Wednesday we did the 50 minute tourist ride in the little white train around the main section and old part of Nice. Very amusing and very noisy. I found it hard to understand the headset commentary (yes, I was listening to English). It ran on truck wheels and not on a track but like anything with carriages, it shunted and leapt forward when taking off after every stop guaranteeing a souvenir case of whiplash for everyone.
We then took the double-decker tourist bus through the Cimiez district of Nice, where there are beautiful old buildings and villas – the Baronesses felt quite at home again even though our ‘coiffs’ were being blown to bits as we chose to sit on the top floor open-air section. We visited the Henri Matisse Gallery/Musee then came back down the hill to the Marc Chagall Gallery…
Final day using the Riviera Pass saw us catching the 200 Bus west along the coast to see Renoir’s house/studio and garden. But a day with Baroness Tours would not be complete without the obligatory ‘getting off the bus too soon’ mishap. Seeing the sign Cagnes-sur-Mer, our tour-leader, Baroness Butler leapt up and dragged Baroness Ferguson off with her, only to find ourselves in a lonely stretch of road with run-down shops and not much at all. No other signs indicating where Chez Renoir’s might be. After asking a girl in our slightly improving franglais where the Musee Renoir was, she indicated about 10kms further on. The sign, it turns out was welcoming us to the region of Cagnes-sur-Mer not the town.
After another bus, more walking and asking of directions, we finally climbed the hill to Renoir’s gorgeous property. It’s an old farm with ancient olive trees, stone buildings with patches of irises and other flowers which clearly inspired his work. The old house has many of his paintings as well as those of his artist friends, plus of course many pieces of the original furniture. But it was the exterior and the gardens which had such great ambience. It was worth every struggling step to get there.
We continued on to a place called Biot – first stop Marineland. Marineland??? Yes Marineland. It was part of this Riviera Pass. (You know Tina!!! she likes value for money!) Not many people there. It had that real off-season atmosphere – but I reckon it’d be teeming in summer. We mooched around and saw leopard seals, penguins, other seals, the tropical aquarium, more seals then toddled over to the orca area. This was a giant tiered arena where suddenly a zillion people converged to watch the orcas leap, jump, sing, flap their tails, look lovingly at their handlers and receive loads of fish rewards.
We snuck off before the end to avoid the crush and somehow ended up on the right bus to another Musée – that of artist/sculptor Fernand Leger. Giant mosaics on walls, huge stained glass windows, paintings and sculptures – fabulous use of colour. Heather would give a better technical account than this. (I’ll talk about art in another post. H)
At this point our feet were throbbing and bursting out of our shoes. Time for home. It just so happened that it was that time for most people, so we made the return journey with the Antibes/Nice peak hour lot – crushed in the 200 Bus home. Come to think of it, it felt like 200 in the bus. (At times not the best odours in Provence either!) The driver just kept packin’ ‘em in. Luckily towards the end of the hour-long journey we actually had seats.