POSTCARD FROM THE RIVIERA – III
Before departing from Italy, we made a stop in Genoa to visit its gothic cathedral, see the restored home of Christopher Columbus, stroll through a Saturday street market, and have our last Italian gelato before crossing the French border. Genoa deserved a lot more attention than the two hours our itinerary permitted, but you can’t do everything in a limited period of time. When we travel, we like to keep the number of hotels we stay in down to two or three at the most, and take day trips from those locations. This type of schedule keeps us from having to pack and unpack, ultimately saving a lot of time, allowing more energy for sightseeing.
Soon we were back on the road, driving on the Grand Corniche above the Principality of Monaco where Grace Kelly met her tragic demise. (Her tomb, inside the cathedral of the city, is still festooned with garlands of fresh flowers, a testament to the enduring attraction of the fairy tale princess on the public’s imagination.) We would come back to visit Monaco and Monte Carlo another day, so we drove by the famous “Rock” on which the palace stands, and in short time, the breath-taking vista of Nice with its curving coastline, famous harbor and azure water was spread out before us. Sunset found us cruising down the elegant Promenade des Anglais, past the justifiably famous Hotel Negresco, to the Hotel New York, our Nice headquarters. Waiting for us at the hotel was my favorite poet and his bride, who arrived from Paris via the TGV a few hours ahead of us, and who were, to our great delight, spending the next four days with us.
That night we had two birthdays to celebrate. Dave, Miki’s friend from Florida was turning his odometer, and Linda, a lovely retired lady from Tennessee, who left home to avoid a big family birthday brouhaha. Determined not to let these milestones pass unnoticed, we conspired with the hotel staff and members of our tour to make the day memorable. Liz, one of the sparkplugs of our group, had the brilliant idea of passing out postcards to everyone following our visit to Elba for each person to send birthday wishes to Dave, signed from Paolina. This resulted in such gems as “David, where have you been? I’m waiting for you. I’m horizontal. Paolina” You get the gist. Everyone got into the spirit, and the cards were slipped under Dave’s door after midnight. At dinner, I made a little speech congratulating the celebrants on having survived another turn of our little planet around the sun, the staff brought out two cakes with lit candles, we sang the appropriate songs, then the birthday girl received congratulatory kisses from all the men, youngest in line first, and the birthday boy got the same from all the ladies, oldest in line first. (No, you first, my dear…I’m sure I’m younger.)
The following morning found us back in Monaco, visiting the cathedral, watching the noontime changing of the guards at the palace, having lunch in the gardens over looking the marina filled with yachts, the smallest of which were about 100 feet, prompting Fran to comment, “there is a lot of money in the harbor.” We stopped by to see the Casino in Monte Carlo with no less than four Ferraris parked in front, giving Miki and Stephanie the opportunity to donate a few euros to the local economy. Personally, I studied too much math to gamble, but they enjoyed their brief visit. I would have liked to have taken a tour of the oceanographic museum set up by Prince Albert I, a remarkable scientist and statesman, located on the grounds of the palace, but again, time constraints did not permit this luxury.
As we walked around Monte Carlo, we noticed the numerous concrete flower boxes being readied for the annual Formula-1 Grand Prix of Monaco to be held next month. Ever since the Englishman Williams Groover won the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, each weekend of the Ascension holiday finds the sometimes wide, sometimes narrow streets of the city, punctuated by hairpin turns, come to life with the noise of roaring motors, as cars fly through at speeds of over 150 miles an hour in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the world.
In the afternoon, we drove back to Nice in order to visit the Russian Cathedral of St. Nicolas with its colorful onion dome spires. It dates from the Belle Époque, and was built by none other than Tsar Nicholas II. Afterwards, we had a little time to wander around Nice on foot, stroll along the main shopping boulevard into the imposing square at the end of rue Massena with its statues (lit up from within) that change color every minute, by the spouting fountain with its mythical figures, and on to the Promenade des Anglais, past the Cabaret du Casino Ruhl and its associated glitter, before cool winds and cumulative travel fatigue shepherds us back to our hotel.
Omitted: Aix-en-Provence, Grasse, Cannes, St. Paul de Vence, and the end of our trip.