So much has changed since I wrote the last entry, I’m feeling a bit numb as I write this one. If I think back to this time last week, and the distance travelled both physically and emotionally since then, it’s mind-blowing. It puts me in mind of the Ancient Mariner’s homecoming journey when the spirit from the land of mist and snow drives the ship forward at an unnatural pace as the falls into a trance, because no human can endure the force of such rapid acceleration. I will try to continue the story as though it were still unfolding, which it is, although differently than I had planned…
Once again it was time to get under way, so we bundled the sleepy children into the car and sped off across Catalunya. This was a particularly moving part of the journey for me, as it is where my younger son was born and raised for the first year and a half of his life. We past by the mountains of Puiggracios (above Ametlla del Valles) and Tagamanent (the first summit ever reached by my baby Ollie, carried up by his dad at 1 week old). Many happy memories of this place returned to me as we drove.
Before long we arrived at the French border, where we stopped for breakfast before crossing. As I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling apprehensive about the crossing because new arrivals in the country were facing a two-week quarantine if they couldn’t show they were in transit, but we showed our passports and papers and the gendarme on the border waved us through without incident.
Provence and the French Riviera
To reach Nice, we passed through the Provençal countryside of many a Van Gogh painting, with hayfields swaying in the breeze and rows of lofty cypress trees standing sentinel. Gradually the Autoroute wound towards the Côte d’Azur, and after another 8 hour leg of our road trip we arrived at Nice where we would be spending that night.
It was my first visit to Nice and I have to say I was entranced by it. Our hotel was on the edge of the Old Town, and though very tired from another long day’s travel, we took the time to visit the seafront and the palatial Place Masséna. Walking through the Old Town was like walking through an impressionist painting done in bright pastel hues: there was an almost hyperreality to the colours (or perhaps I was just suffering from lack of sleep!)
The French roads were busier than the Spanish Roads had been. In Nice, most people wore masks but were free to move around as they chose. Against my better judgement, we took a short ride on the tram because Ollie was enamoured with it and very insistent about taking a ride. I disinfected every surface we touched. Every fourth seat was closed in order to aid social distancing measures.
Most restaurants were open, but were only allowed to serve takeaway. There were some excellent pizzerias so we plumped for that option and were not disappointed. The Italian influence on cuisine niçoise was very much in evidence. And after so many times making the salade niçoise at home, I didn’t end up trying the real thing because after so much travelling I just didn’t have the stomach for it.
In the Place Massena, even the Apollo Statue wore a protective mask, adorned with the slogan ‘Protégeons Nous‘ ‘we protect.’ My elder son was heartbroken when he learned we couldn’t take a Ter train to Cannes because the return train had been cancelled due to timetable reductions. A return trip under less restrictive conditions will most certainly be in order!
You can find more photos from this journey on Instagram @ Experimentsinfiction.