Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Nice last day of 2011

I’m getting to quite like my bread and jam breakfast, though today I added tea as well. There’s a cluster of museums up the hills a bit by some Roman ruins, so I wandered down Rue Jean Medecin to Place Masséna, then along to Place Garibaldi where I thought I might find a bus up into the hills.
La Place Masséna
Both these squares are surrounded by tall coloured buildings with French windows (of course), and if you squint a bit and ignore the tram bell you can imagine you’re in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
La Place Garibaldi
Much of central Nice is apartment blocks, but as you drive further into the hills (at least, along the route the bus took) you find larger houses and mansions and gigantic hotels. I got off next to one of these gigantic hotels dripping filigree and looked around to see which way were the museums and Roman ruins.

Ah. Large amphitheatre to the southeast. That way.

The amphitheatre was pretty cool. You could go right into the arena, under one of the archways, and stare in awe at the remains, building the rest of the amphitheatre in your mind’s eye. It once had four levels and could hold four thousand people, and I think it would be a good place to stage ancient plays, with the ruins backlit and people sitting on the remains of the encircling seats. Though archaeologists mightn’t like their ruins being used in such a way. Imagine the coke cans and chip packets left behind.

The museums are around the edge of a park full of olive trees. The first I came to was the Matisse museum, which is a plain (but large) old villa done up with trompe d’oeil so that it looks like it has balconies and carving everywhere. Some of the rooms inside were also done like this, with trompe d’oeil plaster work over Matisse’s drawings and paintings and sculptures. I spent a while admiring the works and deciphering the French information panels, then descended into a huge modern addition below ground level with even more drawings and paintings and sculptures as well as some photography.
The Matisse Museum
The museum of archaeology was just next door, and I’d seen some ruins out the window of the Matisse museum, behind some people doing Tai Chi on the balcony. I’d expected a few ruins, maybe the size of a tennis court or two, and that’s what greeted me when I left the main museum building. And then I turned a corner and there was more... and more... and more...

One of the buildings was pretty much still standing, albeit without its roof, and you could easily follow the walls and canals of the rest of the compound, imagining the Roman baths (one complete pillar still standing) and trying to figure out if the canals were only for water, or if they were ever used as secret passages. A cat adopted me just as I was going back into the main museum but refused to pose for a photo in front of the ruins, preferring to woggle in the dust or dart towards me for a pat.
Observe Cat to the right
The third museum was a Franciscan monastery, but had unfortunately closed for the year about forty-five minutes before. I visited the adjoining church instead, which looked like it belonged in Spanish California (or how I imagine churches in Spanish California might look) and was covered in beautiful paintings inside. Those on the roof depicted divine scenes towards the altar, drawing into scenes of Franciscan monks near the main door and all lit beautifully.
Monastery gardens
Next on my list for the day was lunch, for which I was determined to have socca. The kiosk café in the park did not have socca, so I took the bus back into central Nice and stood in line for my socca at the German market. Socca is a Nicois speciality made from chick pea flour and olive oil and cooked in a wood oven. I sat beside the ice rink to eat, noting that the skaters in Nice were not as accomplished as the skaters in Monaco. The socca was very good, but the lady gave me rather a lot and by the time I finished I was ready for something else.

Pomme d’amour! This is what toffee apples are called in French. I sat eating mine on the beach with book in hand, trying to see if I could finish the book before the new year so I can add it to my books-read-in-2011 list. (I still haven’t finished the book... but still a few hours to go!)

The Russian Church was my next stop. It, too, was closed, but I got some very good photos of the onion domes against the blue Nice sky, then set off back to the hostel.
I’ve just had galettes (savoury crepes) in the old town with a very nice Finnish girl, and we’re planning to go to la Place Massèna for midnight. The old town has many small alleyways and we got a bit lost looking for restaurants that were open at 1830. While walking down one alley, some nearby church bells began to ring, reverberating through the walls, and down another alley we were distracted by the smell of a chocolaterie/patisserie and had to buy some macaroons before we could go on.
Last sunset of 2011, looking along the Promenade des Anglais
Happy New Year everyone!!!

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