It being Day Two of my being at a loose end near Nice, I decided I would ignore Nice completely and get a train out to Grasse, where I hoped to take hundreds of cutesy photos of cutesy alleyways (there is something enchanting about the sort of alleyway that isn’t covered in crust and slime and grime and harbouring a mugger, right?). I would then vow to paint from these, take them home and leave them to moulder on my hard-drive until such time as the laptop expires. Much like what happens to all my other photos, really.
So I was up at the crack of dawn and ponced about the hotel room, packing wisely and doing stretches and lunges in the hope that the Bossman would be fooled into thinking I do this every single morning. (Which I don’t; I lie in bed till the last possible second, realise I’ve actually missed the last possible second, swear copiously, and run to the shower. But everyone does this, right? [Everyone unsuccessful, anyway – Ed].)
Then I navigated my way to the train station, utilised the unfamiliar ticket machine with amazing proficiency (it had a wheel on it, which you had to turn to select the sort of ticket you wanted. It was like steering a ship. A very badly-behaved ship.) Only then did I discover that the machine does not take switch, nor notes. Nor does it give any prior indication of how much money you are expected to pour in – and the one-train-an-hour was due.
At which point, approximately the entire population of St Laurant du Var – who had also left everything to the last possible second, see! – came piling in behind me for their turn, and I was forced to abandon my plans for the day. I mean, I was going to miss the train either way, since the machine had helpfully reset itself, but this way some stupid bloody foreign tourist would not be pointed out as the reason they were all late for work.
(And as I was skulking back over the bridge in shame, I noticed most of them didn’t make it, ahahaha).
So, having lost nothing by my failure, if you don’t count all my self-esteem, I went back to the hotel to rethink my plans and discovered I had also lost my phone. No really. After repacking everything three times and cursing myself for an idiot, it occurred to me that it probably was on that patch of grass where I stopped to check the train timetable, so there was nothing for it but to go see. And as I approached the scene, lo, this old woman spotted my phone and picked it up off the grass and if I had been a mere ten seconds later, it would be gone forever. As it was, she gave it to me, no questions asked, when I ran up screaming – which was fortunate because I was screaming because I was in the middle of realising I have no idea what ‘phone’ is in French, which was going to put a serious cramp in my ‘I am the rightful owner of that phone!’ speech.
So, only half an hour into the day, I had already had far too much excitement.
I thought maybe a sedate wee trip into Nice might be the thing after all. I got the right bus on my fourth attempt, woo; and got thrown off it in a moderately convenient location, somewhat close to the ruined castle I saw the other day. Well, it seemed somewhat close, until I had to walk it. My, the beachfront at Nice is very long indeed. And the wisely-packed bag of emergency Stuff was very heavy indeed. And the bright, midmorning sun – you get the idea. Despite it being not that many years since I was bestriding Stromboli like a colossus (dammit), I started to feel uncomfortably like maybe I am past it already (noooooo! But I take the bare minimum amount of exercise, what gives?) I was certainly feeling uncomfortably uncomfortable by the time I got to the foot of the hill. There were warning signs everywhere, in many languages, informing me that it was a whole ninety metres to the top and I should take the free lift they had thoughtfully excavated into the rock. Certainly everyone else was. So I sneered at the free lift, marched resolutely up the stone stairs and prayed heartily that I did not slip and die while on my high horse (for even if nobody else knows you are on your high horse, it is still the most untrustworthy of animals).
I made it with spectacular ease, which cheered me greatly; especially since there was a notable lack of spectacle at the top. A notable lack of castle, even. There was a tea shop, and a sign informing me that although the castle was once magnificent, by 1700 it was abandoned and by the time anyone thought to take a second look, around 1740-something, it was completely gone. Which seems a bit odd, but obviously they had the most peaceful existence ever. I’m sure around that time in Scotland, everyone knew the whereabouts of every castle ever because they were all under siege every other week.
There was also a gigantic waterfall, which I assume must be operated by a pump, and so cunningly placed that I could find absolutely nowhere to get a decent gander at it. So I meandered back down to the flower market and looked for something else of interest. I mean, massive town, on the coast, fine buildings everywhere, stuffed full of art museums…
I just wasn’t feeling it. Plus, I was getting rather alarmed by the black cloud blotting out half the sky, so I took a bus home in time for lunch and tried to persuade myself it had been a really heroic day out, rather than the half-baked fiasco it really was. Also, as soon as I returned, the big black cloud fled, its work done. So I went down the shore for mussels and a big glass of wine, and was shouted at by the waitress for not eating with my fingers.
When the Bossman got back, we went out for dinner in Antibes. Antibes is very much like Nice; big harbour full of expensive yachts, no parking whatsoever. We ate outside a packed wee cafe in the old town, which is surrounded by a great big wall and looked rather exciting; sadly, as we ate, darkness fell and it started looking a lot like the sort of place where tourists get mugged in the non-cutesy sort of alley, so we went home without exploring further. Well, I say without exploring further, but actually it took us about an hour to find the exit from the only carpark that would let us in, so there was that.