Friday, June 29, 2007

from Nice: blue and yellow

Just when you think you love someone, I mean – some place, something happens to give you pause.

The morning was brilliantly yellow. It is by chance that so many of my photos reflect this.

First – what a difference a sunny day makes! Compare the terrace in the morning to the shadowy one of last night:


A walk to the market presents a different Nice – the older section of town is stunningly pretty. Okay, yes, pastel colorful. And in the distance, the hills show off the older villas. A place to visit. Another day.


A Provencal market is always terrific. This one is rich in sunflowers and zucchini blossoms. Candied fruits, berries, garlic, olives – someone come here and write a story, just about this market! Or pay me to do it!




By 11 I am itching to take my readings to the beach. And the world turns bright blue.


The warning is up – do not swim today, there is a medusa infestation (some ignore this and regret it). I hadn’t intended to swim. A rented chair, a towel and tons of sunscreen and I am set. Six hours of reading, interrupted by people watching.


Oh, a break for lunch, too. Salad Nicoise, delivered to my chair.


As this is France, beaches are basically topless. (Not everyone sheds their bikini top, but many do.) There is an etiquette out there. The woman who changed in public – that’s a no no. Keep your bottom covered.

But breast bronzing is the thing to do and there is something so liberating to see that people do not exploit this freedom by labeling it as anything but what it is – quite natural. You have to experience it to know what a relief it is to be in this non-charged atmosphere – to see waiters delivering food to topless women of all shapes and sizes, to see children not even noticing who is wearing what, to have people walking the city beaches and accepting as normal that which is, after all, normal.

I have this terrific photo of three people – a woman, topless as it were, lying on the beach. A beautiful young thing, enjoying a quiet moment by the water. Next to her is her male friend, applying lotion. Just behind them is an enormously paunchy man, looking out to the sea. It’s a great shot, if I do say so myself. And of course, I cannot post it, because inevitably, someone will be offended and, well, I want to remain employed.

So, Ocean remains pure and blue, just for you. At least until I retire.


In the evening, Nice turned a different face toward me and for a while I questioned my love affair with her.

I went to a restaurant that is listed as inexpensive. It wasn’t exactly that, but okay, I can order well. No, maybe I can’t. Two appetizers??? What an oinker I can be when faced with baby artichoke salad and a fried zucchini blossoms with tomato sauce (the Nicoise specialty) on the menu.



And then the shellfish. Uncomplicated. Perfect. Finished with simple red berries and homemade vanilla – berry-swirl ice cream.



So what’s the issue? Some guide book wrote that this is where Elton John and his partner like to dine, on a fairly regular basis (they have a villa up those hills). So the place has been discovered by the glamorous. And the tone of Nice suddenly changes for me, so that it becomes like Cannes and it’s still all very fresh, but it seems somehow dishonest. Like it’s a show. A parade of the affluent in this purportedly cheap, "local" restaurant.

And the waiters cater to this client base, of course. The wine – most certainly expensive wine – flows freely, and the laughter is loud, too loud and even though I am given a lovely outside table, I can’t wait to leave.

Nice. A complicated city. But oh, those blues and yellows – you know I’ll wake up in the morning loving Nice so deeply, as if it were my town. Life is like that. The good things stick in the memory far longer than the not so good.