Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chagall & Overlooking Nice

2nd day

It's up and at 'em early on our second day, out looking for the proper bus stop to take us to the Chagall museum. With all our rushing, we catch one bus earlier than we expected to, so we perch on the front wall outside the museum until opening time.

I stand up and peek over the fence at the grounds. The museum was created during Chagall's lifetime to house a collection of his paintings related to biblical stories. For details, see the link to wikipedia. It's better than my trying to summarize it.

It's in a nice neighborhood.

There was a gallery of Chagall's self-portraits and his changing image of himself over the years. This is the portrait that greeted us at the entrance,

Our guided visit began in an auditorium that featured some large stained glass windows created by the artist. My father was a stained glass artist and I followed him around for years trying to take pictures of his windows, but I still haven't mastered making them come out okay. Here is only a hint, with our guide in the foreground. (Son, my fount of knowledge on these things, does not remember her name.)

To most of us, at first glance, Chagall's paintings seem a mass of miscellaneous items, but the guide pointed out a recurrent theme of symbolism representing various biblical persona and events, and the stories told within and between paintings. There was a unity of color within a particular story, although Picasa has scrambled them in the collage below, so they are not grouped together. (I like it scrambled.)

Here is our group looking out a picture window at a mosaic and reflecting pool.

Oh, and one more cute guy from the colorful items. (It abounds with symbolism, but I just can't remember what.)

We take the bus back down the hill to the bay to have lunch at a restaurant on the plage.

 Salade Niçoise, . . .

. . . followed by ice cream.

The pigeon cleans up our dribbles under the table.

We emerge up the steps from the beach.

Beach goers. There was one topless female beach goer chatting with someone in the restaurant. Perhaps we were wondering whether there were more out here?

Following lunch, we took a Petit Train ride around Old Town Nice, and the Massena Square construction, then up onto the hill that overlooks the bay. What a view!

Later in the evening, we walk back to the square. The statues on top of the poles turn out to be translucent and their colors change.

They do not have the indignity of pigeons at night.

There is a window full of fanciful toys, brightly lit, eye catching.

Time to go "home" and settle in. See you soon.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nice is a nice way to start . . .

First full day in France

You couldn't get a better contrast to spending several hours waiting for planes in Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport than emerging into the sparkling light and colors of Nice, Côte d'Azur, France. Or what Americans call the French Riviera.

Son had already had lengthy walks in the dark the night before, but daytime was balmy and beautiful. We walked and saw colors and corridors . . .

One of "ours" joins us in our stroll.

Massena Square, where the great renovation and rebuilding is still going on, as it was when I was last here five years ago, has a series of statues atop tall poles in the square. This guy bears the indignity of a pigeon on his head, obviously not for the first time. 

I'd read with a bit of panic just before leaving on the trip that Nice would be the home of the Francophone Games, apparently a gathering of competitors from the French-speaking nations for athletic and cultural events. I imagined Olympic-sized crowds cramming all the amenities in Nice. It's scale was not that large. I'm not sure where the actual competitions were held, but we happened across cultural displays and athletic equipment demonstrations in a tented enclave.


A little tot was being encouraged ever upward on a climbing wall by his watching dad and the coach.

And pedestrian-friendly urban streets -- at least part of the time.

We got hungry and stop for a bite at a juice bar. The Orangina (spell-check wants to call this "or angina") was good, as usual, but the fruity little parfait fell short of its good looks in the taste department.

Then came the time of day when jet-lagged travelers faded to their rooms for a little rest. Yours truly fell sound asleep, forgetting completely about the scheduled late afternoon meet-and-greet get-together for the group after everyone should have arrived. I was awakened by a phone call from Son. I thought the get-together was just beginning when I raced down to the lobby to join them for snacks and wine, but it was just ending. Good impression, huh?

I introduced Son to one of my hearty perennials in Nice, Aux Deux Palmières, for dinner. After the meal, we went for another stroll through the neighborhood. The Boscolo hotel, across the street from our restaurant, presents an elegant night time view.

It also has a rhinoceros on its front terrace.

A beautiful trash truck came along. No, really. The night lighting distorts the lovely azure-blue paint job, although it makes the usual banging and crashing noises as two collection guys that ride on the back platform jump off to grab trash cans to deposit the contents in the truck.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about Men at Work, so this process interested me. The trash collectors in my own neighborhood are no slouches, but these guys ran like an athletic competition. (Couldn't even get their pictures -- too fast!) They circled blocks and collected trash faster than Son and I were walking just down one side of those blocks. One guy sprinted half a block, sprinted back to the truck to empty the can, then returned it to its place, in perhaps the time it took us to walk a short ways to the corner. Can you tell I'm impressed? (Hello, Nice sanitation department!)

We came across a mustache store. Son's Girl Friend has a fondness for mustaches, so of course we needed to stop for pictures.

But who knew there was a market for mustaches for men AND women?

We wondered what they were selling in this bright and fancy place?

Turns out, it's a hotel, something familiar, like Best Western, although I can't guarantee that's the one.  No one was sitting around on display at that hour, but you can see the arm of someone in reception behind the counter.

We also passed a series of fancy clothing stores.

We were on a quest for pictures of something Son had seen in a window on our way into town. He'd tried earlier photos but only got reflections off the window. We both tried this night, but without any greater success. There does not seem to be any time of day when the reflections of things on the street don't overpower the items inside.

