The atmosphere, even as I am tucked away in the vieille ville apartment, wraps itself around me like a gauzy floating blanket.
Voices, from other open windows, create rolling billows in my blanket. Further in the distance are the sounds from the bay and beaches. Children’s laughter punctuates the stillness – on an afternoon, when for them, at that moment, their lives are perfect. I hear a barking dog. Little pods of tourists move through the cobbled street below, quiet foot falls. I wonder if they know what is a pierre corbeau? I can hear them whilst sitting in my apartment. At times there is a tour guide with them, explaining what they are so lucky to be seeing. The round sound of their voices wafts up into my space. Although, it doesn’t bother me for their voices are simply more like sounds rather than words.
I feel I should know the family right outside my window across the way; their window faces mine. A grandson visits them for weeks at a time, but never a raised voice from either the grandmother or grandfather, theirs’ are always kind and low. The little boy’s voice will change over the years; as he gets older his reading will get better. I think they are very good cooks – delicious smells from their kitchen float into my room. Sometimes I hear her singing to herself, a pure sound of contentment. After all these years, even from the beginning, when we are leaning out of the window or hanging out our washing, we recognize each other and so nod recognition. Our wrought iron grill railings keep us from falling to the street below.
These sounds make for a perfect atmosphere in which to think, write or paint. The bells of l’Eglise St. Michel, now a bacilica, trumpet their reminder of the time of day. Carefully leaning out of the living room window and looking to the right, the church tower (campanin), comes into view. It’s the point in Menton’s skyline that makes photographers take its picture at all times of day and night; appearing on postcards, book covers and calendars. Artists almost always come around to painting at least one picture of it during their visits to Menton.
Memories of my days in the vieille ville will last a lifetime. And now, a tomate basilic salad seems in order!