A Month in Europe – Reflections

We packed so much into our month in Europe that it is impossible to mention everything that we did.  But it occurred to me that I must highlight some of the lovely people, places, events, and impressions that I have thus far not mentioned in the past A Month in Europe blogs.

We were privileged to meet two of Margo and Jeff’s good friends Ron and Barbara.  These were simply delightful people.  Ron is retired from several meaningful positions including rocket scientist while Barbara has her own insurance consulting business and still is working part time.  They are from New York but have the most interesting  annual living plan of residing in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France for part of the spring and summer, then home to New York, New York until the first chilly winds blow, and then to Florida.  They met us at a stop on the train from Nice to Ventimiglia, Italy where we were all going to the famous Friday outdoor market.  The market is located in the towns’ center and has over five hundred stalls that have everything from cheese and salami to italian coffee pots.  This Market is a microcosm of humanity.  Beautiful silks, cashmere sweaters, and leather goods along with toys and trinkets, and purses being sold by African folks who were very interesting to watch.  These gentleman would take some time in laying out their wares of primarily purses on a blanket on the ground only to subsequently gather the blanket by the four corners and run, as if for their life, when word traveled that the italian police were in the area.  I asked Jeff what was happening and he told me that they were probably in the country illegally and were thus not wanting to be apprehended by the police.  The theatre did not happen once while we at the market but many times.  Not long after the fleeing the Carabinieri who walked slowly and deliberately down the narrow paths of the market…they soon returned to the same location that they had fled a few minutes earlier and again went through the painstaking process of setting up their wares.  Ron purchased a great italian coffee pot…that if I had seen them I would have purchased one as well.

Jeff told me early in our stay in Nice that their was a Jazz club very near their apartment and that we would go there for some Jazz appreciation during the week that we were in Nice.  I thought how nice this would be as Jazz is my favorite form of music.  I even considered that perhaps we would attend two or three performances due to the close proximity of the club.  The week went by very quickly and one of the last nights we were there as we were walking back to the apartment Jeff remarked that he and I should stop in to the Jazz club that was right in front of us.  I responded that we must wait for the girls…as I was certain that they wanted to join us.  We never made it to the Jazz club…and I can still hear the music.

The times I spent with Jeff at the Mediterranean Sea coast…reflecting on our all to quickly passed youth…and the unthought of miracle that we had renewed our friendships so many years later in Europe were very special and memorable moments in life that is such a profound mystery.  The Mediterranean is alluring and sublime in its’ beauty.  If you just visited Nice and sat each day by the Sea…you would be fulfilled and happy.

Margo is an inspiration to me.  Having dreamed of writing for many years, and having done some…but not enough, her dedication to the craft and success at it has been exciting!  I enjoyed so much seeing her office and her desk, of which she stands at much of the time, and the throughly enjoyable evening we spent with her and Jeff at Patricia Sands Forum caused me to realize that if I wanted to write…it was time.  Mary Jane and I both remarked that being in Nice and seeing the various sites that Margo had written about in previous articles caused the scenes to come alive for us in a special way that would not have happened had we not been privileged to read the pieces.

Venice was like entering a beautiful story.  It had a surreal quality to it that at first I thought must be only temporary…but indeed it lasted the five days that we were there.  Jeff was ill from beginning to end of our stay and this made us sad.  Margo watched over him for the duration and thus we were orphans in an unknown world.  The strangeness of the geographical location is compelling.  Venice seems to be a tight-knit community.  Yet watching the tourists and locals for many hours I was struck with the cosmopolitan nature of the group.  Venice is a relatively small city with a worldwide reputation.  During our first guided tour of Venice, of which we could not hear the guide most of the time, we had also received the information that we were eligible for a free tour to the island of Murano where the famous glass is produced.  Murano is famous for its’ exquisite blown glass that is sold worldwide.  Mary Jane was searching for just the right piece of Murano glass.  And so we went on the free tour.  The water taxi took almost thirty minutes to arrive at our destination.  When we disembarked we were kept in a tight group and escorted immediately to a glass blowing factory for a demonstration that was mildly enjoyable.  Then we were shown another walkway that led directly into the glass factory store.  Here we were shadowed by a sales person who began by quoting us phenomenal prices for Murano artwork that we seemed to be interested in.  He then mentioned to me that he would not insult me by suggesting that price was an issue for me but that he could be flexible on some of the quoted costs if we were interested.  I was perplexed at the sales techniques of one of the apparent managers of the sales force when he brushed off a woman who seemed extremely interested in a relatively expensive piece and his admonishing her to go to the basement where there were cheaper pieces specifically for tourist souvenirs while subsequently following us as what he perceived “big fish” clients.  We left without any glass.

Margo returned from a solo journey in Venice one afternoon to announce to us that we must see a bookstore that she had discovered.  She explained that books that had apparently been water damaged had been constructed into stairs and platforms that customers could stand upon.  We had to see it.

Venice Bookstore II

Venice Bookstore III

Venice Bookstore IV

You may notice that the beginning of the Venice Video that is contained within my A Month in Europe – Venice blog begins with the proprietor of the colorful bookstore.

Mary Jane has always been beautiful.  I have admired her beauty for over forty years.  Yet she has a special glow in Europe which is one of her favorite destinations.  Mary Jane I

Margo and Mary Jane have been friends for over forty years.  I reflected often during our month adventure with them that the years simply roll away when I look at them together.  Mary Jane and Margo I

We departed Venice with two pieces of Murano glass…one beloved and one hidden.  We also purchased a painting for each of our wonderful sons, who did not accompany us on this trip, but have on two trips to Europe prior to this one.  I thought, as I have on almost every European location that I have visited, that I could spend a year and only scratch the surface of the rich culture and heritage of Nice and Venice.



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