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YESTERDAY’S MEDITERRANEAN COASTAL adventure began at Barcelona and referenced classic Baedeker’s and Murray’s guidebooks. Today in Part 2 we visit Marseilles, Nice, and Èze on our way to Monaco.
Marseilles. Baedeker’s offers a disruptive note: “Hotels (mostly in noisy situations.)” And no wonder: “Marseilles, the second-largest city in France, the Massalia of the Greeks and Massilia of the Romans, was founded by Greeks from Phocaea in Asia Minor about 600 B.C., and soon became one of the greatest seaports on the Mediterranean.”
And, if I am to believe Orson Welles’ “Adventures of Harry Lime,” Marseilles is one of the great smuggling seaports of the world.
Bouillabaisse. We encountered no “duty-free” cigarettes, counterfeit francs, nor other contraband while in Marseilles. However, we had bouillabaisse marseillaise with its proper assortment of Mediterranean seafood and crusty bread.
Nice. Murray’s Hand-Book notes that “Nice, called in Italian Nizza di Mare, was formerly the capital of a small independent sovereignty governed by its own counts…. As a consequence of the Italian war of 1860, it became annexed to France and is now the chief place of the Dept. of the Alpes Maritimes.”
Nice’s Promenade des Anglais along the sea gets its name from English aristocracy visiting as early as the second half of the eighteenth century. Today, it’s part of Route nationale 98, which runs between Toulon (beginning the French Riviera) and Menton (just east of Monaco near the French/Italian border).
A Nice Reminiscence. Years ago, R&T received a letter from a subscriber in Nice who wished to purchase several issues of the magazine to fill gaps in his collection. It happened that I was soon to be on a press trip to the S. of France, so I decided to hand-deliver his request, gratis.
His address was in a hilly neighborhood of Nice, with gated stairs leading to the residences. I rang the bell at the gate, and a woman appeared, asking (en français, of course) what I wanted.
I explained my R&T delivery in my apparently passable lingo. She replied that M., who was away on business, would be très triste to have missed my visit. Later, back in the U.S., I received a phone call of thanks from the (upper- or lower case-appropriate) Nice subscriber.
Èze Delights and a Regret. The village of Èze is about half way between Nice and Monaco along the Moyenne Corniche (the middle of three famed roads, Grande, Moyenne, and Basse). Èze brought delight to our drive and, alas, a modest regret.
Cacti Extraordinaire. The Jardin Exotique d’Èze is located on the site of a medieval fortress, some 1400 ft above the Mediterranean. It displays a wonderful collection of succulent plants and xerophytes (those requiring very little water) from all over the world, including, of course, the Americas. What fun to see a Saguaro with this unique vantage point!
My Vintage Icarus. One of the few regrets of my international adventures came in an Èze giftshop: It offered a folk-crafted mustached aviator in goggles, leather helmet and garb—and wearing Icarus-like wings.
Admittedly, he was larger than my backpack, but perhaps suitcase-sized if I ditched some clothes and shoes. He was priced at the French equivalent of around $375, not exactly souvenir change back then.
I shoulda brung him home. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitsSays.com, 2021