A quick train ride from Villenueve-Loubet into Nice for a walking exploration of the city.
Nice, where the natural beauty of the distant mountains hug the soft yellow buildings accented by green shutters, red-tiled roofs – a warmer version of Paris.
Sitting for a cafe noisette (espresso with a touch of milk) at an outdoor table, when a jarring boom interrupted our conversation. I looked wide-eyed at my partner: an uneasiness overcame me. Thoughts of recent events in France flashed through my mind, but my fears were assuaged when I noticed a man sitting in a truck. I made a hand gesture attempting to describe the sound. He nodded and pointed to his wrist indicating something about time. Realizing it was noon, I nodded and smiled: the boom announced lunch.
A touch of paranoia is reasonable.
The majestic presence of the Hotel La Scala overlooks the Miroir d’Eau (the water mirror), an interactive fountain that erupts in stages. Starting at one end of the plaza, the water spouts incrementally – low bursts to high – a varying sequence of heights, staggered timing – as if a symphony conductor controlled the rhythm of the fountain.
Young and old are inspired to express themselves by skipping, walking, running through the bursts of water with huge smiles on their faces. A plump woman in a wet, black and white dress holds a dramatic ballet pose in front of the spurting water while her friend takes a picture. A small boy pauses on a spout of water, fills up his bathing suit, then pretends to pee for an audience of parents sitting on benches and passersby who laugh at his silly showmanship.
A cacophony of action makes the fountain a performance space.
On Rue Jean Baptiste… children are welcome. A playground with a wooden whale lures its prey to have fun.
The MOMAC – Modern Contemporary Art Museum – two new artists I have absorbed for the first time: Niki de Saint Phalle (colorful, cartoon-like paintings with personal anecdotes plus large paper mache figures) and Yves Klein (torso prints smudged in thick blue paint).
A surreal feeling coats the Promenade d’Anglais as a group of four soldiers in green fatigues pass by with machine guns held in a ready position. Without planning, we come upon the memorial – heads low – look at the notes, candles and stuffies… nothing more to say.
A carousel waits for a few children to vie for a spot on the white horses or the Cinderella pumpkin while my daughter spots the pink pig on the second floor. The music starts and the lovely creatures float obliviously in an endless loop.
Travel is full of contrasts. By acknowledging the ugliness, the beauty overrides the sadness that makes me want to stay home and hide in fear.