Nice (Nicea), France
I left Barcelona on a bright sunny morning on a day train to Nice, France. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out whether or not I was supposed to change trains somewhere along this route. From my tickets it looked like I had to change someplace, but it might have been any one of three cities. The likely candidate was Montpelier in France, but despite my repeated inquiries, I couldn't find anyone who spoke English well enough to figure out what I was asking.
I did find ticket agents, train conductors, and French customs inspectors who pointed at my tickets, waved their hands around a lot, and spoke some kind of Spanish-French-Basque-English. They were no help.
I finally decided that I did not have to change trains. So, when we arrived at Montpelier, and everybody picked up their luggage and left the train, I remained seated, smugly confident that I had this all figured out. When I realized that there was no other passenger at all on the train except me, I began to suspect that my theory could be wrong.
At last, one of the dining car waitresses walked through the car and asked me, in perfect English, if I needed any help. When I asked if I was supposed to stay on the train in order to get to Nice, she told me "No. This train returns to Barcelona in about an hour. You have to catch a different train to Nice."
I found out later that this train could not go any further into France under any circumstances because Spain has a different track gauge than France.
On the train from Montpelier enroute to Marseille a beautiful black woman with levis and ballerina slippers sat next to me for awhile. She only spoke Italian, but we did try to have a conversation using my handy-dandy multi-language dictionary.
Looking east, in the evening, across a beach on the French Riviera at Nice, France. I enjoyed my time in this beautiful city. I had been in France during my walkabout and the French I came in contact with then were walking examples of every bad stereotype of the French as rude, abrupt, and condescending... sort of like New Yorkers as seen by Europeans.
My feeling in Nice was that the French locals seemed almost "down-home."
For a mid-western farm boy like myself, "down-home" is a way of saying people are like your neighbors "...further down the holler," or " ...over in the next county."
Looking down toward a neighborhood street from the roof of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Two dancing figures, in plastic, on the roof of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
A dragon on the roof of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
A narrow building in the Old City of Nice.
Looking west from the top of La Colline Du Chateau across the French Riviera at Nice.
A mosaic of two restored fish in the restored ruins of the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Nice. There is a lot of archaeological work going on here, as there is in most of the ruins in the cities I visited in Europe.
I kept some brief notes, irregularly, during the course of my trip. Here is one about La Colline Du Chateau paraphrased from a sign at the lookout point for the site:
"3:00pm. - Nice. On top of a hilltop overlooking all of Nice. First occupied 5th century B.C. by Celtic - Ligurian tribes. Fortified during the dark ages following the fall of Rome. Became important enough in the 4th century A.D. to rate a bishopric. After the fall of Rome (about 480 A.D.), some refugees took over the hill because it could be easily defended against barbarians. It was increasingly fortified until it was raised in 1706 by order of Louis XIV, ending its use for military purposes."
Looking west from La Colline Du Chateau down into the Old City of Nice. In the upper center of the photo is a dome so beautifully decorated that, though I tried, I could not capture it on film. Maybe next trip.
From Nice I left in the evening on the overnight train back to Rome. I shared the compartment with a former dancer and automatic firearms enthusiast from Las Vegas, a multi-lingual structural engineer from Brazil doing advanced studies in Hong Kong, and a young, fresh-out-of-school French police officer who spoke absolutely no English, and who insisted, rudely I thought, that the Brazilian interpret everything said by either myself or the dancer.
Fortunately, everybody in our compartment crapped out about 1:00 am in the morning, and I was able to get some sleep.