Tuesday, July 03, 2007

from Nice: stuck

On my last days now. I have got to tear myself from the adhesive that glues me to a beach chair each day. One town. Let me visit just one other town outside of Nice.

Okay, clouds in the sky in the morning. Good. I’m going to go take a train (all of fifteen minutes of it) to Cagnes-sur-Mer. Oh, damn. Sky is clearing. I’ll just hike over to the beach to tell Stephan not to hold the chair for me. It’s only right.

Warm breeze tickles me this way and that…

Maybe I’ll tell Stephan to hold the chair for the afternoon. I’ll be back for a few late hours…

Tickle, tickle…

What if it clouds over? I’ll have made him hold the chair and then I wont use it. Maybe I’ll sit on it this morning, for just an hour or so.

Caress, tickle.

Two hours. No more than that. Then off I go! Exploring!

The chair is there, waiting. Stephan hovers, wishes me a good day, I feel the glue taking hold, drying.

How could it not? Mornings are the best, out there, on the rocky waterfront. The older women of Nice come then. They lay their mats down and they swim a little and then they rest. By noon, they’re out. The younger set takes over, it gets crowded.


Mornings. Mists hang over the water. Little children are held tightly by papu, mami. Kissed and smiled over.


A cloud comes at 1. It’s a sign. I have to get up and get moving. I take my books back to the hotel and set out, by train, down the coast.

I’ve picked Cagnes-sur-Mer. Why? I’m still searching for a good spot to return to. I went from little Pierrerue, to big Nice. Shouldn’t I, next year, try something in between?

Cagnes has always attracted the artistic crowd. I’m in awe of that. Simone de Bouvoir wrote here. Renoir took one look at the village (it was then a village) and said “this is the place where I want to paint until the last day of my life.” So, lucky devil, he bought a house and it became to him what Giverny was to Monet – a dream place from which he could paint, sculpt and probably boss a few women and children around to wait on him. French painters of that era seemed especially skilled in that domain.

I had hopes especially for Haute Cagnes – the older part of town, perched on a hill, a bit of a hike up from the sea.


I pictured myself sitting on a terrace with a spectacular view toward the mountains of Provence...


... sipping a café crème and then maybe hiking down to the seaside, books and all, and then, toward the end of the day, writing away right back at the pretty café, where today I settled in for a lunch.


But in the course of the afternoon, I changed my mind about Cagnes. Sometimes you have to see a place before you can embrace/reject it. Cagens fell by the wayside. A beautiful place to visit. For an afternoon.


I did spend a little while at Renoir’s house, miffed again at the photo ban, but enjoying the feeling of quiet. Giverny’s gardens attract millions. Renoir’s little country home stands empty (of visitors; it has plenty of his paintings and sculptures) even now, at the height of the season. An interesting statement, though I’m not quite sure what it is a statement of.



I came back to Nice on the commuter train. Hot, crowded – a good way to travel. With those who do it on a daily basis. To work. From work. To the beach. To shop. To eat.

Oh yes, the matter of dinner. I am still processing it. The food was okay. Fine. Not off the planet spectacular, but fine. But I had a waiter with negative chemistry and by the end of the meal, he and I were glaring at each other. That has never happened to me in France, where a waiter’s tasks are routinely carried out with a professional flair, even in the smallest village brasserie. Sure, service can be slow, mistakes happen (at lunch, the waiter in Cagnes dropped a big salad into the lap of another diner. She laughed, we laughed – it happens), but waiters are very very adept at relating well to the customer. This man and I just had a tough evening together, which only goes to show that you cannot make generalizations about anything or anyone, my post of two days ago to the contrary, not withstanding.

But let me end on a sweet note. Berries and cream kind of note. I say this without reservation: dinner in France is always an event to anticipate with pleasure.