Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Seeing Old Nice and Marc Chagall

A breathtaking view of Nice, known as the Cote d'Azur
Today we had a full day in Nice on our own and we wandered down to the flower market at Cours Saleya, where we saw lots of stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, sea salts mixed with herbs and pepper, a wide variety of herbs and spices, and even seafood.

Then we walked a long the Promenade des Anglais -- which by the way is the same place Chinese billionaire Li Jinyuan took 6,500 of his employees for an incentive trip earlier this year.

Beautiful fluffy light pink peonies in bloom!
He celebrated his company Tiens' 20th anniversary by having the staff in sky blue uniforms spell out "Tiens Dream is Nice in Cote d'Azur".

When we visited today we thought it was nice that the rainbow flag was flying right next to the Chinese one...

We also dipped our feet into the Mediterranean -- but not without some effort walking on the rocks -- there's no sand! -- and boy did it hurt! But I have to say it was like Chinese foot massages, the rounded rocks pressing on various parts of our feet and afterwards I was surprisingly more relaxed!

Zucchinis including their flowers (left) are for sale!
The water was chilly, but not freezing -- perfect complement to the already hot temperatures at around 10.30am.

Nearby is a large park up on a hill, at the end of Promenade desk Anglais (that becomes Quai des Etats-Unis). We went up to the elevator to have a wonderful panoramic view of the city, from the deep blue Mediterranean sea to the terracotta-tiled roofs dotted all over the city.

Then we went back down to wander through the old part of the city, with its narrow alleyways -- and hence hardly any vehicular traffic. We managed to find the main cathedral St Reparate, with its distinctive yellow tiled domed roof.

The water by the beach is very clear, though covered in rocks
After lunch at the nearby square where the cathedral is located, we set off for the Marc Chagall Museum. It was near impossible to flag a taxi -- why aren't there many in a tourist town like this? But we stumbled on a backpacker information place and the kind woman there who was not French gave us directions on how to take the bus.

We managed to squeeze onto the bus for 1.5 euros each, and after about five stops arrived at Musee Marc Chagall. The building is modern and minimalist on the outside, with lots of olive trees in front.

The museum was inaugurated on July 7, 1973, Marc Chagall's 86th birthday. It is the first time a national museum was devoted to an artist in his lifetime.

Cathedral St Reparate with its dome at the back
The place housing works Chagall and his wife Valentina donated to the state in 1966 and 1972. Most of the pieces are related to the Old Testament in the Bible, as Chagall was Jewish.

Many of the paintings we saw were vibrant, full of colours and fantastical images that seemed to be imaginary and whimsical, though at the same time full of Biblical meanings, either full of hope or despair, but also lots of love.

There are many figures of women gently cradling babies, or men embracing women, and lots of symbols in the paintings to illustrate lessons in the Bible.

Not only did Chagall dabble in paintings, but also tapestries, mosaics and stained glass, which of course meant relying on others to execute his designs. As he grew older he took on commissions with greater importance.

Chagall's paintings here have Old Testament associations
As for his association with Nice, Chagall first came here in 1926 and the flowers at the market left a deep impression on him; he returned after World War II. He didn't live in Nice per se, but drew many pictures of the "Bay of Angels", featuring lovers, mermaids, fish, and bouquets of flowers.

Looking at the large body of work in the museum, it seemed like Chagall wasn't afraid to experiment and very determined about what he wanted to do. He seems like a dynamic character who was compelled to make art.

We were surprised for a national museum not to offer brochures about the place to give more information about Chagall and his work, not even nice ticket stubs to remember the place by!

Chagall's homage to the Cote d'Azur below
Then we caught the bus back into town. I handed the bus driver exact change for the four of us, but he didn't take the money, saying he had no more tickets to give out, and yet let us on the bus! Is this why the French are having financial issues?!


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