25 September 2013

Nice (again)

Sundays are meant for relaxing. And eating. Something that the French take very seriously. Whilst us Brits see Sundays as another opportunity to hit the shops, the French shut theirs and are nowhere to be seen. Knowing that this also applied to public transport (which can be patchy at best normally) we decided to stay in Nice and venture slightly further afield than before.

We decided to walk to Cimiez, which now stands on the ruins of Cemenelum, a Roman city built to rival Nice back in the day. Uphill and winding its way past some evidently affluent residences, it was nice to see another side of Nice. We were heading for the Musee National to check out the Marc Chagall exhibition. I'd briefly touched on Chagall at university as part of artistic representations of war, so was intrigued to see an exhibition devoted to Chagall's self portraits, as well as his famously bright creations.

Entry to the museum is 10E for adults or free for under 26s (like a lot of galleries, museums and landmarks in France) but we skipped in without having to pay anything. The exhibition charts over 40 years of Chagall's work, from quick self portrait sketches on napkins to vast painted religious scenes. Born in Russia, he moved to France before fleeing the persecution during the war. As part of a group of other persecuted artists, he was amongst some of the most prolific artists of the time.

From there, we battled onward uphill to the 16th century Franciscan monastery of Cimiez. We ducked into the church briefly and were met with heavily incensed air, lots of gold, faded artwork and even the remains of a saint. There's also a Franciscan monk buried in the church, having gone on a mission to China to spread the word, and returned burned to die amongst his brothers. The monastery gardens are well-tended and full of rosebushes and herbs with views all the way down to the bay.

And as part of both, the old cemetery overlooks the foothills. The French are renowned for their mausoleums as memorials to their dead. Particulary evident in la Pere Lachaise in Paris, it was a sign of wealth and prestige as well as somewhere to mourn (Oscar Wilde's tomb is covered in lipstick kisses from admirers). We sought out Matisse's final resting place but weren't successful, but these are picturesque nonetheless, non?

Eventually we headed back down the hill (after some lengthy waits for public transport), grabbed a baguette and a tart from a boulangerie and made it back to the apartment just in time for the skies to open and the rest of the day to be clouded with torrential rain. 

We spent the evening indoors with baked prawns in garlic and herbs, baguettes and wine, practising some very unmonklike decadence.

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