Immediately after my return from Paris, I unpacked some dirty clothes, repacked some clean clothes, and slept for a total of 30 minutes before embarking for Toulon, France. Toulon is in the very southern tip of France, and is a very small town that is used as a naval port. This was our big JACKA trip, (my best friends from Montclair, Jessica, Adrienne, Claudia, me, and Ali), but Claudia is holding down the fort in Montclair and won't be out here visiting til next week, and Adrienne couldn't afford to go. So, Ali and I were traveling there from London together on the 23rd, and Jessica was meeting us there the 25th.
I do not understand the buses in London, and the time to try to figure them out isn't at 4 in the morning alone trying to get to the airport. I was supposed to meet Ali at Victoria, because she had bought the coach ticket for me, but I could not get there in time with so many problems with the buses, so I ended up just taking a train to Stansted from the Liverpool station and had to pay for it twice. Bollocks. Regardless, I got to Stansted even before Ali, and we had plenty of time to kill so we sat in a little cafe in the airport before going through security and heading off to Toulon.
We get off the plane and we are absolutely in awe of how gorgeous it is. The mountains, the red-roofed houses, the green of the trees, the blue of the sky... all things I have been missing in my life since coming to London. The airport was about the size of an average family dining room, so we had to wait a little while before a bus to take us to Toulon. Thankfully, a wonderful young lady helped us figure out our buses, and we made it to the town safely. We found our hotel, which was absolutely darling, and set our stuff down.
Right by our hotel was Place de la Libertie, a square area with a fountain which served as a useful landmark for us to find our hotel. We walked around the town for a while, grabbing some delicious pasta for lunch and walking down to the port by the sea (the Mediterranean is so beautiful). Around 5:00, we decided we wanted to take a short nap. We had both only gotten a half hour of sleep the night before, and we were exhausted.
When we woke up from our nap, it was dark out, and I knew we slept longer than we intended. I woke up hungry, wondering if maybe there was anywhere that would be open for dinner. Ali asked what time it was, and I looked at the clock, expecting to see 9:00 P.M. but definitely no later than 11:00 P.M. It was 5:00 A.M. We had slept for 12 hours straight. We couldn't stop laughing. We set the alarm for 8:00 A.M. for breakfast (which was really 9:00, my mistake, because my phone was still on London time), but we slept past that and got up at 10:00. Well, that's fine, because breakfast was still being served for an hour. We go down to breakfast, and they say it's closed... ohhh, right. London time. It was really 11:00. We slept for 18 hours. We went to sleep at 5 in the evening, and overslept breakfast. What. the. hell. Thankfully, they let us eat anyway, and then we went back up to shower and get ready for the real day, nicely refreshed.
What was nice and different about this trip is that there was no pressure. It was so relaxing, because it is such a small town and there's no obligation to do and see a million things. You can literally walk across the town in about 20 minutes. There were things to do, but it wasn't a touristy destination where you had to make sure you saw A, B, and C before you left. I believe all we did that day was go to the port, buy a book, relax in the sunlight, read, and eat.
And almost get killed.
Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but probably not. We went to the fountain by our hotel to innocently read our books and eat an apple, and then we decided to walk down to the port to continue reading. When we're at the crosswalk, this young guy comes up to us and tries to talk to us. Obviously, he's speaking French. We try to tell him we don't understand, but he isn't leaving. He gets that we speak English, and says he doesn't know English. We say we don't know French. This is where the conversation would logically end. Between Ali and my experience with French, we were able to understand bits and pieces of what he was saying, but we couldn't respond. He said we were pretty, and I knew that was when things got sketchy. He was trying to call his friend over to come walk with us, but we really just wanted to go, so we started walking but he followed. He kept trying to make conversation with us, despite us saying over and over, "Je ne comprends pas," ("I do not understand"). I start charading to him that we were going to the port to read, a cue to not come, but he came anyway. We were literally sitting by the water, reading to ourselves and talking only to each other, completely ignoring him, and he just sat there with us. We were getting really creeped out. It didn't help that he was texting the whole time... I know he was probably just bored, since we weren't talking to him, but who knows? I've seen the movie Taken. He could have been texting a friend that they could come grab us. We get up and shake his hand and say goodbye, and he tries to start coming with us, and we say "No, goodbye," and finally get away.
