Monday, July 25, 2016

Nice after the Attack by Best of Nice Blog

Nice after the Attack: An irreverent insider's guide to Nice, France, with tips on how to use local buses and trains, best restaurants in Nice, night life and shopping, museums and markets, what to see and do in Nice, day trips from Nice, a monthly 'what's happening' guide ...and, of course, a blog.

Please see the post called Nice After the Attack.

Tribute Wall: Nice , July 22, 2016

 I wanted here to publish the tribute from my friend Gail who has the best blog about Nice.  My own observations sound trivial and ignorant of all the facts so I will refer you directly to her post.   I'm afraid that I have deliberately sheltered myself from the worst of the grief here in West Nice.  We have all been trying to move on from this senseless massacre with varying degrees of success. 

These are some glimpses of the commemorative wall in Nice.... so called in one message, the "Promenade of Life" that had been erected in Nice so that the Promenade could be cleared.   Friends and strangers of the deceased who were killed the evening of the commemoration of the Bastille, July 14,  2016, gathered together one night to move the tributes from hand to hand until they came to rest across from the Winged Victory.    

Promenade des Anglais, Nice France, July 22, 2016  photo by MaryMPayne

The tribute Wall,  July 22, 2016 Nice France  photo by MaryMPayne

  Tribute Wall, Nice July 22 , 2016  Photo by Mary m Payne

This poster reads: "We vigorously condemn the appalling terrorist crime of the night of 14 July in Nice and the massacre of the innocents,"  Maryam Radjavi has addressed her condolences to the President of the Republic and the people of France. She equally expressed her solidarity with the families of the victims of this revolting crime and wishes prompt rehabilitation of the injured and the displaced survivors. 

Maryam Radjavi has underlined that the Iranian people that live under the yolk of religious fascism and terrorism of Isis in Iran are well placed to understand the suffering of the French people and stand beside of them in these difficult moments. 

The elected President of the Iranian Resistance further reveals that this terrorism and massacre of innocents under the cloak of Islam has nothing to do with Islam."...etc etc...

Photo by Mary m Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

  Nice France, July 22, 2016   Photo by Mary M Payne

 This message reads: " I think with emotion of my former student, Medhi and her sister, Cherine who will try to live despite not having their brother....Two adorable little twins, kind, affectionate and smiling.  We render homage to all the other little angels, cut down in the flowering of life, of their  parents and families devastated by  pain for the remainder of their days.   We render homage to all of the victims of "the Promenade of Life" .We will never forget you.    The mistress ( teacher) "name covered" and ( name covered) Cymric"

Photo by Mary M Payne

Nice,  France, July 22, 2016 Photo by Mary M Payne

Nice, France July 22, 2016 photo by MaryMPayne

 Nice, France July 22, 2016 Photo by MaryM Payne

Evening walk Nice, July 22 , 2016

Winged Victory, Nice France
I am sobered by just having read what others experienced of the tragic Bastille evening and have come to see the wall of flowers now moved to a single location.

 Our Carousel Photo by Mary M Payne

  Beginning of tribute wall.  Nice, FRance, July 22, 2016  photo by MaryM Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

Photo by MaryM Payne

 This note reads: "Yesterday with the attacks which are taking place more and more frequently it seems it is difficult to show love, difficult to believe that that is sufficient.   But it is precisely why it is important.  To show love, is the most powerful response that we can give towards hate and division.  I send to all my affection.  My thoughts go to all of those who were affected by the attacks of Nice and elsewhere." 
Nic, Australia

Nice, France July 22, 2016 Photo by Mary M Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

This note reads:  "They believe they can win by killing women, children and men but all through the history of humanity, "evil" has never overcome "good".  This has never been the case and it never will be."
 Sharon Atherton, Australia

Soldiers patrol Nice and "our Bubble guy" photo by MaryMPayne

"bubble man"  photo by Mary M Payne

 Photo by MaryMPayne

Neptune Fountain Nice, France photo by MaryM Payne

It is a beautiful night with "made-for-movie" clouds and lighting, a welcome breeze as I wander farther into the center of town.    I am touched by seeing my city in full life again after the horrors of last week.  

 Le "coulée Verte" , Nice France photo by MaryMPayne

People are out strolling , all colors and races of people, all persuasions.... families on holiday.... residents enjoying a summer evening. 

 Kids pose in the water fountain of the Coulée Verte, our new park across the Paillon River.  A mother strolls across the water with her baby and her French bulldog. 

Photo by MaryM Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

The ochre and rose buildings of Place Massena give off a chalky glow .
The events of a week ago are not keeping this city from thriving.  

