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Nice, France
carnival scene in Nice, France

Nice, France: Before the Massacre
A Time for Celebration

Story & Slideshow by Skip Kaltenheuser

he recent shock and awe from a broken mind had me recalling when I joined celebrants watching fireworks from Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. It’s a sadness now to envision the tragedy of Bastille Day, the vulnerability of those looking skyward. But those who know the city, and who have felt the joy of crowds on the promenade – La Prom – can also recall the city’s irrepressible spirit.

Starting in the 1700’s, much of the English aristocracy wintered in Nice, drawn to the splendid coastal panorama. Egalitarian roots were planted in 1820, when a rough winter brought beggars from the north. The English dreamed up a project for them, constructing a walkway, paid for by the English barrister and reverend, Lewis Way. Christian charity at its best.

The beautiful Mediterranean backdrop is a good fit for one of the most artful and whimsical cities in Europe. Art museums are an embarrassment of riches, from the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to museums specific to individual artists including Matisse and Chagall, with loads more up and down the Cote d’Azur. Contemporary galleries that stretch the imagination testify to the quality of artists still drawn to the magnetic region.

Overlooking the beach It is hard to imagine a more innocent seven kilometers than when La Prom is filled with families. Baby carriages, skaters, bicyclists, skateboarders, walkers and joggers – it stays in happy motion beneath the palm trees. It is also hard to imagine a more artful place than when I was there in February of 2003, for Carnaval de Nice.

Read a carnaval snapshot

One of Carnaval's treats, the Batailles des Fleurs – Battles of Flowers – comprises five parades on La Prom, interspersed with other parades over a couple weeks. Twenty or so painstakingly decorated flower floats, each with thousands of stems refreshed on the design in a single day, carry costumed models throwing one and a half million or more locally grown flowers at the crowd. Floats are accompanied by artful dancers, bands, jugglers, acrobats and stilt walkers. It’s a jolting contrast, the recent tragedy and flowers flung at delighted crowds.

Satire reigns in other carnaval parades scattered over the celebration, including the parades of "big heads" and parades of a couple dozen or more elaborate two-ton floats built by volunteer artists over six months, based on winning themes submitted by cartoonists from around the world. The biggest worry was string in a can.

The satirical theme when I was there was the King of .comMedi, with plenty of hard jabs at media’s oppressive and intrusive aspects. I remember a float of a papier-mâché Larry King driving a giant tank, firing confetti from the turret with a CNN microphone at the end. Easy to reflect now on the pundits of major bellwether media that cheer-leaded for the invasion of Iraq. Shortly after that parade, the neo-diss and dats, Nut'nyahoo and the other geniuses got their way. Afghanistan was back-burnered and Iraq was invaded, unleashing waves of hell that destabilized the region, displaced desperate millions and lost the childhood of generations. It incubated Daesh and gave broken minds wherever they might surface the illusion of higher purpose, even for massacre by lorry. As prescient was a float of a giant grim reaper with a video cam.

The port city is strengthened by its international melting pot. The sadness Nice suffers won’t disappear as easily as a Carnaval's King burned in effigy, taking away a year of woes. But this city's artistic sensibilities and playful humor will survive any assault from madness.

The 2017 Carnaval theme is the King of Energy. Perhaps global warming, another great displacement in the queue, is on the mind. It's on mine, as the heat dome settles in.

Any part of the year is a good time to uncork a lunch bottle of rose' on the French Riviera, but if you want to join Nice poking fun at society's foibles, check out Nice Carnaval. Nice tourism, French tourism.

Read the Chilcot Report

Whenever you explore, bet on the triumph of Nice culture over those unable to grasp and embrace it.

Related Articles:
3 Things We Didn't Know About France; Hiking Through History In Southern France; Montagne: Destination Southwestern France; Montpellier, France; Art Ancient and Contemporary in Southwestern France


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Let Skip know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the White Continent of Antarctica

nguins on  shore as writer's cruise ship passes by, Antarctica
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more, but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages. Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: A Pint of the Black Stuff (Dispatch #19)

sunset at Galway Bay

The Palladian Traveler attempts the perfect pour as he files his latest dispatch from inside Europe's most popular tourist attraction. Sláinte!

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Would You Believe She Can Carry 800 (Yes, 800!) People!

Emirates Airbus A-380
As she came around the corner we could not believe how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful – almost elegant in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as quiet as a church mouse – or "as quiet as dreaming trees."

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Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

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Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Puerto Vallarta: Magic and Mayhem on the Malecon

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and never get bored and I thought, "Okay, I'm up for that challenge." Well, maybe not the dawn part – I'm not a morning person – so I had no problem leaving those early hours to the joggers and those seeking an early start to catch their red snapper for dinner.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Hanging Out in Huntington Beach, California

Greg at Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is legendary around the world as one of the best surfing spots. Its waves and beaches are so great, it is also officially known as "Surf City." But as I learned on a recent getaway, the town is more than just tasty swells and beautiful white sand; it also boasts gourmet restaurants, luxury, ocean-front hotels, great shopping, and tons of California coastal charm.

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Bev Cohn's travel blog
Tim Robbins On His Road To Stardom

Tim Robbins

Award-winning Tim Robbins began his career on episodic television. Robbins' film work, however, is what catapulted him into becoming a major movie star including "Bull Durham" and "Mystic River" for which he won multiple awards. Equally at home behind the camera, he directed the riveting "Dead Man Walking." He is Founder and Artistic Director of The Actors' Gang, which he formed thirty-five years ago and has directed multiple provocative productions. Robbins recently sat down for an exclusive two-part interview, which has been edited for content and continuity for print purposes.

