No 2 Military Hospital
Dec. 5- 17
Still at the same old place and going strong. The O.C. took a look at me this morning and said that all was going fine. He spoke of me being able to eat soon- that sounded very good to me. So we should worry. Today is beautifully clear and sunny and I have been out for a walk in the grounds which was very bon and will repeat this afternoon as the sun still shines warm.
Last night I attended a lecture on Belgium, illustrated by lantern slides, which was given in one of the wards. I was an excellent lecture and the pictures were very good. Some of them showed some of the Belgian towns after the had been bombarded in the present war.
The trip started from Exter, thence to London, and Harwich where we sailed for the River Scheldt in Belgium, landing at Antwerp which we explored thuroughly. The cathedrals in all Belgium towns are wonderfully built, and interiors especially being decorated with splendid wood and stone carvings and paintings. From Antwerp the lecture took us to Liege, Ghent, Lourain, Ypres, Brugge and Zeebrugge and thence home by way of Dover. The most interesting features of the lecture were as I previously stated the wonderful cathedrals and the various Hotels de Ville ( city halls) They seem to expend great effort in Europe on making their towers beautiful a habit we could well copy in Canada- especially in the west.
There is always some fun going around the wards here. You would at times almost think that you were in a home for foolish children instead of a hospital. However, it all helps to make a life better and I should hate to have it otherwise. The nurses are as bad as the rest of us- I am afraid that nursing is not such a dignified proffesion as I thought that it was.
I have heard no word from Lee as yet but hope to get some news either today or tomorrow- when I expect beaucoup mail from France I ought to get about a dozen letters- I'll put in the day reading them. It takes quite a time for letters to come here from France. I am eagerly waiting news both from you and from the boys of the unit.
I will give you another chapter in the history of my visit to Nice etc. When I left off last letter, I was on the point of going to visit the Italian quarter of Nice- the old town. Nice I understand once belonged to Italy and even now a large portion of the inhabitants speak what is called Nicoise Pataua- a sort of mixture of French and Italian. The Italian quarter is populated by pure Italians. To continue I crossed the Place Messina and soon found myself in the old italian town. The streets were very crooked and narrow- being only 10 or 15' wide between the buildings - and the buildings high and close together- being separated by narrow paved paths only. The streets were paved with cobbles and bricks followed the ups and downs of the ground.
Little shops, low ceilinged and dungy but clean opened onto the streets and I could see meat, bread milk and similar food, clothing etc. on sale. There was practically no one but pedestrians on the street- they being to narrow for vehicular traffic. Occasionally one would pass a cart drawn by a minute donkey which was always an object of great interest to me. They always seemed overshadowed by their carts and loads- as they are only the size of a large dog.
The people were Italians- that could easily be seen by their dark complections, hair and eyes. These were several points of special interest such as the town hall, churches etc. to be visited so I started off to find them. The streets were so numerous and so winding that I had some difficulty in finding my way around and often had to inquire my way from children who were playing on the streets.
As usual a Canadian was an object of interest and when I asked my way generally got a following of 20 or more to show me where I wanted to go. I used to offer them pennies, but in the majority of cases the boys would refuse them probably thinking that I was recieving the same pay as a French Soldier which is very small.
After wandering around for an hour or two admiring the quaint old buildings, streets, churches etc. and the people in general I wandered out into an open square on a little slope. The square was paved with cement- and about 15 young boys were amusing themselves roller skating on it. I stopped to watch them and they started to show me what they could do in the way of skating. Boys are boys the world over and I certainly put in an amusing ½ hour watching their antics. They were a bright lively bunch of lads and it was a pleasure to see them.
From here I wandered- taking my time and enjoying the quaintness of everything, up to the foot of a sort of steep rocky hill- called the Chateau Rock- which lies practically in the centre of the Nice Seafront. The Promenade des Anglais which I explored in the morning has its eastern end at the foot of this Rock- which drops precipitously to the water on the seafront. The top can be reached from the Promenade my means of a winding stone stairway and a series of ascending gravel paths There are several other ways of reaching the top among which was a winding steep roadway which led up from the old Italian town. This was the road I was ascending by. When the road ended I continued my climb up the rock following pretty winding gravel paths surrounded by pretty oak trees. Here and there along the paths were built stone observation platforms with stone benches from which one could get beautiful views of Nice, the meditteranean, and the neighboring country. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was well worth the climb. The meditteranean lay like a huge precious stone, with its wonderful shade of clear blue. As I neared the Summit I could hear the splash of falling water- a rather curious sound to be heard at the summit of a hill.
