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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
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum in Vevey, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin and the Chaplin Museum
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin. A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model Kiera Chaplin.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: Piped Inside Ashford Castle (Dispatch #16)

sunset at Galway Bay

The Palladian Traveler enters into a world of regal elegance wrapped in Irish charm as he files his latest dispatch from inside one of the Emerald Isle's most storied fortresses.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Chuuk + Wrecks = Scuba Divers' Paradise

WW2 Japanese tank at the bottom of Chuuk Lagoon
As we dropped down to 25,000 feet I saw one of the most extraordinary panoramas I'd ever been lucky enough to witness. The majesty of it all and the stunning vistas that lay below and before me were spectacular. It was as beautiful as spring's first rose, and it made me understand why so many pilots on commercial jetliners love their job; they get to see so many awe-inspiring sights from the cockpit. My view was that of a vast vista of the Pacific.

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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
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing as the Man who Lived There

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from the president during Black History Month – Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job... – it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC – surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself – would be a good place to start.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Discovering Art, Culture and Cuisine in Lancaster

Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, Lancaster

Lancaster has always been one of those cities that I pass through on the way to some other destination. But last week was different. I finally took the time to explore the place and wow, was I surprised! I discovered a downtown full of charm, culture, cuisine and community spirit. My recent getaway began when a friend and I drove about 60 miles north of Los Angeles toward the Mojave Desert and checked into the Towneplace Suites Lancaster.

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Bev Cohn's travel blog
Film Review: "My Hero Brother" – A Tribute to the Human Spirit

a scene from the documentary 'My Hero Brother'

I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother," a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome siblings.

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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
Crooked Eye Tommy: 'Butterflies and Snakes'

Mick Taylor

When you load the CD Butterflies and Snakes into your sound system, you know from the onset Crooked Eye Tommy isn't your run-of-the-mill blues band. The entire recording is based around multiple styles, assorted genres and two lifetimes of influence. From the swamp-like vibe of the opening track through the weeping steel guitar highlighting the finale there's a brand new, old school familiarity that resonates throughout each one of the 11 original songs.

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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
Boulderís Sunrise

Rosie's Rock at The Boulders

The enormous Sonora Desert, a colossal 120,000 square miles of splendor that spreads like a great tapestry of textures and colors across international boundaries from Arizona into the State of Sonora in northern Mexico is one of North America’s grand, untrammeled natural treasures. The complex, sun-blessed region of bright dry heat, brilliant low-hanging stars, and long, ever-changing shadows that shift with the sun as they drape like endless silhouettes across craggy walls, mountain ridges and hidden canyons, is a vibrant land with tales to tell.

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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
La Paz, Baja California Sur

The Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur

Photographer Deb Roskamp focuses her camera on La Paz, Baja California Sur. The resort property is CostaBaja, and the boat tours, which include snorkeling at the UNESCO protected site, Isla Espiritu Santo, were conducted by Fun Baja. The photographs are intended to speak for themselves.

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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
The Corinthia Lisbon: A Sybarite's Dream

the Terrace Garden at the Corinthia Lisbon

I was kind of bedraggled and despite the fact that it was just before noon, I was ready for a nap. However, when I heard how fabulous the hotel's spa was, I opted for a long and leisurely deep-tissue massage and knew that afterwards I could collapse on a lounger. What I had not anticipated was that the spa is a veritable water park, with an extraordinary hydrotherapy circuit pool and seductive sensory showers.

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Masada Siegel's travel blog
Travelís Triumph over Terrorism

Masada Siegel skydiving
After a three-month adventure seeking beauty in the world, many thoughts race through your mind, especially when you have quit your job, run out of money, and have no clue what comes next. However, a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with a perfect stranger is not one of them.

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