Returning to the old European towns always mesmerizes me, especially after living in the USA for many years. Not that old towns in the USA do not have their charm. They do. Downtown Alexandria in Virginia where I live is a cozy, lively neighborhood, dating from centuries back. Williamsburg in Virginia and Annapolis and Gettysburg in Maryland are wonderful places to visit. So are San Francisco and parts of Boston. And these are just a few examples. But the charm of European “old towns” is unbeatable.
So I went for a long walk in Nice’s Old Town, starting relatively early, as crowds tend to blur its enchantment. You can start from the Palais de Justice or the Place Garibaldi and get lost in the many narrow streets and small squares where only locals gather, either in front of a church after attending mass or to sit down for a coffee or a glass of cool white wine. The pictures below will give you an idea. Clicking on the pictures will enlarge them for you (on most computers).
Place Garibaldi is named after the famous Garibaldi, who was born in Nice, and the man who unified Italy’s warring small states in the 19th century. Nice changed hands between France and Italy in the 19th century but was returned to France in recognition of Garibaldi’s contribution to Italy becoming the country we know now. Place Garibaldi is a favored place to have coffee and seafood. Nice has kept its many links with nearby Italy.
Garibaldi’s Statue (above) and the other side of the Square (below)
Fish stands in Old Town are loaded with all sorts of fish fresh from the Mediterranean, among others the delicious “Dorade” (see picture below), a delicacy hard to come by and a great meal when grilled. Seagulls swarm above the stands to get an easy breakfast if they get a chance.
A seagull preparing for “attack”, others standing by patiently for a “treat”.
Seven delicious Dorades ready to go!
Shop Owner Getting Ready for Business
Boys in the back playing soccer
A local climbing the street
The Jesus Church in the middle of Old Town
Peace inside the Church
Old Town at its quietest
Locals have to do a lot of climbing
The narrow streets where the shops are fill up quickly with tourists
The Palais de Justice in Old Town
One of the charming squares where you can talk from balcony to balcony
Another one of Old Town’s charming places for coffee, lunch or dinner
Next time we will show you The Citadel with its spectacular views of Nice and the Mediterranean, as well as the splendid boulevards.
Like for many of you, “blue ” is my favorite color (or colour as they spell it “correctly” in the UK), and along the Côte d’Azur the blue Mediterranean offers a spectacular variety of blues. But as often happens with the beauties of nature, it can turn into a somber grey melancholy, when the mistral blows from the north-north west over the French massif central; a dry cool wind, often during sunny weather but sometimes accompanied by grayish clouds spraying fresh snow over the Alpes maritimes. It blows mostly during the winter and spring and it did so when we were landing at Nice Côte d’Azur airport in late May. From the aircraft, patches of fresh snow on the mountains were clearly visible on our approach and the pilot had his hands full keeping the aircraft steady when touching down.
Nice is a splendid city where the Romans already settled some 145 years B.C. The remnants of the Roman Empire are still visible in Cimiez, an eastern part of the city of Nice. It is located on a hill overlooking the city where I was going to stay with friends in their villa. From their balcony, one enjoys a magnificent view of the city and the Mediterranean in all its vibrant blues that take on different shades as the day moves on. In the far distance, you notice the “Citadel”, a hill near Old Town, displaying the ruins of a cathedral built in the middle ages, and spectacular views of the sea and Old Town, on which in a later blog.
As the mistral was blowing, the Mediterranean took on its grayish hue. How different the next morning when the mistral turned more graceful and died down for a while.
At the far end, the ferry is leaving for the Island of Corsica. A five-hour trip we will make next time when we hopefully visit here.
Near the villa is a Franciscan Museum that adjoins a wonderful rose garden where parents and children dwell after leaving a nearby school.
The abundance of wonderful roses is a delight for the visitor and a peaceful remembrance of the serene beauty of Nice’s flora and fauna.
The garden also offers a wonderful view of the Mediterranean. Locals walk here as if it is a daily gift they got accustomed to, but for a newcomer the view is a divine example of the preciousness wealth of Mother Earth.
