Day 48 and 49: Toulon and Nimes

Day 48

The trip from Nice to Nimes was a couple hours, so I figured I had time to stop somewhere on the way.  I chose Toulon because it’s a smaller town that’s home to the French Navy. I’m not exactly sure why I thought that was a must see, but it ended up being cool.

When I got off the train, my first goal was to find the lockers to leave my things for the day. Turns out, Toulon is a station that doesn’t actually have lockers… however, a bar half a block away does luggage storage. It may be the most sketchy place I’ve left my luggage, but they had a good system so I went with it. Most importantly, you had to be back by 6:30 to claim your things. Not a problem as I was intending to leave before then.

I headed down to the bay area, and over to the tourist information near by, as I had found that if you buy your boat tour ticket from the tourist office, it’s cheaper! Always good when it’s super easy.

The harbor
The harbor

The tour went around the bay, showing you the ships in port and a bit more about the coast line. However, the entire description was only in French, so I’m only slightly sure what we were looking at.

A few of the ships in harbor
A few of the ships in harbor

After the tour I spent some time wandering around town, and then ended up at the Navy Museum. I was very impressed with the museum overall. It explained how Toulon became to be such a prominent port as well as a bit of the history of ship evolution. I loved the explanation of how ships were built and repaired before the invention of the dry dock.

Showing how the mast is put into a boat.
Showing how the mast is put into a boat.
This is how they used to fix the hull of the ship, basically tipping the ship over.
This is how they used to fix the hull of the ship, basically tipping the ship over.

Perhaps my favorite display in the museum was the large picture of the harbor, which must have been taken from a helicopter.

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Near the museum they still have the building that was used to make ropes. It’s a super long building, no longer completely visible from the outside. Sadly, you can’t go in it, as I’m sure it’s been re-purposed by now.

After the museum, I headed back to the train station to catch a train to Nimes (ignore the s, it’s pronounced Neem). I was so happy to have not even half a kilometer to walk after I got off the train. I was staying in the Ibis Style chain, which totally fit the bill I was looking for: close, my own room, air conditioning. Pretty simple.

Day 49

I only had one day to fit all of the Nimes must sees in, so it was a busy day.

I started the morning off by checking out the Amphitheater. It’s from the Roman times and went through many different uses through out the years, including houses, as weird as that seems.

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After the Amphitheater I headed over to the square house, another roman thing in the city. This wasn’t so interesting, and is essentially all new now anyways. They show you a video which was a slightly hilarious roll play version of history. Not worth the stop in my opinion.

Continuing my trip through ancient things, I stopped at the Temple of Diana, which is at the base of a park. It was cool to see just because you can wander around. And because there was a hilariously translated sign which stated that you could “not escalade the walls”. Which obviously L’escalade would best translate as to climb, and just didn’t make the translation very well.

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The temple
The temple

Next up was the hike up hill to check out the tower. This used to be part of the walls of the city, but is now just a stand alone thing which they added a staircase in the middle so you can climb up to the top.

The tower
The tower

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I always feel better about being tired of walking up the hill and the steps when I finally get to the top and realize that this really is rather high above the rest of the city.

After this climb up, the climb down was quite nice. They have some nice little paths through the park. I headed back towards the center of the city to grab some lunch before heading off for the afternoon. And this is proof that the US even loses at food when it comes to salad. I think we just need to change what we consider a salad. IMG_3899

If you look hard, you can find the lettuce, under the awesome pile of meat and cheese. Ignore those breadsticks, I didn’t eat them, but they sure looked pretty. This wasn’t my first mostly meat salad either. I just don’t do well taking pictures of my food because I’m usually hungry and half way through before I remember.

After lunch I headed over to the bus rotary to grab a bus to the Pont du Gard. For such a draw, you’d think it would have been a bit simpler to figure out what bus I needed to take and where to get it and when it leaves, but in the end, I figured it out. After you get off the bus you walk for a while down the road, which had no signs. All this difficulty to figure out where you’re going would have made more sense until you get there and see the fact that there are buildings and well paved paths all over.

