Terra: The Most Splendid Orchestra – Nice, France
I tighten my grip on my friend’s sleeve as we make our way through a busy city square in Nice. The square is not busy with honking cars and hissing buses, but people- laughing, toasting, and getting ready to celebrate the New Year. Although we’ve been advised to pay close attention so we don’t lose the group, I can’t help but to take a look around and observe the diversity that surrounds me. The people who gather in this square have so many different nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds, but they’re all here for the same reason.
To my left, near a festively decorated palm tree, huddles a group of about six or seven men, all with dark hair, and skin the color of café latte. They loudly converse and playfully argue, giving nudges that send each other flying backward. It sounds like the cello, I think to myself. Even though these men are arguing, and doing so quite noisily, the language they speak makes their words flow together like music, and caress my eardrums like the smooth and resonant song of a cello.
Using my free hand, I reach for my fanny pack, where my camera is, but then quickly draw it back; reminding myself of how weird it would feel if a stranger started taking pictures of me. Besides, we are moving far too fast, and it’s not like I haven’t taken a picture of just about every sight I’ve seen on this trip. From the Mediterranean Sea just a walk away, to the cobblestone ground beneath us now, I’ve been, and still am, entranced.
Of course, there is no possible way my experience this past week can be captured in a small blue box, or transferred through a reading a piece of paper. I’ve seen pictures of France before, but they do not have the same effect. Never has my heart been touched with such a feeling of passion, and never have I felt such fondness and appreciation for everything I see.
My group stops midway through the square, about a hundred meters from the glowing Christmas town filled with vendors and booths that sell everything from baguettes to perfume. Don’t forget praline, my nose reminds me, as I get a whiff of caramel and butter. This is not a deceitful scent, judging by the helping I tasted earlier.
There is a couple on a nearby bench, holding hands, and speaking to each other in a tone very appealing to the ear. They are certainly not as noisy as the dark haired group of men, but they’re just close enough so that I can hear them if I listen intently. Like that of the men, their language makes music that is smooth and flowing, but it is more delicate, like the hum of a violin.
Before long, the countdown begins.
A thousand others speak with me, not always with the same words, but the same meaning.
“Eight, seven, six, five”
My last glance of 2011 is of a line of brightly colored buildings with blue shutters and rooftops that roll and swerve, like waves of the vast sea frozen in place.
“Four, three, two, one.”
What I hear next is what makes me realize my love of not only travel, but language itself.
“Felice anno nuovo!”
“Un An Nou fericit!”
“Happy New Year!”
It is the sound of the most splendid orchestra I’ve ever heard.
Marcella Del Plato
The LEAF Project
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