Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

August 3, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken on August 3, of 2008. Hard to believe this was five years ago today. Even harder to believe that Mattie is no longer in our lives. Mattie was pictured with our resident Jack Russell Terrier, JJ. JJ and Mattie practically grew up together. Mattie loved walking JJ and always wanted a dog of his own. Fortunately our neighbor allowed Mattie a lot of JJ time over the years. After Mattie died, JJ would come and sit on our doorstep in hopes of finding his buddy. Though JJ is a dog, he showed all the same emotional signs as humans do over the loss of Mattie.... loss of appetite, sadness, and depression.

Fun Facts of the Day: (1) With nearly 3,000 years of rich history, Rome is often called the “Eternal City.” Though Rome dates back to possibly 625 B.C. (2) The Romans were the first civilization to use concrete and the arch with any notable skill. (3) It is estimated that Italians eat about 60 pounds of pasta per person per year. (4) There are over 1000 Vatican Museums, making the complex in Vatican City the largest museum complex, not only in Italy, but in the world as well.

Peter and I were up at 5:15am to get ready for an early all-day tour of Rome. The ship docked in Civitavecchia, the port town of Rome before 7am. Civitavecchia is not unlike Livorno (the port town of Florence). They are both very industrial port towns! When we woke up this morning this was the first sight we saw. Keep in mind the sun sets LATE here and therefore it rises later in the day! At 7am, it was still somewhat dark out. We were greeted by Mattie Moon in Italy today. A moon which seemed to be smiling at us.

We visited Rome or as it is known in Italy, Roma. Guess what? Roma spelled backwards is AMOR, or in other words, love. Rome is considered the city of love. Personally Rome reminds me of New York City in the sense that it is a very BUSY, bustling, and lively city that is filled with culture. But Rome, unlike the other places we visited on our trip so far has a gritty side to it as well, a more urban side, which includes trash along the streets and a ton of graffiti. I visited Rome as a child and even a teenager (YES I know years ago!!!) and I have to say I do not remember Rome looking this way. So it saddens me to see a beautiful city PACKED with thousands of years of history having such a used urban look. Putting this aspect aside though, Rome is very much worth visiting and exploring. You know the saying… Rome wasn’t built in a day. Well the same can be said about touring Rome. It really can’t be done in one day! Our tour was 11 hours long and by the end of the day we must have walked six of more miles in 99 degree temperatures! No easy feat, but we definitely got around town! 

The Vatican or St. Peter’s Basilica (a part of the beautiful Rome skyline), can hold 60,000 visitors at a time. The Vatican is a sovereign state! It has its own postal code, police, etc. It is the center of the Catholic faith, where millions flock for healing a year. Vatican City is completely surrounded by Rome, it takes up just 110 acres and is home to 800 residents, the most famous, being the Pope. Vatican City is also home to the Vatican Museum, one of the most lavish displays of wealth and art in one place.

St. Peter is one of the patron saints of Rome and the grandeur of this Basilica acknowledges his spiritual presence in Italy and the world. St. Peter’s is considered one of the largest churches in the world! St. Peter’s is part of Vatican City and in order to enter into the Basilica, one has to walk through St. Peter’s Square. When you look at the Vatican (St. Peter’s Basilica) from the outside, it has been said that it looks like a person. The dome of the Vatican is said to look like the head of a body and the buildings that arc out from the Vatican are said to look like a person’s arm. Or in other words, the Vatican almost looks like a “big embrace” from the outside. As if you, the visitor, are getting a hug, or are symbolically being embraced into this faith.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter’s as “an ornament of the earth ….. the sublime of the beautiful.” The balcony above the doors of the Basilica is also famous. This is where the Pope addresses his visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

