Women can do amazing things – they can beat the odds and fly across the Atlantic like Amelia Earhart in 1928, or sail around the world on their own like teenager Laura Dekker, or adopt 40+ children off the streets of Nepal to give them a home like Maggie Doyne. They can change our perception of the world with their films or art, they can fight sexism by broadening their own horizon, or prove that everything is possible if we only want. I enjoy reading and writing about them, drawing from and spreading inspiration through their stories. Sometimes this inspiration gets turned into action and a celebration of womanhood.

Like earlier this month, when Marie and I were heading to the South of France to participate in Pop in the City: Nice. Pop in the City is an urban adventure race for women and takes place in cities all over Europe. In 2014 they held events in Utrecht (Netherlands), Porto (Portugal) and Nice (France). In the organisers’ words:

“Pop in the City mixes unexpected challenges taking place in eccentric spots of the town, with human encounters that will enable the participants to discover a town in an unforgettable way, creating an emotional link with the City.”

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Pop in the City: The Facts

The race itself lasts for about 8 hours. All participants are female and compete in teams of two – there are pairs of friends, sisters, lovers, mums and daughters, you name it. To the question why men can’t compete the founders of Pop in the City simply say: “Coz we are terrible feminists, HAHAHA!!! ;o)” – yay!

Throughout the day the teams have to complete challenges of surprising nature – none knows what they will be before they get there! These challenges come in five categories: Arts, Culture, Sports, Charity and Extreme. To find out where to find the challenges you and your fellow ‘Poppin’ have to solve puzzles which are spelled out in your road book. Additionally you will receive a city map, so you won’t get lost (or will you?). Beyond that you have to rely on your brains and locals to help you out. You are allowed to ask them for advice, give you a lift and even help you complete challenges.

The team which completes the most challenges that day wins, but really many teams participate without the goal of winning – it’s all about taking part, exploring a city from a different perspective, experiencing some amazing things throughout the days and getting to know locals and women from all over Europe. A healthy physical condition is preferable, but you don’t have to be an athlete to have fun. Some intrepid mammas take part while pregnant. Hell, we even saw a girl compete in crutches!

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Pop in Nice: A field report

After a few days lazily lying by the pool (and managing to fit in a few hours of work) at Marie’s house in the South of France, we arrived at our home for the weekend: Le Negresco Hotel, right by the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. We will tell you about the story of this fantastic hotel in a separate post, but let me reassure you that it is as down-to-earth as heaven could possibly be. After what felt like hours of gazing out of the window onto the turquoise and deep blue of the Mediterranean sea and a satisfying dinner of spécialités niçoises, we prepared for the upcoming adventures with a good night’s princess rest.

Pop In the City - Nice, Cote d'Azure - Marie Colinet

Early the next morning we slipped into our bright orange t-shirts – Pop in the City’s trademark – and walked towards the start point of the race. Late due to the fantastic views of the sea on the way we were absolutely blown away by the crowd of chatty and motivated women waiting for us at the start line. We were surrounded by 530 Poppins clad in the same orange, some sporting costumes, others wearing their wristbands from past Pop in the City events. After a quick introduction explaining the rules, a rhythmic warm up with Brazilian drums and a jog through the park, it was time to pick up the road books and start working out the puzzles.

There were 5 rounds of challenges, adding up to a total of 23 challenges. Each round consisted of 5 challenges from different categories, which meant we couldn’t just aim for Sports or Extreme only, but had to complete tasks of all sorts. Oh, how much we would have missed out on if it wasn’t that way! We managed to complete 10 tasks. For comparison, the winning team of Pop in Nice completed 19 – so our result was quite average. Some puzzles were relatively easy to solve, others still wrack my brain…

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The Downsides

Marie and I had a fantastic day with Pop in Nice – there were no real downsides to the event itself. But there are two things that bummed me out personally a little bit. On the one hand, my complete insufficiency to speak or understand French made it hard for me to contribute as much to solving the puzzles as Marie (our only French Travelette) did. Many locals didn’t speak English, so I had to rely on her to ask them for help. Also, when arriving at a challenge, we had to go through two rounds of explanations (English for us and French for other teams arriving at the same time), which took up some time. The closer to the day’s end we got, the more frustrating this could be, as I knew we only had limited time left. That said, I can imagine that the language-barrier is much smaller during Pop-events outside of France.

