I plan on making this a weekly blog but seeing as it’s still a couple of weeks until I next go away, I thought I’d write about some of my travels from earlier this year.
It seems only fitting to start this blog off with a post about France. I first went to France when I was 5 months old and, being half French, I spent a fair amount of time there growing up. All of this time I never really learned any more than the basics of the language, but at school I discovered that I loved learning languages and went on to study French as my degree at university – partly because I love the country, the culture and of course the language itself, but also to get closer to all my family over there.
In May this year I had to go to Metz, where my family is from, and I decided to use the opportunity to see part of the country I hadn’t been to before. Having never visited the South coast and always wanting to go there, combined with cheap Ryanair flights, I decided to start in Marseille and work my way up the East side of the country. To be honest I was a little apprehensive after some of the stories I’d heard about Marseille, and with it being the first time I had stayed in an unknown place on my own; but as soon as I arrived those worries disappeared.
After a very bumpy Ryanair flight (my first, but unfortunately probably not my last), getting lost at the airport and finally finding the train station, I made it to Marseille. As it was still quite early in the morning and I was unable to check into my hostel, I decided to explore a little bit. My first stop was the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Sitting at the top of one of the steepest hills I have ever climbed, the Basilica itself is beautiful but the views it offers over Marseille are even more stunning.
Making my way down I headed over to the Vieux Port, Marseille’s harbour, before paying a visit to the Marseille branch of my former favourite café in Grenoble, Pain et cie. After a little pick me up I was able to check into my hostel. I was staying at Hello Marseille, which turned out to be a great little place in a really central location just off the Vieux Port. A bit more exploring that afternoon took me up La Canebiere and over to the Palais Longchamp, which houses Marseille’s musée des beaux-arts and natural history museum, but it is the building and grounds themselves which are one of its main attractions.
Before I came to Marseille, the one thing I had really wanted to do was visit the calanques – little beachy fjords all along the coast between Marseille and the nearby town of Cassis. I had decided to approach them from Cassis in order to visit the Calanque d’en Vau, which I had heard to be one of the most beautiful. So the next morning I set off for Cassis with one of my hostel roommates. The bus journey itself was of course scenic and the small seaside town of Cassis is lovely and picturesque as well. From there we were told it was a two hour hike to the Calanque d’en Vau, which I stupidly thought must be a slight exaggeration, perhaps for slow walkers or people who weren’t particularly fit, but in the end it did take around that time and involved huge climbs and descents the whole way, as well as getting ourselves slightly lost. Needless to say by the time we reached the calanque we were in need of a some rest and relaxation and luckily this was the perfect spot for it. The route also took as past the calanques of Port-Miou and Port-Pin so that was an added bonus and the whole thing was just gorgeous.
Unfortunately I only had two days in Marseille, and while I would have loved to stay longer I was up at the crack of dawn the next morning and boarding a train for Aix-les-Bains. Again this was an incredibly scenic and peaceful journey, taking me through my all time favourite part of France, including a little stop in Grenoble where I used to live. From here I met up with my family and spent the night near Traize, a tiny little village on a mountainside in Savoie. It was a nice little rest stop before the long drive to Metz the next day.
Metz is one of my favourite cities and I’m always surprised when people haven’t heard of it. Maybe it’s just because I have a personal connection to the place but I think it is seriously underrated. The next few days were mostly spent with family, as we had all come here from all over the country for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Once the festivities and catching up were over, it was time for us to drive back down South and return to Traize for a few more days.
Most of this time was just spent relaxing on top of mountains and beside the gorgeous Lac du Bourget and the Lac d’Aigubelette, although we did manage to squeeze in visits to Aix-les-Bains and Chambéry as well. On our last day I even managed to get in a spot of paragliding, which I truly cannot imagine a better location for and which was without a doubt the best way to end this trip.