Travels With The Missus On The Côte d’Azur

Well the Missus and I trundled over to the French Riviera for our 30th wedding anniversary (and to walk in the footsteps of Alicia Markova in advance of the Missus’ forthcoming book), and here’s how it went . . .

Thursday

The first thing of note we encountered at Logan Airport was some hideous five-and-dime hologram at the security checkpoint. It was a lifesize cutout of a flight attendant, onto the top half of which was projected video of (the top half of) a woman giving instructions on what to do at the TSA shakedown (no shoes for you!). Not an auspicious beginning.

Once we arrived at the gate, Air France boarded our flight with its customary efficiency, which is to say totally chaotic and Darwinian. Inside the plane it was clear to us the coach section was a product of the B.F. Skinner school of aircraft cabin design. The seating areas  were so tight, there was no position you could assume that did not result in some kind of physical pain within 30 seconds. Picture 22

(What’s Air France’s slogan again? Making the sky the best place on earth? Feh.)

Beyond that, there was the light-deprivation element: My reading lamp was out, thereby promising the prospect of seven hours of darkness. And then there was the food – an assemblage of concoctions so dreadful that every French citizen should apologize to us in a series of 65 million handwritten notes on flowery little cards.

There was nothing for it but to sleep. In 30-second intervals.

Friday

After we landed in Paris there was an endless wait at passport control followed by an interminable delay at baggage claim which led to our missing the bus to Orly Airport for our connecting flight to Nice (don’t ask). We were told the next bus would arrive in 10 minutes (ha!) and take an hour to reach Orly, thereby assuring that we would miss our connection.

An hour later there was good news and there was bad news. The good news was that we had miraculously made the flight thanks to our early arrival and its late departure. The bad news was that four rows in front of us the future star of The Exorcist 7 was emitting bloodcurdling screams at the top of his jet-engine lungs. (On the flip side, there was a lovely couple with two beautiful, delightful, playful children sitting next to us – a reminder of what family vacations are all about.)

Regardless, the flight was short and we soon arrived in Nice, whence we were shuttled to an apartment in Villefranche-sur-Mer by our most agreeable driver Frederique. And what could go wrong when the view from our terrace was this:

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Well, this: I had forgotten to pack a converter plug, and there was no BNP Paribas ATM machine in town (contrary to what we’d been told in advance) which would have linked to our bank cards.

So we were powerless and euroless.

Until we met Julia at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Office du Tourisme. A lovely blonde woman in a crisp white shirt and gold lamé jeans, she directed us to a hardware store and a BNP ATM in neighboring Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where we bought a converter plug, converted dollars into euros, and stumbled upon a bakery that featured some killer salade niçoise sandwiches.

The Missus subsequently dubbed Julia our heroic Bond Girl (Goldie Lamé?).

Things, clearly, were looking up.

Picture 1 02-07-55Saturday

The area around Nice has a quite respectable bus system with quite reasonable fares (either 1€ or 1.5€ – it seemed to vary), and we took full advantage of it, not having rented2954160828_3e1a1485f7_m a car (splendide!). A special bonus is the endless array of panoramic vistas on any bus ride you take. This morning it was to Place Garibaldi in Nice (named after Nice homeboy and Italian freedom fighter Joseph Garibaldi), adjacent to the Vieille Ville.

After a flurry of wandering around the Old Town in circles – interrupted by a leafy picnic lunch in a charming pocket park – we stumbled upon Palais Lascaris, a mid-17th century manor and modern-day museum that’s a little worse for wear but hardly a handybaron special.

Especially noteworthy: The museum’s stunning collection of over 500 historic musical instruments, some of which this video spotlights.

 

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It’s a beautiful day to mosey amid a bunch of people who have nothing better to do than eat lunch extendlessly and lick ice cream cones contentedly. Me, I looked around for a café where I could stand au bar (thereby paying less for my café crème, cheapskate that I am).

But it’s all about sitting outside here, unlike half-and-half Paris. Another difference – the fashion index skews lower in Nice. More casual, to be sure, but decidedly less stylish. Lots of middle-aged women in unfortunately tight dresses and alarmingly high heels, interspersed with lots of older women in haute thrift shop.