Place Massena ,Nice,France    photo by MaryM Payne

 Life is still splendid here and we are healing. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Further thoughts....

I have stepped cautiously back into life here in Nice after the sobering, unspeakable events of Bastille celebration night when one troubled soul decided to take as many with him as possible on his gruesome killing/suicide spree on the Promenade of Nice. 

What is clear is that the driver of the white truck on Bastille Day was not a practicing Muslim but it is still unclear when and how he was recruited to a murderous ideology.  It seems to be easy to recruit the deranged and alienated. 

I said "unspeakable" but in fact all of us have a need to speak, to tell our story and listen to the others less fortunate who lost one or as many as their whole family to the tragedy.  Speaking ( or writing) seems a cleansing ritual that we all reach out, to listen, to ask "where were you ? Are you all alright?"

Some have gone to the memorial, placed flowers and messages at the "wall" and have donated blood.  We all are needing to make some sense of what seems to be happening with greater frequency in our society.  We have an urge to comfort each other and connect. 

I have started my experiment of "reaching out" and connecting and it is both gratifying and exhausting.  It takes a lot of concentration to focus on each person and send the best energy we have available.  It becomes clear that just being out in the public one wants to spend a certain amount of time anonymous , get through our errands and hurry home to our sanctuaries. 

  But yes, I will continue my experiment because  connecting really brings rewards as well.  I have approached two muslims ( one a neighbor) who have an even greater need to explain that this does not represent Islam and they lost people in the tragedy also.  I have talked to others, mostly Christians here and I have silently sent my prayer to each one I passed. 

Yes, the Niçois are saddened,  empathetic and are going forward.  The beaches are still crowded, the tourists seem still to be here.   

But it has affected me more than I realized at first.  Every truck I see is white and is moving too fast.   At every intersection I find myself hesitating before crossing.  I want to stay home more than usual and sleep.  The worst thing when I am out are the make-shift posters put up in each bus stop  asking " have you seen this person?" and showing a grinning youth of about 20.  The poster states: "last seen at Blue Beach on July 14."  This is heart-breaking.  

The phrase which keeps circulating in my head (that I am sure must be from Tennessee Williams) is " live, live, live.... just live....that's all we can do".  (I can't seem to find the exact quote online.) 

 I think by "live" Williams meant "thrive" which only happens if we keep fear at bay and keep  ourselves to our highest good.    And it certainly helps to do it together. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

About Tragedy

"This is a time when people can become truly aware that we all have a lot more in common than we do differences. The political question of the season is, therefore, to discuss and understand how we can do small things in our personal lives that, when taken collectively, can move us along the path of improving the quality of life for all living beings."  Rio Olesky

Villa Rothchild gardens,  photo by Mary M Payne

I am touched by all of the heartfelt messages ...little texts and notes that have come from the States and as far as Mumbai from friends and family.... and from Facebook acquaintances that I have never even met or who have "found" me.   These have all been in response to the tragedy last night in Nice. 

Last evening I thought that I would go down to the fireworks display but decided I would be better served by going to bed early and getting up at five to meditate and walk along the sea.  It is a new practice of mine and it isn't cemented into my belief system yet ( I still believe that I am not a morning person) so I was determined to do it, even though going to bed early still seems like a wussy thing to do.  

So I went to bed early and during that time (around 10h30 here) a truck deliberately plowed into the crowds by the famous Negresco Hotel, killing 84 revelers and injuring 200.  

My brother Jim called at 1:30 am from Seattle to let us know what had happened.  It had become world wide news. 

But even though we weren't affected personally, all of your little kindnesses, letters and phone calls to us and to each other have meant so much.  They are what is needed for everyone to heal the deep wounds of alienation and fear that have turned into rage.  

 You can see this alienation in the political scene in Britain ( Brexit) and the USA and in the proliferation of gun related incidents in the USA.  This fear and alienation is a world-wide problem now, not just that of France.  You can see it in the fear of immigration and fear of displacement across the globe, the fear and loathing of "the others". 

 Why does it take a tragedy to reach out to each other in solidarity?  It is perhaps because we need an emotional response to really make a change.  

 What if we made reaching out a daily practice? 

 In fact, I think that that is all we can do.   We certainly can't cover every person with a policeman and a gun.  We can't even realistically secure a crowd.  Any determined terrorist
will find a way to act. 

  But we can soften the climate to make our lives more inclusive...reaching across borders that we unwittingly have put in place.

I am blessed that all my people are safe and I want to keep that feeling every day.   I think it is up to me how I feel and how I think.  If I can believe that I am changing the climate to prevent alienation, I know I will feel even better.  

  And that does not mean re-living the story over and over, repeating the horrors and looking at the pictures.    If you can't change it, go ahead and rail at the world for five minutes....not more.  Repeating the story only keeps the negativity and terrorism alive.   It does nothing to heal it. 

 What I need to move on is "to be on my toes",  not to guard against horrors, but to see how I can make a difference in the general feelings around me.  

 What we all can do takes place on the bus, in the street, passing a stranger in the parking lot , at the market.  What we can do is to be alert, awake to the strangers around us.  We can take the time to talk, nod, smile or even to just silently lift the energy without a word or gesture...

 Even that wordless thought is an action... a simple acknowledgement that we are on this planet together.   That is something we can do. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wesley walks on the wild side

Wesley in his basket,  photo by June

Hi This is my friend Wesley.  He is June's big boy... Persian and some Mainecoon, we think. He has the biggest eyes I have ever seen in a kitty head and his paws are huge too. 

 Wesley and June just recently transferred to a new residence for summertime... where Wesley can go outside with his halter and "have a go" at being a mountain lion.   And he gets to explore a beautiful terrace.  Here is one of his new walks. 

Wesley   Photo by June

And here is the beautiful terrace:
Terrace in Cap Ferrat,  photo by Mary M Payne

Apartment view overlooking Villefranche-sur-mer    photo by Mary M Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

Photo by Mary M Payne

 I had a wonderful visit here in Cap Ferrat with June and the big boy.   From here one can see why Cap Ferrat is one of the most sought after addresses in the world.   It's quite enough at this time of year to just to sit forever and gaze out to sea. 

 June and I went for a swim in the sea, ate lunch under the shade of a parasol in a small cove, watched the "beautiful people" sun bathe and shopped in the adjacent boutique.  We are both aware that we are blessed to be living in this beautiful spot.... but is Wesley?   

Actually,  I think he wants to know why he doesn't live in this new apartment year round.  A quality cat (as Wesley knows he is),  understands a quality lodging when he sees it. 

Wesley Big Eyes.  Photo by Mary M Payne

Plantain Banana Bread

Plantain/Banana Bread photo by Mary M Payne

Our Muslims ( about 10 % of French population) just finished the ritual of  Ramadan.     This is not something I realized until I tried to offer a treat to the workers who are doing a construction project on the house across the street.

  The new owner is Egyptian, and very kindly gives us fresh eggs from his eight hens and zucchini with the blossoms still attached (Yum).  He also has his boys take items to the "dechetterie" when they are headed there anyway with their truck. 

 If we try to repay the workers they refuse payment.  Muslims believe in giving service without expecting compensation.  

  So, I thought I would offer a treat instead.   But during Ramadan Muslims cannot accept food or drink before sundown for the length of the festival... which extended this year from June 6 to July 5th. 

 I found this out the hard way.   I made a Plantain/ Banana Bread and offered it to the young men across the street.    And I was caught off guard when they told me that it was Ramadan.   I didn't even stop to offer to bring it to them anyway to take home. 

 Instead, I rushed home and "googled" Ramadan. And this is some of what I found out: 

 Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.  Interesting. 

 So now, I am waiting for the men to get back to work to try another gesture of good will.... but all is quiet on the western front so I am offering this recipe to you instead.

  It happened that monsieur offered me two plantains with which to concoct something.    I am not overly fond of sautéd or flambéd bananas or cooked plantains so I had the idea to mix them with bananas and make a couple of loaves of cake bread. 

Ripe banana and ripe plantain ready to make into bread.  photo mary m payne

These days we know that if you have the thought, so has someone else, and the experience will be recorded somewhere online, perhaps in someone's blog or video.  

  Thus I found several recipes.  Here is the outline of the one I tweaked ( and I am looking again but not finding the original author). 

Plantain Banana Bread
2 small ripe bananas
2 Large almost black plantains 
½ cup of brown sugar ( can find in bio store in France)
¼ cup ( 4 T.) of unsalted butter, melted
1 egg beaten
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
¼ cup of Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour ( I used combo of buckwheat and spelt)
¼ tsp. of salt
1 ½ tsp. of ground cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1. preheat oven to 350 F. ( no. 5 in french oven)
2. butter two 9x5 inch bread pan. 
3. Using a fork or potato masher , mash the plantains and bananas with the brown sugar in a large bowl. 
4. Add melted butter, whisked egg, vanilla, and yogurt.  Stir. 
5. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
6. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until well-incorporated.  Do not over-stir. 
7.  Add nuts, raisins, seeds, dried cranberries, dates, shredded coconut or other add-ins . 
 I used coconut, pumpkin seeds, and chopped dates. 
8.  Bake one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. ( a few crumbs on it are ok)  My oven is calibrated so that I think I left it in for 20 minutes only. 
9.  Dig in. 

