Traveling is both an agony and the ecstasy. Everything is a pain in the arse until you get to your destination, and once you get there – everything is rainbows and unicorns. Last week I set off to explore Cote D’Azur. I desperately needed a break on my own – an escape to a fantasy land where every step has a potential to grow into adventure of a life time. Being a francophile as much as I am there was no need to wreck my brain about which destination to go for.
Early on Wednesday morning, I kissed the moody London goodbye and jumped on a plane to Nice. Only a short sleep later, I woke up to the most beautiful dream I ever seen. Recent weeks in London weren’t the best weeks I had since arriving in UK ten years ago. With the impeding gloom and doom of brexit which was progressively getting worse with each news headline, it was effectively completed with perpetual rain which was affecting me on the emotional level. This trip was so overdue, I was ready to run away.
Mediterranean air instantly brought me back to life. I craved for nothing else than to stretch out on the beach and forget about everything that burdened me over the past six months. Like a new born baby, I baptised myself in the Mediterranean sea, smeared some sun lotion and reborn as a pilgrim on the journey for inner peace and fulfilment. I had six days of freedom and I was going to use them to the max potential.
Like any brit tourist who hasn’t seen the sun for the past 100 years, I was doomed to get coup de soleil within first 3 days of my beach session. I also granted myself a permission to do two things which I rarely allow myself in London – smoke and drink to an excess which came naturally in Nice since smoking and drinking wine even in AM hours was a conventional thing to do. Long walks around the city, the promenade, the train journeys along cote d’Azur were soothing.No wonder this region was favourited by worlds elite and royalty over the decades. It’s picturesque landscapes and vast horizons became synonymous with happiness and good life. It has a certain quality of indulgence, a permission to celebrate each day as a gift, rather than living in struggle hoping for the better times ahead. Living in a moment has never been easier, better yet, it was inescapable.
Of course, I was aware of my budget and I could not deny the fact that in order to live the life of fairy tale which is so beautifully advertised on instagram, you must be wealthy. Wealth is another synonym of cote d’Azur. It’s hard to be oblivious of it because it’s stares you directly in the face where ever you go. Luxurious hotels, cars, yachts, designer shops, restaurants, fancy dames with pampered pooches, villas with private swimming pools – all makes a fantastic parallel universe which is equally attainable and lightyears away for ordinary human beings. Yet I have never been to a place which would motivate me more to pursue the good life, to follow my dreams and to make cardinal life changes. And I wasn’t the only one.
There are always two sides of the coin. I was always susceptible to harsh truth which I still greeted with pragmatism. While I was feeling completely free and independent enjoying this trip alone, I had to endurea certain level of abuse which was totally underserved on my part. Not many people will relate to this because majority of people don’t travel alone, but I felt constantly subjected to a judgement which only a young woman can be subjected to on the occasion. I discovered that people in Cote d’Azur have a rather savage perspective on female travellers, especially if they arrive unaccompanied. In my case, I was constantly seen as a prostitute which was at first infuriating to the point I wanted to hide in my room just so I don’t have to explain another man I don’t wish to have his home address or pretend I didn’t hear how group of guys just called me une pute. Must say, you do get used to it after a while.
While I never had to face this type of judgement while living in London since the concept of the prostitute can only be applied to women in west end night clubs, a guy I met in Nice explained to me that south of France, especially places like Monaco and Cannes, is a magnet for women looking to gnaw the piece of that cosmic wealth accumulated in the region. C’est terrible after dark. Meeting a wealthy man is an aspiration for many women and while the cinderella phenomenon was possible few decades ago before dating apps came into place, now it’s so rare, it’s practically impossible. However it doesn’t stop flocks of young Eastern European women from traveling to Monaco looking for a better life.
This realisation repealed me from even entertaining the idea of meeting the prince charming with a yacht on this holiday. Even if I could compete with model looking courtesans, I would be seen too unsophisticated in my appearance and attitude, leave alone my hostility towards this exchange economy. What I saw instead, under the veneer of endless luxury and sophistication, lies rotting culture of exploitation and objectification. I stayed walking around Monaco until the dusk and left right before, once I again I was subjected to further abuse.
Cote d’Azur still puts me in a dream like state. If you choose to close your eyes on everything what happens in the privacy of luxury apartments, you will witness the beauty of the landscape, joyful holiday makers, and never-ending celebration of life which is so appealing to people around the world. I came back refreshed and full of ambition which I never had before. I am not the one to demonise the wealth, it’s not the money that’s bad, it’s what you can do with it. Princess, Grace of Monaco is a wonderful story indeed which is still being seen as the greatest cinderella story there ever was, but in the changing world we must look for new stories. Stories where women are able of creating their own fairy tales by creating a dream life for themselves without having to sacrifice their ambition or dignity. Until next time, Côte d’Azur! Merci and à bientôt!
This post was written day before tragic events in Nice this Thursday so please don’t treat it as insensitive. I was still deeply in my holiday mode when I heard the news. I am experiencing immense sadness and regret for all the lives lost. The fact that was walking down the promenade des Anglais only two days ago was the closest I have ever been to a tragedy. Every one I met on this trip are safe and sound. #prayfortheworld