It was a very cool thing to see. The aquaduct spans the river, which had even by that time, clearly worn it’s way through the surrounding land. There are three levels of arches in order to make the top level with the surrounding hillside. This is what makes this section of the aquaduct so gorgeous and interesting. Even very near by it could have simply been a canal in the ground.

At the lowest level of arches, there was a secondary bridge built right next to the aquaduct which is what you use to walk from one side of the river to the other. They did an amazing job building it though because it’s actually pretty hard to tell that it’s way newer.

The first side you see, was all in shade.
The first side you see, was all in shade.
From the other side you get the gorgeous sunlit stones.
From the other side you get the gorgeous sunlit stones.
see look. I was there.
see look. I was there.

And perhaps the most unexpected part (except that I read it online before hand) is that this is the best place to swim for a long way around.

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It was like a giant beach party. But the water was very nice. The bottom was rocky, so I was once again wishing for those nice beach shoes I saw back in Nice. I think that I have very tough feet too, so it’s been crazy to be walking all wonky over the rocks.

After a swim I walked back to the bus stop. It was crazy hot, and I had soaked my shirt in the river before walking back, and it was totally dry by the time I got on the bus.

This was a fun filled busy day, and all I wanted to do was sit. And being that I had a room to myself, I intended to enjoy the calm alone time and relaxed in my hotel.

Day 47 – Eze and Nice

So the train to Monaco stops in Eze sur Mer, which means to get to Eze, you have to take the bus. Luckily, I’m pretty sure nothing will ever surpass the terrifying bus ride on the Fjord Tour from Bergen, so no biggie. You get some amazing views over Nice (pronounced like “niece” for those unfamiliar, yay French!) and the ocean. After this bus ride, I do wish I could have done the bus to Monaco, with the stop in Nice, just to see the trip. But I wasn’t about to go back to Monaco again.

Anyways, bus drops you off at the “top” of the hill. Sort of. It’s the top of normal places for now-a-days, but the old hill top Eze is still up hill. Stopped at the tourist info office, which here, must be the worlds most boring job. “We are here. *circle on map* Go up this street, up these stairs, and there’s the entrance to the old Eze. *draw line along the path*” And then the person leaves. Repeat.

I headed up the hill, found the village without a problem. It’s free to enter until you get to the exotic gardens, which cost 6€ and also encompass the very top of the hill. Well worth the fee. Overall I thought it was very cool to see the old village area and the insane ability of people to construct things on the side of a mountain. Thanks to my Step-mom and Dad for suggesting this one.

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Super fun town to walk around. If I never see an uphill street with steps though, I’d be fine (I passed on the meditation gardens because they were down the stairs, then back up to leave). No wonder these Europeans are so skinny/in shape/fit. It’d be hard to be anything else when you have to walk and hike to get where you’re going!

I caught the bus from a stop I found while walking around killing time. This bus isn’t like a city bus that runs every 20 minutes. More like every 2 hours. So I was ready to leave, but hadn’t planned well and the next bus was in an hour. So I decided to walk around the rest of the town and see what there was. Not much. But that’s how I got those awesome views of the town. The bus was supposed to be in town at 12:10. So I figured it’d be at my stop at say, 12:09. It wasn’t far. So when 12:10 came and went… and then 12:20…. and then 12:30… I was about to walk to town to catch the bus to the train station. Thank goodness I was as patient as I was, because a bus pulled up right then. I was happy to be on a stop before the town, because I got a seat by the window!

Wandered around the old town for a bit, looking for a couple things. Why is it when I decide I want something, I can then never find it? Oh well. I had plenty to mail home as it was. Which was the next stop. Picked up a box at the French Postal service. 5kg for 45€. Not too horrible in my opinion. Carrying the filled box back to the station, I’d swear I was over weight. Put my box on the scale; and nope, 2.6kg. Well then. Still a lot out of my pack (it was 12kg when I started – per Iceland Air). Which meant more space for future shopping! They said delivery is normally 5-8 days and I was floored.

