Thursday, November 10, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Nine (Part 1 of 2)

(Author's note: This entry is the ninth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

24 October 2005

From St. Paul-de-Vence we drive to Nice, which is only about 15 miles away but it's a trafficky 15 miles and none of our maps are really detailed enough to help us get where we first want to be, the neighborhood called Cimiez where the Matisse Museum is. Based on our map I tell Amy to turn right at one point, only to put us on a road that dead ends. Next we worry we have dropped ourselves into a tunnel that will put us back on the autoroute but we actually wind up in the right place and make it to The Musee Matisse, which itself is a sneaky work of art as the windows are drawn on, that hard to spell, hard to pronounce trompe l'oiel method.

What can you say about Matisse that someone smarter hasn't said better? Brilliant simplicity, as he whittled his work ever more to essentials. And a perfect sense of color (we'll get to his masterpiece the chapel in Vence tomorrow, if you're wondering). Outside the museum there just happen to be more Roman ruins--you can almost feel passe about them after a while, thinking, "Hmm, some more structures from 100 A.D. Got anything new?" We walk to the Chagall Museum, a longer walk than I imagined (and a walk uphill on the way back, making up for us not visiting any churches this day), which is terrific but maybe has 30 of his works on display. They are big, dense and totally fulfilling works, but it seems a bit of a cheat. Still , Chagall's work is sort of the art equivalent of foie gras, so rich it's hard to enjoy in mass quantities. Your eyes can go gluttonous in front of his works, and I found myself shooting details of his large canvasses, for the entirety of a painting was just too much.

We decide to move the car to get closer to the beach and Vielle Ville and other touristy type things, and that mostly goes well (although getting the car from the garage, which means going through a closed mall, will be creepy if really ultimately uneventful at 9 pm). We walk and walk, checking out some of the Cours Saleya marketplace which is a flea market today, with stalls where you can buy pretty much anything someone once kept in a French attic or closet--silverware, paintings, pitchers, pictures, jewelry, etc. We buy a couple of fougasse at a patisserie for lunch and take them to the beach, where you can sit along a retaining wall above the pebbled shore (there's no sand here, so it's odd it's such an in-place to be). It is very reminiscent of Santa Barbara, so maybe those American Riviera lines aren't just hype.

It takes about a half an hour, but eventually we do see a topless sunbather, and then some more. I can die happy. Later, we can do without what we see. A late 20ish woman, walking with a 50ish man in a sportscoat. She's got a tux jacket on over her top, very tottery heels and a skirt so short it might only be justified to be called a sk. In fact, I have to ask Amy, "Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" Amy concurs; the bottom of the woman's bottom is below her skirt. Fashion I do not quite understand, but I assume hanging your derriere to the air can't be called avant.

We stroll way down the Promenade de Anglais/Quai des Etats Unis, peek into the luxury we can't afford at the famous Negresco Hotel, come back, stroll all over the old town Nice, and get to the Musee d'Art Contemporain, which is closed, despite what our guidebook says. It is a nifty building, and is graced by a sculpture by Nikki de Saint Phalle who created the very-much-lives-up-to-its-name Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido, CA.

We feel pretty walked out at this point, so decide it's time for a beer, whose price will include a seat at a bar. Cours Saleya is lined with bars and restaurants, so we choose one with the most interesting choices pressant (on tap), and I get a Leffe Abaye while Amy has a Hoegarden. France is close to Belgium, and Belgian ales are close to God (they are made by monks, after all). Sitting is pretty heavenly, too, and there's plenty to watch as all sorts of Nicoise walk by and the flea market closes up shop and the flea marketeers' dogs take advantage of their last chances to pee on each others' booths.

(Day Nine will continue in another entry that will, I hope, let me post more photos.)


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