Tuesday, July 28, 2015. After breakfast we walked east through the old city of Nice. We discovered that the plaza filled with restaurants the night before was now a market with stalls for all sorts of fresh foods. Then we walked west through the many streets lined with shops and restaurants. I found a case for my glasses to replace the one I lost in Madrid. Back to the hotel to rest and wait for our tour bus, which came 30 minutes late. They did call to let us know that they would be 15 minutes late. After picking up four American young women from California, the tour was off to Monaco. We stopped first at an overlook high above the city of Nice. The road to the medieval village of Èze went along the edge of the hills coming down from the Alpes Maritimes to the sea. Because my vertigo has worsened with age, I concentrated on the gear shift inside the car. From time to time I did sneak a view of the distant horizon, which was beautiful without being unnerving. Anne Mei took some great shots when we stopped to look over the precipice.
Before Èze we stopped at the Fragonard perfume factory for a demonstration of how perfume is made and a sales pitch for their products. Anne Mei and I had middling success with the test to match smells with their sources. At Èze we walked through the village up to L’église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. Anne Mei tried to get all the way to the top, but they were charging to get into the flat area where she could take pictures. Èze is like a number of medieval villages we’ve seen in Italy and Spain that have been turned into tourist attractions with many restaurants and shops lining the steep, winding lanes.
From Èze we took another high-wire drive to Monaco. At the cathedral I picked up a bit of trivia—Grace Kelly’s middle name. But you already knew that. Another walk up the hill to the Prince’s palace and a great view of the harbor. You can see all the way to Ventimiglia, Italy in the background behind Anne Mei and me.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015. We walked up to Musée Marc-Chagall after breakfast this morning. Anne Mei got quite a dose of Bible history as I explained the subjects of his paintings. I had always thought of Chagall more as a Jewish painter, but there were many paintings in this collection which included the passion and death of Jesus. In those paintings, however, Chagall usually included images of the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust. Luckily for the prudish father, the imagery in his series on the Canticle of Canticles was not quite as explicit as the text. The large mosaic of the Prophet Elijah reflects the sun both directly and off the pool in front. There was also a temporary exhibit “Nice, Soleil, Fleurs. Marc Chagall et la baie des Anges.” We have seen Nice, the sun, flowers, and the Bay of Angels, but we had not seen any of the angels in Chagall’s dreams until we came to the museum.
The best part of our tour this afternoon was the village of St. Paul de Vence where Chagall is buried. Another medieval village turned into a tourist trap, but this time packed with artists’ studios and shops. Much less of the usual tourist detritus, but not totally absent. In the spirit of high-end shopping, Anne Mei and I loaded a bag with rich French cookies from La Cure Gourmande to serve as lunch and for our train ride to Paris tomorrow. We also stopped in Cannes to see the exhibition hall for the film festival and take pictures of the hand prints of the stars on the sidewalk outside. Napoleon landed near Antibes when he returned to France from his first exile in Elba. He had to sleep out in the open his first night back because the people were not happy to see him. We saw a column marking the spot where he slept that night, and a house with the sign “Napoleon never slept here” (in old French).
There were many roundabouts on our trips along the Côte d’Azur yesterday and today. Most had signs telling approaching drivers “Cédez le passage,” yield right-of-way. Today I saw quite a few that stated bluntly “Vous n’avez pas la priorité,” you do not have priority. It made me think how much better our me-first world would be if we all kept that in mind.