Monday, November 23, 2009

Written 23 November 2009

Saturday, I went to the train station for a trip to an undecided location. Examining the train schedule, I realized I wanted to venture out a little further from Montpellier than the previous trips. I saw a train to Nice was departing soon so I went for it. Nice, I knew, is in the south of France and, with this knowledge, I expected a short train ride. Only when no information for Nice appeared in my Languedoc-Roussillon travel guide did I realize I could be going a little further than expected. Nonetheless, it seemed to be the right thing to do.

The train ride was a little more than four hours to Nice. If I had had to turn right back around and come back as soon as I got to Nice, the money and the time would have been well spent. The scenery was beautiful. Normally, on trains, I read the majority of the time. Going through Provence on the way to Nice, the book was in the bag and the head was turning from window to window. One side was mountainous, hilly countryside of vineyards, mountainside villas, red clay and rock. The colors were amazing. Sides of mountains were set ablaze by the reds, yellows, and oranges emanating from vineyards, farms, rooftops, rock and earth. It was more than the color, the earth was a beautifully formed, rugged and harsh land of dramatic slopes and rises. It was quite the show. On the opposite side of the train, I could see the Mediterranean. As mentioned above, my neck was sore by the end. Look one way to see a vineyard, turn to catch a wave crashing against the side of a cliff, and repeat again.

In Nice, I spent most of my time on the french riviera and in old Nice. I climbed to the top of a mountain/large hill to an old fort that was once the city's defenses. At the summit was the remnants of the old chateau and, what I was really there for, a panorama of the city and its harbor. The old parts of Nice looked like a spanish-tiled jungle. The rooftops canopied the streets and people below. I thought I could walk from one end of town to its opposite, never having to jump from rooftop to rooftop. The bay is crescent shaped with both tips extending rocky arms out into the sea. I could see further than the harbor and the town to the mountains that separate the city from the rest of France to the north, bays farther down the riviera to the west and east, and miles of sea to the south.

In the city itself, I walked around the old section for most of the time. There is a beautiful flower market which, in the morning, includes many products (fruits, vegetables, olive oil, soap, etc.) made and/or grown in Provence. Adding the colors and smells to a square of old, beautiful, and colorful buildings, it is tough to out-do. Old Nice is a maze of narrow streets filled with restaurants, bars, shops, markets, churches, and old government buildings. I thought if I extended my arms full length, I could touch the buildings on both sides of the street. One of the neatest shops I saw was one where you could create your own pasta from scratch. The restaurants were diverse. Being as close as Nice is to Italy and northern Africa, the culture is much less french and more of a eclectic mixture of just about anything and everything.

Saturday night, I went to a russian cathedral in town and missed my train. I had no problem missing my train, the extra night made it more of a vacation. For dinner, I wanted a good, french meal, but was lured by a fantastic, turk dinner instead. The hotel was nice, I always enjoy staying in one. Sunday morning, I awoke early and watched the sunrise on the french riviera. I started with a walk up the rocky beach and ended in a cafe for breakfast. As I ate, I watched a sail boat race in the harbor and looked out on the water, the cliffs, and the pink and blue sky. I wanted time to stop and stay the way it was forever, great vacation.

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