Three places in France that will surprise you

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

The very first time I visited France was July 2014. I traveled through a tour group with my family, and the tour took us to Paris, France. Paris has always been a top destination on my travel bucket list. Indeed it is a very typical travel destination however, the stereotypical image of Paris always appealed to me. I loved the idea of a city so full of romance, class and midnight magic. I loved the picturesque image of strolling across the Pont des Arts, marveling at the scenery and taking in the moment as the light reflections project off the thousands of metal locks that contain a promise of a lifetime. However, after spending a couple of days in the supposedly romantic magical city, Paris did not fulfill my expectations. Perhaps my expectations were 70% based off pure fantasy and movie-like assumptions, but deep down I knew that there had to be a lot more to France in general than what I experienced in Paris.

Fast forward to October 2015 when four great friends hop on a bus headed to the French Riviera. I have to admit, the French Riviera was not on my travel bucket list and I originally had no desire to travel there this time around, but nevertheless I decided to go on the trip because I traveled with three of my closest friends here abroad. Needless to say, the company was the deciding factor. Fast forward again to the end of the trip, on the grueling bus ride back to Rome. The French Riviera in all its greatness and glory, definitely took me by surprise. From the gorgeous Exotic Gardens in Eze, to the crystal chandeliers and the red carpets where some of the greatest high rollers once stood in the Monte Carlo casino, the south of France was a place of beauty, wealth and tropics.

Nice, France.

  1. The entire city of Nice, France.

The panoramic view of Nice, France was one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. Orange roof top houses litter the entire city, ranging from big to small in size, but all with the same iconic orange roof. The houses are along the coast which is lined with lush green palm trees right next to the turquoise blue waters. Our first day in Nice was spent snorkeling in those turquoise blue waters. Snorkeling was both exhilarating, frightening, yet calming all at once. After the initial shock of diving into the freezing cold waters wore off, I began to adjust to the water’s temperature and dove under, excited to see what lay beneath the water. Colorful fish swam under my flippers and around the beautiful coral reefs. At one point, we even spotted an octopus ,hidden between two corals, which began to change colors as it sensed us swimming nearby.

Exotic Gardens, Eze

2. Exotic Gardens in Eze.

After what seemed like 200 stair steps later, we finally arrived at the top of the Exotic Gardens. Unlike your typical garden most likely featuring bushes of colorful roses and tulips, cacti of all shapes and sizes covered the Exotic Gardens. Maybe it was the fact that these cacti were 50 shades of beautiful green, some spotted with small pink flowers, some towering and tall and some short and stubby, but the gardens were portrayed almost tropical-like, despite all the cacti. At the top of the gardens, we came across a picture perfect area where you could look out and feast your eyes on a full panoramic view of Eze. It was that view that made the 200 stair step climb worth it. It was that view that made one secretly smile and feel absolutely breathless.

Monte Carlo Casino, Monte Carlo

3. Monte Carlo Casino in Monte Carlo.

Welcome to Monte Carlo, home of the rich and famous. Home of the high rollers, big spenders and classy party goers. Home of the 18,000 Euro jackets in Chanel and the 800 Euro leather shoes in Gucci. Monte Carlo is a place that forces one to physically stop and take everything in. From the many flashy Lamborghinis zooming around the casino, to the thumping music coming from the exclusive rooftop clubs, to the brightly lit store signs to only the most expensive clothes and shoes imaginable, Monte Carlo is the definition of glamour and wealth. Stepping into the Monte Carlo Casino itself felt as if I just stepped into a movie scene from James Bond. Huge sparkling crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and the casino itself was full of slot machines, and Blackjack and Roulette tables in the back. Security guards patrolled every inch of the casino, including near the bar where one could purchase an 18 Euro glass of champagne.  Unfortunately, my luck at the casino ran out rather quickly, and I did not win the millions I needed to quit school and travel the world for life.

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