Today we whipped over to Italy for the day – on the train to Ventimiglia (or Vintimille if you’re in France and reading train timetables). Doesn’t that sound cool? Just whip over to Italy – 45 minutes. Although Nice and Ventimiglia are in different countries today, they were both once part of Piedmont-Savoy, and had in fact shared the same noble family when the Count of Ventimiglia married the Lascaris heir from Nice. It’s only since about 1860 Nice ‘separated’, becoming part of France, leaving Ventimille to become part of the new Italy being created by Garibaldi (in fact a Niçoise) and his redshirts. (Place Garibaldi complete with large statue of him is our local Place or Piazza here in old Nice.)
Anyway back to Italy… We caught the train from yet another train station (Tina is amazing navigating all the different buses and trains timetables and points of arrival and departure!) and enjoyed the trip along the coast through what were no doubt little fishing villages once, but now merge quite a bit and are what springs to mind when one thinks of the rich Rivieria – that amazing water colour, even though the day was quite overcast and hazy, the olive trees, graceful and elegant villas, and basically peeking over the back fences as we went by and seeing how the rich and famous slum it.
The train then went into a longer than usual tunnel and stopped at what was the station for Monaco. A rapid announcement in French seemed to make everyone get out of our carriage and off the train so we thought we should too. Then the train started up again and choofed off and we could see there were still people in it in other carriages! Should we have stayed on? When was the next one! Now we’d have to buy another ticket! Trying to get answers ended up going for a long escalator ride, and eventually a young man in an office who offhandedly told us to just get on the train from another platform. He made a half hearted attempt to explain what had happened (memories of Digne and large rock on tracks sprang to mind) but then gave up and said, just get on it.
Coming into Ventimiglia, the buildings looked rather dirty and ‘down-at-heel’. Nothing much was open because we were there on Sunday and of course with most of the shop windows shut and barred it wasn’t the best time to ‘meet’ a new town! We found out the best day to come was Friday – market day…oh well. Lots of Italian flags fluttered down the streets and it looked like there must be some upcoming sports event, or something festive, but it wasn’t happening today. There were certainly indications of past grandeur in the architecture which we enjoyed, and while we’d been amused at some of the parking practices in Nice, the creative parking exploits here left Nice for dead!
At first there were just no women around. That seemed sort of strange too. Groups of older men chatting, but there also seemed to be heaps of young men just lurking – either sitting in small groups or just lurking. On the return train, the police came on board a few times at a couple of stops and dragged several of these young guys off – handcuffed and all so we can only surmise that many of them try to get over into France – when France doesn’t want them.
As church finished women began to appear all dressed up with children in tow who had obviously been representing the whole family at church. The feel of the place changed with this new energy.
We found a nice little ristorante with lovely friendly proprietors and really enjoyed our lunch. For me, the most simple and tasy pizza I’ve ever had, and blood orange juice, freshly squeezed and undiluted. Mmm wouldn’t mind that again now!
Back in Nice we happened upon yet another little classical concert – a trio – piano, cello and violin playing Liszt – in the old Palais Lascaris right in the centre of the old part of Nice. Very appropriate to where we had just been, this place was built in the 1600’s for the Counts of Lascaris-Ventimille. It had extraordinary, ornate woodwork and tapestries and is now a museum housing a collection of historic instruments – harps, various stringed instruments that are earlier versions of the violin and cello, an ancestral version of the basoon, as well as pianos and if my memory serves me correctly, an ancient clavichord! (related to the harpsichords).
So here we were again, the Baronesses from Bilgola, propped up in the front row with Nice’s cultural elite and the little concert began. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite what we had hoped. Tina now has a grudge against Liszt and thinks all his music must be ‘sooooo durgy – and music to cut your wrists by.’ Heather has been trying to convince her since that it certainly was an unusual choice of Liszt program by any standard, and may even have been much improved with a different cellist.
In honour of our day in Italy and trip to the Palais Lascaris we had pasta and salad for dinner. Actually everybody raves about the food here but to be honest, so far the only meal I’ve enjoyed at a restaurant has been the half dozen prawns I had when we ate with Sue and Dominique. I’ve enjoyed the home cooked dinners the best.
Monday was an ‘at home day’ – Heather worked on the website and I did some washing. We have a rather unique little washing machine tucked in the corner of the kitchen between the fridge, the sink and the wall. We found out why pretty quickly. When it spin-dries it rattles and wobbles and shakes so violently that it physically has to be restrained. I peered in the kitchen at one stage to see Heather with one leg out-stretched and leaning to control the thing. I’m sure everybody down to the first floor knows when this machine is on. If left unattended anything on the sink invariably dances and shudders till it crashes into the sink.
Heather and Tina