Matisse in Nice

OK…Have ya missed me? I have not been able to post. The internet in my room at Le2 is super spotty. If I go out in the hall, stand on 1 leg by the window, it seems to connect, but when I turn to go back in the room….I lose it again.

So let’s catch up….

Another item on my list while in Vence was to visit the Matisse Museum in Nice. The tourist office had given me a flyer highlighting the museum.

In reading it last evening, accompanied by a glass of the area’s Provence Rose, I learned it was closed on Tuesdays. So Monday was my only choice…that makes it easy.

While I enjoyed my typical French breakfast,

I created a couple of “flash cards” to aid me in my travels.



That ought to about do it right?

I knew there were 2 buses that would take me into Nice. One, the 400, I rode to Vence when I arrived. The other, the 94, I believe, was supposedly a more direct bus into Nice. I chose that one.

When I made it to the bus circle in the new area of Vence, the 94 was there and waiting. Perfect.
I boarded and told the driver I wanted to go to the Musee Matisse…..I get a stare I am all too familiar with….but this time it is in French….
I repeat….nothing….so I whip out my iphone flashcard….still nullite…
I show him the map illustration in the Matisse flyer and say, “Nice”….
“Ah…oui, oui…Nice”
But this is not said in a friendly way, this is said like, “sure lady, whatever, move on and sit.”
Loud and Clear….so I did….but as customary, I sit CLOSE to the driver….
My first choice in seats, a bit behind the entry door but the first to the driver’s right was taken….by a young girl who seemed to be “involved” with the driver. So I had to take my 2nd choice, directly behind the driver….and the barrier behind his seat.

We are on our way as I follow the scheduled stops on my bus route/schedule handout.
These are VERY helpful….I suggest grabbing any and all while visiting a city. HOWEVER, the stop the Matisse flyer said to get off at was not on the list.
We pass through Cagne Sur Mer….my old stomp’n grounds, so I know Nice is coming up….
Long bus ride short, I could not get any help from the driver, his girlfriend (they were in some sort of tiff… The ENTIRE drive, he would look back at here….while driving….whisper….look apologetically, and she in return would whisper…..and look down.
Give me Italians that yell everything and ya know where you stand!!
At one point, feeling a bit desperate, I got her attention and asked, “Do you speak ANY english?”
I received a curt “No” with nullite eye contact….she wouldn’t even entertain the international pointing and gesturing….
ANYWAY, an hour later, we are at a stop with lots of other buses. I notice everyone is getting off here. I reluctantly try the driver one more time, showing him, once again, the map in the flyer. I get a parting point and “tourist office”. I exit sharing my best French glare….. (later I spotted the two under a tree making out).

OK…time to access….I do not want to turn on my phone. ( that thing has made me nervous the entire trip…next trip I will definitely get an Italian SIM card put in upon arrival…that way you pay up front and when you use it up….you can pay more…. )
I have zero idea where I am. I have zero idea where the musee is located in reference to where I am….so I walk a bit, looking for the allege “tourist office” always keeping the location of the “bus circle” in the front of my mind….
I see no tourist office…so my last resort is a taxi…..
As you know by now, I hate paying for this, but it is the only means I can find to my end.
I get in the air conditioned Mercedes and say, “Musee Matisse s’il vous plaît” and we are quickly on our way.

The good news is I COULD NOT have walked to it, it was a bit of a drive up from the main part of the city.


I am excited about this visit for a couple of reasons. Number one, I love Matisse. Number two, I love visiting WHERE an artist worked and Number three, from the flyer, I learned that there is a special exhibit now through September celebrating the 50th year of the museum….again, perfect timing. There will be pieces on loan from other museums that are not part of the housed collection.


I need to tell you this before “we” enter…once again there are no photographs allowed inside the musee, so you will just have to take my word about some things…

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Matisse Museum presents the exhibition “Matisse. The Music at Work”. The exhibition is divided into two parts; The Silence of Music and The Sound of Colour.

As I have mentioned, I have always admired Matisse’s use of line. Much like Picasso, his friendly rival, Matisse’s use of line looks fluid, effortless. During this exhibit and reading his words, I am encouraged to learn that this “ease” came with study and practice.
In one narrative, Matisse likens drawing with a “crayon” to that of playing the violin with a bow. He explains that the smallest distraction during the execution of a line can involuntarily bring with it slight pressing and can influence a line adversely much like that of the wrong pressure on the bow brings an off note to the music.

