Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Ten years ago today - Antibes and Nice

These were probably the best few days of my entire trip. The romantic in me wishes that by some fluke of chance, my travel buddies from Scotland and Seattle somehow come across this post and recognize themselves and remember me. I'd love to hear from them. Wouldn't that be cool?

7:30 pm, 16 August 1995
Hotel Belle Meuniere, Nice, France

Another city, another temporary home. This one not as nice as most of my temporary homes, but only one week of travel left. I'm feeling quite homesick for the first time in a long time, but a week is nothing!

I met the most interesting array of people in Antibes - the most interesting so far, for varying reasons.

There were two evil French girls living for the summer at the hostel in Antibes, and being such long-term guests (or maybe being French) has given them quite an attitude. They were impolite to the point of rude and quite inconsiderate (radios loud at 3 am, for example).

But I also met the most wonderful two guys. Niall is from Scotland and Terry is from Seattle. They're friends traveling through Italy and France together, and they are just the sweetest, nicest guys! Yesterday morning we started talking at breakfast and found out we were all considering going to the Picasso museum in Antibes, so we walked into town together. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for Assumption Day, but the walk into town was great. We talked and talked. Niall is also a fine arts student, and Terry is quite interested in art, so we talked about arts in general and especially impressionism and surrealism. They had just come from Paris and had all sorts of recommendations for me. Terry in particular loved Versailles - he went on and on about it. They also emphasized the Musée d'Orsay, which I was already excited about.

When we discovered the museum was closed (after a 45 minute walk) we ended up going our separate ways. I went into Cannes and did my para-sailing thing. VERY cool! A gorgeous view, kind of like being suspended on a swing above the sea. Too short, though! The guys driving the boat would slow it down to the point that my feet were almost in the water, then they'd speed up and I'd go flying upwards. It was amazing! I spent the rest of the day doing nothing except lying about on the beach. It was rough!

After dinner, I met up with Niall and Terry again, and we had a good laugh at the bad-mannered American girl from LA who is staying in my room. She got in at around six, going her loud LA way about how she wants to party all night. She pulls high heels and two cocktail dresses out of her backback, begging us to approve one or the other (I had just finished washing my underwear in the sink) and asking if any of us had perfume to share. She seemed to be from a different planet than the rest of the travelers. She was saying the stupidest things about how nice Americans are and easy to talk to and how she hates the French. She was so outrageous it seemed she must be joking, trying to satirize the ugly American tourist, but I don't think she was that smart. She was entirely sincere.

Anyway, Niall, Terry and I had a good laugh about her and vowed to be extra careful with our own behaviour. We ended up, the three of us plus two young girls from Australia (Marissa) and New Zealand (Gabriella) out on the rocks by the water until midnight's curfew, sharing a few bottles of red wine and admiring the most spectacular moonrise I have ever seen. It rose right out of the sea - unbearably beautiful, made more so in finally having someone to share it with. It was like we were old friends - instant camaraderie.

This morning, we had breakfast together (the five of us) and were priviledged enough to watch the LA Princess throw a bona fide hissy fit with absolutely no provocation whatsoever, telling the French-speaking kitchen staff that she would never treat them in such a manner if they were visiting the US. She was mad because she had to wait two minutes (literally) for bread. She was so completely rude that I was aghast.

After the breakfast entertainment, Niall, Terry and I decided to try again with the Picasso museum. Since we had all spent our last night in the hostel in Antibes, we all had our packs with us and decided to take the bus into town. The museum was open today, and I really enjoyed it. It had a lot of paintings and ceramics by Picasso, and a few sculptures. There were also original pieces by Miro, Khee, Dubuffet (a favourite of Terry's, I learned) and quite a few others. The museum itself used to be a workshop/residence for Picasso in the early 1930s. I had been to a minor Picasso exhibition in Venice, and done the requisite background reading before I left, but now I feel like I'm actually beginning to understand and appreciate Picasso, if not surrealism in general.

So, after poking about the museum for a bit, and then sitting in the shade and enjoying the sea breezes, it was time for us to go our separate ways. Holy separation anxiety! I'd only known them for a day and a half, but that's the longest I'd hooked up with anybody, and the closest I've been to anyone while traveling. So we took the obligatory pictures and exchanged addresses - the whole bit. It was so silly, we stood on a street corner saying good-bye forever, like we'd known each other all our lives. I really miss them! I think having made some friends and then lost them has made my homesickness more acute, compounded by being so close and yet so far from the end of the trip.

For the rest of the day, I wandered around Nice, basically killing time. I think tomorrow I'll go either to the Matisse or Renoir museums nearby, or maybe the Musée des beaux arts here in Nice. I may get in some more beach time, too, although the beaches here are stones, not sand. The next day, into Paris (!!) and then home a week from today. Looking back, this has been the most interesting, educational, enlightening, enjoyable, FUN vacation. But I think it's pretty much time to go home.