The French Riviera
It was 1992, and I was about to make my first trip across the rolling Atlantic and stay on the French Riviera for a couple of weeks. A Canadian friend of mine rented a beautiful place in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, and invited me to experience it too. This was pretty exciting to say the least, seeing as how I'd never left the western hemisphere before, and always dreamed of getting to Europe some day....but the Riviera...wow!
I flew to Frankfurt, changed planes and arrived in Nice around noon. It was a smooth flight and as uneventful as flying can be. As the Lufthansa jet descended to make its landing I could see the turquoise of the Mediterranean and the red tile roofs getting closer. You get such a surge of adrenalin when you arrive somewhere new...absolutely thrilling!
My friend met me at the aeroport and we got on a bus back to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. I was tired from the flight but stared out the window at the amazing sites before me. Buildings of all shapes and sizes rose from sea level all the way up the cliffs to great heights..clinging on to the rocks like some strange species of lichen.
The houses and other structures were beautifully painted in shades of terra cotta, beige, yellow, blue, violet, and green. Wooden shutters adorned most of the windows, which was pretty practical considering the fact that it can get very hot here next to the sea. Brightly coloured flowers of many varieties adorned the rocky gardens, while palm trees, cedars and pines rose beautiful and green towards the azure sky. What a paradise this was!
The Mediterranean has long had a mythological status...a place of natural beauty for artists, poets, writers, and anyone who cared to be engulfed by its charms. Our western culture certainly has its roots in the Mediterranean, and only switched focus to cities such as Antwerp, London and Amsterdam.
After a brief rest at the apartment which faced the sea, we went to the Promenade des Anglais which is a marvelous paved path, along the shores of Nice. It was established by the British in the mid. 18th. Century when so many came here to enjoy the wonderful warmth and sunshine. Today it's referred to as La Prom and is the place to see, and be seen...just sitting in the sunshine, enjoying lunch and a drink...whatever pleases you. Luxury hotels north of La Prom such as the world famous Negresco cater to the wealthy, but other small hotels are quite affordable.
Later in the afternoon we went to the local beach, and sat under tall palm trees watching hundreds of tourists doing their stuff. The gleaming white sands of the Cote d'Azure beaches are covered with sun worshipers, and women bathers may go topless if they choose to. It's good to be part of a more liberal scene for a change, where people are not reined in so much. We are still so terribly Victorian in Canada...time to move forward.
Toward Monaco was a large marina where luxury boats and yachts of all sizes rocked gently at the quay side. The pale, blue-grey cliffs rose steeply from the Mediterranean waters, and towered like some gigantic theatre back drop. This was definitely a place unlike any other I had ever seen before, and I could easily see what had attracted artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagal, Renoir, and Jean Cocteau to live here. I loved the light, the colours, textures, smells and just the feel of it all.
I would move there to live in a minute, and stay for ever if I could!
Blair T. Paul, all rights reserved
Keywords: The French Riviera
David Niven writes so colourfully about this place in his book "Bring On the Empty Horses"...he was enraptured with Cap Ferrat as well. Great blog!
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Blair T. Paul