Not Nice shoes

I’ve learned a lot of things travelling by myself.  One thing is that traveling can be spelled with one “L” or two.  My spell check doesn’t correct either one!  But the most important thing I’ve learned is to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER go to explore a new city using public transportation wearing new heels.  Oh my god, my feet are so sore, with lots of blisters. 

I decided to go to Nice and check out the Matisse museum.  I like Tarkay alot Antibes 9.20 Nice 008and he was strongly influenced by Matisse and I wanted to see the master’s work.   I took the train to Nice, easy enough… the shoes didn’t hurt walking the 15 minute walk from my house to the train station and then I walked from Nice’s train station to catch the tram.  By the way, Nice’s train station is magnificent.  This picture is taken from the platform area.  Clomp, clomp, clomp in my new heel clogs fresh from a U.S. Ross “Dress for Less”.  They looked great in Salisbury, MD, but somehow look dull and out of style over here.  Maybe because I have not seen one person wearing black leather clogs with a heel since I’ve been here and suddenly I feel like I am wearing truly out-of-fashion footwear.  In fact, when I realized what a dud I looked like was when the shoes started to hurt.  Maybe a connection there. 

I got off the tram to find the bus at Massena Place, a huge wonderful Antibes 9.20 Nice 013surprise.  Nice has more parkland and beautiful public areas than any other city know!  But I’m not what you would call a seasoned traveler, so I’m speaking in terms of in the south of France or cities I’ve been to in the US.  Beautiful parks with palms, blooming flowers, fountains, trellis walk-Antibes 9.16 009ways, carousels.  The buildings in Nice are huge with an Italian flair and touched with pastel colors.   Nice had been under Italian Savoy till 1860 and the Italian influence is all around.  But those beaches… the beaches are actually little round rocks instead of sand.  Take a look at the close-up of the rocks.  And surprise!  The men really do wear those European-style speedos!  Why do Americans pleasantly smirk at that?  It takes a lot of balls to wear those suits.  Hmmm.Beach

 Antibes 9.16 005 A

I walked around 10 blocks or more just taking in the beauty of the city and the sidewalk cafes and of course stopping to have a crepe with sucre et du beurre and that’s when the shoes started to pinch a little.  By the way, this melted butter is something some cafes just don’t get.  I was presented a crepe with just sugar… a little dry, wouldn’t you think?  The garcon took forever to notice my finger popping up like a flying finger puppet, trying to get his attention.  I told him I would “Je voudrais du beurre pour moi crepe”– I would like some butter for my crepe…. hello!  And I thought that since he might not understand and bring the cold butter patties over I’d better be more specific.  Du beurre chaud.  Hot butter, I don’t know the word for melted.  (Last night I almost ordered a hot salad… salade chevre.  Yum, something sautéed in olive oil and garlic maybe?  Oops… chevre is goat cheese which I hate, chard is hot.  How could I mess that up?  There are just way too many things to learn).   Anyway, guess what the nice crepe garcon brought me?  A bowl of hot water with one of those dainty silver spoons and two pats of cold butter.  Non, non, non!  This will never do!  But then he said Non, non, non as in that was the best they could do.  Somebody was reducing their tip, and fast.  I put the foil- wrapped butter pattie in the hot water and held it down with the silver spoon, and it actually did get soft.  At least soft enough to take the dryness out of the crepe.  By now my shoes were beginning to feel really tight. 

I walked another 10 blocks or so to find the bus that would take me up hill to the Matisse museum.  The shoes were getting into the “hurt” category.  I finally found the correct bus stop and got on bus 17.  I asked the driver (in French) if this bus stopped at the musee Matisse.  He hesitated a second.  I don’t say arret (stop) very well because those r’s are made with a sound we don’t have in English… that back of the throat getting ready to hock a loogie sound.  “Oui”.  Bonne, (good) because sitting now felt wonderful… anything to take a load off those shoes!  But… a few minutes later the older lady near me who looked like she would never want to be sweet said something to an elderly grim-faced gentleman.  He brightened up and said something to her and they chatted and chatted, and I could hear them saying Matisse.  Then another very rough-looking guy joined in the conversation, and when he spoke his eyes widened past the half-open position they’d been in and he became nice and lively.  They all chattered away about… I was getting the idea… they were discussing why the bus driver told me Oui, the bus did stop at the Matisse musee, when clearly these regular riders knew otherwise.  Two other people joined the conversation.  Now I knew I was in deep shit trouble and would be dropped off nowhere near my destination.  They got the driver involved and as he drove through Nice’s tiny winding streets up the hill his hands did all sorts of turning, circular gestures.  Which apparently meant I’d be walking in circles when I got there.

