Monday, April 20, 2015


Monday. I took a sleeping pill last night, had a very full sleep and feel human today. A day of train travel with a heaving stomach would not have been fun.

Instead this is a new kind of pleasure – a slow-moving Italian train heading northwest, and I’m sitting on the left side, of course, the Mediterranean side, as we follow the sea from Riomaggiore all along the coast of Italy to Ventimiglia, at the border with France. Seaside towns, palm trees, resort hotels, tall pink, cream or yellow buildings with dark green shutters. Wisteria, hanging in huge purples bunches; cacti, oleander, lemon, orange, redbud trees, and always churches, and, sparkling just beyond, sometimes only a few metres away, the sea. 

I have the car nearly to myself. A few towns back, a group of Americans got on, and the woman scrabbled in her bag and discovered her phone and money had been stolen as she got on the train. “A bunch of kids were pushing me,” she said, “there were two young girls must have managed to open my bag and help themselves.” She went to look for them but not surprisingly, they'd disappeared. “Oh well,” she said. “They didn’t get my cards.”

A cautionary tale. Everywhere I go in transit, since the terrifying experience of leaving my handbag on the train in Montpellier, I’m always counting, “One two three.” My suitcase, my backpack, my purse. Keep them close. Plus there is a 20 euro bill in my pants pocket. That time in Montpellier I was left without even 50 cents to go to the bathroom. The one and only time in my life I’ve thanked the lord for Mcdonalds.

Of course it is a perfect sunny day. Poor BK and I had poor weather in Cinque Terre, cold, grey and wet, but we made the best of it – it wasn’t raining much, and we piled on layers and went out anyway. I will miss Brucie, but the two of us are such independent and solitary souls that though we fit so well together, we’re also happy on our own. What’s really marvellous is that we are neurotic in the same way – both of us thinking ahead nervously, anticipating difficulties, getting to stations very early, avoiding any possible stress – and yet stress hits. 

Now he’s headed back to Firenze, tomorrow off to Venice for the day, then later to see a Piero della Francesca exhibit somewhere, and other day trips – an amazing man, making a life for himself every year in Italy, working hard – he has a teacher in New York with whom he Skypes weekly – to teach himself Italian. Such a fine appreciation for great art, which he teaches me. Luckily, there’s stuff I know that he doesn’t, so we balance, like when we’re listening to music in a restaurant and he says, Who’s that? And I say, That’s Chris Martin of Coldplay.

He is a warm, kind, funny man and I will miss him. But another treat’s in store – one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lynn, whom I’ve known since 1967, and her husband Denis. Three days with them. And I can do laundry. At last. 

Later: I'm in a wonderful little hotel in Nice, once patronized by Chekhov which is why I chose it, and Lenin. In the little lounge where they put books left by guests, there are lots of books in Russian. A painless day of travel, except in Ventimiglia where I got a ticket to go on to Nice, dragged my bag in the subterranean passage to the train with ten minutes to spare, settled in and then realized I had not stamped the ticket as you are required to do. Had to drag my bag back down the passage and up to the station, stamp, and haul it back. Just made it in time. I hate that stamping business. Stress! 

Arrived in Nice, asked a nice man at the station where my street was - rue Gounod - he accessed Google maps on his iPhone and pointed it out. A five minute walk and here I am, a lovely little room with a kettle. Made a cup of blessed tea and went down to ask some questions. SADNESS: I am walking distance from the Chagall Museum, which I wanted to see tomorrow, but it turns out that every museum in Nice is closed on Tuesday. Every single museum. Oh well, I said to the clerk. I guess it's the beach for me. 
There's a market, she said, and made my day.

I walked along the Promenade des Anglais, such a splendid avenue, had a bite to eat outside near the hotel - my stomach completely restored - and here I am.
One of the cream puff hotels on this huge avenue
I happened on an event on the Promenade- a red carpet with cameramen and these two as hostesses ...
cadaverous, criminally thin young women wearing almost nothing -
 thin young men allowed to wear clothes and flat shoes.
Stick legs in very high shoes.
 It was the pilot for a new TV show, apparently: semi-naked women starving to death and tottering in sky-high shoes with callow skinny young men. Sounds fab. Can't wait to see it.
The casino, or one of them.
The view from my restaurant table. I had a salade nicoise, of course - and two glasses of wine. Of course.

I am barely aware of news as I float about, but I did hear the terrible story of another immigrant tragedy off the coast of Italy. In every city here there are crowds of Africans who seem to have no means of support except selling bits of stuff - and yet they're desperate to get to the west. What can be done?

1 comment:

  1. I have just had a conversation on this very topic, Beth, with an (African) colleague at the office. When I was in Italy, this human tragedy was shown all day long on TV. It is Italy who is bearing the brunt of receiving and rescuing these poor people from their shores. Luckily, though, Italy receives funds from the EU to construct welcome centers and deliver First Aid and food. But the problem, my African colleague says, is that Libya and all the other countries from where these migrants come is no longer a governable state. It's a general state of anarchy and despair. Thanks to who? The West. This is what it has come to. All of the military intervention, meddling and interference of the West's "foreign policy" over the past decade and more has resulted in this.