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!
Everyone has that one place they look back on that makes them happy; a thousand people, a thousand different places. I like hearing about those favorite places from friends.
Just like finding the measure of a person sometimes can be partially explained by their passion, where a person dreams of going or returning again and again tells a lot about that person; perhaps it’s a contemplative adventure, relaxed, place to dig deep and think or someplace that has tons to do and seeing it all is what you want or maybe a photographer’s ultimate dream locale, an artist’s perfect spot to paint or a place so remote it is bound to impress. Perhaps it’s far away and maybe a bit dangerous, but your wish is to help people there in any way you can.
The American philosopher Richard Taylor was an accomplished and notable apiarist. Reading about his passion I was able to have a better understand of his philosophy as examined through his actions in and devotion to his bee fields and apiaries. How unlikely you may think, but true.
So why is the Cote d’Azur so special to me? The experiences on the first trip so terrific, although could not be repeated, I determined to make it a goal, to have more experiences in the place I was besotted, it’s all about new experiences, they keep us going forward; being surrounded by ancient historical architecture was thrilling, the insanely blue sky and sea intoxicating,....right from the very beginning I knew it was a place I had to return. You know the feeling.
Even the flora was the same as that which I grew up, giving me a welcoming feeling; looking up and seeing the bluest of skies through pine trees (yes, there are pine trees there); even looking out on the bay covered with yachts I would never be invited to board. That is a beautiful sight, by the way, whether you get to out on one or not.
You can’t be away from home forever on vacation; you always have to come home and that is not so bad. Just think about all the memories you collected to assuage the day-to-day of your life. The planning of the next get-away is half the fun anyway.
Now I have to shovel snow yet again and will attempt to keep the view of the pine tree in mind. The snow will end and I will still have the image to conjure. We’ll see how that works.
When mentioning the fact I go to the French Riviera frequently, the looks from some are often dismissive, leaving me to feel I’m trying to impress. I’ve been going there so long, it’s hardly that I want to impress. It’s just where I go. My riviera is not fancy. So when coming upon this morning glory flower hanging over the rail tracks that take me where I want to go along the coast…well, it spoke volumes about how I see the French Riviera. And even in the early days, it was the simple beauty of the place I was taken with.
Waiting….”the pervasive and unfathomable aspect of human consciousness”, Raymond Tallis, PHILOSOPHY NOW magazine, “On Waiting”, his thoughts about “queuing and milling about”. I appreciate that philosophers think about such things.
We wait for trains, “for the traffic lights to change”, we keep others waiting, water to boil, for news, hoping it’s good, picking up children from school and sports….and now, ever present in our lives, waiting in that tedious security-line at the airport. “It fills so much of our lives…waiting reflects our helplessness, our inability to control the pace as well as the course of events”, Tallis.
“Waiting transforms time into delay and we bear delay with less equanimity if we think it avoidable….There is no profession that does not have its waiting rooms.”, Tallis. Who among us, at times, don’t wish we had brought a book to read, just in case, since one never knows when we will be required to wait. Among the greatest inventions, for me, have been the iPhone and iPad to occupy me while waiting; these devices give us the ability to talk, write, read or simply check over and over texts and emails during those afore mentioned “unfathomable” hours of waiting. Standing or sitting these, and all the others, fill the bill assuaging our restlessness.
Waiting is part of nature’s cycle; all around us, nature is waiting for when it is exactly the right time to share its beauty….seemingly unbothered by the wait. There is a lot nature’s wonder going on underground that we can’t see and only when the time is right the changes happening above ground
I had never given much thought to waiting, we experience it so often…endlessly at times. Goodness, it does take up so much time in our lives. Best that I practice being more “patient” during those times, when I’ve no control of the situation but to wait; a human virtue, alas, for me in short supply. As I wait, maybe I’ll think of something pretty or recall a particular fond memory or consider it “me time” (well maybe that’s going a bit too far). We’ll see.
I was on the the French Riviera! It had been a long trip. Excitement got me through the first day’s exhaustion and now on the second day jet lag. But that was just the beginning of a very surprising 2nd day.
My mistake when going down to the center of vieux Menton, rue St. Michel and the Marche for the first time by myself was to start too late in the morning; July and August are the peak summer months after all. It starts to heat up by 10:30am. The temperature continues to rise throughout the day. I was careful to look back as I left the apartment, to take note of specific landmarks that would aid in my return–actually, breadcrumbs dropped along the way would have been an excellent idea. Although I was armed with the knowledge that all of the streets up in the “old town”, when going down in a westerly direction, will eventually lead to l’Eglise St. Michel. Knowing this wasn’t very handy as it turned out since I was wanting to go up in a easterly direction on my return. Now, I’m not the best and brightest in directions, but the sea right there was a brilliant clue even for me.
I made a mental note that at the arch separating the Parvis St. Michel from the beginnings of the upper vieille ville, I should go left of the white toilette sign, left of the green shutters, right at the Madonna and down the tunnel sort of thing. And maybe at this point your eyes are glazing over…….but it was really, really confusing.
Thinking back, I did all of the right things except for one……I went left of the Madonna but kept on going up! I became dangerously over-heated; had stayed in town for over an hour. As it turns out, I returned to the church square four times after repeated attempts going up into the rabbit warren of streets and tunnels and alcoves and stairs and ramps and crossovers…… Panic was setting in. As I sat there, somewhere, deep in the interior there were people of whom I asked directions. One man in particular I remember distinctly. He was flooding the streets with water, washing them I suppose. Now I know who he was and the story about just who’s water he was using and wasting.
No one could understand my very poor French; startled I’m sure by my red face and rather pathetic sounding voice. I was barely able to get the words out of my mouth. Finally, on my fourth trip to the l’eglise I found myself once again on the very bench where less than twenty four hours before I had been sitting waiting for my contact to fetch me. Too hot and fearful of heat exhaustion, I decided to stay right there until I either encountered someone who could could give me directions or that someone I knew (most unlikely) came by. Not many people came by at all. They were smarter than to be out in the noon-day sun and heat.
There I was, surrounded by a lot of marble and stucco, when an Italian gentleman came out of the vaulted entrance to the vieille ville; the very entrance I had been through more times than I cared to remember. “Pardon Monsieur, ou’est la rue l’Agriculture?” To my utter surprise and gratitude, he understood, took the time, felt sorry for me and explained where my street was located….and I got it! FINALLY! He repeated the directions until he was sure that I understood. I will be forever grateful to the Italian good samaritan, but will never know his name. He leant a hand when I most needed one. I spent the rest of the day into the evening collapsed and tired, but thanking that man over and over in my head.
Lessons learned: 1. Always carry water…..like every other person did. 2. Start shopping, or anything else that necessitates going down the hill, earlier in the day. 3. REVIEW MY BOOK OF FRENCH PHRASES!!