Thursday, October 2

Steve: The itinerary for today consisted of relaxing explorations of Nice and Cannes. I've been curious to see the French Riviera, and today we got a good feel for what the area is all about. Of course, we're seeing it in the off-season, and we tried to imagine what it would be like filled with people. As it was, these places are still very busy, even here in October (more on that later…).

We started by walking through the old section of Nice. The highlight for us here was clearly the flower and produce market. It's on a site called Cours Saleya, close to the Promenade des Anglais (the long road and boardwalk along the coast). This is one of the best markets we've been to so far. There is a huge variety of flowers and plants - David was determined to find a way for us to bring home one of the olive trees that were for sale. We had to disappoint him, explaining that it probably wouldn't live through our remaining five weeks of travel… We also saw a bonsai tree that sold for 480 Euros! The produce was all extremely fresh, and we especially liked the large varieties and displays of olives and spices. It was hard to see everything and not be able to indulge. We promised ourselves that we'll look for outdoor markets like this when we're in Arles and will have our own kitchen for cooking.

After walking through the town some more, we headed to the beach. Today was very warm and sunny, and there were several people in the water. However, a beach full of rocks just doesn't cut it for us. The French seem to be able to walk and lay on the rocks as if they were sand - we weren't even able to take a single step. Our travel book described the rocks as "small pebbles" - we'd call them rocks. Now that we've seen it during daylight, the scenery along the waterfront is not that attractive to us. While there are some interesting hotels and buildings, Nice really looks like a typical beach-front resort city - nothing all that special.

We decided to take advantage of the weather, and head to Cannes so that we could explore the town and also swim on a sandy beach. Cannes is well-known for its film festivals, the rich and famous people that frequent its beaches and its harbor filled with huge yachts. We drove to Cannes along the coast, giving us the opportunity to see several of the smaller towns along the way, including Cagnes-sur-Mer and Antibes (from what we saw, these both looked like smaller versions of Nice).

After we arrived in Cannes, we walked to the main beach. Most of the beach is split into private sections owned by hotels. Several of these will allow non-guests on their beaches, but for fees that start at 12 Euros/person! For this, you get the privilege of a lounge chair and the ability to order what we assume are outrageously priced drinks and food. Fortunately, there are a couple of free public beaches, and we found one of these at the end of a row of private hotel beaches. Interestingly, the sand at Cannes has all been imported and placed over the natural rocks - it is amazing to think about how much sand must have been required to do this. We spent time swimming and relaxing, and then walked down the beach so that we could see some of the private areas - again, nothing all that special. We're sure that it's much more fun to be here in the heart of the season when it's possible to watch the rich and famous indulge.

We walked into the town center for lunch, and then headed to Cannes' main marina. The main attractions here are the huge yachts. It was hard not to admire the beauty of some of these boats. On every boat, we saw crew members doing some kind of work - primarily cleaning or repair. We stopped and spoke to someone who was doing repair work on one of the largest boats in the marina. He explained that he's part of a group of nine crew members who take care of the boat full-time. He said that the boat is owned by an individual, but that it is rarely used. He said that over the past summer, the boat had only been taken out for one two-week trip. We guessed that the boat is simply one of many toys available for entertaining its obnoxiously wealthy owner…

Our drive back to Nice was unbelievably frustrating. The roads were absolutely packed with cars, and it took us over two hours to travel the 40 kilometers from Cannes to Nice. Our hotel told us that traffic is not a problem this late in the season, but at least for today they were very wrong. We tried to imagine how bad it must be here during the high season - not a pleasant thought.

On the way back, we stopped along the coast to let the traffic pass, and the kids enjoyed playing along a rocky beach. It was also fun to see the variety of people walking, jogging, roller-blading and biking along the promenade. We finally arrived in Nice tired and hungry, and had a wonderful dinner at an Asian restaurant called Le Mandarin (a nice change of pace).

Tomorrow we plan to visit the homes and studios where Matisse and Renoir did much of their work, and also to take a train to Monaco for the afternoon and evening.

Distance Walked: 3.25 miles

Katie's Komments - The topic for today is…two of my favorite pieces of artwork in Florence

After discovering a great deal of artwork in Florence, I have finally decided which pieces are the most striking and meaningful to me. The pieces of artwork that I found to be the most effective and striking are Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo' famous sculpture, David. The following paragraphs describe my feelings about each of the works of art and why they will stick in my mind forever.

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

When you enter the room there is no turning back. Your eyes are firmly set on the beauty of Botticelli's Birth of Venus. As you gaze at the painting in wonder, the peacefulness and beauty of Venus penetrates your skin and emotions. There is no turning back. Everything about the painting relaxes you-the warm colors, peaceful setting and the beauty of Venus. There is an enormous amount of movement in the painting, but unlike Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel it is a steady, relaxing and dreamy effect that changes the mood of all paintings surrounding it. On the left side of Venus are two angels blowing pink flowers gently toward the goddess. They slowly move toward her nude body and blow back her long golden hair. On the other side is a woman holding a peach cloth toward Venus guiding your eyes to the flattering appearance of the Deity. The woman is beautiful but nothing compared to the godly, delicate body of Venus. Venus stands weightless on the object she was born in, and she sheds her young beauty to all viewers. She looks completely balanced on this shell floating on the serene ripples of the sea. You notice her hand placed gently against her body as she looks out at us ignoring the attention she is getting from her sides. This clearly shows us her vanity and awareness of her godly features. Her harmonious appearance not only strikes you and other art lovers today, during Renaissance times churches were astonished by the beauty Botticelli portrayed of a Greek mythological god. This well known painting was one of the first pieces of artwork that began the Renaissance period which was a rebirth of Greek and Roman ideas.

What was another piece of art work that portrayed the meaning of the Renaissance era? The answer is Michelangelo's David.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!












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