The Sistine Chapel is the best known chapel in the Vatican complex. It is literally right next to St. Peter’s Basilica. It is the official residence of the Pope. As we know Pope Francis was recently chosen to replace Pope Benedict. From this new election, we are quite familiar with the fact that cardinals from around the world are sequestered in the Sistine Chapel until a new Pope is elected. When a new pope is elected, the smoke stack above the Sistine Chapel puffs out white smoke to signal a decision has been reached. To enter into this amazing Chapel, you have to have your shoulders covered as well as your knees! They take this dress code very seriously and you will be stopped at the door if neither condition is met. Once inside the Sistine Chapel, no talking is allowed. There is complete silence out of respect for the sacred nature of the space. Though NO photographs were allowed inside the Sistine Chapel our guide brought along this photo. The Sistine Chapel was named after Pope Sixtus IV. The photo captures Michelangelo’s staggering “Last Judgment.” In fact, it took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Chapel which portrays the story of the creation of Adam and Eve as well as the story of Noah and the great flood. In addition, it took Michelangelo another four years to paint the blue background wall you see in this photo. This wall illustrates the “Last Judgment” with heaven being on top, purgatory in the middle, and hell at the bottom. The funny part about this fresco is that in the lower right hand corner of it, you may see a man in flames. This was supposed to be Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to create these paintings. Apparently legend has it that the Pope gave Michelangelo a VERY hard time and was trying to micromanage him while he worked. So Michelangelo captured his sentiments toward this Pope artistically for all of us to know throughout the ages. This fresco is considered Michelangelo’s crowning achievement. Which is ironic since Michelangelo really did not want to take on this project to begin with, he considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. The photo doesn’t capture how impressive and what a sheer engineering feat this entire room was because the ceiling is incredibly high and Michelangelo painted the ceiling on his back while on scaffolding.

As we walked from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, we traversed through the Hall of Maps. What an absolutely amazing room. You just don’t know what to look at first, each and every turn is filled with something visually appealing and stimulating. It is no wonder why Vatican City is considered to house some of the best pieces of art in the world. In the Hall of Maps there are featured paintings from locations all over Italy. The location is painted in a map format, which is a fascinating concept in and of itself since planes and helicopters weren’t even discovered when these paintings were created. So how these painters understood the nature of geography is beyond me. Corresponding with each map, on the ceiling is a painted miracle. The miracle is said to have occurred within the city depicted on the map! Needless to say the ceiling itself looked like a colorful miracle!

As we left the Sistine Chapel and walked to St. Peter’s Basilica, we entered the Square of the Pinecone. It is called the Square of the Pinecone because there literally is a huge metal pinecone sculpture that highlights this area. However, instead of showing you the pinecone, I decided it would be better to show you this magical golden colored sphere. This sphere sculpture represents the world and the sculpture actually revolves mechanically. In this photo, if you look closely at the top of the dome of St. Peter’s you will see a golden sphere just like the modern sculpture in these gardens! This is intentional. The artist of this metal sculpture made a replica of what can be seen on top of the dome. This is just one of many examples of how the old world blends with the new world in Vatican City.

The entire interior of St. Peter’s is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculptures and gilding. The Basilica contains a large number of tombs of popes, many of which are considered works of art.

Due to the inconsistent air temperature, lighting, and even the number of people that flow through St. Peter’s in a given day, there are no paintings within the Basilica. Instead all the pieces that appear to look like paintings within the Basilica are actually mosaics. It is hard to believe this until you look at these pieces up close. Keep in mind that 25,000 or more people visit the Basilica daily. Through this photo you may be able to see that we were surrounded by wall to wall people while touring.

The canopy over the alter is like NO other! It was designed by Bernini and the bronze came from the Pantheon in Rome.  Under this alter, the remains of St. Peter can be found. The beautiful dome in the roof above the alter was painted by Michelangelo. One hears about the amazing works of Michelangelo in the United States but actually seeing these pieces in person is quite another story. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel contain some of Michelangelo’s greatest works of art and though I have seen these masterpieces years ago, I was just too young to appreciate them. I will not forget the brilliant colors, the depth and dimensions of these painting, or Michelangelo’s understanding and depictions of the Roman Catholic religion any time soon.

