A Nice Picnic I’ll Never Forget: On Holding onto the Good Memories of Nice Despite the Images of Terror
It’s 3am. I can’t sleep. This is due to jet lag as well as a gnawing emotional pain telling me something isn’t right. It’s been less than one week since I returned from France; my mind is still very much there.
Images of the Bastille Day attack in Nice keep beaming in my mind. A large white truck with bullet wholes in the windscreen. Bodies strewn on the promenade covered with sheets. They are covered, but I know what’s there: death, mangled bodies, someone who won’t return to their family for lunch, for dinner, for Christmas, and the Christmases after that. My heart breaks for them, for their families and communities.
These mental images of terror in Nice are interspersed with images of the beautiful Nice I got to know on my first trip to France eight years ago. I had joined a tour group and arrived in Nice to see the water dispersed from the fountains in a joyous manner, as though they had life, and the sun soaked the walkways, the parks, the flowers, and the markets, giving the city vibrant colour.
Together with new friends—from Mexico, Canada, and South Africa—I walked around Nice with that kind of vigour you get exploring a city you know you are going to love. We bought olives and cheese from the markets, admiring the colourful art for sale there. We went to the boulanger for baguettes and then to the wine store for a bottle of Moët Champagne. These preparations culminated in a picnic in the park I will never forget.
We lay everything out on our beach towels and looked to the Promenande des Anglais, which was set up to receive the cyclists of the Tour de France. The atmosphere was festive. Children laughed as they walked to the promenade with their families with colourful beach towels and plastic buckets and spades in hand. The carousel of horses, tigers, and lights spun around in the park as we chatted, laughed, drank and ate. We said to each other that this is a picnic we’ll never forget.
As vivid as my happy memories of Nice are, the images of the recent attack are equally vivid even though I was not there. Through the media coverage of this attack, we have all been brought to Nice in a sense, and asked to try to make sense of what happened. What if I had been there? I ask myself. What if my family and friends had to know my body was under one of those sheets?
With time, my happy memories of Nice will predominate over the terrifying images I have in my head of Nice under attack, and those happy memories are getting stronger by the minute as I reminisce about that picnic years ago.
After the Paris attacks of November 13, many French people working in the tourist industry lamented that the tourists have stopped coming. The man who sailed the boat to the Calanques and collected tips ‘for Pastis’ said it was quiet after the attacks. The owner of a wine tasting business in Paris said this, too.
So, I know it may not be much at this time, at this very difficult and sensitive time, for the people of Nice, but I will go back to Nice as soon as I can. I will walk to the markets and buy olives until my heart is content. I’ll buy baguettes and cheese and Moët & Chandon Champagne and I’ll invite whoever I can find to have a picnic in the park on the Promenade des Anglais.
Mes sincères condoléances à toutes les personnes touchée et à la ville de Nice.