When people ask when I first started travelling solo, I usually tell them it was when I went to Seoul in 2011, where I consciously planned to travel by myself from start to end. But honestly, my first taste of solo travel took place much earlier back in 2007, way before this blog was even in the picture, when I spent my first night overseas on my own in the town of Nice on a 2D1N trip in Southern France.
I was visiting my friend R who was studying in Montpellier at the time, and while she was finishing up her last week of school in France before we headed to Spain, I was left to my own devices most of the time. I spent that time exploring Montpellier, and I even made a day trip out to Toulouse on my own, but Nice was the first time I would spend a night in a hostel, on my own! It may sound a bit ridiculous to my more well-travelled readers, but I had always with family and friends up to that point, so it was a bit of a milestone for me.
Here’s an actual excerpt I found from the physical journal I kept:
“Quite an interesting experience travelling on my own. Good thing is I’m forced to make decisions about what and how long I want to see things. Bad thing is no one to talk to and take pictures of me!”
I had to pull out the trusty old travel journal to check my memories, and was surprised by how much I both remembered and forgot about this trip. There was a sense of familiarity seeing my own voice on the page, but also some wonder that I ever wrote and experienced some of these things that now seem so commonplace to me.
My one abiding memory of Nice was that it wasn’t really that nice when I was there (sorry had to make that pun). It was all gloomy and raining, nothing at all like the sunny pictures of the French Riviera, and hardly any of the blue that makes the Cote d’Azur postcard worthy. All I had was lots of rain and huddling underneath my umbrella trying to stay dry.
A large amount of my time was spent on the Promenade des Anglais, or the Promenade of the English – this is a pretty famous stretch that encircles the Bay of Angels, or Baie des Anges if you prefer, the curved bay that you often see portrayed in many photos of Nice. I climbed up to the nearby Chateau Hill – all 213 steps – to take in the view.
The bay is also unusual as it has a black pebble beach instead of a typical sandy one. I remember some crazy tourists jumping into the water for a swim while I shivered under my brolly in jeans and a jacket!
I didn’t do much else, mostly walked around the streets and found a random building or two to duck into when I got tired of getting wet – I ended up in the Theatre de la Photographie et l’image, a small orange building with a gallery of photos. I also popped into the Palais Lascaris at some point, which turns out to be a Musical Instrument museum in a 17th century aristocratic building (here’s the wiki page for an English rundown).
The one strange thing about this trip is that I have no record of what hostel I stayed in, whatsoever. R did the booking for me, and I managed to find the place easily enough, but nowhere in my journal or photos did I record down the name of the place. Odd!
I did enjoy my first solo night, even if I was in a shared bunk with 8 beds. There were 3 other girls there with me, all American girls of varying ages, but all more well-travelled than I was back then! We spent an hour or two just chitchatting and exchanging file transfer sites and tips, and it was altogether quite a pleasant time. I never got any of their contact numbers though…
I did get myself a magnet to commemorate this first solo trip!
I travelled France mostly by the train system TGV – tickets are quite easy to book online via the scnf website. From Montpellier, you take a train to Marseille and change to one headed for Nice and takes around 5 hours on average. It’s also about an hour away from Monaco, where I would head the next day.
Do you remember your very first taste of solo travel? Share your experience here!