tony Deng was trying to figure out what he wanted to do for Spring Break – he knew that he wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere he hadn’t been before, but was at a loss apart from that. We talked a bit about how great it would be if he could come visit me in Cannes, but it seemed way too complicated and crazy to actually happen.
Or not, apparently!
So arriving back from Paris was super exciting – Tony had landed in Cannes and we would get to catch up after not seeing each other for around 3 months!
After my class on Monday, I met Tony in town and took him to an ice cream stand along la Croisette to catch up on gossip and to find out how his trip was. It was so wonderful to see such a familiar and friendly face and to get to share the place I’d come to call home! Especially over crème brûlée ice cream! (Crème brûlée ice cream makes everything better. Highly recommended.)
Much of our time in Cannes wonderfully consisted of more of the same – chatting and eating (two big hobbies of ours back in Orange, too). One highlight was when Kailyn and I took him to a Chinese buffet for dinner and he was able to communicate better there using his fluent Chinese than we could using our French! The television near our table in the restaurant was playing a French game show that we were trying to figure out sans sound. At first it seemed sort of like Who Wants to be a Millionaire only with 7 or 8 contestants, but then somebody came out on stage and started singing, so we switched our guess to Millionare mixed with The Voice. Then a bunch of guys came out on stage and started dancing, and Tony went, “They’re going to start stripping.” Kailyn and I just kind of looked at him, but he seemed confident in his guess, and sure enough, just a couple seconds later their clothes were gone. So Millionaire/The Voice/Chippendales? Whatever was actually going on (we still have absolutely no idea!), it was a very entertaining way to pass the evening!
Another afternoon, Kailyn and I decided to take Tony to Mandelieu-la-Napoule, a small city just a half hour bus ride from Cannes.
Some backstory about Mandelieu: there’s a château there (Château de la Napoule) that Kailyn and I had set out to find maybe a month or so ago at that point. To start off with, we ended up wandering around Cannes for 2 hours because we thought we had to buy our bus tickets at the terminal, which happened to have just closed for lunch when we arrived (something that’s great for French employees and terribly frustrating for French customers, especially those who aren’t used to stores or bus stations entirely shutting down for long lunches). We were first in line when it finally reopened, only to learn that you buy your tickets when you actually get on the bus. But at least we got French fries during our wandering time!
Then, since we were visiting the château in Mandelieu, we figured that it only made sense to get off at the bus stop called Mandelieu. We ended up in (what else?) a residential area that we wandered around for a bit, searching for any sign of a castle. We were super confused because it seemed like the castle was what the town was most known for, but there was no sign of it anywhere. We were even questioning our sanity for a bit there, wondering if we had stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone.
We finally wandered around enough to find our way to another bus stop – the one that came right after the stop at which we got off. So apparently we were finally on the right path – whatever that path was! We studied the map on the bus stop for the longest time, trying to see if there was any hint as to where that blasted castle might be. We finally ended up with no better plan than to walk along and follow the bus stops. That way we’d get to see more of that bizarre little town, maybe stumble upon the castle, and we could call it quits and hop on the next bus if we ever got tired.
So we set off! And our two or three hour journey consisted of walking along the entire rest of the bus line and going through a heretofore unseen part of the French Riviera, including a French trailer park/campground, the most secluded and run-down tennis club you’ve ever seen, and a cemetery. We also walked around an entire mountain (which contained some sort of park/hiking trail), because at that point nothing could really phase us anymore. But the real kicker? Naturally, parts of this were in the rain, sans umbrellas.
So basically your normal casual jaunt.
When we finally reached the end of the bus line, we were back by the sea and, we realized, an actual town – that must have been the actual Mandelieu! And lo – just a little ways past that final bus stop, we could see a giant castle. Of course. It was 5 at that point, and we remembered from the little bit of research that we had done beforehand that the castle closed then, so we wandered around the town a little bit (even that was fairly unsuccessful as everything was closed!) before calling uncle and hopping on that bus back to Cannes.
So armed with this extra knowledge, Kailyn and I were eager to take Tony with us to finally conquer Mandelieu-La Napoule!