Next up I caught the bus to a Nice beach. I, once again, didn’t want to be packed in so I headed down the beach a bit. The Nice beaches are pebble beaches, in case someone hadn’t heard of the famous Nice beaches before. Amusingly to me, this was actually the most comfortable beach I’d been on. Probably because the “pebbles” don’t stick to your feet when you walk through them. I had a brief picnic then spent the time watching people. Just such a pretty beach.

A bit before sunset. Certainly gorgeous.
A bit before sunset. Certainly gorgeous.
I had to take a picture of the sailboat after being with Amy and her tall ship love.
I had to take a picture of the sailboat after being with Amy and her tall ship love.

People pretty much left when the sun left the beach. It sets essentially right behind the beach, and so the sunlight on the beach is gone a long time before the light. I enjoyed the calm, and luckily, the buses ran for another hour or two, but only once or twice an hour.

This is a good time to mention how annihilated my shoes are. It’s amazing what 5-15 miles a day, every other day, for two months will do to shoes. If you look at the ball and heel of these Toms, you can see that they are worn totally flat. This has been making for interesting walking if it rains, or the ground is otherwise wet, as a lot of towns pave with smooth stones. **Thinks to self, I will not repeat the fall in Amsterdam** Overall, loving my shoe choices. Other than the amazingly solid tan lines that only two pairs of shoes is creating.

 

 

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Caught a bus home. I got to the stop, and thought that I had just missed the previous bus by around 10 minutes. But after my earlier adventure, decided I really couldn’t stray too far as maybe I didn’t really miss it. That happened to be the case. And I probably looked like an idiot waving down the bus. I wasn’t quite back to the stop yet, and you have to wave down the bus even at the stop, so I really wanted to be sure it didn’t miss me! Waiting another half hour wasn’t sounding exciting.

Day 46 – Around Nice, but not actually in Nice

When I decided to stay in Nice, I was mostly interested in being on the coast and seeing some of the places around Nice. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard nothing bad about Nice, but really it seemed like nothing more than a giant vacation town.

So in the morning I was off to Monaco. I had planned to take the bus to Eze, then to Monaco, but turns out that on Sunday, the bus doesn’t run, so I had to change plans. Not a big deal. Train to Monaco it was.

The train runs past a bunch of smaller towns between Nice and Monaco, which I was scoping out for a good beach. Super easy train ride with really nice views on the way.

Luckily, Monaco is a tourist hot spot to arrive via train. The tourist information is right in the station, making getting a map very simple. I figured out the route I wanted to take, heading to the harbor right away. The station is in the middle of the hills around Monaco, so the walk was all down hill. A great start, never fun to know what you’ll be hiking up on the way home.

The boats in the harbor were insane. I mean, maybe to see one or two, okay, but tons of them. And the water was absolutely clear. Some of these boats had their little attached/stored on deck run-arounds that are bigger than the boats most people own.

Just one of the many. Showing the "small" run around tied up.
Just one of the many. Showing the “small” run around tied up.
Not quite as large, but can you see the massive number of "smaller" boats?
Not quite as large, but can you see the massive number of “smaller” boats?
See those rocks through the water? That water is many, many feet deep.
See those rocks through the water? That water is many, many feet deep.

I wandered around a bit. My original plan had me here in the afternoon, which probably would have been preferable. The town is a bit dead in the morning (I think it was 10 when I got there). Got up to see the famed Monte Carlo, and was sadly unimpressed. Good thing I was there in the morning though, looks like there’s a dress code to enter when people are playing. You have to pay to enter the casino, which is stupid, but I had to see what all the fuss was about.

The one the only.
The one the only.
I've never been anywhere where gambling wasn't allowed 24/7.
I’ve never been anywhere where gambling wasn’t allowed 24/7.

The rooms are pretty, but nothing to write home about (so I’ll full fill that statement by writing nothing here as well).

Wandered around a bit more. Really found nothing of huge interest to me, so I headed down to where the Monaco Grand Prix starts. Mostly just for shits and giggles. A lot so I can tell my cousins I was there.

Looks like not much most of the time.
Looks like not much most of the time.

