Sunday 28th September. – warrior like jousting as they wrestle in the sand

Two more things I want to do in Nice so Monday and Tuesday now planned and we leave Nice by train Wednesday am. We decided to just ‘beach it’ today. I don’t know if it’s because we are older but I find all forms of public transport a bit scary. The train stations are all chokka with people coming and going and tickets all managed by machines. I couldn’t even get one to speak English to me. A lovely french girl was waiting behind me, so I stepped aside and watched her. When she finished she smiled so I asked if she could help me and, voila! tickets in a minute. She couldn’t speak any English but we managed. All tickets must be ‘validated’ before getting on the train. This prevents you keeping it for the next days use if the conductor doesn’t show. Once validated it can’t be reused. It’s a kind’ve honesty system. I haven’t seen a guard once, but apparently they get nasty and demand instant fines if you are caught. I remember Roy telling us this from their trip and read about it on a few forums so we have been careful.

I, and lots of other tourists couldn’t get our tickets to validate, so I stood back and watched. When someone came with a ticket like ours I asked if she could show me. Now that sorted we had no idea which platform. There’s trains going every which way pretty regularly so we watched a bit and looked at the boards but had no idea of final destination of train so were a bit stumped till I saw a guy that looked like a cleaner was leaning on the door and asked. He told me stairs, platform D. Now this is all very good but France has been having tourists for around 300 years or more. How come they don’t have something easier? I know it works on some level…you’re just never sure. Maybe being this age we want to be MORE sure.

I mean a picture on the card machine that shows you which way to hold it and an arrow indicating that once it’s in, push to the left would be helpful. Not hard to do. I put that card in every which way but didn’t know ‘to the left, to the left!’ I know all this stuff adds to the experience, but for someone who’s rarely used public transport in my life born and bred country, I hate the thought of getting on a train that goes East, when I meant to go west. Ok I’ll stop moaning now.

So we get off the train and grab a sandwhich and start walking to the beach. Flippin heck that’s right, it’s the weekend! I don’t know if any beach in NZ looks like this but we find a metre square to sneak into and try not to look at anybody’s nipples while we head to the water. Not that they seem to care!

The waters not so clear which I tell Gilbert is because everyone’s sunscreen, moisturiser and hair products are slipping into the water, oiling it all up. It’s a sobering thought when you think of the effect worldwide of this. I’m sure I’m not the first one to think of it, but a 21st century problem?

While I’m reading Gilbert’s put his open umbrella over his head and is snoring. No problem with that disturbing anyone because we have a family of something like thirty Italians around us and the volume is incredible. So much talking and all at full volume. Toony this and Giovaani that. Lots of great expressive laughing and teasing and it doesn’t end. “Do you think it takes more words to say stuff than other languages?” Gilbert asks me cause these guys just don’t stop! Hours of it. There’s enough food to feed an army laid out and the five ladies in front of us whose husbands return later in the day, are relaxing on five star hotel towels and sipping pink champagne. I have to stop myself from staring but it’s fantastic fun just watching.

As well as that we have helicopters overhead from time to time, perhaps returning people to their five star yachts as there’s hundreds anchored out in the bay. We are still in Nice but just where it borders Monaco. In the background is the buzz of race cars. A grand prix perhaps to break the monotony of the yacht buying I wonder?

Amongst all this is a group of six boys. Perhaps 16 to 18 yrs old. They are having a ball. Playing in the water with a volley ball, boisterous as they flip each other and duck and dive. It doesn’t end there and often are tumbling out of the water and apologising as they retrieve a ball from someone’s slumber. There’s no complaints and in fact many are enjoying the young warrior like jousting which ends up as wrestling matches in the sand. Wrestling matches which they themselves take quite seriously and while waiting their turn they are doing press ups and just generally showing off to each other. The funny thing is I look around the crowd and I can see other young men doing press ups and claps and hand stand press ups pretending they are just entertaining themselves while inadvertently peeking to see who’s watching. When the wrestling is in full swing a number of young boys begin the same wrestling kind of behaviour in the periphery of the grand circle. Now I’m thinking, this is interesting. There’s probably a name for this but hey it’s after six pm and time to head back as the sun is stretching its shadow toward us.

So now I try the manoeuvre that I have seen performed hundreds of times by all ages, of getting out of wet swimwear and into a complete set of dry clothes before leaving the beach. I’ve watched quite a few and while my knickers has enough fabric to make about seventeen pairs of theirs, which is little more than a couple of bits of string, I think I do pretty well. Well better than the older British guy not far from me who’s wife is holding the towel for him while he wriggles and struggles beneath only to twist forcing her to drop it before he’s got his togs on. They are caught over his feet and the dance that ensues while he, bare bummed tries to get them up with his toes caught somewhere in the folds of fabric. Its not rude or embarrassing, just bloody hilarious!

We catch the train back to Nice Ville from Villefranche sur mer…jump off like locals and get tickets to head to Toulouse on Wednesday. We now know which train to catch to get straight to the best bit of beach. Which bus to catch to go north, east, west or south and how much coin we need. How to use the ticket machines and the basic layout of Nice and its environs….and we leave in two days. No skill is ever wasted I remind myself, tho I will probably still look blankly at the next ticket machine. While Gilbert is waiting for our Wednesday tickets to print I head towards what sounds like live music and see a piano has been put at one end of the station with the sign. ‘A vous de jouer’, which I think means ‘help yourself’ and a young guy has jumped on there and is playing and singing like a pro. He has the voice of an angel and is belting out song after song amidst cheers and claps. Wow. What talent. Can’t help but leave with a smile and what a great way to wait for your next train. Might be a bit of a pain if someone’s darling got up and played chopsticks for an hour tho?

Supermarket for wine, Pizzeria for hot pizza and were home. Another great day ends.

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