The villa is a pleasant gated building secluded from the noisy world buzzing down the Cimiez hill.
One side displays an impressive bougainville in full bloom.
The middle of the garden features a swimming pool with no takers because of the cool wind, giving an enterprising seagull an opportunity to take a bath and fly away happily refreshed.
In our next blog we will show some pictures of Nice’s medieval Old Town.
What do I remember of D-Day in Holland? I was 8 in 1944. My nanny came into my playroom and said, “Johnny, we’re going to be freed!” My piano teacher embraced me, hugged me and kissed me on my cheeks. Well, actually we were not there yet. The clandestine radio we listened to had been too optimistic. Strong Nazi resistance in France and Belgium (the “Battle of the Bulge” in the Ardennes, General Montgomery’s (“Monty”) failed assault on Arnhem close to where my grandparents – and Audrey Hepburn and her mother, my Aunt Ella – lived) delayed our liberation by one year, and introduced the worst hunger winter in Holland with heaps of snow and bitter cold during which thousands of people perished.
A mother – like mine – struggling to find food at farms.
Many brave young allied soldiers lost their life trying to break through the Nazi defenses and finally did.
For me D-Day came a year later, May 5, 1945. Hundreds and hundreds of horse-driven wagons with German soldiers, faces drawn, moving back to Germany over the roads. Among them poor-looking kids, forced to follow orders, many to their death, like so many of our brave liberators, the essential difference being that the Nazis came to conquer and torture, and the allies came to free us from them, surely a more purposeful mission.
Allied paratroopers coming to liberate Holland
Then hordes of Nazi sympathizers were rounded up and marched through the streets, their hair shaved off, shame and despair on their faces, imprisoned for many years.
Hundreds of low-flying planes dropping bags of food on empty meadows and tulip fields. Cans with sausages we hardly remembered eating before.
Trucks with American black drivers, whose faces we could not see through their windows, and allied forces moving up with German captives arms in the air.
Five years of horrible war gone by that started with bombs on Schiphol airport in May 1940, the explosions we heard and their clouds we saw rising into the sky from our backyard, years that never seemed to end. Having to walk to school, often on wooden shoes because our parents could not get proper shoes, sometimes through sticky snow that clogged underneath your soles so that you could not walk anymore. Soup kitchens in our school, where we hardly learned anything because of the constant fear for the occupier. Bombs falling left and right, chasing us into the cellar or bomb-shelters, huddling together in the cold. Dog fights in the sky with bombers and fighter planes getting shot to pieces and falling to earth, their men sometimes parachuting down to be shot death by cruel Nazi soldiers, laughing at the fun.
But their fun did not last. When the Nazis were gone, we celebrated in the streets. Eating pancakes at long wooden tables stretching out street-long along the sidewalks in bright sunshine. Everything was colored orange. Queen Wilhelmina, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernard and their children returning from their exile in Canada to Soestdijk. The Red Blue and White Dutch flag flying all over. Music, dancing, happy people.
Just one nasty psychopath, Adolph Hitler, who was able to inflict this unmeasurable misery on all of us and his own people as well. Cowardly dead by suicide.
It’s good to commemorate D-Day. The best speech to do so was by Ronald Reagan in Normandy on June 6, 1984, when referring to those brave men and women he said,” …let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.” Seventy years later, the younger generations do well to dig into this history. But history has a way to repeat itself: many wars followed, perhaps not on a worldly scale, but large enough to worry us all. People are still suffering from dictators and psychopaths and the new normal of intolerant Islam. Jews are still being persecuted. Our United Nations Assembly, established with so much hope and pomp in 1944 to prevent all this from reoccurring, has turned into a useless debating club.
Yes, D-Day is a day to remember, and to make good speeches for TV. But when will we stop fighting each other? It’s inherent to human kind. So don’t hold your breath.
PS: All pictures have been drawn from Dutch websites, archives and Wikipedia. Specific accreditation proved impossible.