Then I hit up the grocery store, because anything is cheaper than buying food and drinks AT the beach. Normal food wasn’t so bad, but they had a huge section of imported food. I guess they want all of their super rich clients to be happy. Because they’re all obviously shopping at the grocery store.

That says 7.45€. For a jar half the size of home. Ouch.
That says 7.45€. For a jar half the size of home. Ouch.

Food collected and I headed back up to the train station. For anyone ever looking to improve their calf tone, take a trip to some hilly place and walk a lot. It’s doing wonders.

I decided to stop at Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Don’t ask how to say the first part, I have no idea. The second part means that the train stops at the Mediterranean part of town, not the hill side where lots of things are. Which is a huge deal, not something you want to mix up if you are aiming for one or the other. It’s quite a hill. Luckily, when looking for the beach, the sea is where to be.

Mostly I was aiming for a beach outside of the main town because I hate when it’s super packed. This fit the bill just fine. Definitely not empty, but it’s not like someone was within touching distance on either side.

The beach. Very nice, almost sand, but more like tiny rocks.
The beach. Very nice, almost sand, but more like tiny rocks.
Yachts off in the harbor area. They must be just HUGE. Probably way cheaper than getting a spot in Monaco, and still very close.
Yachts off in the harbor area. They must be just HUGE. Probably way cheaper than getting a spot in Monaco, and still very close.

Turns out I should have taken a better look at the wine I grabbed. I completely missed the dry to sweet scale. I’d grabbed a very sweet wine. Absolutely not what I was looking for for my picnic and chilling on the beach. Probably won’t do that again.

Everyone owns these umbrellas (top picture above) and brings them to the beach with them. I didn’t get it when I got there, but after an hour or so, it makes perfect sense. If nothing else, it will shade your things for you.

This was my first encounter with the topless-ness I’ve heard so much about. I was a tad shocked at first, as American culture (or perhaps English speaking culture) is very anti-topless-ness. Anyways, when in Rome…. which is all fine and dandy but I’ve grown up with no sun exposure to such areas. And can you imagine getting sun burn on such sensitive areas?! Sounds very painful and therefore I’m rather cautious.

This was where I gave up on my awesome Enlite sensors. The one I had in had been rocking for a couple days, but with the sweat and water, it just wasn’t really holding on, which sent it off to crazy number land. I thought about putting one in the next day… but how was that possible, I was always (really, always) sweating. That doesn’t make for good adhesive contact.

Caught the train back to Nice, hit up my hostel for a quick shower, then headed off to find some place with wifi and air conditioning. It’s surprisingly rare to find AC, even for some place that gets plenty warm, and my hostel definitely didn’t have it. And the room was TINY. So I decided my next stop, which was only two nights in Nimes, should be moved to a hotel in the center of town. The hostel wasn’t particularly convenient, and I needed a break from the lack of space and sweaty nights. That and other chores completed, I headed back to catch some sleep.

Day 44 and 45 – Lyon Adventures

Day 44

So it turned out that we really only ended up with one day in Lyon to see all it’s wonders. That made for a busy day!

We started off the day by checking out the Basillic, which was on top of the hill by my hostel. You can see it from a large portion of the city, and it has great views over the city.

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A pretty impressive place over all.

Next we headed over to the Roman Ruins. I hadn’t know that Lyon was a Roman city until we got here… turns out Lugdnum was one of the largest Roman cities that has ever existed. The ruins are two theaters and some public buildings on the hill side. They actually updated the theaters and use them every summer for outdoor concerts (seems strange to me to use 1000 year old ruins for concerts, but hey).

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It was fun to hike around the ruins. Pretty much nothing was off limits, which seems so strange to me. I’m sure at home everything would be blocked off, because there were areas where you could fall quite a distance, etc.

There is also a Roman History Museum near by. It was giant, but certainly didn’t seem that way at the beginning. I think there were five floors of displays. Everything in the Museum was found in the Lyon area at some point in history. The whole city is so on top of the old Roman city, that anytime someone wants to build something, or dig anywhere, they now perform an archaeological dig first. I was floored by some of the stuff here. There were a lot of burial epitaphs, which isn’t surprising they survived as they were designed to, and this was a city of importance. (Of course I find those none too interesting, so pictures are of other things, and never very many.)

