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Some Tastes and Visions of the Riviera and Les Alpes Maritimes

Yes, why not come along for a little trip into one of the loveliest places on Earth? 5 Petite installments. Pictures here. Watch for some surfable waves in the Mediterranean…..Arrival in Nice as this first installment….

Nice and Environs, Riviera France March 2006

First Days:

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Flying to the Riviera.

That just sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

And the place is. But the big city, Nice, is purty crowded. 340,000 people live there. Where the magnificent Alpes Maritimes come down to the Mediterranean Sea. . .

What is considered the “Riviera” runs west to Cannes and Antibes, and east along the Mediterranean as far as you can meander in France, until you cross yourselves into Italy and that cool country’s share of the Mediterranean Sea’s coastline as it runs up to Genoa and around the rest of the southeastern Ligurian horn.

We usually do the book-a-room-for-the-first-night-or-two thing when we travel, and we did so for Nice. However, when we arrived at the hotel in the middle of town, it turned out hotels.com, the associated company Delta Airlines recommended, had booked us for two nights, including the night we took off and were NOT there yet in Nice for. [Common thing is, when you fly to Europe from the East Coast of the USA, you leave in the evening and arrive after 7-9 hours at your destination in the bright or rainy morning, as we did this time.] Then we made some phonecalls that would supposedly be free or minimal cost to remove the charge for the unarriveable first night, and three of these calls later added up to ONE HUNDRED USA DOLLARS!! when the bill later was put on our platter, as we checked out.

But who would want to dwell on that to start things off?? Anyhoo, that is something we have to dispute later.

Get out in the street and there you have it: Nice is France, and all over, in just about any place you go, the food is good. Even if the old lady serving you has an extra-long cigarette in her mouth as she is placing the dishes in front of you. In France, and Europe in general, smoking is a plague still, and there are few laws like in the USA prohibiting such in restaurants, etc. [Yes, smoking is prohibited in much, but not all, of the airport at Nice.]

Immediately noticeable is the lack of oversweetness in the fruited desserts that are delectable. Americans’ tastebuds are swathed with high fructose corn syrup, organic cane juice, sugar, and the artificial sappy brain tumor causing chemicals that Donald Rumsfeld has championed and CEO’d over [Searle, maker of Nutrasweet, bought up by Monsanto]. Sometimes one forgets what plain ole good is, when it is not overpromoted by some Cauliflower Mosaic Virus splicing into the DNA of your sweetener. French food is rich, but even the commonest looking restaurant seems to come up with miraculously good dishes that make one sooooo thankful to have been transported across the pond. Viva La France! Even with that dodo Jacques Chirac at the wheel. [Remember how he proclaimed the necessity to do those atmospheric nuclear tests in Polynesia a few years ago, where people were living way too close to the explosions and fallout?]

We hit a few museums, including the Matisse “museum” up the hill a couple of miles from where we stayed. However, that was a bit disappointing. Just a few good pieces, not the colorful magic we come to expect of his works. The museum was housed in an old house in which he lived during the 20th century. He painted the front of the building so it appears to be artfully constructed out of blocks and mullioned supports. That made for a terrific entrance.

There were more sculptures than we expected. But, overall, not the first place I would go, knowing better, in this pink, hyped town.

The water was a bit cold, less than 60 Fahrenheit. Nobody was swimming or sunbathing this early in the season.

The beach is not sand really, but little stones. Nice if you want to paint them, but not too comfy if you want to lie down and take a nap. Horizon and dreams thereof are lovely tho, as you look south to forever. . . . .

We did make our way to this town called Saint Paul da Vence, which turns out to be a super-art town. Built on a promontory, you climb on into the village with its old medieval walls and streets enclosed within these walls for protection, and there is art everywhere you turn. That place deserves a day to itself alone. We lasted half of one, because we became oversaturated with art. Starting with our visit to the Maeght Foundation, where works by especially Joan Miro [c'est un homme, a man] were featured on display. Giant marble sculptures like Le Grand Arc, whimsical creatures, lovely paintings. And there is one gigantic muralish Chagall entitled “Les Amoureux” done between 1964-1967 that is worth sitting in front of for maybe half an hour, to peacefully take it all in. Plus the Giacometti Court with wire sculptures marching about…….

Nice is where the plane lands. But, for us, it was way too congested. Kind of like Floriderr. Hotels and condos everywhere. Beach not quiet and cool like the Hamptons or some island, like Kauai or Maui. Creature comforts there, but after two days, we were ready to make our escape. . . . . .

C 2006 Conrad Miller MD

Next Riviera post to go to….

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