On my first night in Nice I was in the supermarket trying to find something to eat for dinner. I had sussed out what was in the hostel shortly after arriving; I had an oven and a grill to work with. No microwave, kettle, or fridge – no essentials. I found the closest supermarket (although Google Maps led me on a goose chase to get there) and had a look around, hungry (mistake number one – never let yourself get too hungry while travelling on your own).
I’m trying to make this long-term on-the-road thing work, so I’m really trying to make an effort with food. I like it to be healthy but cheap, and preferably hot. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes. All the ready-made stuff was expensive, unhealthy and wrapped in too much plastic. All the make your own stuff kind of needed help from a microwave. Until I had a brainwave: burgers! I could grill these – great. I chose the burger buns and looked for mince, then decided it would be easier if I just bought frozen patties. I couldn’t find these, but I did find a ready-made burger that could be quickly grilled and eaten. Interesting. I looked at the four burger buns I had in my hand - €1,98. I looked at the burger in the fridge, with cheese, buns, tomato, salad, mayo - €1. How could that be? I was defeated. (Did I mention also starving?) So, I grizzled, put down the buns, and instead of buying that burger, decided that if I was going to eat junk I might as well not bother with the grill and in a moment of frustration and disgust turned around, walked out and went to McDonalds instead. The worst part was I felt tricked into it; as if I had no other option.
I moodily decided what to order on the self-kiosk machine, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone and became even more annoyed that the total was now six euros – way more than the supermarket burger. But I was so hungry and sick of my own indecisiveness I wasn’t going to have another change of plan. I paid and got a printed ticked with the number 83. I approached the counter and saw my number on a screen and thought “Blimey, that was quick”. I handed my ticket to the busy McDonalds man who grunted exasperatedly at me and said “Ok, ok, it’s coming”… I then realised the screen must have said something like ‘processing order’ instead of ‘ready to collect’. His completely justified frustration at me stung and my eyes pricked. After a whole day of small things ‘going wrong’, I was vulnerable. When I did collect my tray I walked upstairs with my eyes on the floor feeling so low. I sat eating my burger and fries and silent tears starting streaming down my cheeks. I sniffled through and saw a group of girls opposite me laughing at each other and chatting away, without once looking my way. I could barely finish chewing the last bite of my burger before I was in the toilets having a full-on melt-down.
But, of course, I had plenty of time to finish chewing my burger as I stood yanking the locked door to the toilets back and forth, confused at why it wouldn’t open and trying to figure out yet another foreign way of doing things when all I wanted was to be inside burying my face in tissues. I then had to do the walk of shame back to my tray to get my customer receipt to read the code to type it into the keypad before I could open the door to go inside, choose a cubicle and start bawling – and by now it was unstoppable.
To cheer myself up, I decided to get dessert somewhere (let’s face it, the evening was a write-off money and health-wise). I found a place down the street and struggled mumbling through an order for some waffles and took my sorry self to the Promenade even though it was dark. It was also raining. I convinced myself it was only spitting, and that I could sit on the wall and eat my waffles and have a good time. It was deserted but the Nutella and banana warmed me through. By the time I got home I was soaked to the bone and freezing, although I gratefully crawled into bed and slept off my disastrous mood.
On Day 2 I found a microwave and kettle around the corner from the kitchen, along with free tea, coffee, Nesquik and milk that I had overlooked in my thundercloud on the first day. I ended up enjoying Nice so much that I extended my stay from 7 days to 10, feeling there was so much to explore, and I would definitely go back again.
On my last night in Nice, I decided to re-visit the same Gelataria for waffles, because I like the whole full-circle, sentimental stuff and felt like this had been valuable growth. I had been in Cannes for the day, was pink with sun and vigour, fresh from my sauna and shower and so happy with the opportunities I was grabbing lately and making the most of. I proudly walked up to the counter and ordered my gaufres slowly in French, exchanging smiles with the lady. A few minutes later she handed them to me and I re-traced my steps of the first night, walking down the same pedestrianised street to get to the Promenade. This time I held my head high and laughed and rolled my eyes at my embarrassing first experience. It was dark, but it wasn’t raining, and I sat on the wall in exactly the same spot. I reflected on all I had achieved in the last week, feeling like it had been a lifetime, with a smile on my goofy face and Nutella stuck to my teeth as I laughed with myself into the night.
Oh travelling, you sure are one hell of a journey, and it’s not even all about the places. Some of the biggest journeys happen within.