Photos of #France: first impressions of #Nice

Seen from the sky, unspeakably beautiful. Puffs of white cloud floating over green mountains, blue water and red roofs. The airport’s very basic – the thought seems to be “you came for the beach, not the airport,” which is true. I couldn’t find the train into town, but the sweetest woman at a bus stop told me exactly how to get to my hostel – bus, tram, which stops, how much it was. The bus driver spoke NO English, but was checking up on me throughout the trip. I wondered if people in Nice were normally so quiet, or is a full bus usually be more chatty? I got checked in, went for a walk, and wanted to take photos of EVERY street and building. The SMELL – melting butter, melting chocolate, salami, smoked salmon, coffee beans being ground.  All the women look they’ve just come from a photo shoot. All the men look as if they’re just going to or coming  back from the gym. Everyone has a dog, most are French bulldogs. Too many people smoke…yet the cigarettes smell good too.  Hearing French everywhere is amazing. I sat on a bench yesterday for lunch – just a banana, chips and goat cheese – and started giggling, then welling up. There are also police and soldiers everywhere, all carrying machine guns. The French flag is at half-mast. I find it’s comfortably bustling, but was told that this time of year, normally you can barely make it down the street.

 

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“Someone’s going to blow that place up soon.”

Said to me, in 2004, by a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. It was a few days before I flew to London, England, United Kingdom.  I answered him, “That’s why I have to go see it now.”  I got to see Big Ben, and Southbank, and the Inns of Chancery.  The next year, London was bombed.

As I write this, I am in Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey.  Forty-five people were killed here two weeks ago, by terrorists who apparently believed the same things as those who attacked New York City, London, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Baghdad, THREE cities in Saudi Arabia, and as of TODAY, Nice, in the south of France.

I am in Istanbul waiting to catch a plane.  To Nice.

I have been teaching English for the last ten months in Southern China. Almost without exception, all of my students are from very wealthy families (and, obviously, because I’m teaching them, they’re learning a foreign language). Yet almost NONE of them has ever been outside of China, for a vacation, or to hear English. For Chinese citizens, visiting other countries is extremely difficult. My students are in awe when I’ve told them I have visited NINE places: Canada, the United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Iceland, and China.

I’m not going to see Istanbul beyond the airport today, but I WILL. And I am scheduled to be in France for a month. I’m not changing that.

I speak English and Spanish. I’m learning Mandarin. One of my favourite books growing up, Mischief in Fez, was about Morocco. I adapted it into a play because I wanted kids to know more about Islam, because I think Islam, and Muslim people, and the places where they live, are cool.

And YOU will not change that. You don’t get to tell ME or ANYONE else what they are allowed to be.