Turning a bend in the path I came out onto a large artificial "bench" (as we would say in Canada) to the outer edge of which was surrounded by a low stone wall. Its inner portion was occupied by a large artificial basin, into which poured a beautiful artificial waterfall which cascaded over a series of rock ledges from the top of the hill. Large festoons of moss, besprinkled with water and hanging from the underside of the rocky ledges added the beauty of the scene. I stood for awhile admiring this beautiful view and then continued my ascent to the top which which about 50' higher the path wound around the hill past the ruins of an old building- the chateau from which the derives its names and finally comes out outs a large observation platform built on the very top of the hill. The platform, which is of cement is surrounded by a low artistic stone wall. In the center is a circular flat marble block about 4' in diameter supported on a low pedestal on which are marked all the points of the compass and also lines pointing to the main mountains, capes and buildings visible from this point. The names of the mountains etc. is carved on the lines- so it is a very convenient guide. Out one curves of the pavilion there is a curio stand presided over by a little old French man, who seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of cats and dogs of all sizes and descriptions. Seeing me admiring the scenery as pointed out by the indicators he came over and in French started in to give me a more detailed description of what lay before us. I could understand what he said and thuroughly appreciated his kindness. He excused himself after a few moments talk and going to his booth returned carrying a large telescope supported on a tripod, which he "set up" in front of me. He then fixed the telescope on various objects within view whose distance from us varied from 1 to 50 miles after which I would look thru the telescope and admire the views selected while he told me the various points of interest connected with it. I spent a most delightful hour in this manner- I saw a Russian Church, a post card of which I have sent you, and the colors of the various glasses of which the dome is constructed were truly wonderful. The he fixed the glass on several of the splendid hotels built among the foothills which surrounded Nice. The looked like scenes from Fairyland with their magnificent grounds with numerous palm trees, their clean creamy white walls and artistic outlines. Next came the observatory, of which you also have a post card. The pure white of the dome blended beautifully with the dark green of the pine trees surrounding it. The various forts built on the tops of the high mountains surrounding Nice next claimed our attention. He showed me 5 or 6 of these one of which was 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) distant among snow covered Alpes which mark the boundary between France and Italy. It was built to protect that frontier. One of these Mountain Forts was on the top of a mountain seemed to be within easy walking distance of Nice- and from which one could evidently obtain a wonderful view of Nice and the surrounding country. I looked it up in my guide book the name was Mt. Chauve, the height about 3000' and the distance from Nice by winding roads about 8 miles. So I determined that I would take a hike out there on the morrow.
After I had viewed everything in sight which was worth viewing- in fact had spent one of the most delightful hours that I ever had- the wife of my newfound friend- a rather large motherly looking woman came up to the stall carrying supper for the husband and his family of animals. I was very early yet but the cooking had to be done on a stove in the stall. I went over to select some post cards from a large collection which they had on view and while there she very kindly gave me a liberal handful of fresh ripe figs (say they were good) and a cup of coffee which the french always seem to have on hand. While trying to keep up a conversation with her in mixed French and English I noticed that she often used German words, so I asked her if she could speak German. At first she evaded the question but latter admitted that she could- that her parents had sent her to Germany to have her education completed. She requested me not to make any mention of it to the French people as they would probably think that she was a spy. I told her where I had learnt my German at which she expressed Great surprise. From then one our conversation when easily I found that I could converse pretty fine with her and she had no trouble understanding my efforts. She went on to tell me how her husband loved animals- which was very evident- as he must have had at least 10 dogs of various sizes and colors and 10 cats of the same category. She showed me the comfortable sleeping quarters that he had built for them around his stall. The two of them had evidently seen better days as she told me he had had a horse but had sold it - likewise an auto since the war started. I suppose then stock did not sell fast now that the tourist trade had fallen off. After exhausting our subjects of conversation, I bought a lot of post cards- (which I hope you have received by now) showing various views in Nice- (The ones of towns outside of Nice I bought in the towns themselves generally). I also bought a paper knife make of olive wood and a gourd or calabash as the old man called it made into a sort of flower pot. The calabash had carved on it a view of the Jetee Promenade casino, which I had visited the night before. I saw the old man carving these views. He did it with an instrument resembling an awl and was very adept at it. I have both the knife and the gourd in my haversack in France and will send them over when they arrive. They are rather difficult to pack- that is why I have not sent them so far.
I decided that I had better get moving as I wanted to see more of the town before the day finished so I bid the kindly couple goodbye and started off. They were very anxious for me to stay for supper but considerable time would have elapsed before it would have been ready so I thought I had better move. They made me promise that I would return again before leaving Nice- and I am sorry to say I never had the chance to return. I descended the hill by the good road running down the eastern side from which I could get a splendid view of the true harbor of Nice lying to the east. This harbor is protected by a high sea wall (constructed of white stone) on which are roadway and narrow guage railway. The shore is likewise protected by a seawall of similar material, having stone piles, rings etc. for tying up ships. In the harbour were several pretty white pleasure yachts lying at anchor. Across the harbor rose Mount Boron and the high cliffs which bound the sea coast from Nice to Monte Carlo. It was indeed a beautiful view. I am uncertain if you have post card views of it or not. I think I have better call a halt now and give you the balance of my days experiences in the next edition. If this letter reaches you on Christmas day consider that it carrys my Christmas greetings with it- and be assured that I will be having one swell time over here at that time. The boys who are allowed out all had invitations to a concert and tea this afternoon and report having had a fine time. These invitations are common and by Xmas I should be coming on for them- I got a letter from Uncle Bill (Glasgow) yesterday. He is still in Scotland and hopes to see me before he leaves. I hope so too. Here's hoping.
Your loving son