Now, call me paranoid, but I don't trust anyone and my opinion is that if I am going to be sold into sex slavery or be kidnapped and missing for 8 years, I want to be able to say, "I did absolutely everything right, I did not make any stupid mistakes and I covered all my bases, but this happened anyway." So we walked swiftly away, making several turns away to try to lose him on our trail. We ducked into a couple stores along the way and stayed in the back for several minutes before walking back in our roundabout way. Since he originally met us right by the square by our hotel, we didn't want to go straight there where he could see us and know where we are staying. More than likely, he was harmless... but I really don't want to be sold into sex slavery. We're smart girls though. We didn't tell him where we were staying (he asked but we pretended to not understand the question), our names, or even where we were from (we lied and just said London). Still, we went back and Google translated some key phrases for the future, like "I am being followed," and "I would like to be left alone, please go away."
Then, we went out to a really fancy (and expensive) restaurant in the square by our hotel. We couldn't understand the menu, but luckily the waiter spoke English so he helped us a bit. I got ravioli filled with sausage, in a sausage cream sauce. It was really very good. Dessert, however, was... interesting. We see underneath the Fromage section, "Fromage blanc... avec framboises." Forget what's in the middle, we see "white cheese" and "with raspberries." Awesome! A cheese platter! We were really craving one. It comes out though as a big bowl of plain Greek yogurt. Um, what? We start saying to the waiter that we expected different, we expected raspberries and---
"Say no more, I completely understand," he says, and takes the yogurt away. No, sir! Come back! You don't understand! We didn't even get to explain that we thought it was a cheese plate!
He comes back with the same bowls of yogurt with some raspberry sauce on top. We put on our fake smiles, thank him, and reluctantly dig into the yogurt. It was so difficult to get through. We literally resorted to chewing up sugar cubes to spit in it to make it sweeter (which is disgusting, and ineffective). Well, that was a bust, but the dinner itself was delicious.
The next morning, we went to the farmer's market and bought strawberries, raspberries, and cheese (since we were craving it from the dessert mishap the night before). We had a little picnic by the port, and it was so nice with the sun beating on us that I was able to lie out in my tank top for about 20 minutes in the warmth. Jessica arrived that day, so we walked around a bit with her, showing her the town and getting our dinner at McDonald's (to be fair, food in France is SO expensive, and we're poor). There is virtually no nightlife in Toulon, but that's okay because we filled our nights with YouTube videos of childhood cartoons, online games of Family Feud, and bonding time.
We wanted to go to the beach the next day, but we slept past our alarm again, so we spent the day around town. We went to a photography museum, which was an impressive two rooms, and an art museum, which was an impressive one statue. We pretty much just filled our days here eating and walking around the port. We finally made it to the beach the next day. We woke up early and went to the farmer's market to buy two baguettes, two bricks of cheese, two cases of strawberries, and three bags of olives soaked in herbs. We took it to the beach, and it was the most delicious lunch ever. If I could eat that lunch for the rest of my life, I'd be happy. We went to a cafe there and talked for literally about 3 hours.
What I absolutely love about my JACKA girls is the talks we have. We have such intellectual, deep talks about absolutely everything, and it's always such a learning experience because we all always have different views on everything. We all get along so well because we are all intelligent young women, but in almost every aspect we are all on different levels. With every talk we had this weekend, it was Jessica and I on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Ali comfortably in the middle of us. I really miss being at Montclair solely for these talks. Freshman year, we'd be hanging out in 707 having these talks every night. Ah, nostalgia.
When we came back, we went to a cafe for ice cream and got the best sundaes ever. We sat there and talked for so long that we got hungry again, so I ordered a goat cheese and lavender honey crepe (which sounds weird, but it was amazing). We literally sat in this cafe for 5 hours... it was a pretty common theme that day. It was so nice to be able to talk like that again though, about real things. It was also nice to spend time with people from home.
The next morning, we bid our farewells, and headed back to Londontown. Overall, I'd say this was my favorite trip so far. It was the most relaxing, and felt like a legitimate vacation rather than a sightseeing fully-packed excursion. I loved spending time with Ali and Jessica, and I loved the area. I wouldn't want to live in Toulon specifically, but I think Southern France is so beautiful and I wouldn't mind living there one day at all. It was nice to get out of a built up city for a few days. The language was a bit more difficult than in Paris, because literally nobody knew English so nobody could help me out at all. We got by well enough though. It was a beautiful change of scenery overall, with amazing girls, but it was still nice to come back to a home base... even if it's only for a few days.
Conclusion? You know what it is. Toulon: Conquered.
Next up: Amsterdam this weekend.