“Accuracy, clarity, harmony- the movement in which the hand sings”. Henri Matisse

Also being able to see his work close up, noticing the draftsman like marks on a piece that you once felt were pure inspiration.

At one point in his life, Matisse took up playing the violin seriously. When his wife inquired as to why, Matisse shared that he had a fear of going blind. He explained that a blind man must give up painting but not music. I found this touching.

One of my favorite displays was a collection of scraps in the middle of a room. Each individual piece of cut out, painted paper was mounted in the center of a large piece of white paper and set in a gold frame. These frames were then hung on kind of a “poster” display mounting…where you could flip through each one. I loved seeing these discarded pieces. The pin holes, and in some the pins, were still evident where Matisse would pin to a wall to consider their placement in his overall design. Can you imagine just owning this small treasure? Something he had held, used his large scissors to create those beautiful organic shapes and then thought…”No, not this one”.

I love that his family kept them and that they want the viewer to understand his process….and my students wonder why I never want their “scraps” thrown away….

20130725-192400.jpg (from internet)

Blue Nude was a popular piece my students chose to replicate in their painted paper collages. Seeing it in person, with its imperfect cuts, overlapping shapes and pencil marks made me understand the process better.

Matisse’s use of line, color and pattern earn him a special place in my heart. I am thrilled to have visited the town that meant so much to him.

“I decided never to leave Nice, and remained there nearly my entire existence.” Henri Matisse

After I left the museum, I wanted to visit Matisse’s tomb. I was finding entry to the cemetery difficult, there was construction going on around it with tarps and scaffolding concealing the entrance.
I did however see an open gate, so I went to it. It was being blocked by a van, its doors open by the gardeners that were working inside. I entered tentatively. The woman working inside was no help when I asked, “Matisse’s Tomb?”



I walked through the pictured area, not seeing what I thought I was looking for. Each time I would follow a short walkway, it would dead-end. Quickly I decided to leave before the gardener closed the gate. Spending the night locked in here did not give me a warm feeling.

Finding a bus back to the center of town proved difficult as well. The one I did find, parked close to the museum, was in the driver’s words “caput”. As I walked considering my options, one of those double decker buses stopped near. You know the type….the ones “tourist” ride while listening to commentary….
This is usually NOT an option to me, but remembering how difficult getting to the museum proved, I stuck my head in and asked the driver, “Do you speak english.” “Yeah, sometimes,”he said with a drawl…. At this point, I welcomed an english speaking smart A….

He told me that for 20euro I could ride the bus and get off at the bus center when I wanted. He did advise me that he thought it was not a very good deal thought. However, the taxi to the museum cost the same and this guy I could communicate with, so I hopped on.

At the center of Nice, I got off and walked around a bit..

At night, the “people” on top of those poles illuminate in different colors.

To me Nice is a busy, tourist packed town. I walked a little along the promenade that defines the “French Rivera”…… I’ll take Monterosso….

Back at the bus circle, I hopped on the 400 and headed back to Vence.
When I arrived, hungry, I found a sidewalk bistro that offered crepes.


With only one day left, I enjoyed an evening stroll then went back to the room to research and read.

Arrivederci Italia ** Bonjour France

As I wait for (what I think to be) my last train in Italia. I consider what is all behind me.

The trip/dream that seemed so far in the future is now slipping through my fingers. A trip that was proposed five years ago, now only has about five days remaining. Time is a funny thing isn’t it.

Many people did not understand me (or anyone I guess) doing this trip on my own. One person even responded, “Oh how awful!” when I first told her about it.
But it was something I thought I wanted to do. “Thought” because you really cannot know. Planning something on paper becomes something quite different when other people/places/events get thrown in the ring.
I do not know if the correct word is “adventure”. I think for me it was more about being independent…my way…no ties….no worries that I might screw something up or make someone else mad or disappointed. Or a much stronger possibility, I get my feelings hurt.
Go, See, Turn Left, Turn Right, In, Out, Sleep, Eat, Sit, Walk, Wait……it was all up to me.

I do not think a person can chase their dreams from place to place, but I think you can walk through a lot of them.

I kinda thought this trip would change me…if good happened, if bad happened…I’d be a better person for it. And to tell you the truth…I do not think that has happened. I remember asking my mom, during a walk several years ago, “How does someone FIND themselves?” and she quickly responded, “I do not think it is about FINDING but about DEFINING.” So, with this, I get to add another little number to the definition of Me.

