Woke at 6:45, as previously noted. We walked around the ship three times, waiting for the breakfast to begin. Then we tucked into a fine meal; after wife was up, had run around the ship a few dozen times, and eaten, we headed to the boats to visit . . .
Villefranche Sur Mer. The “Sur Mer” part is rather obvious. Beautiful little Mediterranean town, but we wanted first to go to . . .
This meant going up to the train station. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, and haven’t spent enough time in Europe, but I expected representatives of the French train system to have a certain amount of panache and poise, perhaps even superciliousness. If I’m going to go to France, I want to be treated with curt officiousness by a French official, even if it’s the guy selling tickets. Well, it was like a group of students, including one who was still working on his thesis in his forties. A slovenly crew, alas. The young lady working at the station had the official hat, but it was askew, the ribbon was loose, her shirt was untucked, she had a lip full of metal. It was as if they were all playing at being railway officials in a college skit. The station was sleepy and sloppy inside; outside, acres of graffiti. Straight-up American style, big letters in the universal typeface preferred by brave individuals.
When the train came, more of the same: it not only had that faint tang of soaked-in urine, the cars were defaced by graffiti on the walls, the shades, the spaces between the cars, all written in the universal scrawl of young men who owe nothing to anyone, least of all their fellow citizens, and certainly not the culture that gave them this train, these towns, this civilization.
Outside was pretty, once we arrived.
No graffiti in Monaco. Antiseptic and tidy and rich, polished, manicured, swept, fumigated, Disney-clean in every respect. Pictures of the happy new royals in every window, the prince looking ruddy and happy, the princess looking like she really regretted not killing herself when she had the chance. We wound our way to the Palace, and climbed a flight that was aptly named: the Rampe Major.
At the bottom, a reassurance:
But when you see it, you’re dismayed:
Comic Sins. Great. JUST LET ME DIE.
Hell of a fortification. There was some peculiar statuary, and by peculiar, I mean awful:
I have no idea what's going on. A woman with a net is commanding a nyad to give a fish to a baas-relief of an accountant.
There was a sculpture museum dedicated to this fellow:
Mr. Bosio, sculptor to Napoleon. He’d die if he saw what was being passed off under his name.
An entire room of big puffy ugly pillows pouring out of pieces of classical moulding. In another room, a manniken covered in lace:
Also a giant shoe made out of pots and pans. People wandered through, looked, nodded, yawned, moved on. Up the street, art in the old-world style:
The Oceanographic Institute. The carvings had been weathered to the point where they looked like something hewn from soap and soaked in water for a minute or two.
I liked the horrified fish, piscine dismayus:
The bands of stone had been carved to look like waves:
Across the street, the old Cathedral where the previous princeps slumber under stone slabs.
It’s a beautiful church, marred only by some modern art, which I hope was part of a temporary exhibit. It looked like someone painting Grandmother to look like a member of KISS.
Back on a spattered train to Villefranche, which was more tumble-down, random, less elegant, relaxed. Now it seemed like a different world, and a much more interesting one.
All I wanted to do was walk around, and so we did. This being Europe, there's art - everywhere! Like this:
Man is born free, but everywhere he is in ropes!
I shot a lot of colors and textures, which really don’t give you the feel of a place, unless you’re the one who took them.
Stopped for a crepe. They gave my daughter something about 12 inches square, covered with nutella and whipped creme. Good. Lord. We had crepes with orange or lemon - you drizzle the juice on the sugared crepe, fold, eat. Heaven. One more thing to hit: the obligatory old fortress, restored, although it probably looked the same in ruins. It was filled with art made by someone who was, perhaps, the Russ Meyer of his medium.
Room after room of these. Volti was the artist.
Man had some issues.
Then back to the tender, back to the ship, and instantaneous unconsciousness until dinner.
Final thoughts: o the allure of sitting in a cafe all day with newspapers and a cup of coffee in a narrow street, watching the world go past. There was one such old fellow at the table next to ours at the crepe shop, occasionally rolling his own cigarette - lined face, toofless maw, bare feet, jeans, the obligatory striped shirt. Still living the bohemian life. How did the cafe let him sit here, doing nothing but sipping water, taking up a table? The relaxed life of the Mediterranean, of course! Perhaps he was an artist. Perhaps he came here in the 60s, made his name, had seen his fame fade, but still played out the cafe life bohemian style to the end. A free spirit.
The waitress passed his table to deliver some food to the bar next door. When she returned he hissed: what about the crepes for the American family?
Ah. The owner.
Biggest disappointment of the day: the lack of old signage. Perhaps you have to get into the old quarters to find the good stuff. Only a few of these:
NEXT: If it’s Monday, this must be . . . Firenze.