So he took me back to the hotel to resume my "nap" for the night, and went out for a power walk instead of a stroll.

A quiet park at night

A miracle . . . I finished up without falling asleep.
See you soon!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Unexpected . . . (We didn't hear about the strike . . .)

A look-back at the beginning of this trip to France

This should never be a surprise. A strike is to the French like apple pie is to Americans. But since I hadn't been paying attention, it was a surprise. And especially since I didn't learn until after it all that Son's and my travel plans had probably been at least marginally affected by it.

Attention had been, for the most part on the Rim Fire and the gradual lowering of the threat level. It has a way of hanging on to your attention. Secondarily, there was packing for a quilters trip to France with Jeanne Mills Tours. My son, who'd never been to Europe, was traveling with me and twenty other ladies this trip. (To Son's Girl Friend, all the ladies love him, but he only has eyes for you.)

I was late leaving, but I finally headed for Sister's House in the City. And what did I see as I approached her suburban locale? Smoke in the air, once again. It was burning up first-day acreage more quickly than our Rim Fire had, before it had turned into California's third biggest fire.

Sister prepared paella, from a recipe which claimed to be quick and easy. That wasn't exactly true, but it certainly was lovely and tasty, although she says she prefers another recipe she has used.

Son arrived after dinner to meet up with me for the trip to France in the morning. We head out on the BART at 11-something to San Francisco airport. (Incidentally, that is not Son and I in the picture, just fellow underground travelers.)

Son and I are booked on the same flight from San Francisco to Paris, but he couldn't get the same connecting flight to Nice. They tell us they can't handle changes at check-in, but we can try in Paris between flights to see what they can do. He and his luggage are scheduled to arrive in Nice about 2-1/2 hours after I do. My plan is to hang around the Nice airport until he arrives and we can take the city bus from the airport to near our hotel.

A big Virgin Atlantic 747-400 pulls up next to our Air France 777-300.

We rise up above San Francisco at around 4pm, with only a little haze and a lazy stream of fog to be seen in the air.

 Goofy selfie of the two travelers:

I have a window seat, my favorite, as I like to take pictures out the window.

With otherwise arid-appearing territory passing below, I love seeing these big crop circles.

Then there is some kind of open pit mining, with the giant back pit, then numerous smaller pits in the surrounding territory . . .

. . . somewhere in this vicinity.

I have never seen a night of travel with such clear skies, with sharp bright stars studding the black canopy. We had only the briefest periods of turbulence during the night flight. The sun rose over a layer of haze in the morning.

It wasn't until be began the descent into Paris that any clouds showed up, spectacular puffy giants.

The big passenger loading ramp heads right toward us. Such personal service!

We had landed early and were unloaded with sufficient time for me to make my connection to Nice that Son's attempt to online book had judged too close to schedule. As we headed off through the international terminal toward the domestic terminal to put me on my flight, we came across the Correspondance desk, fully staffed and with no one in line. (Correspondance is not letter writers; it is the French name for connection points in transportation systems.) We stopped to see whether we could get on the same flight. We decided I would change to his flight, in case his luggage couldn't be intercepted and put on my earlier flight. The staff person even managed to get my luggage pulled to be on the flight with us. The people on that desk are real problem-solvers and have a spirit of customer service that isn't exactly rampant in France.

We settled in for our two or so hours' wait. We looked up from our snoozing or reading when everybody in our waiting section got up and moved to another section. Our gate had been changed. Then our time of departure was delayed by half an hour.

Snooze. (Remember, we really have not had any sleep for ... well, I never could calculate that in the haze, not knowing whether to add or subtract the nine hours I'd advanced my watch and camera to be on French time, in order to arrive at the absolute value of the time passed.)

Next we see our departure delayed even further. We're now out beyond our scheduled arrival time for departing. An announcement: we'll leave once an aircraft arrives back from Nice. (My original flight? How did the aircraft get so mal-positioned?) The plane arrives, everyone queues up. Arriving passengers disembark. We wait. Fueling trucks arrive. We wait. Catering trucks arrive. Cleaning people. We stand there queued up. Son and I have Sky Priority tickets. We hover near the sign for earlier boarding. I'm wanting to sit down again, but finally we are able to load.

I remember nothing of the flight, except for turns around the wavy buildings just before landing. I even missed the safety briefing!

Taking the city bus into Nice was a super idea. The bus is set up to accommodate load-bearing passengers. The luggage rested in racks, while we stood, hovering over it. A brisk walk from our bus stop to the hotel also seemed like such a good idea. You know ... we've been sitting for umpteen hours and the exercise will feel good.

It felt good for a while, until we got to the closest door of the hotel. It was closed for some kind of work. We'd need to walk to the opposite side of the building on the next street. A walk to infinity.

It was when we poked our heads into the restaurant next door to tell our Tour Leader that we'd safely arrived that I first heard mention of a strike. "I guess you got held up by the strike," she said. Two of our travelers from Los Angeles had their flight cancelled but got quickly rescheduled and arrived only a couple of hours after their original flight.

The strike had involved many sectors of the French economy, just a three hour strike -- nine to noon -- on the morning of our arrival. Just enough time for a plane to get out of position.

One lady in our party arrived a whole day late, but it seems more likely that a missed connection back in the states was more responsible than the French strikers for that one.

I never heard the outcome of the fire near Sister's home in the city.

See you soon and catch you up if I can kick this bizarre sense of jet lag. (Fast trains' ll do that to ya.)