David and Pop-Pop's Europe Trip
Madrid, Spain

Views from the top of the city and the hotel

Diary--July 3rd, 1994

Now I'm on the bus, driving through the south of France to Nice. The scenery is mostly forest and mountains, looking much like the area around Yosemite [but not as much as the Swiss Alps do]. Quite different from the flat chapparal of Spain.

Tomorrow we'll explore the city. The bus made such good time we took a trip to Monaco before coming to this hotel in Nice.

Diary--July 4th, 1994

I finally have a moment to write more. The tour group had dinner together last night, then Pop-Pop and I found a pharmacy that would sell us antibiotics without a prescription (after dinner on a Sunday, no less), then I did the laundry and piano I mentioned above, wrote more postcards, and went to bed.

Today my ear and throat feel better but my throat is somehow swollen in a way that makes swallowing possible but tricky. This morning was a tour of a perfume factory and the town of St. Paul de Vence. In the factory I was told by the guide that there are only three hundred professional "noses" in the world who design fragrances. I'm not sure why the rest of us need to buy expensive perfumes whose subtleties we are blind to. I wonder if dabbing a bit of baker's vanilla extract on my neck would work as cologne? It would be cheaper than perfume, and I'd taste better too.

The town of St. Paul de Vence is a walled town atop a mountain. Within these protected borders lie only art galleries, chatchkie shops, and restaurants, with the exception of a church. I think of "Fort Ojai". (Not quite true, but for the homes and offices you have to search - worthwhile for the places with cute doors and knockers). The surrounding area, both the mountains and houses, very much resembles Ventura.

My sickness is making me tired: I napped again this afternoon. My appetite is down, too; this morning at breakfast I only ate one bowl of cereal, a yogurt, a ham sandwich, and three glasses of orange juice. French ham is very good, and it is nice to be in a place (ie- not in Spain) where juices are cold.

I have not yet written about Monaco. The place was quite beautiful, and must have been even more so before the era of tall hotels and apartment buildings. During the drive down from the mountains to the "island" that has the palace and museum, the tour guide, Roeland, told us how Monte Carlo was home to the monetarily wealthy, to tax evaders and draft dodgers. Walking around the island I was wondering if there was any social redemption for the "playground of the rich", any charities it supported or other good it did. At the end of my looking around I looked down from a patio at the edge of the island to a lower one, and saw for a moment until they ran out of sight under some lush trees three children playing tag, oblivious to the ocean view of the French Riviera beside them or the famous casino across the bay.

The other thing that struck me in Monaco was the royal cathedral, built a century ago. Unlike the gothic cathedrals I saw before, which had definite structure but not symmetry, this cathedral had gargoyles that matched, sharp square corners, and other symmetries that the modern eye finds appealing. I liked it better when each gargoyle was distinct and the location of each flying buttress is clearly determined more by structural neccessity than artistic design.

If you were the owner of a small, one-city country, how would you run things? What would your country be like? One of my favorite fantasies is to live in an enormous house, with an often changing collection of guests, each was doing a job they loved. I would be a teacher, and the dreamer. There could be a cook, a musician, someone who played the investment market, craftsmen, a librarian, someone to manage knowing who we needed and to politely console any jugglers who wised to join us but we already have plenty. The house would be on a tiny island, of course, which would sail along the coasts.