April in Paris. This time we have our mothers with us, first time in Paris for Oma and umpteenth time for Nana. After a speedy trip through the chunnel, we checked into our hotel, ate a late lunch, and walked over to Notre Dame.
Oma can’t believe she is seeing Paris now in her old age. The city has such a different character from London. Oma and I will probably focus on the main tourist sites over the next couple of days, while Nana and Michael will visit other places.
After spending two days exploring the city of Nice, we rented a car to explore the countryside. This area is very hilly, with small towns perched on the edges of cliffs. Many artists, including Chagall and Matisse, spent large portions of their working lives in this region. We had a reservation in Vence, a small medieval town located a few miles to the west of Nice.
We stayed at an incredibly charming inn, the Auberge des Siegneurs, originally part of the château Villeneuve and set within the old town wall. Our room had a plaque stating that Modigliani had stayed and painted in that room.
We enjoyed walking around the small town of Vence. Though many places were closed during the month of January, we visited the church and admired its Chagall mosaic near the baptismal font.
Of course, Michael tried to translate the ancient Roman plaques by the entrance to the church.
We also visited the nearby town of St. Paul-de-Vence, which is more touristy than Vence. The narrow streets are lined with art galleries and gift shops.
During the high tourist season, it must be nearly impossible to navigate these narrow passages. In the dreary, cold rain, we seemed to have the place to ourselves.
On our final day, we drove through the Gorges du Loup to the precariously perched village of Gourdon. The scenery was pretty spectacular, as the road passed under some rocky outcrops and curved along steep drop-offs. We passed through the beautiful village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, known as the “City of Violets”.
After many twists and turns, we finally reached the town of Gourdon, with stunning vistas toward the Mediterranean. During the night, snow had fallen at the higher elevations and temperatures hovered near freezing during the day.
It seems like the sun shines in London for about ten minutes a day, teasing us for a few short moments. Then the clouds roll in, with perhaps a mist or a short drizzle now and then. Michael and I thought it would be nice to get away for the weekend to somewhere more likely to be sunny and a bit warmer. After much discussion and flight schedule consultation, we decided to go to Nice for an extra long weekend. We ended up with a cold and wet weekend… But we still had a fun, relaxing time.
Some highlights from our first two days:
After walking through some of the large squares of Nice, the Vieille Ville (the old city), as well as the flower market area, we strolled along the pebbly beach toward the Colline du Château in the distance.
We decided to climb the hill, where Nice was first settled by the ancient Greeks in the 4th century BC. On top is a lovely park, including some ruins from a 11th to 12th century Romanesque church, and beautiful views to both sides of the peninsula.
We walked back to our hotel, the Hotel Windsor, to rest up before heading out to find a restaurant for dinner. The Hotel Windsor was an interesting place to stay, in a great location. Many of its rooms have been decorated by artists, so I asked to stay in one of the artist rooms. We were given a room designed by Jean Le Gac that overlooked the garden. Later, Michael was reading his mother’s memoirs of her France trips and discovered that his parents stayed in the same hotel in 1997! Pure coincidence!
The weather deteriorated on our second day, so we tried to focus on more indoor pursuits. We first visited the Hotel Negresco, one of the luxury hotels located along the beach. We visited the main reception room, which was dominated by an eclectic art collection.
We then headed to the Cimiez area of Nice and the Marc Chagall Museum, which showcased 12 major paintings featuring Biblical stories, stained glass windows in a concert hall, a large mosaic in the garden, and a special exhibit of works featuring the circus.
We then continued uphill to visit the Matisse Museum, which was disappointing, and an archeological museum that had some Roman bath ruins behind it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go into the ruins due to the weather.
Nearby was a Franciscan monastery with lovely gardens that also provided beautiful views over Nice. It was a little hard to appreciate fully in the pouring rain.