Part of the reason I applied for my current artists’ residency was its location: the French Riviera is among those almost mythical places you read about. Where the gargantuan artists and authors worked, where water, sky, and wine blend together. And, it’s 5 minutes from Cannes.
Cannes is very polished compared to Nice and Antibes, and normally I don’t like that. But it works here – the beaches, trees, ancient buildings and colour of the water aren’t overcome by the opulent hotels, fancy cars and designer shops. Everything goes together. The city isn’t remotely shy about playing up its glamorous image – the Palme D’Or symbol is on the roads, there are banners and murals of movie stars everywhere. They’re saying: “Of course movies happen here, of course the world’s most prestigious film festival is here. Because it’s beautiful!”
I didn’t, actually, not at the same time, so that advice is misplaced.
I spent yesterday with my amazing co-worker Sosena: she was born and grew up in Ethiopia, went to university in St Petersburg and Odessa (BSc in Statistics!), visits her family in France regularly, and came here from living in Queens, New York. Sosena’s in her second year of teaching, so she knows of sights my other friends don’t yet.
Zhongshan is called China’s “Garden City”, and it really is. The parks are gorgeous — plants, architecture, and art! — and well-maintained. And as people earn more and open up to “the West”, more expensive, fusion shops are opening.
Sosena took me took me up Zhongshan’s “most beautiful street” to a mall called Holiday Plaza, where the subtle Christmas decorations are up, and there are lots of beautiful, very expensive shops to look at. I got presents from an incredible bookstore to send home, and scented sachets to keep the mustiness (and maybe insects) out of my wardrobe.
And then, in the evening, my much younger co-workers asked me out for a drink, which turned into drinks plural, which turned into a cab ride, which turned into meat sweats at the “night market,” where one can eat lamb which has been slaughtered and butchered minutes before eating it, while losing at poker. (That all happened the night before last, to a friend.) Viewers of my Fringe play Allergy will remember that my endo has resulted in me not being able to have alcohol — I simply can’t have any without feeling immediately ill. It had been about four years since my last drink, and last night among my friends, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I had one glass of excellent Shiraz, was instantly drunk, and — despite drinking water between sips and eating all the meat — had the nausea and headache within an hour. Time to admit there’s just some things I can’t have anymore.
The wet season has begun in southern China: I’ll try to get a video of the next downpour, but it’ll be difficult without getting my phone soaked.
Last night, my flatmate Joe took me and our fellow foreigner Scott, from Australia, to Woking Street. Anything and everything you could ever want — or at least knock-offs thereof — are available to buy. There were also tons of street vendors, but street meat is…iffy, so we didn’t try any. We DID have pineapple-flavoured soft-serve ice cream in fresh, made-to-order waffle cones from a tiny shop only Joe knew was there.