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But even crazier, was when we got to the bottom of the museum (you start at the top and take a circular route down). There I saw this room, which is just blocked off by fences. Shelved upon shelves of additional things they could display.

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After this we ran some errands. I needed to get my reservation for my train to Nice, and Amy needed to print her boarding pass for her flight from Paris. Luckily, mine was easy. Line was short and it was decently simple. Not the train I’d hoped for, but still getting there the right day. Amy’s luck wasn’t so good. Apparently printing things in public locations isn’t a thing. We stopped at the library, which would have worked great, except you need a library card to login to the computer. Oh well, we’d figure it out later.

We then headed off to catch a boat cruise around the rivers. It was scheduled at 2… and we got there at 2:03 to see the boat pulling away from the dock. It was a bit farther away than we’d planned for, and even with super speed walking, we were too late. This made for a decently calm lunch sitting by the river. Not a horrible trade off. While we were eating/drinking/chatting, this giant group of swans swam by.

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Right past us, maybe 3 feet away.

Next on the adventure plan was a trip up to the silk workshops. So glad we took the metro for this one, it’s on top of the other hill in Lyon. The internet hadn’t made it clear that the demonstrations (two) were in different buildings. So we got to the first one at the appointed hour…. only the demonstration was in a different place, a 5-10 minute walk away. We boogied.

There was a couple there who had just started the demonstration. The explanation was in French, and the man was translating to Dutch for the woman. They shortly figured out we spoke English, and he offered to translate to English instead. Well, turns out they could provide the tour in English, if that’s the language we all understood. Yay!

After that tour and demonstration (silk ribbon weaving, using punch cards), we headed back to the place we first stopped for a demonstration of cloth weaving. Overall very cool. And they totally won out because what’s better for souvenirs than locally made products? Exactly.

Next on the list was dinner. However, I’d seen somewhere on the GIANT map they gave us, that Ampere’s house or something was here. Well I’d torn that bit off, and it was too late for anything like that to be open anyways. However, there is a metro stop Ampere, and Ampere Plaza. So being the good electrical engineers (we did meet in an electrical class at school…) we headed off to check it out. Turns out Ampere spent most of his adult life in Lyon.

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We then headed off to find a spot to eat. Along the way, we found a couple hotels. We decided we should really duck into one and see if they offered printing (boarding pass, remember). The first place we stopped did! Yay! And they had a book with places to eat. Even better. The receptionist told us that really, there no place to do public printing in France, it’s just not a thing. Good to know now. After that food, then home.

Not the hotel we stopped at, but picture necessary!
Not the hotel we stopped at, but picture necessary!

Whew, that was a lot in one day.

Day 45 – Back to being alone

Amy had an early train to Paris, so I was back to being alone. I hadn’t been able to get the morning train to Nice, or the afternoon train, so I was stuck with the evening option, leaving at 6 something. Not the end of the world, but I did need to fill my time during the day.

So what did I do? I hit up the stores. Knowing I was already planning on mailing something home, I figured this was the time to shop.

At the demonstrations the day before, I’d found that they also did silk screen printing demonstrations in town. Since I had the time, I decided to head there to check that out. It was pretty interesting. The only trouble was a wandered in at the beginning of a demonstration for a large group. Oh well, I could hear fine.

They print around 6 at a time, one color has to dry for 20 minutes before another can be added.
They print around 6 at a time, one color has to dry for 20 minutes before another can be added.

I caught my train, picnic in tow. The woman across the aisle was giving me weird looks, and eventually said something to me, in French, which I have no idea what it was, but she didn’t seem too happy. Oh well. It was the 1st of August, and mostly families heading off for Holiday. I should have known, and known I needed to make this train reservation ASAP. Oh well. Pleasant trip for the most part.