It’s just as much fun to people-watch here as in Paris, but in an entirely different way.

* * * * * * *

On to Place Masséna, which features these very cool sculptures.

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Via Lomography:

Some called them Buddhas, others prayers, some love them, others find them ugly. Nobody is indifferent to them! The seven resin statues on Massena square – Nice’s geographic centre – were created by Jaume Plensa, Spanish artist specialized in monumental art.

These seven characters represent seven continents and the communication between the different communities of today’s society. The name of this creation is “conversation à Nice”.

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice since 2008, has championed civic initiatives such as the Masséna square statues – along with a new tram system, a proposed major sports facility, and a free-museums policy – in an effort to turn Nice into a major tourist attraction. (He’s also come under fire for stigmatising the town’s Muslim population, but why get technical about it.) With a mayoral election coming next year, we’ll see if he stays around long enough to make it happen.

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Fun fact to know and tell: Galeries Lafayette, the upscale department store, charges a half-euro to use la toilette.

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Back at Place Garibaldi, we stopped by the Musée D’Art Moderne et D’Art Contemporain, whose stunning architecture caused quite a rumpus when the museum was built in 1990. Here’s how MAMAC describes itself:

01The artistic program of the museum finds its main structure in the relation between the New European Realism and the American Tendency towards the Art of Assembling and Pop Art.

This possibility to confront certifies the big historical complicity of the two artistic waves. The museum collections point out the work of New Realists, which are here justifying their existence from the Parisian manifest to the assessment exhibition in 1970 in Italy. The New York’s pop artists are present with significant works.

Not exactly sure what that means. Here’s how I’d describe it:

A fabulous building designed to reflect its surroundings while also contrasting with them.

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The oval motif provides a superstructure for the museum and a frame for the panoramas beyond. Look outward and you see spectacular landscapes. Look inward across the museum’s courtyard and you see through another oval (like the two lids of an eye) to the facing countryside.

You also see these stunning courtyard facades.

Sol LeWitt’s colorful cascade:

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Arman’s jumble of blue chairs:

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And Alain Jacquet’s take on Manet’s Dejuneur sur l’herbe:

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Inside, the museum is a riotous collection of modern and contemporary art from Yves Klein and the one-name brigade of the École de Nice (Arman!, César!, Ben!) to American artists from Claus Oldenburg to George Segal.

An eye-popping experience all the way around the course.

* * * * * * *

Back in Villefranche-sur-Mer, it’s the Night of the Dinner Hooligans.  V-s-M has a  lively restaurant culture, especially on the waterfront along the Rade [Bay] de Villefranche-sur-Mer, where the eateries are très chers (we saw a Rolls Royce and a vintage Bentley drop patrons off on successive nights).

Then there’s the less well-heeled crowd, which was careening through town about six a.m. proclaiming at the top of their lungs something along these lines: “We’re here! It’s clear! We’re overserved! C’est nous!

Yeah yeah – bonne nuit.

Sunday

The Russians saved us today.

The first time was on the train to Antibes, which we only got on thanks to the father of a lovely Russian family (one wife, two kids) headed in the same direction.

The problem was the ticket machine: You could barely see the screen behind the scratched-up glass, and even then, it wouldn’t take any of our credit cards, only coins – of which we had too few. Russian Dad came to our rescue: He bought the tickets with his credit card, for which we repaid him in paper euros. How improbable is that?

The second time was on the train from Antibes, which unceremoniously deposited us in Nice (something about sheep being struck on the tracks – how improbable is that).

Anyway, a dapper Russian man who worked at a Beaulieu-sur-Mer restaurant guided us through the hall of mirrors that is the French rail system and saw us safely home.

In between . . .

On the train to Antibes, which was packed, we wound up next to a gaggle of American gals in bikinis and coverups headed for the beaches of Cannes – and then headed home. “I need  a spring break (airquotes go here) from my study abroad,” one says. “I love America,” says another. (“Vous n’aimez pas la France?” – or something akin – mutters a Frenchwoman close by.)

These kids are about the cutest ugly Americans you’ll likely ever meet.

