OK, I think I should seriously consider moving to France. If the people are obnoxious to me, that can be explained by my status as an obnoxious tourist, and learning the language would go a long way towards fixing that. Better toilet paper would improve local attitudes immeasurably, too. The thing is: of the three major meals I’ve had here so far, one has been very good, and the other two were wonderful.
I’m staying in an ordinary chain hotel, albeit a French chain, so I have no reason to expect anything spectacular. Dinner last night was the “express menu”, or dish of the day, which turned out to be flame-grilled entrecôte steak and real French Fries – a classic steak frites combination, done right. Dessert was a crème brûlée – simple to do and very easy to get wrong, which didn’t happen this time either. Tonight’s Ravoli Niçoise (not Ravioli, as I tried to call it) was merely very good. That’s what I get for choosing the cheap option, but I wasn’t that hungry. Which was because of the lunch I had at the HP building down the road. I mean, how many corporate canteens cook pizza to order, with an excellent cheese board? No wine, of course – we are working, kinda.
Earlier this evening I decided to take a walk, to see if I could buy some bottled water, perhaps some local junk food. (I never cease to be amazed by the different ways in which it is possible to package empty calories, and I’m determined to sample as many different ones as I can.) The Sophia Antipolis technology park is in a hilly, wooded area to the north-west of Nice. As I’ve discovered, it’s a lot as you might imagine a similar area in the USA might be; designed for cars, not pedestrians. What few sidewalks there are appear to be there to get people to from bus stops to offices. Those are everywhere, and all technology-related. IT (of course), public research facilities, telecoms, and even a few genetic science places. There’s an agri-science one across the road from the road from the hotel, so I may be shedding genetically-modified pollen on my keyboard as I type this.
Well, after about 6km (4 miles) of up hills and down twisty lanes, no sidewalks, blinded by hundreds of car headlights, I’ve discovered that this area has offices and a few hotels, a university campus, and literally no other facilities. No gas stations, with or without grocery stores attached. No homes, bars, supermarkets, no centre. Starting at the hotel on Rue Fyodor Dostoevsky, up Rue Albert Einstein to Route Des Lucioles (Firefly Road), back down towards Route Des Colles (The Glue Route?), finally ending up back on Rue Fernand Leger towards the hotel.
Einstein you’ve heard of, Dostoevsky too, probably, but Fernand Leger was only vaguely familiar to me. Encyclopaedia Britannica cleared up the mystery; he was a French artist, surrounded by Cubists while doing his own thing, and he helped to articulate the Futurist themes that came out of the Industrial Revolution and World War I. He served in the trenches and was badly affected by a gas attack, but recovered to stick his fingers in many more pies. He made the film Le Ballet Mécanique (“The Mechanical Ballet”), which is probably where I had heard his name, having read articles about George Antheil’s innovative soundtrack for the film.
I actually found something watchable on French TV – a Champion’s League football (soccer) game between Arsenal and Valencia. It’s just ended 0-0, as I type this, so I guess I wasn’t watching it after all. It’s back to my book – Red Dragon, which I’ve borrowed to read before I see the film later. It’s already spooked me out – where the hell does Thomas Harris get these characters from? I don’t want to know, but the book is certainly gripping. More impressions later.