Living in fifteenth century Eze village must have been hard. It’s a medieval village outside of Nice, about a twenty minute drive toward Monaco. the ruins stand overlooking the sea, next to the Fragonard perfumery. It’s all hewn rock, and the top is like a aerie overlooking the sea.
We walked up to the top of the village, and were treated to this.
WHAT a gorgeous place to live. Standing on these rough hewn rocks, the wind in our hair, you wonder about things. It’s all so much smaller than what we have now. The doors in the ancient village are barely five feet, the rooms, which are now shops, of course, tiny little spaces hacked out of rock. Or, enclosed spaces with uneven bricks mortared together against the elements.
But where would you get your water? And imagine hustling up and down all those steps to the baker, the winemaker, or the tanner. Narrow stone corridors everywhere. Now, it’s a stop for Spanish cruise ships. An interesting evolution.
We climbed and climbed, and got the fun of this. A good place to keep an eye on the bad guys, all the way up here.
Fragonard is at the foot of Eze, and was fascinating. It’s a lot smaller of a perfumerie than I would have thought, and they employ one single perfumer who works all of two hours a day. The job specs for this position are kind of incredible. This man spent three years training his nose, and can distinguish between several thousand fragrances. After a seven year apprenticeship, he can be a perfumer. He can never, ever smoke, drink alcohol or eat spicy food. Forever. AND his nose is insured for a million dollars. Can you imagine?
Part of this sabbatical is also for these children. My goal here is to help them built an experience base, and a comfort with the world.
It’s hilarious to watch mountain children interact with the ocean. Quote of the day: “Mom, I know this makes me sound stupid, but the ocean is so BIG!”
Nice was a very mixed bag. People ask me if the French are as obnoxious as their reputation, and after barely a week, I like to reserve judgement. However, last night all three of our tour bikes were stolen. They were bolted securely to the railing outside the hotel. We went to dinner , and then made to bring them into the building. All three of the bolts were cut, and sitting on the ground where the bikes were, mockingly. The owner of the bike shop? “I told you to bring them in after dark!” And how would we have gotten home? Hmm, methinks obnoxious stereotypes might have some basis in reality. Thank heaven for insurance.
Thieves in Nice notwithstanding, it was a pleasant stay. The ocean always seems to evoke thought, at least in this mountain dweller.
It also still cracks me up to see the neurons blazing new pathways like this:
just sitting and gazing.
After a day like today, a movie was in order. Rachael had just finished Anna Karenina, the Tolstoy doorstop. Really, those of you who like Tolstoy, realize that what King Solomon said was true. There is nothing new under the sun. Anna is a tale of brainless, obsessive love that ultimately ends in self destruction. Stephanie Meyer was wise not to kill off Bella in the Twilight series, she would not have sold as many copies. But Twilight is a Tolstoy ripoff, and Tolstoy no doubt was friends with Romeo and Juliet.
Obsessive and unrequited love doesn’t do it for me any more. This part of the trip has been strangely challenging. It’s funny, after two years, I would have thought that the grief of losing a husband would be a chapter now, but it is not so. As I walked through the flower market, and took the kids down a Christmas street, a little achy part of my heart reminded me that yes, it would have been better if Chris were here.
I wrote about it to a friend of mine. Catherine is familiar with loss, this is what she said.
” …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed? Be patient with yourself. You’ll find your feet again, and Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him here on earth.”
It’s a lovely thought, and true. Were I the one gone, I would want my loved ones to think of me. Not be stuck, or paralysed, just to think of me, and wish I were there. Perhaps he is, somehow.
Lest we end on a completely morose note, here is another chapter of Angels Among Us, fellow Visitors. It is Christmas, after all, the season to give. I hope you enjoy it.
It was a late night, and I was tired. It had been a long day at work, and dance was just killing my feet. My private coaching time had gone well, but I had never done Quickstep. I was looking forward to it, but it was difficult at eight oclock at night after a long day. Thirty minutes into the lesson I just gave up.
I motioned to my coach. “I’m sorry,Scott, I’ve got to give it up. Long day.”
Scott, ever the understanding coach, sent me home with a warm hug.
“It’s OK! We’ll see you Tuesday! “He went back to teaching the class.
I changed out of my dance shoes and was about to leave when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Victoria! Victoria! Are you leaving? “ One of my favorite dance partners wanted my attention.
“Yes, Randy, I’ve had enough. How long are you staying?”
“Oh, probably for everything. Listen, I was wondering, do you want to go with me to the Mercury Café next week? Thursday is tango night!”
I thought about it for a fraction of a second. Rick was built like a whippet, and enough older than me that he didn’t mind being called a hippy.
But he was an excellent dancer, and made me laugh.
“Randy, that sounds like a lovely invitation! Let me give you my card with my number on the back, and you send me the details.”
“Great! Sounds great! “ Randy went back to quickstep.
Two days later I got an email from Randy. We met later that week and had peanut skewers at Tokyo Joes. Randy was funny, and kept me on my toes, verbally.
We went to the Merc and took over a table.
‘Say, Randy. What do you say. I’m a Christian, right? And we believe in tithing. So I’ve got some extra money in my tithe budget. It’s getting near Christmas, and one thing my husband and I used to love to do was to be ‘Layaway Angels.”
“Layaway Angels?” Randy’s Jersey accent always made me smile. I’ve never heard of such a thing!”
“Check it out. This is how it works. I brought three hundred dollars in small bills. Let’s dance for a while, and then before we go home, let’s find the nastiest, dirtiest K-mart in the area. I don’t know this area much, so can you find one? “
“I think so. Then what? “
“Well, you have to find a clerk that will let you do this, because some people get squirrelly about privacy. But, the idea is, you find a clerk in the layaway department who will tell you who has stuff on layaway for small children. It’s getting close to Christmas, so you know if someone has 75$ worth of toys and kid clothes on layaway, and pays like ten dollars a week on it, it’s probably for Christmas. So we go in, and pay the balance, and ‘poof!’ someone thinks they’ve been visited by an angel! Heh, it’s really fun.”
Randy looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
“You do that? Give perfectly good money to someone you’ll never even see?”
“Well sure, Randy! Don’t you ever give anything away? You told me yourself about going to volunteer at the Denver Rescue Mission and the Denver Hospice. How is that any different?”
“Well, it’s money, for one thing. But that’s kind of cute! No, I’m not a Christian, but that sounds like fun. Your money though, right? I didn’t bring any more than I needed tonight, and besides, I’m not sure that’s my cup of tea.”
“Hehheh, It’s OK, Rick. I used to do it with my husband before he died, and since then I’ve just lost the heart for it. But Christians are supposed to help each other, and it really gives me a lot of joy. So, are we on?”
Randy and I spent the next two hours dancing to the music at the Mercury Café. It had been ages since I had been there, and I didn’t recognize a soul. Rick introduced me around, the consummate gentleman, ponytail and all.
When the crowd started to thin, Rick and I gave each other a knowing nod. Soon, we were on the road into some of the less affluent parts of Denver.
We found a K mart in the Five Points area. It was past midnight.
“Gah, this is it, Randy. Call me a Nervous Nellie, but I’m glad you’re with me! “
We walked through the flickering light of the sodium lamps and entered the store.
“Ok, “ Randy’s gravelly Jersey voice rasped. “Maybe customer service?”
“Heheh, I think so. “
We went to the back of the store and explained what we wanted to do to one of the clerks behind the counter. She was a tired looking teenager, and blew her bubblegum in our general direction.
“Huh. A coupla do gooders, huh? I guess so.” She went to a different computer.
“Let’s see. Here’s one with a ‘Tickle me Elmo’, a size thirty six month overalls, a pack of socks the same size, and a little dress. Total, 87. 58 , total paid so far, 25 dollars, balance 62.58$. “
I turned to Rick. “Perfect! Let’s do it. “ I counted out the bills.
“Next? “ The clerk seemed surprised. What a pity.
“Ok,” she seemed to be warming to the task. “Here’s one. Matchbox car set, with six matchbox cars and four sets of tracks. Size four overalls, size four tennis shoes, baseball cap. Total, 72.33, total paid, thirty dollars over four weeks. Balance remaining, forty two dollars and thirty three cents. “
Randy chimed in. “Matchbox! I loved matchbox! I used to play with that very same set with my son when he was a kid. This is fun!”
I was delighted that Randy shared the same sense of joy in giving that I had. We continued for a few more minutes until the balance of the money was spent.
Chattering like bluejays, we left the store and Randy walked me to my care.
“Thanks! That was more than what I bargained for, but a lot of fun! “
We exchanged a warm hug, and promised to see each other next Thursday at Scott’s next practice party. I grinned all the way home, happy to recruit another member into the party of angels.