 A word about Buckwheat: You can keep this recipe the same no matter if you use buckwheat flour.  If you haven't tried Buckwheat ( sarrasin) I suggest you do as it is more nutritious than white flour or ( in my opinion) even whole wheat flour.  Buckwheat is in fact a seed not a wheat so if you are gluten free, it is an excellent choice.  Even if you are not, your body deserves to have different tastes and nutritive choices.  Spelt (epeautre) and Buckwheat flour together produce delicious results.

 I like my breakfast breads as un-cake-like and as rustic as possible so I always go for a combo flour and less sugar. 

In many homes these days the smell of healthy home baking is absent.  My mother was a great baker although she used "healthy" ingredients to the detriment sometimes of appearance and taste. For example, she put in so little sugar or honey that we called her cookies: "bread-lettes".  

But because of Elsa, my sister and I both bake and prepare home cooking, and some of my brothers do too. We know how much it means to our peeps and we enjoy it. 

  Why not bring back healthy home baking with this Banana/Plantain recipe. You will have done a small service to yourself and those in your circle.  

 And you don't have to eat it all yourself.  You can always give it away. Just make sure the family gets one too. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Big Love vs Big Enemy

Well, you've heard of Big Love.   Here in our garden corner there resides Big Love in its second year of blooming.  

Rose Mallow, Swamp Mallow, Kopper King ....whatever name you call this Hibiscus, this big beauty is the largest flower that I have in my garden.

 In fact, it may be the most impressive and biggest single blossom I have seen, slightly larger than a sunflower.  One flower on a Hibiscus stem of 8 or 10 blossoms is the size of a dinner plate. 

 I love its coloration.... the pink center on a delicate white background paired with coppery "rouge verdate" leaves.

Mallow Rose Hibiscus, Photo by Mary M Payne

Stand of Mallow Rose Hibiscus   photo by Mary M Payne

My garden corner featuring Kopper King Hibiscus stalks Photo by Mary M Payne

Close up of buds on the Rose Mallow  photo by Mary M Payne

And it's blooming is a sweet compensation for the massive battle that is going on behind it while Monsieur and I fight the big fight of removing an invasive bamboo.  Big Battle.  Big Enemy. 

  At our relatively old age when most people are calling a gardener,  Monsieur and I are tackling this intrusive plants with picks and shovels and sheer will power.

Bamboo Rhizome  photo by Mary M Payne

 We have already removed about 12 meters of roots and rhizomes to find that we have just gotten a glimpse of the power of this plant. 

 Although some bamboo species are well behaved  (clumping bamboo), our invader is an aggressive creeper or "running bamboo" that can easily take over an entire yard.  It's rhizomes (roots) can spread 12 inches a day and operate stealthily underground for months before surfacing with a complete system of rock-hard runners.  These cleverly place themselves under the root systems of other our case a stand of Pyracanthas more than 25 years old.  

Last year I cut down several shoots not realizing what was taking place "below stairs."  In the neighbor's yard from which it escaped there is a stand of 25 meter bamboo, fine for the scale of their yard but not so good for ours.     I thought it was enough to cut down the new shoots but I was mis-informed.   

Bamboo roots that underscored the wall,  photo by Mary M Payne

 One needs to remove the whole root system or the enemy will increase in strength and more shoots will appear.  Since we don't use herbicides in our yard, only hand tools will work.    With the pick and shovel we also use a hand trowel to remove loose soil so we can see what direction the root is going so we get the whole thing.  It is slow work. 

In our case, the bamboo has grown carefully in several lines against the retaining wall so that chunks of cement have to be chipped off with a sledge hammer in order to remove the runners.   From there the plant has sent out new runners and with them shoots of about a meter high are now cropping up among the flowers. 

The odd thing is that I feel quite proud of sweating and struggling in the name of what I want... beauty and order.  I am just grateful that we are able to do the work, that is.   

But while we labor and sweat we look over at our Rose Mallow and confirm that although a garden is a lot of work, it brings many subtle pleasures. 

  People give meaning to all kinds of activities as disparate as collecting curling stones or carving the tip of a tiny pencil. 

  So Hey,  Among other things, I give meaning to beauty and harmony and to the adage of " Never give up".

 Dear Enemy : I'll get you , I will....