Well my computer broke, so I now have a 3 pound, fragile, expensive (actually it was free, but still) paper weight to carry around half of Europe for the next three and a half weeks. Due to this the rest of my posts will be brought to you on part by the wonders of technology and the iPhone--this means that I'm not certain they will include photographs, so you might have to check back when I get stateside for photos not taken on a phone.
Let's see, I left you in Montpellier, which was, I have no idea how many days ago. After Montpellier I went to see Avignon, also known as the second Rome, because it was home to the popes from sometime around the 14th-16th centuries. Avignon is a very cool town, with four UNESCO world heritage sights all within about a block of eachother. The first is the papal palace, which is not that impressive because it's been ravaged by what sounded like a dozen or so fires. Then there is a bridge across the Rhone, which doesn't quite make it across. Apparently building a bridge across the Rhone was so difficult at the time, that the builder of the bridge was canonized (made a saint) and a popular childrens rhyme grew up around the bridge in Avignon. Then there was what I thought was an impressive view from a park above the aforementioned architecture (more on why I used past tense to come).
After Avignon, I went to Aix-en-Provence, a city known for having been the home of and subject of most of the paintings of Cezanne. By this time in my trip, I am a little tired of museums though, so I decided to use Aix more as a resting point. One interesting aspect of my trip so far has been the fact that by staying at hostels, I have made friends with a lot of tourists but not very many locals. Well this week in France, is the equivalent of SAT week, where all of the high school seniors have to take a test for the chosen field they want to go into. As a result many have to travel a few miles to their testing center and stay in hostels, so I met several 19 and 20 year old French kids this week which was cool for a change.
The first French kid I met in Aix was a soccer fan as well, so we went to watch the last leg of the Barca-Real clash despite the fact that he had a physics test in the morning that would determine his future. When I got to Nice, I met some future art students whose tests seemed quite a bit easier than the future engineer's (I guess that's reassuring). Both Nice and Aix are much bigger than I had imagined, so I was eager to get out of the town and into a smaller town in the Riviera for at least a day. This was accomplished thanks to Villefranche-sur-mer, which is a pretty awesome town only to be outdone by Eze, which overlooks it from the cliffs 2000 feet above. I spent most of the day getting sunburned in Villefranche (I always forget about sunscreen on my calves, just call me Achilles...), and then made the 45 minute walk up the cliffs to Eze. Apparently this was a very popular walk for Nietzche back in the day, and it was on this walk that he wrote the third part to some expose or something. In any case, Eze is truly incredible. It reminds me of Minis Tirith in the LOTR movies. It's built as though it were one large building wrapping around the mountain, and as you keep walking in concentric circles up the mountain, you move into the next level of the town. Shops and houses are built into the mountain like grottos or caves. And on top is a castle turned garden which offers views up the coast some 60 miles and out to sea, all the way to Corsica (90 miles) on a clear day.
Sidenote on the Riviera, I can't even really begin to describe the wealth in Provence and especially on the Cote d'azur. The yachts are all probably in the millions. The people are beautiful. And everything but the wine is very expensive. In addition, Cannes starts up in a week and about a week later the Monaco grand prix starts, and then it will get really crazy in these parts. While those both would have been cool to see, I'm glad to be in the relative relaxation of Italy now, where I can at least talk to information desks and hope to understand what they are saying. All in all, I think that I want to live in France someday, but for now, the rest of Europe beckons. Lake Como today. More to come.
PS sorry for the typos--it's a phone, people.