Tag Archives: France

Shifting Memories of Monaco

monaco_harbor

My most treasured travel souvenirs are the memories I carry with me. Lately, however, I am coming to terms with the fact that my memory is like the ever shifting sand dunes in the desert. As time passes what I remember imperceptibly changes, colored by new experiences and the erosive passage of existence. Impressions which were once so clear in my mind, vivid high-definition photographs, slowly transform into a Fauvist canvas. I am reminded of these tricks my mind plays on me as I look down from the cliff heights of Monte Carlo, Monaco at its cluster of ochre tinted tiled roofs. Continue reading

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Mission in Marseille

marseille_view_ssI felt like a decathlon athlete as I stepped off the train from Nice to Marseille. I had my most comfortable walking shoes on, a checklist of all the important sites to visit in my hand, and after a relaxing two and half hour ride, I was ready to tackle France’s second largest city. Life in this port was already hectic with buses and cars whizzing past me and what looked like hundreds of people occupying the sidewalks. Still I was ready to dive right in. I perused my inventory of important landmarks once more, carefully numbered so that I could travel from one to the next quickly. I stretched my calf muscles, adjusted my backpack, and took a quick swig from my water bottle. I had eight hours to conquer Marseille’s round-up of historical monuments and no time to waste. Continue reading

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Life’s A Beach in Nice

nice_beach_scene_ssIt is impossible to escape the beach life in Nice, France. Try as hard as I might, there is no getting away from it. The city practically falls into the seductive expanse of unusual turquoise liquid called the Mediterranean Sea which then stretches into infinity. At all times, at all hours of the day, the siren call of the sea is ever present. When I get tangled up in the array of rabbit hole alleys and winding streets, there is only one compass that guides me back out of the maze: the relentless ebb and flow of the water which tells me I am close to the beaches of Nice. The beaches themselves are not idyllic, unpeopled expanses of paradise. They are filled with an ever increasing army of vacationers, whose personal space upon the sand grows smaller and smaller each year. Here, upon the pebbly border between city and nature, the sounds of humanity are deepened and echoed in the raucous shrieks of gulls. Yet, this is the spot I keep returning to every morning and every evening, as if it were a lighthouse beacon without whose light I could not experience Nice. Continue reading

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Indomitable Mont Saint Michel

mont_saint_michel_island_ssAs I stand along the sandy shore looking up, I understand how Harold, earl of Wessex and William the Conqueror felt when they set eyes for the first time upon this citadel on a rock. Mont Saint Michel, in Normandy France, is grandiose the way waterfalls and mountain peaks are, as if not man but an act of God placed it there for eternity. Cathedrals in general tend to be imposing edifices, but to me they represent the transience of human history. Within their stained glass halls and gilded altars lies the truth that everything changes: empires fall, religions adapt, and manmade objects don’t stand the test of time. At Mont Saint Michel, I was struck for the first time by how human hands can create an eternal atmosphere. Alone in a vast bay that dries up at low tide, Mont Saint Michel appears immutable, a force of nature that will continue unchanged beyond the short span of mortal chronicles. Continue reading

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