As Pop in the City is a French organisation and most participants are from there, it is only natural that a France-based event will be held in French. I was reassured that this was very different when Pop in the City was in the Netherlands, Portugal or Italy. Also, Pop in the City promised to work on bilingual road books and additional instructions for English-speakers in the future – they want to be more open to an international audience, and I’m sure they will excel in this! There were several ‘mixed’ or entirely non-French teams participating and as far as I know their scores were about the same as ours – so it’s definitely doable. I accepted overcoming the language barrier as the first challenge of the entire day.

The other thing I still just can’t get over, is the feeling of missing out. The grown-up in me tells me to accept it, but my inner sulking child wishes it could have completed all the challenges of the day. And while there wasn’t a single challenge we took that I didn’t enjoy thoroughly, I wish we could have done them all. To be honest, I think this just proves what an amazing job Pop in the City does at organising breathtaking and mind-blowing challenges in a great setting.

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The Upsides

All the complaining and sulking from above aside, it is now time to tell you why I think Pop in the City is an amazing experience for every woman:

You will meet people

Social encounters are one of the core elements of Pop in the City. Not only will you meet all the other participants, you will also have to talk to locals and strangers on the streets. Whether they ask you what all these women in orange t-shirts are up to (many will want to know) or you ask them for advice with a puzzle – the challenges will bring you closer to the people of the city you are roaming, and turn you from a visitor into a participant of city life.

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You can overcome fears

The first thing that Clémentine, one of the founders of Pop in the City, said to me in the morning before the start was: “Should you be afraid of anything, forget about it and do it anyways.” I loved this attitude and took it with me to many of the challenges. Pop in the City has a fear to overcome from everyone, whether it’s heights, deep water or insects.

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You will experience liberty and solidarity

There is something liberating about being part of an all-female group. Particularly, when the challenge is to colour your boobs blue and press them on an empty canvas to paint the Yves Klein way – by far my favourite challenge of the day.

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You will discover a town differently

As I had never been to Nice before, I was quite excited to get a good perspective on the city during and between the challenges. We saw it from up high and from out in the water; we were invited to hidden places, like an artists’ squat in the old town which is usually closed to the public; we found tucked away beaches and discovered some of Nice’s most characteristics landmarks and museums.

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You will learn something new

Many of the challenges, particularly in the categories Culture and Charity, served the purpose to teach the Poppins something about Nice’s culture and society. We learnt everything we needed to know about local foodies, the rules of Texas Hold’em poker (and how to beat a casino’s croupier at it), how to introduce ourselves in sign language, the rules of Torball (a sport designed for visually-impaired people, but which welcomes all thanks to nifty light-proof goggles) and how to stand-up paddle – all in one day!

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After 7 hours of challenges, we made our way to the finish line which was right at the beach (although we missed it by a good 30 minutes because we were having too much fun stand-up paddling – whoops). A cold drink, a quick late-summer dip in the sea and a well-deserved shower later all participants met the the Hi Beach club for dinner and drinks – nothing better than eating French finger food with the sea at your feet and a sunset behind the hills of the Côte d’Azur.

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Sounds exciting? Well, it sure does! Pop in the City will return next year with new locations, and we’ll make sure to keep you up-to-date with official announcements. Admittedly, the ticket prize is not on the budget side of life (€195 incl. dinner & party) and additional costs for flights and hotel will come on top of that. Considering what a weekend with Pop in the City has to offer though – challenging yourself, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and a beautiful perspective on the hosting city – it is more than worth the investment! If time and location allows, I will definitely be among the many returning Poppins when Pop in the City hits the stage in 2015!

Did I get you hooked?

Not yet? Then our Pop in Nice video probably will!

 

Kathi and Marie were invited to participate in Pop in Nice by Pop in the City and Le Negresco. Text by Kathi – all opinions and experiences are her own.

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner & Pop in the City.