Sights barely seen
One of the things about travelling in another country is that you tend to gravitate to the famous, the monumental, the well-known, and the beautiful. You absorb the public facade, the image a place wants to project to the world, its best foot forward, and you rarely stay long enough to scratch past that carefully and accidentally constructed veneer.
There is a lot of talk in various literatures about the difference between a traveller and a tourist, the latter being dismissed by the former with derision.
We’ve been lucky enough to live in London and Washington DC for extended periods—nearly four years, in both cases—and the difference between visiting somewhere and living there is immense, immediately and gradually apparent. To set up home, to send your kid to school, to not just meet the neighbours but eat with them and shop with them and pick up the kids together, to work with them, attend local meetings and local concerts and sporting events, to do all those things as part of a community rather than watch it from outside as you flit by, trying to grasp as much of it as you can, are two different orders of experience.
In Nice, we fall between the two: we aren’t here long enough to be locals, but we are here long enough for it to feel like home, to learn our way around, to understand something of what makes the place tick, to have a regular supermarket, favourite restaurants, favourite corners and views, and at least some sense of belonging.
And, of course, Noah lives here, and works here, and so we are part of that.
Still, we are visitors.
And so much of what you do as a visitor is to glide past, catch a glimpse, touch lightly, feel something on your cheek that grabs your attention but is gone before you can really understand what it was.
As we have travelled up and down the coast, on our little trips on public transport, on trains and buses and trams, day trips to nearby towns, or around towns, or across the border to see something else famous or beautiful or noteworthy, I would snap photos out the window as we rushed past the unmemorable bits, the ugly areas, little, blurry glimpses of the connective tissue of the region, the bits that don’t make it into tourist pamphlets and tourist advertisements, the sort of falling down, dilapidated areas that any city or country has that are never included in the official story, or the story you tell when you get home and blab on about where you have been.
I started collecting these snaps—they are nothing more than that—in a folder I called Drive-by Shootings—and the effect of putting them together, I thought, started to tell another story about what it has meant to be here.
I am going to make an album of these photos, and I thought you might like to see a few of them.