France, I am coming. ALONE!
A single ticket. Not a cinema, bus, theatre or concert ticket. A single. Flight Ticket. For Me. Edinburgh - Marseille. 26th of August. This is what happens when I talk too much. My friends have always heard me talking "Yes, I want to travel alone at least for once!", "I want to experience everything myself" or "Let me be free". Here you go, Rosita. They brought me millions of flowers and an envelope with a single ticket. Perfect present for 25th birthday.
- Mum, I am going to Marseille! Alone!
I tried to prove to everyone that I wasn't nervous, but last few days before the flight I couldn't sleep. I guess it is just because I am a woman and I think too much. And I mean way too much. I wonder if the plane will crash or if I will be kidnapped to less dramatic worries of missing the bus. Thinking is fine, but overthinking is a problem.
So here we go, I am standing here, at the airport, waiting for my flight. Rosita, c'mon, it will be just fine.
I had five days to experience something amazing and unusual in France. I have decided to skip Marseille for the first three days and spend them in one of the most beautiful French Riviera's town - Cassis.
But before that, I have to tell you, guys, how I got there. French people are known for not speaking English even if they are capable of doing so. Which is quite true. Even getting from the airport to Marseille bus/train station (Saint-Charles) was a challenge for me. Not only because everyone was guiding me in different directions but also making me buy completely wrong train tickets. Well silly me, I guess. Cool, I am on the right bus and my heart rate goes to normal. Till...oh wait, on the ticket it is clearly said that this bus takes 40min to get from the Airport to Marseille. However, we are already stuck in the airport parking for 20min!!! Nooo! I will miss my train! On the top of that my phone rings. No name, just this odd long number. Hello? Great, the hotel (family run) owner in Cassis wants to know when am I going to show up as he wants to close hotel at 18:00 due to some kind of the concert which he is going to. Amazing. What am I going to do? Finally, after 1h20 min I am in the Marseille's train station and again running around asking for help and again same situation as in the airport. A mess! Millions of buses, millions of trains and millions of people. After some time, I manage to find the train after asking hundreds of times if it is really THE train I need. Hopefully, hopefully. I am on the correct train covered in 'graffiti art', alone, looking through the window. That's it. I am going to Cassis.
The train stops at Cassis. Now I just need to get to this bloody hotel. How? There is a taxi stop, but no taxis. I am trying to connect to the internet - no connection. It's fine, Cassis is small, isn't it? I will walk. It shouldn't be too far, right? It was. I started to walk whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery. I was surrounded by olive trees, wine houses and simply silence. I check my phone again for internet. Voila! It works! But wait.. 1h to Cassis centre by walk! I am screwed. I am not going to make it so I will probably have to sleep here in the olive tree fields and listen to cicadas. Very romantic. I started running on a dusty road with a suitcase in one hand and a backpack on my back. It is 30 degrees and my clothes are all wet.
I try to flag down numerous taxis, all their lights are red - occupied. After a few tries one taxi stops. God, it stops! For me! After 20 min the taxi pulls up in front of the hotel. I say 'merci' and leave him a good tip. I can not even see the beauty around me because I am just concentrated on the hotel. I just pray that the doors will be open. I walk inside, all the restaurant chairs are up but the whole family are sitting at the table and...they are waiting for me! They start clapping and shouting "She came, Voila" - what a relief!
I open the door to my room. It is so small as you can barely move around with no air conditioning and a tiny bed, but it looks to me, after the journey like the best room in the whole world. I sit down on the bed and call my boyfriend - 'I did it'! I felt like I was on the top of the world. I felt it with all my body and soul. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had. Freedom!
I change my clothes quickly and go outside. I am tired, happy, hungry. HUNGRYYY. As my hotel is on the seaside crowded with bars and restaurants I don't spend much time choosing one. I sit down. I order mussels in a creamy french mustard sauce and the biggest glass of wine. I can feel the tears on my face. It's the most beautiful place on earth and I have a chance to be a part of it.
After this feast I go for a walk. I just want to get lost. All these tiny streets, coffee shops, locals walking around with baguette in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. Kids running around, boats, ice cream shops and wine bars. Colourful window shutters and street musicians. I want to live here or at least spend my old age here. Beautiful and charming Cassis in a most romantic provence region. What can be better?
The next day I decided to do some hiking in Cassis. Parc national de calangues is right here, few minutes walk from my hotel. There are a few roads that you can take. So I pack my bag: lots of water and fruits and start hiking somewhere in the mountains, alone, with the most breathtaking views.
Apparently, travelling alone was not enough for me, so I went to mountains and again - alone. The first few hours were very pleasant. Forest smell, dusty road, sea breeze and Edit Piaf on my playlist did a great job. "Wow" I thought to myself, "climbing is so easy I could do it for a living". I know what you are thinking - a girl, by herself, in the middle of nowhere is the perfect target. Back then I would just laugh at you, but now I kind of see the point. So, it is a fourth hour of hiking when I decided to have a break, get a snack and take some photos. While doing so, some guy approaches me and asks if I can take a photo of him. Sure! I am full of optimism and friendliness. He starts asking me questions like: where did I come from, how far I want to hike and so on. But, I get quite annoyed when he joins me for hiking in a such a friendly manner that I could not even say no. However, I really wanted to say no, as a whole point of this hiking was just to be with myself. However, I thought that it might be a nice chance to meet someone interesting. So I decided to give it a try and hike with him for a little while. The road was not crowded with tourists and this guy starts speaking Dutch to me. I don't speak Dutch. I am very confused: what is he doing? He notices that and apologises. According to him, he mixes the languages. If it wasn't enough we get lost. This guy starts to act weirdly: again Dutch speaking and rolling his eyes. He raises his voice and blames me for taking the wrong road. "What? You are ruining my solo hiking and even dare to blame me for taking the wrong road?" - I thought. Lost in the mountains with a stranger it's not the best feeling, believe me. Well, at least he took some nice pictures of me (haha). Suddenly, I see a group of people. I ask the direction back to the town and they tell me to join them as they are going back to Cassis. What a relief! Although, the guy joins the group too, I feel fine and after another 3 hours of hiking we finally reach Cassis. Maybe, I overreacted. Maybe. He was probably just a normal guy doing some hiking too. However, it wasn't really clever of me to trust someone I don't know. Especially a guy and especially in the never ending mountains. Meeting new people and making friends is amazing thing, but there is a time and a place for that.
Nevertheless, hiking was the best experience! Even now when I remember those 10 hours of hiking I get goose bums. Just walking and thinking of things that I usually "don't have time" to think about, was amazing. Sea, massive mountains and a road to somewhere and nowhere made me to step back for a moment and actually enjoy my life. I have never thought that hiking could become something incredible to me. It is like you reunite with nature. You become a part of this wonderful painting.
Cassis is something I cannot describe. Crystal blue water, rich wine, seafood and much more. For some reason it is not among The top places to visit in France.. And do you know what, I am happy about it. Let's leave Nice and Monaco for tourists. I have seen views of Cassis in so many movies but even there it's called some other names like St. Tropez or Cannes. I guess even French themselves want to keeps this pearl unknown. Well now you know it. So please, please, please - shh.
I have only spent a few days in Cassis but it seems like forever. Now I have to go back to Marseille and see what it has to offer me. Marseille is a historic harbour which has Moroccan spirit. I was pretty sure that I would fall in love with it.
And I was right. I spent all day wondering around this charming city. Marseille is very different from other French cities. A mixture of cultures has a great impact on the city's life. Fruit markets, massive fish displays and elegant coffee shops compensates each other and creates a very charming atmosphere. I tried everything from Moroccan olives to Tunisian sweets and from French wine to Malian music. Marseille is very cosmopolitan and unique. French buildings, African music and Arabic delicates in one city. It makes you wonder if it is really France? Yes, it is.
Marseille is also known for soap. SAVON! Honestly, I have never ever seen so many soap shops in my life. So, I probably bought a kilo of it. Couldn't say no to all those colours and smells, and how could I possibly decide which one to choose?
One more thing i wanted to do in Marseille was to get some of my favourite Fragonard perfumes. Here was the same story as with soaps. Couldn't choose, so bought quite a few. I thought to myself: I am enjoying my life so let's spend more money! Like I already haven't spent enough.. Well life is all about the beautiful moments, no?
After all day of walking it was just about time to go back to the apartment. This apartment was like a cherry on the top of the cake. I am so into interior design so it was like a fairytale to my soul. I filled the bath with water, prepared my lavender 'savon', put my favourite song on and relaxed. I just took some time and relaxed with all these beautiful memories. Could I ask for more? I don't think so.
Travelling alone brings a lot of experiences that you would never think of. How to get into the right bus? How to not get lost? And probably the most important, how to stay calm in any situation? I had always to remember that there is no one with me which made me cross the line of the comfort zone and do something that would usually my boyfriend do. It is very interesting how you see and approach the things on a solo journey. I can write for hours about the person sitting next to me in the wine bar or tell you more stories about the mountains and the sea. There is no one to distract you, no one to take a picture of you and no one to disagree with you. It is experience of a lifetime. So, solo trip again? DEFINITELY.
So be brave and do it.
Live like you die tomorrow.
There is something that words cannot describe.