Europe on my mind
The other day I was browsing through some photographs sent to me by a colleague (thanks, Mickey) who in September went on a bus tour of Europe. One of the photographs caught my eye because I had seen the location before. It's from a square in Monaco. I've done this sketch from a portion of that photograph. A little mental vacation.
It reminded me of something I wrote last year about my memories of the Principality:
Late in the evening, just when the crowds in the restaurants were thinning and the port was quiet, the fishermen would sit on the seawall in the shadow of the Loews Hotel and throw out their lines in the water. Their preferred catch from this spot was small octopus that swam in the harbor. The men would sit under the amber street lighting, peering into the water, enjoying the night breeze and the camaraderie. It was their time to relax after a busy day. They were good at fishing. Each octopus, drawn wiggling from the sea, would be admired and placed in an icebox. I was there, too, watching with interest.
I used to enjoy spending time down by the water. My favorite place for introspection was down on the seawall where I could feel the power of the ocean, as the surf pounded the rocks and the wind blew on my face. The salty air was invigorating and I took comfort from the wet spray. The sea and the winds will remain long after all of these buildings are gone, I thought.
I used to go up to the Old City on the rock promontory. I enjoyed roaming around the outside of the Grimaldi palace, in the big square and along the narrow stone streets (Mickey's photo). I once saw the actor David Niven go in to see Prince Rainier a few months after the death of Grace Kelly. Movie star moments aside, I preferred the southwest side of the Rock, facing that blue, blue sea. My mind's eye remembers the weather as always sunny, always warm there. I would visit the Oceanography Museum, an architectural marvel made of stone, perched on the cliff face overlooking the sea.
One of my fondest memories was of cycling up the steep hills behind Monaco to the towns of La Tourbie and Eze, still very medieval and steeped in history. At the end of a long uphill ride, they offered amazing views of the Riviera. One night I was up here, watching the lights far below, when a gigantic orange glowworm seemed to snake along the cliffs by the water's edge and then disappear into a mountain. I was puzzled for a moment, then realized I had been looking at a train, seen from a great height, its cabins lit, making its way to Nice and disappearing in a tunnel.