My first lucky moment in the last several hours occurred when I drove into the last free space at the parking lot closest to the Village of Eze, half way between Nice and Monaco. My being there on this cloudy afternoon after spending an almost sleepless night on a transcontinental flight was pushing the limits of comfort, but I was actually very happy to have the opportunity to explore a place along Côte d’Azur that I had never visited before.
My stopover in Zurich had only provided fifty minutes for me to go from one terminal to another one in the opposite side of the airport from where my scheduled Swiss Air flight to Nice was to depart. As I rushed to get to my departing gate, I was not too concerned about being able to make it in time, but I was almost certain that my checked suitcase was not going to make it to Nice with me.
My concern became reality a couple of hours later when all my fellow passengers had left the baggage claim carousel at the Nice Airport and my suitcase never showed up. After that moment, I started an almost two-hour odyssey through
at least three very slow moving lines to first file a lost-luggage claim with the proper baggage service, and then get through two different lines, in two different terminals to finally get a rental car.
My plans were to go first to my hotel to check in and then take advantage of this Saturday afternoon to go explore a couple of places that I had never visited in the area. The weather forecast for the week did not look very promising as a large storm system was moving into the area. At best, Côte d’Azur would be enshrouded with clouds during the extent of my visit, and most likely, rain would be part of the weather mix during most days, including the entire weekend.
As soon as I checked in and secured my hand-carried belongings at the hotel located in Saint Laurent du Var, I drove parallel to the beach to Promenade des Anglais in Nice proper, which eventually turns into Quai des Etas Unis, and then Quai Rauba Capeu, as I continued crossing Nice in the general direction of Monaco.
As I was climbing the Middle Corniche from Nice, I saw several of the familiar stone
arches that help keep structures on the top more stable. The Middle Corniche is one of three parallel roads that trace Côte d’Azur at various levels starting with the lower one just a few meters over sea level and ending with the Grande Corniche that traces the upper coastline ridges providing expansive views over the Mediterranean sea and the various towns below.
I had followed at least one of these roads in years past to travel from Nice to Monaco and into Italy, but I did not realize the variety and beauty of some of the oldest villages built along the way. My target this time was the village of Eze. It was built originally as a military outpost that eventually attracted a population that built stone houses within fortified walls. My research indicated that the place attracted many tourists, so I was expecting to see lots of people there, but the weather was not optimal and the imminent rain reduced somewhat the number of visitors that may be typical of this time of the year
Because the village and crowning fortifications were built on top of a rocky outcrop, visitors don’t get the opportunity to appreciate the
village until after crossing a double gate that was part of the fortifications. Everything inside Eze was built using the abundant stone materials and following a very simple style. The narrow passageways that crisscross the village are also mostly cobblestone with a recent addition of red tiling that makes walking a little easier for the high volume of tourists that visit the site every day.
Most of the buildings in Eze have been “repurposed” to house establishments engaged in the tourism industry: shops selling every conceivable form of art or even clothing, and restaurants and even a few hotels. The interior of the structures looks much more up-to-date in terms of modern facilities than the more traditional exterior.
The rain soon started to become an annoyance, especially since my umbrella was inside my missing suitcase and I only had a very nominal way to protect my camera bag. The last place that I was able to visit in Eze was an exotic garden surrounding the ruins of the old castle that overlooked (and protected) the entire village. Only a couple of walls remain of the structure, but the views from the site were very impressive.
was capturing a few photos from the castle, the rain became too heavy for the safety of my camera and threatened getting the rest of me completely drenched. I had to call it a day but decided to return in the morning to continue my visit.
Sunday morning surprised me greatly as a beautiful sunny blue sky greeted me when I woke up. Was the weather forecast totally inaccurate? It promised another cloudy and rainy day just as Saturday was. Hoping that the conditions would last, I rushed through breakfast and retraced my steps from the day before back towards Eze, but this time I wanted to climb to the Grande Corniche and explore the area from there. Soon, I found the village of Col d'Eze, which offered great expansive views of Eze and also the Mediterranean below, but the weather forecast was starting to become reality again as low clouds started to roll over the landscape, obscuring the views from the Grande Corniche.
I descended to the Middle Corniche and Eze to take advantage of whatever good weather was still left and enjoy what I had missed the day before. Starting at two o'clock I was expecting
to receive calls from a colleague and a business partner who were scheduled to arrive in Nice around that time. The onset of my business activities (the primary objective of my trip) was at hand.
Bart, a close colleague based in Belgium was the first one to arrive. In deciding where to meet him, I had to consider the agenda for the rest of the day that included a meeting over drinks at around 6:00 PM with the business partner who was arriving from Amsterdam. This meeting was a dry run for a formal dinner at 8:00 PM with several key members of the board of the holding media conglomerate that owns the business partner's company.
I decided that Bart and I should meet at our hotel in Saint Laurent du Var and from there we should drive to Cannes to do some sightseeing before the meeting with the partner. Because of the Cannes Film Festival about to start there, I anticipated that the place would be very festive.
Bart and I were just entering Cannes when I got the call from our partner, Pieter, who had just landed at the airport in Nice. We agreed to
meet in Cannes to have our prep meeting and drinks. Cannes was very festive indeed, but I did not anticipate that getting there and finding suitable parking would take us several hours (Cannes is a short drive from Nice)... because of the film festival, the traffic had come to a virtual stop as drivers were striving to enter any available parking facility close to the center of town.
As Bart and I just sat in traffic barely advancing a few meters in almost half-an-hour, we decided to drive away from downtown Cannes and just walk from wherever we could find available parking. This move proved to be a good decision and we quickly found a place where to leave our car. We were just a few blocks away from the place where no one was going anywhere, very close to the venue where the film festival was about to begin.
Pieter, along with two companions, Margot and Ynse managed to park at the “Palace” parking lot, just next to the film festival. Finding the three of them proved to be difficult because when they exited the parking deck, they found themselves somehow inside the area where only people
with the proper accreditations were supposed to be. When security personnel challenged them to display their badges, they had to explain that they were only trying to get out of the complex. The security people found it very strange because most people would want to get in, not out.
In any case, Pieter and Margot would normally fit very well in the environment of a film festival, being well-known broadcast producers themselves. Anybody familiar with the “Big Brother” and “Golden Cage” reality shows would know them as the creators of the production technology that has made those shows (and other productions) possible. I am always grateful about the interesting people that I get to meet because of my work.
We managed to find each other and have a nice get together at a local watering hole close to the festival. But the highlight of our reunion in Côte d'Azur was going to be dinner.
The restaurant “Le Mas Candille”, located in a famous hotel and spa in Mougins, in the hills overlooking Cannes was the place where we got together again that evening. My hosts proved to be a truly amazing group of people who built a
major media conglomerate from scratch in the course of about twenty years. Business dinners are not always enjoyable, but this particular one was truly great!
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