(As usual, I don’t have the time to edit my posts so I apologize in advance for any errors, grammatical or otherwise.)
I finally got a chance to go Europe, or to one country in particular, France. Just like the trip I took last year to Toronto, I was was going to Nice to present at an academic & industry conference. Here is a link to the paper on which my presentation was based. Graduate studies in Kenya and Japan differ in many ways, but that is a post for another day. I just wanted to mention that publications play an important part in your research life as a student here and actually count towards informal graduation requirements.
Anyway, the visa application process was a bitch, as always . Ok, I will admit, the process itself isn’t so bad; except for the fact that Jeremy and I had to both apply in person, which meant a bullet-train trip from Komatsu to Tokyo Station followed by a navigation of the subway during rush hour with a 3 year old, on a cold wintry morning! I really asked myself if it was worth it after Jeremy had an epic meltdown in a convenience store, but we got through it and we got our Schengen visas two weeks later in the passports in the mailbox. It was a way much cheaper and simpler process than the Canadian one, where the agency took my money and refused to give Jeremy a visa anyway after asking for way too much information. At least this time, we got to travel together!
So the day finally arrived when we took a flight from Kansai to Dubai, and then from Dubai directly to Nice. No Paris stopover. A tight schedule meant we didn’t get a chance to visit Paris so that will have to be another time.
Nice is beautiful. Set upon the hillsides on the South of France along the Mediterranean coast, it boasts over 300 days a year. For comparison, in Ishikawa where I live in Japan, we get 160 days, and Nairobi gets about 288 (yes, even less than Nice!). (This is for you who think the whole of Africa is a sweltering jungle).
Here was my itinerary for the 6 days:
Day 1 – Saturday, March 18th
We arrived at noon and basically spent the rest of the day and night at the hotel recovering from the long journey and adjusting to the 7 hour difference. Woke up at 5am the following day hungry and had to wait until 6:30am when the hotel began serving breakfast. However, the concierge was kind enough to offer J a glass of milk and a croissant while we waited.
Day 2 – Sunday, March 19th: Beach and Park
Walked the along the St. Laurent Du Var beach. Jeremy joined some two kids who were playing along the beach. He is usually friendly and fearless, believing every boy or girl to be his friend. They played happily for about an hour. It was quite confusing for him though because he was trying to speak English to them and when they didn’t understand, he tried Japanese. It didn’t stop them from enjoying themselves though. Play is a universal language and children understand that better than us.
After lunch at an Indian restaurant along the beach, we went back to the hotel for a rest, before getting a bus to Parc Phœnix.
Dinner was from the McDonald’s near the hotel, and we were done for the day.
I did manage to pass by the conference venue to check it out and to register and get my badge. I was due to present on that Tuesday afternoon.
Day 3 – Monday, March 20th: Old Town
The individual rooms where the presentations were to take place were too small for a toddler.. I couldn’t sit at the back and try to get a thing or two from the presenters. So I spent the day on a a guided afternoon tour of Nice that I booked on tripadvisor. With a 3 year old, I couldn’t very well decide to walk or cycle and I hate the stress of driving in an unfamiliar city so the driven tour was really what I needed. I hit all the main places, driving along Promenade des Anglais, Old Town, Castle Hill, and the Roman Ruins and the park next to it. Jeremy slept in the van while I was at Old Town and Castle Hill.. and I was wondering if I should wake him up – a cruel thing to do to a child just so he can see what? It’s all meaningless to him at his age really. My tour guide offered to watch him, and I had to decide whether I could trust him to not um.. disappear with my child while I took in the sights and sounds for 30 minutes at Old Town and again for 20 minutes at the top of Castle Hill. In the end, I went with my gut, after taking a picture of the van’s registration. He was still sleeping peacefully when I got back.
Day 4: Tuesday, March 21st: Conference
I had traveled to France with 2 other colleagues from my lab and our supervisor, who joined us a day later. I asked my colleague from Tanzania to stay in my hotel room with Jeremy while I dashed out for about 45 minutes to do my talk and answer questions. That, unfortunately, was the extent of my participation in that conference.
To keep Jeremy occupied, I spent that morning at the Cap 3000 shopping mall, mostly doing window shopping.
That night, we were all – 2 colleagues, Jeremy and I- treated to dinner by our supervisor at a fancy French restaurant by the beach. The food was so gooood… finally, a taste of France!
Day 5: Wednesday, March 22nd: San Remo, Italy
I had a whole day free and decided to take the chance to go to Italy, just to cross the border and check off one more country on my travel list. I also plan to go and explore the rest of Italy someday. My friends chose to visit Monaco – home the rich – on this day. Almost half of half of Nice Côte d’Azur Airport houses the private jets of the residents of Monaco, and I hear you find private jet dealerships as easily as you find Toyota dealerships in your town.
Anyway, Jeremy and I got on a train to San Remo, south of Italy. It is quite similar to Nice except it had way less people and seemed a little bit less cheerful. I think it was off season for the town; maybe has been for a while. I hear it used to be quite the gambling city. We walked to the beach, pausing to admire Villa Ormond and Gardens. When we got to the beach, Jeremy played in the park for a while with the kids. We then rented bikes and cycled along the beach; there is a really wide cycling lane, had lunch and caught the afternoon train back to Nice.
I am sure there is much more to see and do in the summer in San Remo, both day and night.
As you have noticed, I spent most of my trip taking part in activities and going to places where both J and I could enjoy ourselves. It was a good trip and we both had fun on the short break away from our daily routines in Japan.
While watching Jeremy as he played in the park, along came the first friendly (as in we actually spoke) black face I was to encounter. He told me he was a Nigerian and his name, Godspower! He seemed to be in a hurry though and his phone was quite busy, which he answered in rapid Italian. He said he was looking for a job and I wished him well! Aluta continua.
Day 6: Thursday, March 23rd: Return Flight
All too soon, it was time to head to the airport. We shared an Uber to the airport for our 2pm flight from Nice. Had a smooth journey back. Jeremy has already done 3 long haul flights (Kenya to Japan in 2015, then back to Kenya and back for holiday ins 2016) so he is a pro now. He also knows how to charm the air hostesses now that he can speak, and he speaks a lot! The only problem was when he slept while in transit and I had to figure out a way to carry him from the airplane, into the buses to and from the boarding gates, and the long walks between terminals when I couldn’t find a stroller. Otherwise, I am already looking forward to our next travel adventure!