Within St. Peter’s Basilica, the tomb of Pope John Paul can be found. John Paul was the Pope who I grew up with, the Pope before Benedict. Our guide told us that John Paul will soon be consecrated a saint. In order to become a saint some sort of miracle needs to be performed. Legend has it that a woman prayed to John Paul daily and because she believed in him and his connection to God, this woman was cured of her Parkinson’s disease.

The name of this sculpture of Mary with Jesus is called The Pieta, and it may be one of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures. What is intriguing about this sculpture is that Mary is depicted as a teenager and yet she is Jesus’ mom and is holding a boy about her age. People have speculated why Mary is so young here and the guide informed us that Michelangelo himself lost his mother when he was a child. So perhaps in his mind, a mother figure is always symbolized as young and vital. Or it is possible that Mary was cradling the body of her dead son (who came from the cross) like a baby, because in essence no matter Jesus’ age or that of his mother, Jesus will always be Mary’s baby. The sculpture in essence maybe a symbolic representation of the sacrifice one makes for giving up one’s only child. A sacrifice I more than understand.

It was 99 degrees outside today and the heat was intense. Like walking into an oven. We walked for at least six miles through Rome. At lunch time, as a tour group we took a break and journeyed to the Hotel Flora on the Via Veneto (a famous street). My mom tells me that when I was a child, I stayed at the Hotel Flora. I of course do not remember it, but I am sure it was meaningful and nostalgic for my mom to return to this hotel. We had a rooftop lunch in air conditioning. I usually hate air conditioning but it was SO welcomed by that point in the day. Our group lunch included local Chianti wine (which Rome is famous for), and a three course lunch consisting of pasta, chicken, and tiramisu. 

After lunch we made our way to the famous Trevi Fountain. This fountain is famous and perhaps one of the largest in the world. The 1954 movie, “Three coins in the fountain” put this site on the map. Legend has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand brings good luck and a return to Rome. Apparently every night, workers collect almost 3000 in euros and dollars from the Fountain, and the money is donated to charity. Needless to say, Peter caught my mom and me in action throwing a penny into the Fountain. The Fountain got its name from the simple fact that three (“tre”) roads at one time converged onto this space. The two main centered women marble figures on each side of the water god represent bounty (on the left) and health (on the right). This means that water is crucial in our lives for good health and development.

As we were walking through the streets near Trevi Fountain, these adorable chair umbrellas caught my attention. People were eating outside in the heat and yet were given some shade through these lace cuties. I never saw this before and I just thought it was clever. You may not be able to tell, but the streets of Rome are packed with people!

I loved the shape of these umbrella trees! I learned today that the pinecones from these trees produce pine nuts (which are used often in salads, baking, and to make pesto sauce). The guide let us know that it is VERY hard to extract the nuts from these pine cones which may explain why pine nuts are so costly.

Our last stop on our tour was the Colosseum. This is a very unique structure that was completed in only eight years (in 80AD). An engineering feat! It literally was created at a time in Rome in which the emperor wanted to look good in the eyes of his supporters and he felt the way to achieve this was to create a forum to entertain people. To keep people happy and distracted! The form of entertainment is quite different than anything we would find remotely interesting or socially acceptable today. The entertainment involved gladiator fights, to the death. On the opening day of the Colosseum, 9000 animals were killed and it is estimated that over the years more than 1 million animals and a half-million humans were slaughtered in the games. The Colosseum could hold more than 50,000 people and yet it took only three minutes for everyone to exit due to its big arched openings!

Due to the fact that so many people and animals were sacrificed at the Colosseum as a form of entertainment, the Pope had a cross erected at the site. This cross acknowledges the suffering and mass causalities that occurred here and thereby signifies that this is sacred ground.