As I sit on platform 3 of the Albenga stazione, I begin to once again get nervous regarding boarding the correct train. The announcements keep saying something about a retarded train and the people around me got off the last one that stopped here and are still standing around waiting.
My train to Ventimiglia is to depart at 10:38, but “people” are telling me to board the one here now and it is a bit early….even the attendant says, “Si, si , sisis…Ventimiglia” When I show her my ticket. The part that confuses me is that this time I actually have a PRIMO class with assigned carriage and seat….and I have been in Italia long enough to know a 2nd class train when I see one….but as has been my philosophy…there’s ALWAYS another train going somewhere…so I hop on.

Who needs PRIMO class and air conditioning anyway….not me in the past 24 hours…and YES, these are the same clothes I traveled in yesterday….I told you I did not unpack ANYTHING…more on that when my travel tips come out on another post…..

Anyway, I have this beautiful fan that I painstakingly picked out in Firenze…and they DO come in handy…
So we chug along….every so often I ask someone, “Ventimiglia?” By the way the “g” is silent…..
and 6 out of 7 give me a “Si, si, sisisi.”
The deal is now that I am on a train that left at a different time, and it is a 2nd class one, I have no reference of when we should arrive. My last schedule made it look like it was about an hour trip…on a 2nd class train, considering the stops….that could make it 3 days for all I know…

We are traveling along the coast. The water is not as pretty as it was behind me…nor the towns as picturesque.

We arrive in Ventimiglia and at this point, all prearranged travel is over. At this stop, I have to wait at the long information/ticket booth housing a real person. As I wait, I survey the options on the destination board. Nice ville is where I think I need to go in order to catch a bus to Vence, my final destination.

So 6,80euro later, I have a ticket to Nice ville in hand….the train is to depart in minutes…great timing…

This train has no air either, so I stand near a window a lot of the time. As we are leaving Italia, there is a big, dark cloud over the mountain behind us….awww…I think-a she eees-a crying-a for me-a.

We pick up speed, traveling through many a L O N G tunnel. I can’t help but get kinda spooked in them. They seem lawless to me…during an especially long one, I notice the clock on my iPhone slips back an hour….creepy!!!

And also, at some point, the language around me has gone from Italian to French….
At least with the Italian language, I could understand every 10th word or so. The andiamos, ciaos, adessos, echos, quas, alloras and bravas sprinkled about comforted me. Now all I hear is “blah, blah, blahblahblah, oui.” Not good.

Arrivederci Italia! Grazie di tutto!

The train makes a stop but it is not mine. As the doors open, I hear the unmistakable sound of the announcement system in the stations. This makes me SMILE!! During the trip with the kids and mom, we laughed so much at that little “jingle”. I can still picture the kids doing this little jig when they would hear it…I am laughing now and that feels good.

20130721-150342.jpg Bienvenue en France!


20130721-150556.jpg The Nice ville station.

I enter the train station and size things up….in French… clue….so I just look for lines.
I am assuming at this point that I need to get a bus to Vence. From the itty bitty amount of research I did, I think I am about 20 miles away or so.
The first woman says, “Blah, blah, blah, blahblahblahblah, no.” Gotcha…But luckily she points in english. So I go there.
Here I find out I need to board another train to Cagnes Sur Mer and THEN a bus to Vence.
I can do trains.
At first I get a bit nervous when she says, “Blah, blahblahblah” while shaking her head. She seems disappointed to tell me the next train does not leave for over an hour.
No problem…I can do waiting as well.


20130721-151416.jpg THIS is the last one…I guess…

This train is PACKED!!! Anticipating my stop coming fairly quickly, I do not push and shove to get on, I instead squeeeeeeze on at the end, securing a spotish by the door. I do not know HOW one would exit if they were actually seated with luggage somewhere.
I know I am on the right train, but I can NOT understand the perky little French girl that is announcing the stations….
Standing by the door is an attendant. I casually hold my ticket where he can see my stop, thinking he will either make a face that we have already passed it or alert me when we are getting near.
My slick technique worked!! Before we stopped, he started moving people out of the way, because at the station the opposite door was the exit door. He took my bag and placed it on the platform for moi. Merci monsieur…

So NOW I look for a bus right? OK, I find a window…the two people behind it speak very little english. I speak ZERO french…but again the pointing gets me from one “point” to the next.

