Cats and snow

Posted in Cats, Nice at 16:08

Here you have my Mister Furry-Britches, aka Kanoko, accompanied by Miss Soot Sprite, aka Susu. Filmed in 720p HD for your viewing pleasure. I’d just gotten the handheld camcorder, so hadn’t yet changed the settings to 1080p, but well, it’s cats. I hope to catch Susu doing her “throw my own toys” trick soon, and some of the funny shenanigans she and Kanoko get up to. As you can see even in this short video, they get along pretty well.

I also hope to film things in my part of the world – this is just a little camera, but I’m already impressed with how well it films. Plus, as it’s so small, it will be easy to put in my purse and take everywhere.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap in France, the Riviera included. A couple of days ago we had snow, though mainly in the back country. I walked up a nearby hill to photograph what I could from Nice.

Vue de l'observatoire, Nice

Vue de Cimiez et des collines

Snow on the French Riviera

Posted in La France, Nice at 17:15

Oak behind the office, end of storm
On Wednesday (the 10th), we got news that a strong winter weather system was heading our way. Dozens of inches of snow were predicted for the hills, and up to six inches along the coastline — never before seen on the French Riviera. We get snow once every few years, but it’s usually a dusting, like we had in December, and melts by noon.

Thursday morning, I woke up to 4°C (39°F) and rain. I decided to try for the bus, and put on my nice hiking boots, wool socks, a turtleneck, and a wool knit cap, as well as taking along a pair of gloves just in case. I figured that if the bus came, it meant the weather was fine at our offices in Sophia Antipolis, some 28 kilometers (17 miles) to the west of Nice. The bus did indeed come; when we arrived in Sophia an hour later, it was raining there too.

Until just before 11am, that is. Snow began to fall, but it was still above freezing, so it wasn’t really sticking. Then the temperature began to dip, and the snow started picking up. By 11:30, the snow had built up noticeably. Roads quickly became blocked. The buses were no longer running. Not long afterwards, our prefect formally forbade drivers from going on the roads, and the highways were closed. Weather reports said that the worst was still to come in the evening! At 4:30pm I took the photo above, as well as a few others (full photoset here), and then my reflex’s battery died.

With roads still closed, buses not running and the news continuing to report a larger storm front about to roll in, I realized I was probably going to spend the night at the office. When I joked about camping in front of my office radiator with another colleague, he mentioned that he lived 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) away and was going to walk home — he offered to let me eat and sleep at his place. His children were with their grandparents, so there would be a spot for me without a problem. I took him up on his offer. In addition to working together, we often cross each other’s paths on the trails at lunch time — he goes running, and I go mountain biking. So we both knew we’d be fine with the 8-kilometer hike through snow.

It turned out to be one of the most beautiful hikes in my life. We passed the Mougins golf course, Fontmerle lagoon, and Picasso’s former home. Just as we passed the sign pointing to Picasso’s home, the setting sun set afire the Estérel coastal range beneath the grey storm clouds. I took these photos with my mobile phone, since it was the only camera we had available. A few minutes later, we looked behind us and had our breath taken away again, this time by the all-encompassing ink blue that was enveloping the Pré-Alpes just to the north of us. To the south, the sunset skies had transformed into pinks, purples and blues.

The next morning, it was below freezing, so we set out to walk the 8 kilometers back. It was more dangerous than on Thursday, since melting snow had frozen. We both had to catch ourselves from slipping a few times, but thanks to our trusty hiking shoes, we made it to the offices safely. Along the way, I took more photos (reminder, full photoset) and shot two videos:
o Etang de Fontmerle in the snow and morning sun
o Trail after the Mougins golf course, about a kilometer from Sophia Antipolis

Luckily the weather warmed up on Friday and I was finally able to get home by bus. There’s no more snow in Nice, but it is still falling heavily in the back country! And today I made sure to get some nice chocolates for my kind colleague.

Quinquennial snow

Posted in Journal, Nice at 15:20

Snow in Nice
This morning, Nice woke up to snow, for the first time since January 2005. I remember where I was those five years ago: in a run-down furnished hotel room, where I’d been since having ended the relationship with my ex of six years, who had taken everything. The lease on our apartment had been in his name only; according to him at the time, it was “easier”. The car was in his name too, so it was also “easier” for him to put everything in it and leave me with just my clothes, even giving away my cat, Malo, at Christmas after telling me I could come take care of him during my ex’s vacation. Furthermore, as a freelance translator at the time, his taking my computer effectively meant I was without a livelihood. And since I was a foreigner, in addition to being a freelancer, landlords did not want to rent to me.

Family chipped in to help me purchase a laptop so that I could get back to earning money. I found the cheap furnished hotel that offered long-term stays (these types of hotels are called meublés here). And three months after that snow, I got an email from two men — fellow freelance translators — who would soon become my landlords, mentioning they were readers of my blog and they had an apartment free to rent. In a joyous coincidence, Malo was returned to me at the same time, since his recipient had had enough of his fur. Six months after that, I was offered a job. With an income that bankers could verify as regular on paper, I was finally able to purchase an apartment a year and a half ago. Slowly but surely, I built a new life.

I was surprised by the strong memories that seeing snow outside my patio evoked. Five years ago, seeing the snow at such a dark time in my life felt cold and hopeless. Seeing the snow today cued those feelings, even while I felt happy to see plants and my patio roof covered in white. I realized how far I’ve come; the cold weather is merely cold weather now. My life is filled with wonderful colleagues, dear friends, fluffy kitties who are always waiting impatiently for me at the door, and of course a home of my own. I hadn’t thought of those difficult times in a while, my life being filled with, well, life now!