I was reaching the end of my pilgrimage to France, when for some unknown purpose we were merged with the group that we were with previously, while visiting Cannes.
It was our second day after arrival in Nice and supposedly the last day of our week long trip in France. In the end, it turned out to be mysteriously magical.
Three consecutive visits to the medieval villages in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) located in the south of France didn’t enthuse us much, as we felt that they were just mere reprints of the first – Gourdon. Gourdon is a small village, whose name sounded so Tolkeish and whose milieu reminded me of the sets of the Lord of the Rings.
The journey to St. Paul’s took a long time and when I stepped out of the bus, the drive- cum-guide announced that we were stopping for almost 2 hours!
Mute curses slipped out at once- for the very simple reason that he had allowed us to spend only twenty minutes in Cannes due to a parking problem. Cannes is a small but busy city. With the palace holding the glorious film festival adding to its charm, Cannes also has one of the loveliest beaches in the whole of France. You can lie there the entire day without a single thought, just basking and tanning yourself under the sun.
The second shock that I got was when I rested my hand on a bloody hot silencer of a motor bike which gently burnt the stratum corneum of my skin and left an imprint of a modern art Eiffel tower.
But, despite everything, I came to realise that I discovered a heaven of sorts by accident even though it took me a while.
A visit to St Paul’s is truly an artist’s pilgrimage. Situated atop a hill, a little to the east of the Mediterranean, it walls off the treasure with its huge fort-like rock walls. The first view I had was that of some oldies having fun in the medieval age themed pubs where you would think you actually got French wine in wooden tumblers.
You walk inside St.Paul and you are transported across centuries. A narrow, stony street with little billboards on its either side flash painters’ names and the glass walls of the shops display the paintings of the contemporary and age-old legends alike. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Marc Chagall had stepped out from his gallery to have a little chit-chat with the next door shopkeeper who sold costumes for theatre.
One would really appreciate the way St.Paul has been maintained, it’s like a holy shrine. The giggles and wails of children who were tripping helplessly on the uneven, stony alley reverberated in my ears, while my nose took in the aroma wafting from the local confectionary.
We were told that back in the 19th century, painters settled in St. Paul, attracted by its seclusion and panoramic view of sea and hills it offered. Needing some amount of seclusion to churn out the colours of art within, the artists made Provence in the South of France their home.
Back in Nice, I romanticised with the clear blue sea and the colours of Chagall’s paintings (which were primarily focused on his family) kept safely in Musse du Marc Chagall. I was also awed by Henri Matisse, (a painter comparable to Picasso and known for his impressionist art) who made me retrace the path back to the charming Saint Paul’s.
Nice, the fifth largest city of France, boasts not only of the three art museums of Chagall, Matisse and Picasso, but also of its wonderful coast and the exotic sea food.
To sum it up: If Nice is the canvas, then Provence is its color. If Nice is the artist, then Provence is its inspiration. If Nice has the fame, then Provence beholds its glory. If Nice is the body, then Provence is its center of mass (it follows the laws of physics as the centre of mass need not always lie within the body!)
This article has been written by Astha, a II year MBBS student at KMC, Mangalore.
Edited by: Kalyani Parvathy