Before moving to London to study, I lived in Nice. That beautiful Mediterranean city, sprawled nonchalantly across the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). A jumble of white buildings and red roofs in daylight, the thinnest veil of haze rendering its appearance mystical and magical. Like a fairytale city spotted from afar that vanishes if you get too close. At night, the azure ocean turns black, and Nice sits atop this breathing behemoth like a delicate crown, its lights shimmering like jewels and crystals.
It’s hard to believe that just a year ago all I could see was how small and sleepy it was. How bored I was here. All its beauty was hidden from my eyes by the ingenious filters of my mind. After about 6 years living in Nice, I had become blind.
I’m back home for summer now and last weekend I had a sudden urge to go outside and to explore Nice. To look at it like a tourist would. To enjoy it, not to merely live in it. To be surprised, rather than to pass through it without glancing left or right. Surely, this must have been inspired by quite a few classes on psychogeography we had last term.
So I became the urban-explorer. Equipped with my iPhone camera (you can follow me on instagram @thenanana), a rented bike, a towl and bathing suit, I left the cool home and went out into the heat. I joined the throngs of tourists. The Russians walked about flaunting luxury brands, the men with unbuttoned white shirts from which a curly mess of grizzly hair spilled forth, the women strutting about like peacocks on stiletto heels. The Asians kept to the shadows of the old town, their pretty umbrellas in blue, pink and white bobbing above them, protecting them from the oh-so-terrible sunlight. Most of the people at the beach were French, Italians and Arabs, perhaps more accustomed to the stony beach and the tug of the waves than tourists.
I swam in the cool sea. Oh, it’s so refreshing. You have no idea. I took pictures of the same stuff as all the other tourists. I ate ice cream at Fennochio’s, where they offer a choice of 100 flavours. I looked up, down, left, right, spotting things I had never seen before, re-appreciating familiar views and recognizing their original beauty.
And while I walked I thought about what kind of stories the city might have to tell. What stories were hidden in the alleys of the veille ville, in those narrow gorges, where neighbours in opposite buildings could reach out of their windows and hold hands. I wonder.