Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nice is Nice

Monday, September 15

Pat and Tony had reserved a car at the Nice airport to spend a few more days in Provence before heading back home. Their reservation was for 11am, so we did our usual morning breakfast thing and then took them to the airport. They had rented their car through the same agency as us, so it was a great practice for us for when we would be returning our car later that week (yes, that’s the way I think).

The rental agency was swarming with people, so we saw Tony and Pat get into line with lots of others to get their car. We took off and then decided we wanted to make sure they were OK, so we pulled back around, I got out, and went to check in with them. They were fine, just having to be patient, so Jim and I went on our way.

We followed the Promenade des Anglaises to the familiar part of Nice and found a place to park near where we knew the city tour bus would be picking up passengers. We boarded the bus and were off! It was a double-decker and we went upstairs to enjoy the view. The weather was great – cool and sunny. And on the way we got a picture of a block head – we don’t know the story behind it, but it made for a great photo. Each passenger was provided a set of headphones to listen to the recorded tour in one of six or so languages.

We had decided to visit the park in Cimiez where there was a Matisse museum, a monastery, and some Roman ruins. These features were all bordering an olive grove, which was truly beautiful. I can’t imagine how old the trees were. We first went to the monastery, but it was around noon and the building was closed for lunch. Beautiful gardens were off to the side, so we spent some time going thru them and taking lots of photos. Even though it was mid September, all the gardens we saw on our trip were still quite lovely. We decided not to wait for the opening of the monastery and headed off to the museum. On the way, we saw the ruins and got some photos of them; they were fenced off so it didn’t look like you could actually go into the area, though we did see one man in there.

The Matisse museum was great. I don’t know the work of a lot of artists, but it was very cool to see the progression of Matisse’s talent from the early days when he did realistic paintings in the styles of one or another of earlier famous painters to the time when he developed his abstract styles and then even later when he painted a lot of religious themes. We saw the development of his paintings for a chapel he designed in Vence – the Madonna and Child, the stations of the cross – and of course lots of sketches and half-done works.

We got a bite of lunch from a vendor in the park and enjoyed the weather and people watching. The bus tour we were on had two different legs – the red line and the blue line. Jim really wanted to see the Russian church, which was on the other line, so we studied the tour map to see where the two lines intersected or at least came close to each other and then looked at the timetable. Because the Russian church closed earlier than some of the other attractions, we decided our best move was to take the next bus to the Chagall museum stop and then hoof it to the other line’s closest pickup point – however, this meant skipping the Chagall museum! Oh well. Jim had studied the Nice map to determine our on-foot route to the next bus stop and that’s what we did. Lots more people watching as we had a good thirty minute wait at the next stop. It was at the Nice train station, so lots of people and cars and buses coming and going.

The Russian church was enormous and quite striking, with 5 onion shaped … what are they called? The word is escaping me at the moment. I want to say minarets or turrets or something like that. What struck me most was that, as large and imposing as it looked from the outside, it was quite small on the inside – at least, the part we were able to visit. There were very few chairs and it was explained in a handout that worshippers stood for the nearly 2-hour service. Many beautiful examples of iconography ringed the room and there were several visitors who were observers of the faith; we could see them praying and making petitions and crossing themselves several times over.