Jerusalem, Israel--- Hello all! Before I go any further, I want to thank everyone for your kind birthday messages! I had a birthday to remember: two foreign countries, two passport stamps, six desserts, and, with the time difference, 29 hours of birthday wishes, haha.
It has been a busy few days. We spent our last full day in the Cote d'Azur by taking a day trip to Nice, about an hour's train ride from the farm in La Roquette. We were surprised to find that Nice is huge, and actually thought it somewhat disjointed. We started in a more ritzy area, where we went to the Musee Matisse (a little disappointing) and the Musee Chagall (the highlight of the day), before moving to Vieux Nice the oldest neighborhood. It's narrow, cobblestone streets crammed with shops and restaurants had a completely different feel. Later, we ran back to the train station through sprawling, modern streets not unlike downtown Chicago or New York City.
In Ben's words, "Nice is a massive mushkebubble of cultures and architectural styles piled together with no perceivable order. It is huge. There are mountains, a beach (which was very rocky when we were there, perhaps to keep the sand in place?), a medieval section, a post-modern square, Italian Renaissance planning, and even ancient Roman ruins. Its streets ranged from tiny, tangled alleys in Vieux Nice to grand boulevards. Many buildings are massive--too massive to be understood from nearby streets or plazas. Squares are often larger than parks and are bisected by train tracks and streets for cars. Many parts are dirty and smelly. Minorities seem to be the majority here, with more Asians than anywhere else we have seen. Kebab places outnumber bistros. There is trash in the streets and dog poop everywhere. For such a city to have so many grandiose squares, boulevards, museums, etc., how could it be so dirty? The whole city was baffling, and perhaps that so much was closed when we were there (a Sunday), and that the weather was very grey only exacerbated Nice's eeriness/weirdness. It reminded me a bit of Naples (maybe Nice has some pirates, too!)."
The next day we packed up our belongings and said our final goodbyes and thank yous to Gaby and Ton. We boarded a regional train to Cannes and then transfered to a train bound for Paris. It was not a TGV train, however, and it took us a total of 5.5 hours to get to Paris. But we did have a great lunch on the train. Man, the stereotype of the French gourmand certainly seems to be true! Yum. We made it through Paris without much trouble, and got to spend the night of March 22nd there. Our (not so nice) hostel was close to the Bastille and we even got to peek in at Place des Voges, which was awesome. Then it was birthday dinner at a modern French fusion restaurant. The next morning we left the hostel at 7:15. The manager said it was a 30-40 minute train ride to Charles de Gaulle, so we thought we'd have plenty of time to make our 10:15 flight. Wrong! It took well over an hour to get to the airport and even longer to find the right terminal and security gate for Israel. We had a couple of frantic moments but ultimately made it with time enough to get a pain au chocolat for birthday breakfast. Ben and I were not seated together on the flight, but we made it to Tel Aviv, found some bourekas, and made our way to a shared taxi to a Jerusalem, where we will spend the next five nights.
Our time here has been great so far. It is warm but not hot and we are enjoying all of the great food and traditional sights. After two pretty full days of travel, it is nice to slow our pace and relax a little.