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[Entry 22] What kind of a name is Digne anyway?

22 December 201002:34PMepic-triptravel

We spent yesterday in Nice again, more because we wanted to just not go anywhere for a while than because of any real attraction to the place. We did emails and stuff, then did some washing, then switched hotels to get out of the smoke room (almost as cheap, the next one, and much nicer and less smoke- smelling.) Then we got lunch, and we both went out into the city for a bit. I had a crepe. It was good. I also walked along the Promenade des Anglais, which is the famous street along the beach in Nice. I think my experience may have been a little different to the ones in the publicity photos...

I'll give you a hint- I hadn't been swimming.

We stayed that night in Nice too. I think the French must eat a little earlier than the Italians because by the time we got out to have dinner it was fairly late (9ish, from memory) which in Italy is peak hour but in Nice, everywhere except the expensive places were closed. Then again, dinner isn't exactly the main meal for French (it's lunch) so there's no need for the restaurants to be open late, except to milk money from tourists like yours truly. And of course, given the weather, a lot of touristier places had shut down for the winter- on the other hand, we saved on hotel rooms for the same reason. C'est la vie.

The next morning we caught a train, or at least we tried to. In my organising fail, I didn't tell dad that it wasn't the same station as the one we arrived at, or really any details beyond 'we are catching a train tomorrow'. This led to a bit of a dummy spit by everyone involved when (surprise surprise) missed the train, but it was probably just because we hadn't had time for breakfast. We got the next one instead, and had time for lunch as well, at a little bar thingy. Just incidentally, could you believe dad has never had Nutella before? He had it on a crepe today. His reaction was pretty much 'I like Grand Marnier (which I presume is liquor) on crepes better'. Sacrilege.

Australia needs more Sandwichery/Saladeries.

The train, when we finally got on it, was amazing. It isn't a regular SNCF (the French national rail company) train, but a private line owned by Chemins de Fer de Provence. There are these dinky little diesel trains which sound more like a bus, and act like it too, since they were always stopping to pick up locals. It winds all the way through the mountains- actually the start of the alps- and the scenery is incredible. My mind was blown. I tried to take photos but they don't really work out train windows... you'll have to do it yourself if you want to see it. Seriously, amazing. It makes me want to direct a movie up here just so I can have like an hour of swoopy Peter Jackson-esque scenery porn. Or maybe I just need to accept that the planet is not alternately flat and big mountains, but actually contains 'terrain'.

A castle. Just casually.

The tracks were sort of kinked like this the whole way up.

Me and the train. Neither is this blurry IRL.

The train finishes in a medium-sized town called Digne-les-bains. It's really great, because less people here speak English, so I get to whip out the ol' Francais a bit more here. Not that this stops dad attempting to get by in English anyway. He made a joke that the dessert at the restaurant tonight was just like his mum's, and the poor waitress looked so confused that I translated it for her. It's good being somewhere like this. I get to figure out that the French I learned in school does actually work, and is actually useful, and meanwhile build a bit of confidence. Dad put it well- nobody cares if I screw up, so I might as well get in there and give it a try.

Dignes-Les-Bains' only claim to fame: "Napoleon stopped here, on his way back from the Isle of Elbe, for a break between midday and 3pm on the 4th of March 1815." INCREDIBLE.

Two other things about dinner, while I'm on the topic. One: Set menus are much cheaper than a la carte. Like, 3 courses for 15 Euros cheap, at a really decent restaurant (not that there were any others open... Digne is even more shut than Nice this time of year.) Two: Apparently in France, well done means medium and medium means 'so rare it's pretty much still raw'. Just a heads up for if you're ever eating steaks in France.

So, the hotel we're staying in. I can see my future in it, at least as far as travelling goes. It's 2 stars (which means clean but looks like it's from the 70s, good shower but pressure optional, and breakfast is 8.22(?!) Euros more, but there is free wifi, which is something many 5-star hotels can't seem to grasp.). Just the way we wandered around looking at hotels, the slightly cheap-looking nature (although it's actually about 10 Euros more than the one in Nice... I guess near the Alps winter isn't the off season, where in Nice it is). I can totally see myself doing it on my own, though definitely sans- suitcase and much of the other extraneous stuff. If we hadn't been in Egypt beforehand, I'd need less stuff, since it doesn't get so dirty or sweaty in the cold. Anyway, backpacking is in the future, for sure.

Speaking of the future, we now have more of a plan, after dad endlessly nagged me to take more of a role planning this thing. We're going to take the bus to Aix-en-Provence tomorrow, then the TGV to Lyon, stay the night there, go to a town in the Alps near the Swiss border called Annecy on Christmas Eve, stay there until boxing day, then go to Paris (possibly via another night in Lyon, and half a day in Chartres on the way in.) I picked Annecy because it sounded nice in the guidebook, and because it's in the Alps (yay snow) but not Chamonix (the ski resort, where dad suggested, of which I don't see the point if we're not skiing) Then we get 4-ish nights in Paris, and fly out on the first and blah blah blah you know the rest.

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