from Sandy Needham

Monday, May 7, 2007

Nice Dispatch

May 7, 2007

We landed in Nice on a Monday morning. The sun was shining brightly on the "La Cage aux Folles" architecture and the Mediterranean Sea. No one agreed on the appropriate dress for this summery transition from winter, so a range from tank tops to winter coats and scarves typified the passers by. Since this was the business trip portion of our journey, we stayed in a real hotel instead of a hostel.

Newton's company's trade show booth was experiencing a weird convergence of mishaps: the posters, literature, and supplies were reported delivered by Fedex, but were not there. Turns out they were delivered to the sports arena next door instead, but Fedex solved it in time for Tuesday morning's opening; the booth itself had only 1 out of 3 counters built, so the company had a few hours to add two more impromptu, though not to specs; the rental monitors for demonstrations got sent to another town, but were rerouted in time.

That did not keep us from having a wonderful company dinner together Monday evening, with an employee from the Czech Republic and two from New Jersey, including the new addition to CAST, Meredith, who is smart, sane, and lots of fun.

I had time to walk and wander all afternoon, including a sidewalk lunch of warm goat cheese salad and white wine...such respect these people have for a meal! The ingredients couldn't be finer or fresher, and the great care taken offers sustenance on a different level. Another matter was finding the antiques market, which after a very rude encounter I learned was only on Monday mornings. I came upon the Museum of Contemporary Art, but couldn't see where to enter amid some construction. Another rude encounter sent me in the right direction, only to learn it is closed on Mondays. I think Nice belongs more to the tourists, for which the natives are blatantly resentful, but then again, I also had encounters that were not rude! I closed the Portuguese section of my brain and unearthed the French section, after a 35-year hibernation. I was surprised when words came to me - they failed me completely the last time I was in France. Does this mean your brain kicks in again after a menopausal hiatus? Yea! I was distraught that the Matisse Museum was closed till June - something I had looked forward to - but was pleased to peruse the sunny canvas of Nice itself, again walking my hip to distraction uphill and down. The pebble beach had plenty of bathers out, including some startlingly old topless women. I do enjoy a country that never had Puritans land there! You'll notice these sights are not documented in photos because when I wander around on my own, I rarely carry the extra weight of the camera. Lunch in a crowded plaza was heavenly: salad Nicoise with the most gorgeous hunks of tuna (unfortunately, the canned tuna in Natal is better known as 'cat food'). I watched a little girl try to dance 'en pointe' in her sturdy sneakers.

The street names appear in both French and Nicoise, a Mediterranean language. The shopping is marvelous here. I got to accompany Meredith on her afternoon off to the incredible shops full of Provence fabrics along the Rue de Marché in the old city. These fabrics are impeccable design-wise and quality-wise, something to savor after my 27-year sojourn in the world of Mediocre American Textiles. Meredith lived in Paris for 7 years, so speaks perfect French and assuages her nostalgia by filling her home with these gorgeous products. We had a great time together, so are looking forward to the next shared business trip!

I was able to check 'hair cut' and 'new bathing suit' off my list. My last lunch was indoors, as the weather cooled down and I was on the tank top end of the spectrum: mussels in once-in-a-lifetime broth, white wine, and the biggest serving of flan I've ever seen. Somehow the recorded bad choir music and the silent TV showing a snake attacking something worked for me.

A couple of visits to the trade show with an official tag afforded me a chance to join Meredith at a rich corporation's booth with magnificent free champagne and brie. I managed to miss, once again, figuring out what Newton's company actually does, although I've learned to bandy about "software" and "chips." We had a couple more lovely company dinners, one next to the marina.

Daily decaf cappuccino, chocolate mousse, chocolate gelato (the best in my life), cheeses of the gods, and excellent wine served to remind us, as Newton put it, we were "not in Kansas anymore!" You may be thinking, "can these travelers stop eating and drinking and visit some significant site?"...well, we do that, too. Problem is, eating and drinking along the Mediterranean is a sacred duty! Barcelona next -


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