Posts tagged South of France
Posts tagged South of France
I have green permanent marker on my wrist and a young group with drinks raised are singing what I presume to be “Happy Birthday” in Italian- it’s the right tune at least. I’m twenty-one and this is Europe.
When I first began planning my Eurotrip travel, I lamented a few times, mostly when at the birthdays of others, that turning twenty-one in Europe where I would already be able to drink legally meant “no one was going to care” about what is a behemoth of an American anniversary. To this my friends appropriately told me “shut up” because, after all, traveling in Europe trumps drunken debauchery stateside, but I’ve also found that, although drinking ages flux across the globe, birthdays and birthday drinks are universal.
The entire affair began on the 6th in Juan Les Pins (the South of France) which felt like cheating the system because I was surrounded by friends from my university who were there studying abroad. Boxed wine was transfered to empty water bottles and then transfered to the beach where we all congregated sand-side to laugh and yell and be young (I still have heaps of sand in my purse and shoes I wore that night). At midnight my friend Grafton announced the arrival of my birthday and the whole group cheered and sang Happy Birthday to me over the sounds of the waves of the Mediterranean. From there we migrated to a Mexican bar downtown (How else would I celebrate a birthday in France?) where I kept being handed mojitos. At this point I began talking about my travel blog (hey, is that what this is!?) and it made sense to me and the European boys I had met to write its URL on their arms in a green permanent marker I had in my purse so they wouldn’t forget it. This escalated to further face and arm drawings, most of which were still intact the next morning as people sat suffering from headaches in the lobby the next morning (one guy on my friend’s study abroad went through customs with the French mustache I penned on him). It was a perfectly celebratory and silly night.
And then I caught an 8:30 a.m. train to Italy. That was where my hangover headache struck.
The nice thing about trains is that once you manage to get yourself on one, you’re pretty much set in terms of getting to your destination, so a few hours of stolen rest later when Alex and I arrived in Florence, I was nearly recovered for all my introductions at the hostel: “Hi, my name is Maura, I’m from the United States. Where are you from? Oh cool! It’s my 21st birthday today!”
We ended up collecting a group of fifteen to celebrate at an outdoor concert in a Florence Piazza and ducked into an attached bar to order drinks from a menu we couldn’t read, exchanging travel stories and asking questions about one another’s countries and lives. A birthday shot appeared and my second round of “Happy Birthday” singing commenced. Every person in the bar whipped around but, rather than thumb their noses at the immense group of obnoxious English speakers (I felt just like I was with my friends back home!) everyone joined in, singing a second round in Italian as well and raising their glasses to cheers. And, as silly as it sounds, coming back from the bars to a Facebook full of happy birthday notifications from everyone I love and miss at home really did top my night.
So I spent my twenty-first in Europe and a lot of people cared, here and in the states. It was utterly unforgettable and I send a most sincere thanks to all of you who made it so.
The first thing one needs to know about Juan Les Pins is that there’s a beach. In fact, it’s mostly beach and those beautiful tides were our first stop on our first full day.