by Melinda Gallo

On our way to Nice

When I woke up at 5:30AM this morning, I took a picture of the sunrise from one of our windows in the apartment because I never get to see it. At 7AM, I called a taxi and they gave us only a few minutes to drag our luggage downstairs. The second we opened the building door, the taxi arrived. He drove us down the empty streets and I looked back at the Santa Croce church, which was so beautifully lit in the morning sun, as we turned toward Piazza della Signoria.

We got on our train to Genova, which stopped quite often. After Pisa, we seemed to be hovering the coast with the Mediterranean laid out next to us. We even went through the Cinque Terre where a few people were wading in the water.

I wanted to take a nap, but couldn't fall asleep. Too many people kept coming in and leaving our compartimento (compartment). One American woman stood at the door perplexed by the lack of numbers on each seat. She kept telling another woman who was standing in the hall, "I need to find seat 41." There were three empty seats in our compartimento, so I told her which one was 41. She thanked me in Italian and sat down.

After she left, another man got on and took her space. He looked at me and then at my iPod. Each time he turned the page of his newspaper, he'd look at me and then at my iPod. I began to wonder if the volume was too high. "Le d fastidio?" (Is it bothering you). "Ci mancherebbe" (I wouldn't think it/Not at all), he said to me smiling. After that, he didn't look at me again.

We got off at Genova, another city I've never visited before. I heard the woman announce that there were two stops in Genova. I knew mine was the second one. I asked one woman at the door, "La prossima fermata Piazza Principale?" She nodded and said, "Piazza Principe." I was a little embarrassed, but found it quite funny. On my train ticket, I had seen "Piazza Princ" so I didn't know for sure what that could stand for.

We left our luggage at the deposito bagagli (baggage check/left luggage) and walked down a main street. There were a few farmacie (pharmacies) and ristoranti, but only one that was serving lunch at 11:30AM. We had no choice, so we sat down and had a quick lunch. It wasn't our best meal, but after being on a train for three hours and waking up so early, it was good enough.

We picked up our luggage and boarded our train to Nice and once again found ourselves next to the Mediterranean. It looked like we were gliding on the water because if there were any buildings, we couldn't see them. I didn't think of taking any pictures until I got off the train.

Our compartimento was full the entire way to Nice: two French women who lived in Monte Carlo and a British couple who divide their time between England and Paris.

The weather was a little more humid in Nice when we arrived. The taxi driver took us to the airport where we were supposed to meet our friends who were arriving from Paris. He asked me which terminal, but I didn't know. When I told him that they were coming from Paris, he knew which one to go to. He told me that the two terminals are about two kilometers apart and it'd be practically impossible to get to the other one if it was the wrong one.

While he was driving, I asked him how warm the water was and he grabbed the newspaper next to him on the passenger's seat to check. He looked down and told me the water was 17C/63F. Suddenly he slammed on the break and all I could think was that I shouldn't talk to him while he drives. I tried to keep quiet, but he kept asking me more questions. He thought we were Florentines because I told him we live in Florence. He was surprised that we were Americans living in Florence. He told me that it must really be different and I assured him that it certainly was.

When he dropped us off at the airport, he handed me a map of Nice and listed a few places I must go to, like the Musee Marc Chagall. He also told us not to go to Cannes (probably because the annual film festival is being held there too).

We met our friends and were taken to Club Med in Opio where our conference is being held for a few days. The drive was quite complicated in that if someone were to ask any one of us to drive back to Nice, we'd fail. We arrived on this huge plateau looking out onto a large valley with small mountains all around. We couldn't believe how beautiful it was and wondered how we'll be able to focus on work in such an amazing environment.

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