||Jan. 19-25, 1999 The French Riviera
Hey, what the . . . I open my eyes as the warmth suddenly stops bathing my
face - the heat from the afternoon sun abruptly interrupted by its temporary pass behind a
palm tree. Laura and I are relaxing at one of the sidewalk cafes by the Promenade des
Anglais, Nice's famous beach-side pedestrian boulevard. We have spent the morning doing
very little of anything, just the thing to do while in this picturesque little town on the
French Riviera. Our surroundings are so relaxing, that there's simply no reason to be
anywhere else. Not that we could leave, even if we wanted to. It seems the French rail
workers are in the middle of one of their all too notorious labor strikes. Oh well, I
guess we'll just have to 'suck it up' and 'tough it out' for the next few days, stuck here
on the crystal blue Mediterranean coast. Yep, we'll just have to stay, and just maybe take
this same seat each day. Take this same sidewalk seat to watch the continuous parade of
passerby's as they walk, roll, strut, and stroll under the palms and along the sand.
this seat that offers a matchless vantage point to look for, and spot, members of each of
the various 'people groups' of Nice. First, there are all the pretty people (the most
common species). Next, the group of people who think they're pretty (plenty of these too).
And a close third - the people who want to be pretty. And finally my favorite, those who
don't care to be pretty. The same goes for all the WOF's (well-off folks) - people who
have lots of the green stuff (actually Francs come in a variety of bright colors); those
who think they're well-off; the ever-present and almost all-inclusive want-to-haves; and
lastly, again my favorite, those few that don't really care too much about money.
Also for our amusement as they clomp just by our vantage
point, are the hooty-tooty women prancing around in their full length furs, only mere feet
from the 'who-cares' women, soaking up the sun in nothing but their underwear. We look on
as the youthful in-line skaters nimbly weave in and out of the contrasting sight of the
stiff elderly plodding along with their four-point walkers. A team of cyclists woov . . .
woov. . . woov, woov, woov's through the red light, while a Porsche and Rolls have to slow
to a stop just in front of us. The action continues with strollers yanking their dogs to
their sides on their leashes, and fishermen plucking squid out of the surf on their
hand-drawn lines. And then there's the two of us, the strangest of all the 'types',
content to soak in the scenery, as we soak in the sun, kicked-back, relaxed, and taking a
welcomed break from the 'gotta do this, gotta see that' pace of the last few months.
"Now, where's my sun?"
Eze sur Mer, France
It was on one of our day trips from Nice that the scenery finally got the best of
us. "Um, how 'bout this one?" "Sure, I guess" Laura blurts as I pull
open the doors of the train and step out at this, my completely randomly chosen stop. We
walk no more than a few hundred feet down to the shore of this almost hidden, very
tranquil, mountain-ringed cove. We settle in on a little perch above the pebble covered
beach, and watch the sun slip down over the western-most crest of the inlet.
It's mid-morning on Sunday as I sit on our balcony, a dice's throw from the waters
of the bay of Port de Monaco, to reflect on the events of the night before. The sun, still
low over the southeast end of the harbor, glitters into the still water from the tall
white masts of the Monaco Yacht Club's sailboats, as they gently bob back and forth. On
this side of the harbor, I watch two pairs of girls carefully slip their long, slender,
sliver-like boats into the water for a little early morning sculling practice. The
peacefulness of the scene is temporarily broken by the song of a highly-tuned Italian
engine, dropping an octave as it gears down to negotiate the hairpin turn just below me. I
admire its agility and wonder if maybe its driver is daydreaming. Daydreaming that he's
leading the pack into turn seven of the Monaco Grand Prix. I know those would be my
thoughts - if only it were me behind the wheel of that silver Ferrari, tight turning wheel
in one hand, hair-trigger shift knob in the other, zipping through the same streets, by
the same shops, through the same tunnels, that compose this, one of the world's most
famous race courses. Yes, folks in Monte Carlo seem to absolutely love, and have no
pretense about demonstrating, their passion for both racing and fast cars.
In fact, it was just last night that we walked through
what looked more like a exotic auto show, than a simple valet parking lot. But sure
enough, that's all it was, just the parking lot of the area's most popular attraction -
the Casino de Monte Carlo. Red, blue, black, silver, white, yellow, even purple. Porches,
Lotus', Maserattis, Ferraris, Mercedes, Austin Martins, Lamborghinis, even a few Rolls and
Bentleys thrown in for good measure. Each immaculately clean, lined up and shining under
the bright streetlights. It leaves no doubt that this is where the world's rich and
famous came to play (and an occasional lowly tourist comes to watch). Not being much of
the gambling types, most of our time at the casino was spent doing just that - watching.
Craps, blackjack, roulette, and of course, the slot machines (we did pop a few Francs into
these bandits and yank their one arm, only to watch over and over again as the spinning
bars and bells absolutely refused to line up). There were chips flying
everywhere. We watched the gambler's faces as they were in . . then out, up . . then down,
happy . . then sad. Each concentrating on every flip of a card, hop of the ball, or roll
of the die to determine their fate (and their mood), until their next chance to bet. I
spot one particularly unhappy looking fellow all but slumped over one of the craps tables.
It's hard to say for sure, but by the looks of it, he may have just rolled snake eyes and
lost his purple Lamborghini.