I remember on my first trip to Europe with Mom and Jim. When we left Italy, I had this thought (I wish I had italics there) that French would come easy to me…I actually thought that! Instead, I was a nervous wreck each time someone would speak to me…here we go again.
I think the encounters I had with people in Italy, were more casual. I felt they were willing and kind of enjoyed the exchange.

OK, so the guy behind the glass points me to the street….I think he said something that sounded like “collage”….but as he said it he looked around for help….none came.
So I exit and hang a right….I walk along with my worldly possessions….and a line from Hope Floats comes to mind, “You stink Justin Matisse.”

A bus, there’s a bus… I runish, stick my head in and say, “Vence?” He shakes his head no and points…got it…..So I keep walking….across a freeway….again, Daddy would have loved that. But I just could not pay for a cab not knowing how far or close, hard or easy something else would be….lesson learned.

20130721-152854.jpg I find a bus stop….and I look and look at these…..I have to just call them letters….they are not even words to me….

20130721-152953.jpg Then I stare at this one long enough and start making something out. I THINK I might be in the right place. About 10 minutes goes by, bus 200 passes….I think it is the 400 I need, and then it arrives.
I board and pay.
I will be honest…at this point, I am near crumbling. I am tired (thank The Lord for the overnight in Albenga….a day from Poggibonsi would have never worked), I am hot, I am sweaty, I stink AND you guessed it, I AM HUNGRY!! The cappuccino and croissant at the Hotel Magnolia are long gone.
AND to top it off….I really don’t have a clear idea of where I am headed….I know WHY I am going to Vence, but where it is is not how it seemed on paper.
When I see a beautiful town perched on a hill, I tap the woman next to me and point trying to convey that that point is a question. She looks at me blankly and says “Saint Paul”.
I do not even know enough to know whether Saint Paul and Vence or one in the same and this woman is not interested in the promotion of world peace.

I will cut to the chase…Vence comes after Saint Paul. In Vence, you will be let out at a little bus circle. At that point you need to once again choose a direction to walk.
I again could not contact my B&B before arriving, so I fire up the cellular and follow the blinking, blue dot to the labyrinth of Vence…
then I resort to the international pointing method again.
Near tears I arrive to my B&B, Le2 (Le Deux….don’t make yourself look REALLY silly and call it Le Two…) which is closed. Locked, closed, lights out….
In my fog, I figure out that I am suppose to call if they are closed. Which I do and Nicolai comes to let me in.
There is an additional funny story about a family that is also waiting, saying they have rented the entire place and have the key, but I cannot convey Nicolai’s “frenchness” in dealing with her…

Nicolai is very sweet and helpful as he shows me to my room, turns on my AIR CONDITIONING and makes me a reservation for dinner tonight at a bonne restaurant and not a touristy one. Nicolai…my hero!!!

And Voila….my room…





I am SO pleased with the room and get downright giddy when I feel how comfortable the bed is!!

I take my time cleaning up. There is a concert in the square tonight, but since I have reservations, I do not need to worry about the crowd.

My quick walk through Vence tells me that this is just about the cutest little French town ever! I look forward to exploring it more.

I throw on one of my MVPs. A Rachel Pally maxi. I have worn this dress to dinner in every town I have been in.
I find the restaurant easy enough and happy to sit enjoying a view that is not rushing past me.

If you look closely, at the center left, you will see a white building. I believe that is the Chapelle Du Rosaire, the reason for my stop in Vence.

I order and relax.

Before what I ordered arrives, the waitress brings this to me and says, “Blah, blah, blahblah a glah, marscapone”.

20130721-160218.jpg We are not in Kansas anymore!



et pour le dessert

20130721-160556.jpg Are those cute or what!?

I walk past the craziness of the concert….happy not to pay 30euro to mix with that


And I roam home…





20130721-161434.jpg It’s not like me to miss a wedding…


20130721-161514.jpg My street, rue des Portiques

20130721-161625.jpg See the 3rd floor (they do not count the street level) to the left? Those are my windows.

20130721-161758.jpg My flash ruined the feel of this…the first flight was lit with candles…

20130721-161838.jpg 2nd and 3rd flight, motion detector lights…and then ma chambre and mon point de vue

Bonne nuit!