When all you can see is orange brick, built up to the edge of the land and the steam from your morning coffee, you know you are in the happiest place you can be. Sandy walls stretch across the old town, capped with terracotta hats and punctuated with crumbly, catholic spires. A pink one here, a cream one there, and a huge dome of mosaic eerily interrupting the town in it’s ominous ownership, the mother of the smaller, the cathedral of the old town.
Warmth beats down from the clear sky, the twin to the blue rolling waves, a beer bottle with a scarf of blue labels wrapped around its neck, matching your tapping nails, curled around the mug. Orange and blue. A gorgeous amalgamation of sunset and skyline hues, on a quiet morning. Swifts clustering, brinking on a murmuration, and they flutter close by the the balcony from which I am peering. A lone parachute signifies the emergence of the tourist activities on the beach, and a new day of hot rocks leading up to the froth of waves.
In the nine months I had perched on this terrace, above the churches and people, beaches near steeples, I had seen all manner of people scaling the cobbled hills of this pastel painted city. My french was by no means good, but it was comprehensive enough to understand the angered shouts from the flat upstairs, and just about quick enough to understand the dulcet, muttered lyrics of the young busker in the square.
The mornings, like this one, were the best time of day here. Especially in the summer. I still, after nearly a year wasn’t quite used to the summer heat, close and encroaching, able to deter even the most seasoned traveller from languishing on the beach in the middle of the day. This terrace was the only reason I’d settled on this flat. I worked in the centre of Nice, so a flat in the old town meant finding my way around the coronary arteries of a complex tram system, but for my mornings, and my days off, the view made all the commuting so worth it.
A church sat at the base of the hills and winding stairs up to my building, an active convent nestled behind it, so on a Sunday you would hear the nuns chanting and praying, and you’d hear the slam of the door as the priest left. This was normally followed by the canon, that the French so excellently set up to signal the time of day for an aperitif, a tradition I’d made my own. Around mid day on my days off, there weren’t many times a beer wasn’t in my hand.
This particular morning, I had my coffee and a newspaper in front of me, trying to decipher local news from the broadsheet of black and white, ink pressing into my fingers. The homeless man who sat outside the church was crooning a questionable rendition of a Sinatra classic to himself. I had the stereo on, country music erupting out, a taste of family and home. I had dipped inside to get some orange juice when I heard a shout coming from under my terrace, in English.
“Excuse me? Hello?” A man’s voice. I walked cautiously out to the balcony.
“Hello, yeah, you’re the English girl. This is very important.”
I walked out to the front door and buzzed him in, going against any strange man warning my mum had ever given me.