Someone had an idea!  There was a young guy riding, and since most young people here understand English, they asked him if he spoke it.  Yes, he did!  So, I said, “Oh, good.  Can you tell me if this bus stops at the Matisse museum?”  He listened to my friendly crowd’s explanation to him in French, everyone offering additional facts and when he gathered all the information, he turned to me and said…  I don’t know what he said because it definitely wasn’t English.  It sounded like French to me.  And then the crowd agreed, looking satisfied and end of discussion.  What???  Where the fuck was I going to get dropped off?  The only thing I understood was that the driver was planning on announcing “musee Matisse” into his speaker when it was my time to get off the bus, something I’m sure the regulars on this line had never heard him say before.  Great.

Further and further uphill we went.  And then, out of nowhere a lady from the back of the bus came up to me- these busses by the way have seats in the front facing front and some facing each other and a large area in the middle for standing and then seats in the back on different levels.  So this lady had had an upper deck view of all the commotion.  She said, “Do you want to go to the Matisse museum?”  Perfect English!  Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did!  She proceeded to tell me (and now her English was becoming broken) that she would show me, to follow her because the bus driver would be dropping me off… and this is the part that I couldn’t understand what she was saying at all.  I shook my head yes… D’accord, d’accorrd, (ok, ok).  I just understood to follow her and she was going to show me.  How nice- for her to walk out of her way to show me the direction I needed to go.  I was aligning myself with her instead of the other helpful people on the bus who had figured out what I was supposed to do.  So when she got up to get off several stops later, I said, “I follow you, right?”  “Non, non, non!” she smiled.   And she did all the turning hand motions the driver had done.  What the?  And the doors opened and she was gone.  By now, nine people had discussed in deep detail how I was supposed to get to the museum, with the rest of the bus attentively involved and I was still at a loss.  And I could feel my shoes really hurting.  Fuck.  I hate public transportation… you’re at an agency’s mercy.  And it is so limiting and frustrating to not speak the language. 

Ok, around a few more hairpin curves and we’re at the top of a hill (mini-mountain) and everyone is watching me and the driver says “Musee Matisse” into the loud speaker.  And I see a pleasant look on everyone’s face like they know something that I don’t as the doors open and I’m the only person to get off.  The doors close and the bus drives away.  Where am I?  Antibes 9.20 Nice 024There are no signs that say anything about Matisse.  And I do what they had motioned for me to do… walk around in circles.  I’m at a park, a huge park or maybe it’s an olive grove.  I took this picture to the left facing one direction.  Behind me  there was a carousel, some type of a little kid’s party with balloons at a picnic table and interestingly champagne (kid must’ve done something right) and then I see Roman ruins and a bust statue of Louis Armstrong.  Very interesting.   I like him too, but never figured out the Antibes 9.20 Nice 022relevance.  I wanted to get closer to the ruins but the area was separated from the park with a netting material.  Later I realized I just hadn’t located the entrance, but my feet hurt too much to walk any extra distance to discover what was going on.  Too bad, I would’ve really liked to have seen the ruins better- they were part of the ancient city of Cemenelum.

And guess what… there near the back of the park was a large dark pink building… the Matisse museum!  My shoes hurt soooo badly.  I had trouble walking around the museum, my feet hurt so much.  The museum had many of his interesting early works, but none of the brightly-colored paintings with the colorful wallpaper in the background.  Not one.  He didn’t begin painting that style till later in his life and this collection was mainly work before that.  But they did have some of his personal furniture throughout that was fun to see. 

Leaving the museum… lots of trouble finding the right bus to take me back to town.  As in lots of walking.   I decided to get off at a stop I thought would be closer to the train station instead of going all the way downtown and having to walk to the tram and then tram it back to the train station.  I got off on what turned out to be a horribly inconvenient stop, some sort of a beautiful road with limited access that ran on a higher level compared to the roads I needed to get to so I had to walk an extra ¾ of a mile down hill and then back to the direction where I needed to go.  I could feel the blisters, but there was nothing I could do but make my way by foot to the train station.

And of course, after I arrived back at the Antibes train station I had to walk almost a mile back to my place.  Never, never again will I make that mistake.  When I got home I gently took off my high-heeled clogs, washed my feet and looked at my blisters.  What was I thinking?  I sat down and had a couple slices of a baguette with soft cheese.  Yum.  I needed a rest.  Then I slipped on my sandal flats,  walked out into cozy Old Antibes and chose one of the many old thick-walled, adorable restaurants to nestle myself into for a nice, relaxing dinner.   It’s always good to be back in Antibes.Antibes 9.10 (36)

I downloaded a 2 min. video of the winding little crooks and crannies to my apartment.  You can see it here:  Somehow the sound is behind the video but my commentation isn’t all that neccesary anyway.  :-)

  • m says:

    I looked up the translation for the phrase melted butter and found “beurre fondu.” Fondre is “melt” but “se fondre” is blend-one of those subtle distinctions which could easily get you served something you don’t want….

    Louis Armstrong? Interesting!

    • Thanks Margaret! And I couldn’t even hear the distinction between the two words, let alone say it! Oh! went back an re-read it… just the “se” is added. No wonder I thought the words were similar… duh!