August 15: Skin, skin, skin

Even though I grew up in Rockland County NY, I’ve spent most of my adult life in a cooooool climate, and I’m definitely not used to all the skin that mid-August on the Riviera exposes. The whole Riviera thing is in full swing right now.

Would I go to the beach more often if I didn’t have skin that burned in 10 minutes? I usually go in early evening, when the sun has almost set, for a swim rather than the whole beach experience. The other day we were in Villefranche about 6pm, and a family arrived behind us, set up a little tent, organised their blow-up beach mats, unpacked their cool-box, spent 20 minutes taking pictures of petite Coco in her rubber boat, and then did the whole thing in reverse the minute petite Coco got wet and started to cry, and left. I hope the pictures were worth it.

Eeeuugh - somebody else's feet

On the beach at Nice, which is a really hard-core South of France nose-to-toe experience at this time of year, it isn’t really very nice at all. It’s blistering hot, crowded, full of cigarette butts and just too close to… other people’s skin. Even just walking around town, I’m amazed at what people (don’t) wear. Am I too London in that I really don’t care to see extensive amounts of back? Wiggling cleavage? Bits of bottom? That someone else’s naked thigh is just a bit too near mine sitting on the Tram? It helps when said skin is gorgeous and not over 20 years old, but even then, marring it with a tattoo… Am I just… old?

I only go to the beach at Nice on my own – Joel wouldn’t deign to waste his time there now. Sometimes I simply need a swim, and cycle down. I lie on the beach after my swim to dry off (timing it to avoid the beginning of skin-sizzle, which, in my case, sounds like meaty pork sausages in a frying pan). The only thing I really like while lying there with my eyes closed is listening to other people’s conversations – there are usually at least 30 people within listening distance, so it’s hard not to. People have truly stupendously dumb conversations on the beach, most of which are no more than stating the obvious, such as ‘It’s crowded today’; ‘it’s hot’, ‘the water’s cool’. And those just the conversations I can understand. Maybe the Russians are discussing far more interesting things? Of course, people are on holiday. If you can’t be mindless on the beach, where can you be mindless?

But when I open my eyes – yuk. Acres and acres and acres of flesh. Underarms. Toes. Boobs. Crotches of both variations from unusual angles and proximities. I guess lots of people actually love this aspect of summer in the South of France, but … not me.

Our building is the pink one in the middle

Fortunately, Nice is divided into parts. We can be at the beach in 20 minutes or less, but once you pass the train station, life becomes normal. It’s another French city full of people living their lives rather than a world-famous holiday town full of virtually naked bodies. The restaurants (ours included!) are full of local people rather than tourists, and even though the heat requires minimal clothing, an over-exposed bottom would attract comment.

Meanwhile, Mika is working away redecorating our apartment. There’s a certain spot, where, when I pass on the the Tram, I can look up and see our building. I have to look quickly, as a couple of streets later, I look on the other side and see the restaurant, and, if I pay attention, who’s there on the terrasse. Mika thinks he’ll be finished in a week or so. I can’t really even think straight, I’m so desperate to move. It keeps my mind off The Novel, however, which I would worry about if I gave myself half a chance. I’m editing on auto-pilot, which probably isn’t good. At least there’s no skin in it, for now.

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About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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