In 80AD, there was no admission fee to attend the games. Only wealthy people paid to recruit and train the gladiators to fight. Where you sat in this forum depended upon your status, gender, and social circumstances. The wealthy sat closer to the action, with the emperor of Rome getting a special seat under a canopy and women being relegated to the very top of the amphitheater. In the center of the Colosseum was a wooden stage. It no longer exists, but you have to picture a wooden platform on top of the stones you see in the center now. It was on this stage that gladiators fought each other as well as fought very large animals such as bulls, lions, and tigers. The animals were stored in vestibules below the stage.

There is SO SO much to cover regarding Rome. It is my hope that I was able to highlight my day adequately enough to illustrate the plethora of history available at one’s fingertips. After 11 hours of touring, I am exhausted and I am not even sure at this point that I am coherent and making sense. So I am signing off for now and will share our next journey with you tomorrow. 

August 2, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2008, during Mattie's first week of chemotherapy at the Hospital. That was the week from hell. Trying to adjust to living in the Hospital, with a room the size of a closet, sharing bathrooms with other families, and the constant noise associated with an intensive care unit were all overwhelming. Pictured with Mattie is Linda, Mattie's buddy and child life specialist. Linda became a very crucial part of both of our lives. Linda seemed to understand Mattie right away and that week she helped to set up a painting area right in the hallway of the PICU. This got Mattie out of his room and actually when his good friend, Charlotte, came to visit him, they had a normal activity to do together. I will never forget Mattie and Charlotte painting in the hallway together. Things that you didn't think could happen in a Hospital, Linda found a way for Mattie to do them!

Fun Facts of the day: (1) Julius Caesar founded Florence in 59 BC as the
retirement location for his veteran soldiers. (2) The City of Florence is considered the "birthplace of the Italian Renaissance" and the "Athens of the Middle Ages." (3) In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe to have paved streets. (4) Florence Nightingale was born in and named after the city of Florence.

I ended my tour in Nice yesterday with motion sickness. If you have never had motion sickness, consider yourself very lucky. The ironic part is it was the bus trip back from Nice to Monte Carlo that did me in. Fortunately the beauty of Dramamine is that it really works, it makes you groggy, but it is much better than the alternative.

The ship docked in Livorno today. This is the port town of Florence. Peter captured a beautiful sunrise over the harbor! We got up at 6am this morning for an early tour of Lucca, a town in Tuscany, just 30 miles from Livorno and 46 miles west of Florence. We decided against a tour of Florence today. Around 15 years ago, we all took a ten hour tour of Florence together. Tours that are ten or more hours long are aggressive and since we have an 11 hour tour of Rome tomorrow, two marathon tours back to back would have been impossible. So we selected a half day tour today of Lucca instead.

As we drove by bus from Livorno (which isn’t very pretty at all, it is a true industrial port!) to Lucca we passed glorious fields filled with sunflowers. I have never seen sunflowers planted like this in the wild, for miles and miles! It was an absolutely spectacular and truly Tuscan sight!

The vegetation of Tuscany is memorable! For as far as the eye can see there are fields of greenery which include olive trees, grape vines, mountains, and flowers!

Lucca is a very small town. There is the “interior” Lucca and the “exterior” or outside Lucca. What delineates inside from outside?! The answer is Roman walls. The original city is surrounded by Roman walls which were built in 56AD. These walls still exist today and those who live inside the walls deem themselves the TRUE Luccans! Those outside the walls are just that, outsiders. Lucca is known for its banking, which is why you can see many bank buildings around the small town. But what puts Lucca on the map is its manufacturing of amazing olive oil and household paper products (like napkins, paper towels, etc.).

The streets of Lucca are charming! There are NO sidewalks, the streets are cobblestoned, and there is no trash on the streets. The main way people get around in this ancient city is by bicycle. Honestly the bicycles own the streets and as a pedestrian it is survival of the fittest. If you see a bicycle coming at you, you better watch out. If you don’t move aside they will certainly hit you!

