No, I'm not talking about the extremely popular app/game that so many people play. I'm talking about spending time speaking enormous amounts of a second language with new friends and how speaking foreign words with friends can be intimidating, but offer great experiences and cultural insight if you can get past the fear of sounding like a buffoon. I think that no matter how good of a traveler you are, it's hard to meet locals. Yeah, you can stay at hostels - but you're meeting travelers, and while that's fun, it doesn't provide the opportunity to really get to know a culture. I've been fortunate enough to have family stays in Senegal and France, and was able to gain incredible cultural insight to those 2 places during college. But it wasn't until I found myself reconnecting with the one French friend I made while living in Strasbourg that I realized just how difficult it is to meet and befriend locals when you're constantly on the move. I am also extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study a second language to the point of near-fluency because without it, traveling in francophone countries wouldn't nearly be as interesting.
Reconnecting After 10 Years
Toulon & Six Fours Les Plages
I can't tell you if this marathon socializing exists all over France, but it was great to experience it mixed with what life is like in small town cote d'azure/french mediterranean coast life. It's August and so everyone is still on vacation. This means more time for sitting and chatting for hours, beach volleyball and driving around to visit friends. I took part in all of this (minus the beach volleyball - they're kinda serious about it) and again while I felt exhausted by all the chatting, was happy to see how people enjoy life during the summer.
Toulon is a nice mid-sized city. Six Fours is basically a beach village, and the real gem of the area is Sanary which is complete with a tiny wood-boat filled port, winding streets, charming shops and the relaxed atmosphere you'd expect of Southern France - without the luxury of the Riviera (that's coming in the next post). It was the non-glitzy part of the Cote d'Azur and I'm glad to have experienced it.
Next stop is Rome. Yes, Rome. I arrived this evening. I can't even imagine the grandeur and enormity of this city and am nervous and excited to see it all at the same time.
Until then, bisous et à bientot.