Kailyn and I set out one afternoon after our class and met Tony in town to grab lunch at the delicious petite crêperie (there were two crêpe places we would go to, and we didn’t know either of their names, so we always called them La Petite Crêperie and The Fancy Crêperie). We wanted to be prepared/energized just in case we needed to trek around another mountain – I got a crêpe with ratatouille (Kailyn and Tony got crêpes with some sort of meat – is it bad that I can never tell? The downside to being a lifelong vegetarian!) and we each got dessert crêpes with sugar and whipped cream, which is a surprisingly rare commodity in France. It prepared us well, and this bus ride was far smoother! Tony was able to nap for most of it, and Kailyn and I, basking in our recently attained wisdom, waited to get off until the last stop.
We knew that we were in the right part of town and could see the roof of the castle, which was already a huge improvement over our prior trip. The new challenge, then, consisted of figuring out how to get to the entrance to the castle. This time, though, it only took us a few wrong turns before we found our way!
We chatted a bit with the woman selling entrance tickets, and it turned out that the actual castle itself was more of a museum highlighting the art made by the man who used to own the castle. You could only go in with a tour group, which would have involved waiting an hour or so. The other option was buying tickets just to see the garden, which she assured us was absolutely spectacular, so we decided to go with that one.
We caught a documentary in a little room just outside of the garden that discussed the man who owned the château – an eccentric millionaire from the early 1900s. He and his wife adorned the gardens with their art and they made their servants dress up in period costume with them, pretending that they and their pet peacocks were of another era.
So we wandered around the garden, which, as I’m sure that millionaire intended, was like walking around in a fantasy! Everything was so lush and green and perfectly landscaped, and that coupled with the art pieces hidden around and the fact that it was attached to a castle made it feel like a kind of bizarre Disney movie! So we just walked around taking pictures and chatting – Tony had an assignment for a photography class back at Chapman to take portraits, so he took the opportunity to make Kailyn and me model for him, as well.
After exploring all of the gardens, we went off in search of some sort of snack to tide us over until we made it back to Cannes. Not much was open (again), so we had to settle for giant ice cream sundaes!
Our last full day together (before I left for Spring Break and Tony left for the US!), I decided to take Tony to the Musée de la Castre, the museum I had visited with Aude and other AIFSers earlier that year. It’s a really interesting museum, and the cherry on top is this tower that has an amazing view of the city and the sea. We hadn’t been able to go up during our previous visit due to some rain, so I was excited to get to share it for the first time with Tony.
Sure enough, it is a fantastic view – even worth climbing up tall and narrow stairs in an old tower! (Have I mentioned yet how difficult I found European stairs? I usually found that the stairs were too small for my not-exactly-tiny feet! I often had to go up or down them kinda sideways.) We also met a group of five or six frat bros from the States who must have been there on their Spring Break and who got us to take a bunch of pictures for them!
Our next stop for the day was catching the train to Monaco (or, as Tony kept pronouncing it, Mo-NAH-co – we think he was confusing it with Morocco)! We ended up deciding to head to an exotic garden there (Tony hadn’t seen any French exotic gardens yet!) and, thanks to Tony being able to use his beautiful phone while abroad, we didn’t get lost once! The garden was, as I came to learn was the French exotic norm, full of cacti and succulents, and it was a lot of fun following the zigzaggy path. When the view and the zigzags allowed, I could even point out the various parts of Monaco I had visited before.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this little excursion was something we found right by the garden’s exit – there was a little room with a bunch of vending machines, and one of them gave you freshly squeezed orange juice! Instead of rows of snacks, the machine was full of oranges, and when you put your coins in, two oranges would fall down and get sliced in half and squeezed, and the juice would end up in a little cup at the bottom, sort of like the coffee vending machines – only *way cooler*!
So of course we both got freshly squeezed orange juice (which was delicious!) and then headed out to walk by the Monte Carlo Casino and grabbed hot chocolate at the place I stopped at with Kailyn and a couple other girls my last time there, before heading back to Cannes.
We grabbed pizza for dinner near the train station when we got back before heading our separate ways. Saying goodbye was tough (when is it not?), but it was a wonderful week full of wonderful adventures with a wonderful friend!
Plus I had the mighty challenge/distraction of fitting a week’s worth of clothes and the like into one bag awaiting me when I returned to the dorm – our Spring Break was starting dark and super early the next morning!