The town is charming. Houses are colorful and most of the architecture is a blend of medieval, renaissance, and also art nouveau. The architecture reflects the great history of the town. Needless to say this was a very walkable city filled with churches, stores, shops, and restaurants.  

Giacomo Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire. Puccini has been called the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi. Puccini was born in Lucca in 1858, and was one of seven children. His family was considered a musical dynasty, since seven generations of Puccini men directed the choir and musical programs at the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Lucca. This statue commemorates Lucca’s famous composer who was born at this very location!

This is a photo of the house where Puccini was born and lived for many years. Now the house has been converted into a Puccini museum.

Lucca, though small, is filled with churches! One of the churches we visited was San Michele in Foro (in foro means in forum – literally this church was built over a roman forum). San Michele or St. Michael’s is a Roman Catholic basilica. It was built over the ancient Roman forum (a forum is not unlike the Roman Coliseum in which gladiator fighting took place). The church is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Lucca. You can see the HUGE angel sitting at the top of this church. This angel can even move its wings and it used to do so on special occasions! This church dates from the 12th century and is considered a beautiful Romanesque church with one of the most interesting facades in Italy. It has four colonnaded levels of gleaming white marble inlaid with a menagerie of real and mythical animals.

Cathedral of St. Martin, also known as the Lucca Duomo was constructed between the 11th and 15th centuries. Within the church is a shrine that contains the most precious relic in Lucca, the Volto Santo di Lucca, or Sacred Countenance. This cedar-wood crucifix and image of Christ, according to the legend was carved by Nicodemus (who according to the Gospel of John took the nails out of Jesus’ feet after he died on the cross and prepared Jesus’ body for burial).

Our tour guide educated us regarding the exterior of St. Martin. St. Martin was created from all local Tuscan materials, which included white, green, and pink marble! She said that each color represented a virtue such as faith, hope, and charity. Colors and carvings on the outside of the church told a story to its church goers. Why? Because when the church was originally created parishioners could not read. So instead of reading words, they identified with the colorful virtues and stories which were told through pictorial carvings.

In the top left carving or relief, you can see St. Martin giving a sermon. Notice a flame above St. Martin’s head. This flame signifies him being embodied with the teachings and passion of Christ. As for the carving or relief on the top right, this depicts a woman who while being blessed by St. Martin had a mythical spirit flying out of her head. Throughout the entire exterior of the church there are countless moral and spiritual messages!

The Guinigi Tower is the most important tower of Lucca, Tuscany. Its distinguishing characteristic is the hanging garden on the roof of the tower. The live oaks on top of this structure symbolize rebirth and also an emblem of prestige.

No town tour would be complete without a cat sighting from my perspective. Lucca did not disappoint. Here is the “Lucca Puss” we saw today. There were aspects of her coloring that reminded us of our dear Patches.

This wall is deceptive. It looks like any brick and stone wall of a building. However, it is far from that! During the Roman period this was the exterior wall of Lucca’s Roman Amphitheatre. This Amphitheatre was just like the Coliseum that existed in Rome in which gladiators would fight animals until their death. At one time the exterior of this wall was lined with marble columns and boulders. However, with the dismantling of the Roman Empire the marble materials were removed from these exterior walls and were used to construct churches. So what we see today are the bare remaining walls (brick and stone), without their marble adornments.

This is what the interior of the amphitheater space looks like today. Of course back when it was used as an actual amphitheater it did not look anything like this. There would have been no complete buildings, but instead seating in the round to see the gladiator games. Yet Lucca has preserved the shape of the space and instead of tearing down history, they restored it in a way. The amphitheater has been converted into condos, shops, and restaurants, to form a lively Piazza!

Lucca is filled with stores that sell handmade leather products from Florence, handmade Italian leather shoes, olive oil and vinegar, gelato stores everywhere, cafes, and of course pastry and deli shops. I couldn’t resist taking this photo. It is hard to walk passed such a store selling wonderful baked products and not buy them, so instead, I snapped a photo!