Once in Antibes we found the bus to Biot (rhymes with “yacht”) by guess or by God and made our way to the Musée National Fernand Léger.

The exterior of the museum is just flat-out fun – a colorful tile façade with reproductions of Léger’s work:

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images-2Inside is even better – a collection of Léger’s art that ranges from the 1910s to the 1950s.  Léger started as a neo-impressionist (he later burned most of his early work) then turned to cubism, latching onto Cézanne’s proclamation that “Everything in nature takes its form from the sphere, the cone and the cylinder.” Léger saw man, nature, phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg-2and objects all in the same way – “for their plastic value.” (See Contrastes de formes (1913) at right.)

Léger allied himself with fellow cubist Robert Delauney until a color war broke out between them – Delauney favored shades of color that interacted with one another (color simultaneity), Léger chose flat primary colors that contrasted with each other.

Eventually Léger went one step further and evolved from a cubist to a “tubist.” From Azur Alive:

Leger worked extensively with primary colors and geometric shapes. As a painter, Léger greatly influenced the Cubism movement but expanded beyond the artistic style. He developed a personal version of cubism with dynamic cylindrical shapes. The art critic Louis Vauxcelles called (with a touch of sarcasm) this particular style “Tubism”.

Representative sample (“The Lunch,” 1921):

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Then there’s “Les constructeurs” from 1950.

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According to Oxford Journals, “the  painting was part of a series of 12, which were hung for a time in the Renault factory canteen in Boulogne-Billancourt (Western suburbs of Paris). Léger, who wanted to make his work accessible to everyone, visited the canteen every day to observe the workers’ reactions but reports indicate that this was a challenging experience for him.” He was sure, however, that the workers would miss the painting when it was gone, and according to the audio tour at Musée Léger, he was right.

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Back in Antibes we had a late lunch that was pleasant enough, but once again reinforced our sense that in the average French restaurant, Americans (or at least these Americans) always come second to everything and everyone else. We’ve long expected that treatment in Paris, the City of Light Service. Apparently the Virus Compris has spread here as well.

images-3Ah, well – on to the Musée Picasso-Antibes, which features a collection of work Picasso did here at Château Grimaldi:

Following his stay in 1946, Pablo Picasso left on deposit at the Antibes 23 paintings and 44 drawings. Among the most famous paintings: The Joy of Living, Satyr, fauna and the centaur trident, The Slimer urchins, sea urchins Woman, Still Life with Owl and the three urchins, The Goat …

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On September 22, 1947 saw the official opening of the Picasso room on the first floor, along with a first attachment works of Antibes.

On 7 September 1948 an exhibition confirms the significant enrichment of 78 ceramics made in Madura studio in Vallauris.
On 13 September 1949 on the occasion of the inauguration of the “French Tapestries” exhibition, new rooms dedicated to paintings, ceramics and drawings by Picasso are open to the public. And 27 December 1966, the city of Antibes again makes tribute to Pablo Picasso and the Grimaldi castle officially became the Picasso Museum, the first museum dedicated to the artist. Finally, in 1991, the giving Jacqueline Picasso allow further enrichment of Picasso collections.

(Gotta love Google Translate.)

* * * * * * *

On the train back to Villefranche, it was clear from the start we hadn’t boarded the quiet car.

Two rows in front of us sat the Brand Zombies – a quartet (two guys, two gals) dominated by a multi-yakker barking into one phone and texting into another. Meanwhile, one gal was painting her fingernails, the other inventoried her recent purchases one by one, waving them about and squeaking with delight, and the remaining guy rooted through a Burberry purse that might or might not have been his.

All of them wore the same oversized sunglasses with oversized logos on the side, a sort of  Côte of Arms. It was a parody of a caricature of conspicuous consumption, happily cut short when we were dumped in Nice. Which brings us back to kindly Russian Number Two, and eventually back home to Villefranche.

Monday

Special K cereal is just better in Europe. It’s – I dunno – more grainy . . . more tasty . . . more, well, special.

Picture 15Anyway, duly fortified by notre petit déjeuner, the Missus and I trundled off to St. