The Incredible Côte D’Azur

Ok!

I promised a happy post and here it is. Guys, Nice is beautiful. There is a reason that the rich and famous come to play here, and that’s because this city is basically paradise. I’m sat here, on the beach, just watching the waves roll in and wondering how I got to be so lucky. In short, you need to visit. Spend some points (there’s a Hyatt here!) or get an Airbnb and just let yourself rejuvenate in this fresh French air.

Plus, a bottle of wine is only 2 bucks! I mean, that makes this place at least 1000% better.

Ok pause right now. My waiter just came over and was starstruck to learn that I write a travel blog, and that I was in fact writing about Nice at this very moment. Does that make me famous? Anyway, since he was so kind, I’ll go ahead and plug his restaurant. Everyone, go to the Neptune Plage on the beach because the wine is cheap and the view is gorgeous (and I don’t just mean the waiters).

So, what about Nice is nice? Apart from the water, there’s a lot to do. My first day here, I wandered the fresh market, picking up some of the plushest produce I’ve ever seen and enjoying it while sipping a cappuccino on an outside terrace.

Today, I gave in to my baser instincts and headed to Blast: An American Bar, where I stereotypically ate French Toast and loved every minute of it. The service was some of the bet I’ve ever gotten, so I left a 2 Euro tip (See? See how tipping is done?)

Nala and I have wandered the streets, eyeing the luxury shopping (Chanel? Gucci? Please.) and every so often visited something historic. That’s the beauty of Europe, you see. Everything is old, and oftentimes, beautifully preserved. We can find things here that predate the US by hundreds of years, still in use, and still gorgeous.

I’ve gone on a tour to see the rich and famous in Monaco. Along the way, I stopped in the medical village of Eze, which houses 40 people and a huge cactus garden because…France?

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I even went to the Le Casino Monte Carlo, where I paid 10 Euro for entry and got stared at because perhaps my leggings weren’t quite in the dress code.

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Le Casino Monte Carlo

In short, the French Riviera is everything you’ve heard it is and more. It is elegant, grand and rich, welcoming, humble and affordable.

Come visit.

-Carissa

The Tipping Point: What not to Do

Bonjour!

I am writing to you today from the beach of Nice, where I have sat myself with a glass of wine and the most incredible view.

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Seriously

 

But! Enough about the view. Today I’d like to talk about what happened yesterday, a ridiculous fiasco in the Principality of Monaco that has taught me, more than anything, to stick to my guns.

So let me lay the scene out for you here. Yesterday I took a tour to the village of Eze and to Monaco, an all day affair that showed us around some really beautiful places. I happened to be with three fantastic women from Philly, who ended up adopting me into their group and spending the day with me.

We had a great time wandering throughout Monaco (which I will write about later), minus this one, ridiculous, affair. You see, we stopped off for lunch at a nice, touristy, restaurant, where an insistent waiter urged our group inside. (He actually thought we were French at first, and spent several minutes coaxing us in with French, which obviously failed). I ordered the pumpkin soup, which was ah-mazing, and everything generally went over really well until the bill came.

We were mid-conversation, the women having asked me about tipping in Europe, when the waiter arrived with the bill and presented it with a flourish to one of the women (she had offered to pay for me, as thanks for my military service. Generosity is found everywhere!)

Upon presenting, he told her, “the service is not included in the bill.”

Now, I don’t know how much you guys know about tipping in Europe. I know for us, in the US, tipping is essentially required and at a minimum of 15%. This isn’t so in the EU. Here, tipping is not only optional, the amount you tip (if you do) generally spans from a few Euro onwards.

At this point, the woman told him to add five Euro extra onto the bill, to which he repeated “the service is not included in the bill.”

Ok, so maybe he was confused? Could he not do math? I myself turned around and explained to him that there was additional already added into the amount to be charged….at which point he emphasized, again, that service was not already included.

He emphasized insistently and very, very, rudely. At this point my jaw was hanging open, wondering what sort of waiter would address patrons like this. (Obviously the kind that preys on tourists).

Upon being asked, he told our party that tipping was generally at 15%-20%, at which point we folded and added a full 15 Euro to the bill, an altogether ridiculous amount in a society that doesn’t ever rely on tipping.

Now this is the first time I’ve ever been harassed for a tip, and I think it had a lot to do with the company I was in. I myself look vaguely like a down-on-her-luck college student (ok, high school), an image I have carefully cultivated so as not to be robbed of my earthly possessions. But the rest of us, who were obviously well-off enough to travel all the way to Monaco, weren’t quite as shabby as me. Thus, the waiter felt entitled to ask for, nay, demand, more money.

When we told our guide later what had happened, her jaw also dropped.

“This,” she declared in her amazing French accent, “is absurd. If someone spoke to me like this I would give them nothing.”

So. Lesson learned. All the things people tell you about tipping in Europe are true. Don’t overpay just because some pushy asshole is lying to you about how things work in their country. What a poor ambassador for Monaco, and most especially, what a terrible impression to leave on people who are naturally very generous. Tipping in the future? I think not.

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Here’s a tip: try looking at the camera.

-Carissa

Nice is Nice!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I am in Nice! I left Barcelona early on Saturday and ended up here at around 8pm. It was a long, long, day, and Nala wasn’t the biggest fan, but we made it safe and sound. My apartment here is pretty nice, though it’s only got a futon for a bed, which is less than ideal. But! It’s about a two minute walk to the beach so can I really complain?

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Can you believe this view?

Yesterday was my first full day in Nice, and to get myself started, I signed up for a walking food tour throughout the city. Let me tell you guys, the French really know their stuff. So fresh!

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We even did an olive oil tasting

I actually happened to meet a few other Americans on the tour, so they adopted me into our group and we even spent the rest of the day together! Guys, people think I’m interesting. They even want to spend time with me! How cool is that?

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I’m popular!

Anyway, the French Riviera is so far way cooler than Paris (sorry Eiffel Tower), and I can see why everyone comes to live here. I certainly would. It’s stunning, and I’ll be spending the next week here taking as many poorly-lit and amateurish photos as possible so you all can see.

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Until then, au revoir!

-Carissa “I can’t stop speaking in Spanish” Rawson