The days have been beautifully hot, sometimes in the 90s. Only sun, not a drop of rain, not even a cloud in the sky. However, what is most noteworthy is the sun doesn’t set until 10pm! I happen to love this! I am not a morning person at all, but I do love the evening hours. This is usually when I am most productive and have more energy. If I lived in the Mediterranean there would be no telling what I could accomplish. As you walk the streets of Lucca, or most likely any Mediterranean small town, you get the feeling that outdoor living is important, people enjoy talking and connecting with each other, and meeting and gathering in cafes is a tradition and daily occurrence. 

August 1, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2008. Mattie's cousins came down from Boston that weekend to visit him in the Hospital. What you may not be able to see was Mattie's IV, which was connected to his brovaic in his chest. We wheeled it outside with us. Also notice that Mattie was holding rocks! Mattie loved collecting rocks and continued this tradition outside in the Hospital's garden area! That Saturday afternoon, Mattie's nurse, Miki, understood the importance of Mattie getting outside, in the fresh air, and to spend time with his cousins outside of his PICU room. Miki made every effort possible for Mattie to have a more normal visit, so much so, that she came down from the fifth floor pediatric unit to the second floor outdoor space to check on Mattie's IV periodically. That certainly added more work for her, but she did it without skipping a beat. That memory will always remain with me because I always felt Mattie's nurses understood what we were up against right from the beginning of the battle.

Fun Facts of the day: Monaco is an autonomous city-state and the world's
second smallest country. Monaco sits atop a narrow coastal area with its three sides surrounded by France and its southern side facing the Mediterranean Sea. It is known as Europe’s tax haven, each and every individual citizen of Monaco enjoys a tax-free lifestyle since the 1870s. For decades, Monaco lived off solely on its casinos. At present, Monaco’s current efforts to diversify its economy have made tourism its number one source of income and casino profits only at five percent. In fact, citizens of Monaco are not allowed to gamble, nor even visit the casinos.

The Ship docked in Monte Carlo (located in the Country of Monaco) this morning. When I woke up and looked out the window, I really couldn’t see much. However, when we went upstairs for breakfast and I sat down, I couldn’t get over what I was seeing. Monte Carlo is breathtaking!!! These days it takes a lot to capture my attention, but the beauty of the mountains, vegetation, buildings, and boats just knocked me over. Just looking at Monte Carlo from the windows of the Ship, I could tell this was NO ordinary place. Certainly we have all heard of the glamour and the life styles of the rich in famous in Monte Carlo, but seeing it is a completely different story! Three words sum up this city: wealth, yachts, and water. Monte Carlo is considered part of the French Riviera or the Cote d’Azur (meaning the blue coast).

I have never seen such BLUE water. The Mediterranean is indescribable. Almost like a shimmering sapphire. Just looking at it was peaceful and Peter said to me today, “I think people here must live a longer life.” I can appreciate that comment. Surrounding our cruise ship were yachts. The size of these boats was incredible, like hundreds of feet incredible!

There are 40,000 people who work in Monte Carlo each day. Rather amazing considering how small it is. Monaco itself is ¾ of a square mile, about three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC. French is the official language of Monaco and like Spain the predominant religion is Catholicism. For the past two days, I have heard non-stop about the “International Crisis.” This pertains to the economic crisis in Spain, France, and Italy, all of which are in a deep recession. Clearly when you look at Monaco, there is NO recession going on here. My mom snapped a photo of me with my dad and Peter and you can see the opulence surrounding us.

Prince Rainier met Grace Kelly at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. Grace Kelly had filmed To Catch a Thief that year in Monaco. Their storybook wedding the following year captured the hearts of the world. It is no surprise that after the wedding, the number of annual visitors doubled, and Monaco was placed solidly on the tourist map. The Royal Palace is where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace lived after their marriage. This photo captures the beauty of the Palace from a distance.

This is the Crown Princess, the ship we will be on for 14 days. It seems to fit in quite nicely within the Monaco harbor.

We took an hour long bus trip from Monte Carlo to Nice. What an amazing drive along the coast. Nice is the fifth largest city in France. It is considered a resort area and has hosted many dignitaries and other famous people throughout its history. Honestly spending only a couple of hours in Nice is totally frustrating. There is SO much to see and so much to soak in. Therefore you don’t know whether to listen to facts, stare at the water, take in the architecture, or sit in a café! This photo captures the Promenade des Anglais. This is the main street of the town and at the turn of the century it is where aristocrats came to see and be seen. It is also where Matisse painted! I can’t get over the fact that in two days I have walked the streets where both Picasso (Barcelona) and Matisse (Nice) once lived! I can see why Nice inspired Matisse!

It is clear by the colors of the buildings in Nice that it has been influenced by Italy. In fact, between 1388 and 1860, Nice was under Italian rule and leadership.

Get a load of the yachts in Nice! As our tour guide said today, people are either sitting in their yachts looking up at their villas in the hills or they are in the hills looking down at their yachts. Amazing!!! A life style many of us can only imagine and wonder about.

The beauty of Nice! In many ways, words are not needed to describe this beauty.

The old town of Nice boasts a well-planned grid of streets, with buildings of largely Genoese architecture. Nice is walkable, extremely clean, and honestly has a café or restaurant everywhere.

Once the bus dropped us off at Nice, we boarded a small tram that took us around Nice and to Castle Hill. Castle Hill is considered the cradle of the town of Nice and is an old fortified site that was occupied by the Celtic Ligurians. In the 16th century, this Hill served as a formidable citadel. In 1783, the citadel was dismantled and believe it or not this area was turned into a cemetery as well as a park, with a beautiful waterfall.

On Castle Hill, it was easy to see Elton John’s home across the way. The one on the top of the hill! Not a bad location, right? Seclusion and beauty!!!

In the heart of Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais sits the Hotel Beau Rivage. This is the oldest hotel in Nice and for many years housed Matisse. In fact, Matisse not only lived in Nice for many years, but he also died here as well. As my faithful readers know, I discuss Matisse and Picasso with kindergarten students at Mattie’s school each spring. I have come to appreciate both artists, which I must admit I wasn’t in love with either prior to teaching these classes. However, I have great respect for Matisse. Toward the end of his life, in his 80s, he was wheelchair bound and suffering with cancer yet he still created! Nothing could stop the art from within!!!

Cours Saleya is the most traditional square in Nice. It features covered market stalls, shops, and restaurants. As you can see flowers were everywhere and the market stalls also sold incredible herbs, handmade soaps, and a variety of other local products.

When I walked through Cours Saleya, I passed SO many cafes. More than could be counted. What I deduced was this is the form of entertainment. People (locals) were out and about. Sitting, having coffee, chatting, connecting with others, and guess what???? They weren’t glued to a TV or a smart phone. What a wonderful way of living and I think in some ways our American progress has truly limited our capabilities as human beings. We have lost the art of sitting still and the beauty of conversation!

The highlight of our tour for me was having Nice’s famous Fenocchio ice cream. An ice cream shop started by an Italian family. Just trying to order ice cream was a feat. Forget waiting in a line or waiting one’s turn. It doesn’t work that way in Nice. Whoever speaks the loudest and captures the attendant’s glance gets service. Needless to say among me, my mom, and Peter, we got our message across and the fellow behind the counter spoke beautiful English and truly appreciated that we were from America. Seems to be a trend. We hear often in the USA that foreigners don’t like Americans anymore. Do NOT believe it! America is loved and respected for the most part, and when in doubt, you just have to look around and you can easily see that many of the Countries we have passed through are trying to imitate us in design, thinking, and pop culture.