For a second, I think I forgot that February anywhere is a terrible sort of month. But then! But then-
But then all of a sudden, there’s sunshine. I’m bitter for a half a second because the rain and cold stopped me yesterday from jumping into the sea with my semi-game Austrian friend, then it made us into human slushies of silly string, confetti and Carnaval music. We wind along the Côte d’Azur and it’s Sunday and it’s morning and there’s sunlight and I’m in between Nice and Monaco and I realize that winter can be a state of mind erased in the shock of the seaside in sunlight, the moment of “Oh, I’m here.”
I’m bowled over with gratitude and speechless for a moment- how can I really see everything if I’m talking? – and when we finally arrive in Monaco for the afternoon I find myself full of sun and clouds, trailing up through the old city, ignoring the tourist shops, eating obligatory crepes and learning about life in Austria from new friends. I’m still amazed that places like this exist and that I am here to see it all. I forget the rain, the cold, the wet socks, and instead am just eyes-wide-open-present. The sharp wind makes my eyes water, makes me blink more, makes me see everything clearly.
As usual, no visit to a new place here is complete without trawling through a new marketplace. The central Niçois market was rainy, was full of flowers and over-priced fruit, soaps from Marseille and some radishes that thrilled my friend and confused me. Open minds! but the shining moment was tasting real socca- chickpea flatbread that I’ve got a habit of making with excellent company in Montreal. Thereza made it over a metal barrel filled with hot coals and gave me probably a quarter of that whole pan. Thank you, you made my weekend.
This weekend, I glimpsed what warmth will be like in this country. For a moment, I peeled back snow and frost from the landscape and saw, nestled below, castle ruins and a brand-new seaside, pebbly beaches and flowers trawling over ancient fortified walls. When the snow melts for good, I will come back to these places, so famous for their sunshine, to sit on the beach and eat more of Thereza’s socca, walk up to the ruins, jump in the sea, hike the summer Alps, walk to Spain if I’m industrious, and swim swim swim…
I’m so happy to know that it’s almost March; soon the sun will come out and I’ll be here when it does. I’m coming back for these big beautiful mountains, those yawning oceans, for the figs and soap stands and lavender fields and the vineyards and the forest walks.
In the meantime, it’s winter vacation for me and I’m heading off for a week of relaxing and laundry and catching up on class work (maybe) then Switzerland and finally, surprise! a few days on a small farm in the Haute-Savoie region just east of Lyon. For now though, just laundry…