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Gary Singh's travel blog/review
Monte Verità: In the Footsteps of Anarchy

Chiara's Rainbow, Monte Verita, Switzerland
Just as I reach the end of a squiggling, multicolored path, an acorn plummets from an oak tree above me. It lands at my feet, just as the path culminates at a mandala of Venetian glass, eight feet in diameter. On the worn-out front lawn of Monte Verità, the Mountain of Truth, this path, Chiara's Rainbow, evolves through the colors of the spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally violet – before arriving at the mosaic mandala where psychic energies supposedly prevail. The falling acorn brings me to the present moment.

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John Blanchette's travel blog/review
Rolling Through the Outback on the Indian Pacific's Christmas Train

Santa with native Australian on an Indian Pacific Christmas train stop
It was mid December and a heat wave had embraced the country. Record setting temperatures were searing the land from high 90s in Sydney and Adelaide to blast furnace heat in the great Outback. Fires were raging throughout the country. But we were cool, riding the air-conditioned Indian Pacific railway across the southern expanse of Australia to the west coast city of Perth, a four-day transcontinental tour...

Traveling Guest

Raoul Pascual's travel blog
Leviticus 20:13
Sent by Tom of Pasadena, CA

It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana was legalized in the last election. Leviticus 20:13 states
"If a man lays with another man, he should be stoned..." We've been interpreting it wrong all these years!

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Tim Mattox's travel article
John January and Linda Berry Have Chemistry

Nemeth and Deanna Bogart performing at Rosarito Beach, Baja, Mexico

Chemistry by its very definition is the spontaneous reaction of two people to each other, especially that sense of mutual attraction and understanding. This month John January and Linda Berry release their new project, Chemistry 101 and together they explore a range and depth of musical styles on both organic and physical levels. As a joint labor of love, January says Chemistry 101 is pretty straight-forward.

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Terry Cassel's travel blog
The Impossible Happened: Itís Time to Get to Work

the White House

All of us are stunned, across the entire political spectrum, by the results of this election. Many are both sickened and saddened, while others are jubilant. I am guardedly optimistic. I think it's too early to despair, or to celebrate. In my experience nothing is ever as bad as it seems, or as good. But there is great cause for concern.

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Dette Pascual's travel blog
Dia delos Muertos: The Day of the Dead – All Saints Day

All Saints Day scene at a Philippine cemetery
October draws to a close with a melancholy air. Days are colder, dead leaves flutter to the ground after a last burst of color, before finally drifting away to be tossed by the winds in all directions. Something about this image that inspires vintage, romantic songs like "Autumn Leaves"… and brings memories of a Love, once held close.

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Richard Carroll's travel blog/review
Costa Rica's Green

Costa Rican volcano

Sitting at an umbrella table in downtown San Jose overlooking the Plaza de la Cultura is like a page out of Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." The plaza is laid out in a maze of stalls where passive vendors sell sparkling silver jewelry by the trayfull, hand-carved clay masks, colorful Guatemalan belts, area rugs, and hammocks perfect for a midday siesta. Three men play an old wood marimba over the buzz of the crowd while a steaming plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) is served to an elegant lady who was performing with her guitar...

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Richard Frisbie's travel blog/review
Seville – The Most Gay-Friendly City in Spain

Seville tower

I find it nearly impossible to sleep on airplanes. When I couldn't sleep on the overnight Delta flight from New York to Andalusia last September, I scrolled through the movies (blah) and other entertainment (double blah) until I came across the TV show "Game of Thrones". I knew of it, that it was bloody and sexy, but had never seen it. I watched more than heard three episodes before dozing off. As I found out later, it was the perfect introduction to my visit to Seville, Spain.

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Deb Roskamp's travel photo blog
Tahiti and Her Islands

Tahiti

Just their names (pronounce each vowel!) conjure up romantic images: Tahiti Nui, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Ra'iatea, Taha'a. Her people are gentle; the air, tiare-perfumed. Warm lagoons, majestic peaks, tropical fruits from the land and bounty from the sea all tantalize the senses. Paradise! As near as can be found on planet earth. And, in my experience, the finest way to explore her is on a ship designed for that single purpose.

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Corinna Lothar's travel blog/review
NOLA: New Orleans, Louisiana

19th century building, Stuttgart, Germany
Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the Garden District, the streetcar (now a bus) to Desire, the jazz clubs, the beignets at the Café du Monde and breakfast at Brennan’s come to mind when you think of New Orleans. But that’s not all there is to this unique American city, filled with treasures both culinary and cultural.

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Ruth J. Katz's travel article
Telling Tales through Travel

Chatsworth House

As I ambled through the verdant and sometimes wild, untamed off-road "savannahs " of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England, I was glad that Robin Hood was my trailblazing Sherpa. Robin, known outside of the forest as Ezekial Bone, is an actor/interpreter of history, an extraordinary story teller, and font of information, much of which will supply me with fascinating cocktail-party persiflage for years to come. During this stroll, his merry band consisted of me and a few other Sherwood Forest interlopers, there to learn from a man who calls these woodlands home.

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Masada Siegel's travel blog
California Road Trip

sunset and San Diego skyline
You would never guess that you didn’t have to leave the mainland USA to find an Island with lush gardens, oceanside views and fabulous food all minutes away from downtown San Diego. I wondered what exactly we were heading towards, an Island in the middle of a city? It sounded slightly absurd, never-the-less, we drove onto the property of Paradise Point Resort and Spa and were pleasantly surprised.

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