If we had decided to do this weekend’s trip in reverse, we could easily have been in Nice on Thursday. Instead we decided to avoid the crowds that would be drawn by Bastille Day events in places in like Paris or Nice, and chose Lyon. This blog entry is not a commentary on what could have been. I see no point in going down that path of thought, other than to draw from it an appreciation for our safety and to count it as a blessing.
We spent the night of Bastille Day celebrating in Lyon. We drank wine. We had fun. We were safe. We had no idea of what was unfolding in Nice. It wasn’t until we got back to our AirBnB apartment in Lyon, that we saw the news on our phones, and then were subsequently inundated with texts, and messages from loved ones on Facebook and Snapchat. We tried to calm any fears as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, but nerves were high and concerned messages of relief or question, still trickled in on Friday.
We never felt in danger in Lyon, not once. But, we were always aware of our surroundings, specifically the intense presence of police, or military, bearing an assortment of intimidating assault rifles. In moments that I saw them, I felt both safe, and uneasy. I understood the reason for their placement and it was unsettling, but the night in Lyon was filled with celebration, joy, and wonderful fireworks, which I will write about at another time.
At this time, it feels more important to express my deep sympathies for Nice and those affected from Thursday’s horrifying tragedy than to write a post about the rest of our weekend in France. After Bastille Day, we did carry on with our weekend. We lived our lives and enjoyed our time in beautiful France, and when our travel plans took us down to Nice on Saturday, we took a pause to pay our respects.
Our original travel schedule took us down to the Côte d’Azur on Saturday, but because of events we modified them a bit, and opted to go to Monaco on Saturday night, with the understanding that much of Nice was still shut down and coming to grips with the events of Thursday night.
Our flight back to Copenhagen, on Sunday, left from the Nice Airport. Unsure of what exactly would be appropriate in a grieving city, we ventured out to walked around Nice. It was impossible to avoid the Promenade des Anglais, since it is a main artery of Nice and runs essentially the whole length of it’s coast. The road was still blocked off on the side of the attack, but people were allowed to walk and mourn. It didn’t feel right to go lay by the beach so soon after such an awful event, so we kept walking.
Just a glimpse away from the picture perfect azure of the Mediterranean, clusters of flowers, notes, and melted candles were laid atop of distinct spots of blood tinged asphalt. The atmosphere was heavy with a somber silence. People wandered quietly between each flower memorial, pausing in quiet thought. Some wiped away tears, others took comfort in a partner’s hand; all were respectfully reflecting on the senseless tragedy.
Walking along this road, on a gorgeous Sunday morning, with people jogging, biking, and sun bathing just steps away from such devastation, seemed so incredibly disjointed from the mourning.
As we kept walking, the spots of tragedy, marked by memorials, became unmistakable. In one place, flowers nearly covered the entire road. I assume this was near the end of the carnage, because not far beyond this place was a pile of rocks with messages of disgust, sadness, and a question we have all asked, “why?”
We had plans for our time in Nice; renting bikes and pedaling along the Promenade in the sunshine, eating gelato and strolling the old city, hiking the Castle Hill and capturing picturesque views of the coast in photographs, but for this visit those plans didn’t feel right for us to do.
We ended up leaving much of Nice unexplored, and that’s just fine. We will come back to this strong, beautiful, and wonderful city another time. We hope the time that passes in between, now and then, provides Nice with the healing it so desperately needs. Until then, we are united in spirit and will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.
Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood.