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Friday, October 1, 2010

Topless Chicks (Welcome to the Rivera)

Nice is a beautiful little city, no doubt about it. You can see the wealth everywhere; people are dripping in Ferraris and Fendis…it’s like the last Sex and the City movie, a bit garish. In fact it’s a little too much wealth for my comfort actually.

On the black stoney beaches are four poster beds with mosquito nets hanging romantically from the tops. There is a lot of glitz and gold but it’s hard to feel any real heart of the city, unless you go to the Old City.

The Old City in Nice is where Italy and France meet and make everyone who loves one or the other happy. There are beautiful red, orange and cream building, tempting little alleyways, sidewalk cafes and little gilatorias everywhere. One the street is a man playing a violin and his partner is playing an acoustic guitar and singing. The restaurants are a lovely mix of Italian and French cuisine.

Mom and I eat a wonderful meal (Dad was sick in the hotel room) and for dessert, we went to the gelato stand. I had my favorite; cinnamon icecream. I first had it in Cinque Terra, in the Italian Rivera, three years ago and have searched for it ever since. It’s not a popular ice cream but its wonderful, creamy and spicy.

We sun ourselves on the black rocks and dip our feet in the water. It’s not cold but not particularly warm either. There are bevies of topless women everywhere and I feel dumpy compared to the tall, blonde and brunette tanned women laying out happily, revealing what god gave them. I feel like I’m the only red head for miles…

I fell like my style has always been pretty girly and not terribly sophisticated at times. I need to change that up a bit; I’m a divorcee (well for all intent and purposes, one more year to go!); I should dress in black more. Be more sophisticated…maybe take up smoking and cocktails (oops! Was that a martini in my hand? Already there!) and take a young Spanish lover named Jesus or something (maybe I’m thinking of another older divorcee…).

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sex appeal but I’ve just either played up my cuteness (let’s face it, I’m not pretty or beautiful, I’m adorable, it’s a curse…) or played to other ehem assets. I’ve always been a bit of a “what you see is what you get” and on the low maintenance side (I haven’t blow dried my hair all trip.) But now I feel it might be time to wear eye makeup. Take up tango dancing. Saying less, listening more. Build a bit of mystery around me. The nice thing about traveling and about moving around a lot is that you can start from scratch again. You don’t have to always be who you have always been. You can be different. And maybe on second thought, blogging isn’t so good for the mystery…

Anyway, Nice is a good place to relax and just people watch. When you walk down the streets, you hear lots of different accents…a lot of American and pasty British people (my apologies to all my British friends, but you should all know by now that you are a pasty race).
My parents and I stayed in a student-esque hotel, with large holes in carpets and a dubious elevator that I secretly thanked all the deities I know each time the door creaked open (I took the stairs mostly). Thanks Pele! I know you only do volcanoes, but I appreciate you going out of your comfort zone for to get that elevator door to open.

Now, I’m usually a pretty unpicky person when it comes to staying places; I’ve slept in some very interesting locales and I try not to judge too much. But we paid a 100 euros for a pretty sad place. And it was with my parents…the fact that I picked the hotel, mainly on price and location, did not get me in the good books with my two favorite people.

But they took it in stride; Dad can’t get angry about that stuff, it’s not in his genetic capacity because it was cheap and Mom just laughed.

We got to the train station the next day to take, what we had read up on, was to be a three hour train ride. It took about 5 and half hours. At the point in my travels though, I can’t get impatient about anything anymore. I just can’t be bothered about those things. Plus the train ride was fantastic!

The Italian Med has much more to offer than the French one, hands down. Beautiful red, orange, pink and cream villas perilously perched on gravity defying rock formations. Little villages in valleys that end in golden, sandy beaches. The ocean is so clear; you can see the large stones metres down in the water.

And the language is beautiful…People always marvel at French but I have to say, I prefer Italian. It’s a language that speaks to me more; you have to use all of your mouth (lips, tongue, teeth…that weird flap of skin under your tongue) to speak it. It’s amazing the sounds that come out of the Italians mouths.

You can tell instantly the difference between Italy and France. France is all about QUALITY and sublime, perfected experiences over millennia. The cheese, the wine, the train stations, the buildings…there is an air of perfection and logic about the French systems. Everything works, everything makes logical sense. People know what is going on and they tell you, quite happily, if you don’t know.

In Italy, it’s not like that. Everything is a bit mad; there is chaos all over the show…but a chaos that everyone here understands and you don’t. The train stations are filthy and trains are rarely on time. It can be frustrating at times, but if you just go with it, it’s fine. There are no announcements on the trains about what the next stop is…you just have to wait in suspense, hoping that you can move you and your parents and all the bags out of the train car before the door shuts and you end of Rome or Milan.

But in the chaos is total calm, a complete surrender to the things around you. The Italians don’t really seem to be too interested in controlling much (except the Mob, they like to control everything). Things just seem to work, without too much fuss and new construction or toilet paper. Life just happens for them, easily. No wonder they annoy the French; the Italians make living a pleasurable life look so….easy.

I appreciate a good deal of chaos; it’s my nature. I thrive well in the unknown and unorganized. I like living unplanned mostly because I don’t trust plans at all anymore. I find that when I make plans, God or Pele or Shive or whoever laughs at me and completely changes them. So I have become an evolved appreciator of chaos. But I also appreciate hard work as well; I think in order to get something out of life, you should have to work hard at it. Nothing in life that was worth anything ever seems to be easy (at least for me) and honestly, I do enjoy a bit of blood and sweat now and then.

In Savona, I feel the same warmth in my dusty old heart that I did in Edinburgh; that sense of childlike wonder and pleasure of just walking down the street and taking all the sights in. I feel like I can breathe in this little, tiny seaside town nestled in a small valley, looking out at the ocean. It’s a place of peace and pleasure; the food, the sun, the sand and streets.

The food is wonderful; a passionate slathering of sauces, pastas…no dish, even ordered on the same day, the same thing, is ever the same. It’s all thrown together and somehow, it just works. Or not, I guess.

I remember in March I got the daft idea of taking a Med. cooking class with my friend Tynan*. Poor Tynan; we were so inappropriately matched cooking buddies. I hardly remembered any of the ingredients and just sort of throw stuff in, while Tynan, having been brought up a tidy and good kiwi boy, had everything ordered nicely (even if he did forget an ingredient or two. Hey nobody is perfect).

One time, he asked me for two table spoons of basil. I grabbed a hunk of fresh, crunchy, basil and threw it in his dish.

“Um…are you sure that was two table spoons?” He looked at me, a bit appalled.

“Sure, why not?”

Later I felt bad; Tynan probably wasn’t used to my Laissez-faire way to cook or my attitude, which has always been, with cooking, about having good ingredients, throw them together and see what happens. He had come here to learn and I was still just improvising my own thing, rarely reading the recipe, making huge errors all the time. I can be a pretty frustrating bitch.

It’s probably because I mistrust plans. I don’t have amazingly intricate plans about my life anymore, like trying to take over the world through the domination of the coffee market in Papau New Guinea (but now that you mention it, it might not be a bad idea…) or anything.

I think my philosophy now is to work hard, jump and hope I land on something soft. Preferably not just my ass, although its getting pretty soft because of all the pasta I’ve been eating! Maybe I should just subcontract my life to the Mafia; they might be able to plan better for me and only take a 15 percent cut…

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent friend.