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Day 43 – The Beautiful Annecy

Pretty much the only reason Lyon was on my original trip plan was because it made for a nice day trip to Annecy. The fact that it was a very interesting city in it’s own right, I didn’t know until we got there.

Today was the day for the trip to Annecy. It’s about a two hour train ride from Lyon to Annecy, so we left around 8:00. The ride was quite pretty as it goes along another lake on the way.

We got to town, and saw one sign for tourist info, and then couldn’t find it. Luckily the hotel we popped into didn’t get too mad and had a map. Once we figured out how to get there, we set off for the city center area, which is along a few canals/rivers and not too far from the lake.

The water is only a couple feet deep, and is absolutely clear.
The water is only a couple feet deep, and is absolutely clear.
This is a little island in the canal. The building on the end is an old prison!
This is a little island in the canal. The building on the end is an old prison!

We quickly ended up by the lake, looking at the boat rentals. We saw a lot of sailboats out, and both knowing how to sail, went off to try to find how to get one. Turns out, you can rent catamaran boats (which neither of us have sailed before) and you need to know how to rig them from nothing. There were little boats which I’d say are similar to sunfish which I’ve sailed plenty, but they were only for the sailing school/camp. So that didn’t happen.

Can barely see the tiny sail boats in the distance.
Can barely see the tiny sail boats in the distance.

One of the things both Amy and I had found as a “thing to do in Annecy” was to check out the prison. I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of this, but the signs and explanations going through were pretty good. Especially for still being in France, the fact that anything was in English was a huge plus.

The tour covers some of the cells used to hold prisoners; the kitchens, which at one point in the buildings life were used to mint coins; the courtrooms and judges areas; additional cells which were used during WWII when the area was Nazi occupied; and the courtyard and chapel. Perhaps I missed an area in the naming, but I was surprised by how large the place was. It certainly didn’t look it from the outside. The toilets in the building were holes that simply fed directly into the canals. Ew.

On that note, we were off to lunch. One of the blogs I found in my search for things to do in Annecy listed restaurants. And food to try. This caught my attention:

Tartiflette – Your waistline’s worst nightmare and your stomach’s dream come true.  A large dish of potatoes, onions, and bacon melted into heavy cream and Rebluchon cheese. Just pretend it’s fat free and shove it in your face.

Also listed was the restaurant Le Chalet which she ate this at. Luckily it’s a small town and at some stop we found wifi and looked the place up. It was right on the canal. And even though it wasn’t winter, it luckily wasn’t a sweltering day, because Amy and I were both set on this dish. And when in France, with someone else, a bottle of wine with lunch is a must. And believe me, we both followed the instructions above. These dishes were empty when we finished.

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After lunch we hiked up the hill to the Chateau. I was hoping there would be some stuff about life as it was lived here, but it’s actually museums. One of which was an aquarium, one which explained bits of the history of Annecy. A weird bit about the discovery of some mermaid remains…. Ah legends.

However, the Chateau was on the top of the hill (I’m no longer surprised by this choice for locations).

Quite the view.
Quite the view.
Us looking out over the view.
Us looking out over the view.

We had been debating renting bikes to see around the lake a bit farther, but they were expensive, and a paddle boat was a similar price and got us onto the lake. The lake is an insane teal color, that my camera refuses to capture. And man, we had both forgotten how much work a paddle boat is. Thankfully we both enjoy exercise. It’s like biking, with a really poorly sized bike.

The view back towards Annecy.
The view back towards Annecy.
Boat time!
Boat time!

We lucked out that they said our time out was shorter than it was, so an extra half hour for free!

After this we wandered around town a bit more, checked out another park, finally wandered past the tourist info spot, and then decided to head back to Lyon. Being that our train ride was going to be around dinner time, and that lunch had not been cheap, we opted for the, ever fabulous, train picnic. (That is not a sarcastic statement. I love this.)

Map pieces made good placemats and everything!
Map pieces made good placemats and everything!

This was a full day, so we each headed home when we got back to Lyon. I would definitely go back to Annecy again, or one of the other towns nearby on Lake Annecy or the other lake the train went past (which might be a tad bit less touristy).