We have just returned from a wonderful break in Nice. Four hour’s drive from Bagni di Lucca to the boulevard in Nice. Its extraordinary to have so much at our fingertips. While Bagni di Lucca lay cloaked in cloud and rain, Nice was enjoying glorious days, blue blue skies, people sunbathing and swimming and hundreds of people out on the stroll. It felt great to be out in that lovely open clear light, even the colours of the vegetation and buildings and bare hillsides were filled with luminiscent light, and it was warm, very warm.
The contrast to Italy, its next door neighbour, seems enormous to us. The food is so different for a start. Italy is simpler, relying on the beautiful tastes of good produce; I salivate when I think of a simple Italian fresh salad of lettuce, tomatoes and mozzarella dressed in olive oil, salt and lemon. It is such a taste experience. But France is about combinations and we could hardly wait in the car, imagining the cheeses, the quiches, the pastries, the breads, the soupe di poissons…. utterly delectable treats in our greedy minds.
We stayed in the old town on the top floor of a little apartment building, near the flower market, the steepest of stairs making short work of our feasting. At night the area raged. People were still partying and coming out of the bars at 4.00 in the morning. We were pretty bleary eyed for a couple of days before learning to tune out. The mornings were lovely, walking down to the market to buy our croissants and bread and veges and fruit for the day. Everyday the aromas of constant cooking, greeted us and teased us and I confess to being a terrible pig and eating probably six meals a day…. We also walked and walked and walked, not just on the Promenade des Anglaise, but through all the lovely winding streets, around the port and in the commercial districts.
Our biggest treat were the galleries in the area and we didn’t do them all. The Museum of Modern Art (MAMAC), was just around the corner from where we were staying and boasted a great collection of contemporary art since the 1960’s. The Chagall Museum was a good stroll away in the Cimiez area, set in beautiful gardens and lovely contemporary architecture. His stain glass was fantastic. We loved how he painted on it, smearing over the colour so it emerged like jewels in the murkiness. One of the days we spent at the Picasso Museum in Antibes. As usual, Picasso is a fabourite for us. He is so utterly courageous in his work. This collection of his work was just post war and there were not many materials available, so a lot of the work was done with house paints and on panels of plywood. He is completely not precious and every moment is about creating – and he is so not contrived and formularized. So much of today’s modern art seems to be formula because it seems to have to answer to the criteria of the intellectual explanation. For lunch that day we went to the Antibes vegetable market and selected a fantastic lunch of olives and cheeses and beautiful fresh bread and some delicious light red wine. Having bought our feast we then had to go and find utensils to eat with which we found in the antique market nearby. We now have dainty little french glasses and rustic old red plates and antique corkscrew that featured from our picnic. Afterwards we found our way to the Fernand Leger Museum in nearby Biot. What a day it became for us. We were joyous with the surprise of it all. Huge, absolutely huge mosaics adorning the museum outside. Stark and monumental they soar over the building’s surface. Inside, a beautiful use of space, showed an interesting family collection of his work over the years of his life, plus there were some great stained glass works which were also monumental and spectacular.
We got to a point of saturation looking at art, even though we were looking forward to seeing the Maeght Foundation in Vence after so many years, but we didn’t get there, buying instead, art materials from one of the many abundant art shops in the area, to partake in the inspiration of it all. In fact, after a week, we were busting to get back into our studios from the feeling of being filled to the brim with delight and new ideas and our trip back to Italy in torrential rain flew in the memory of our experiences.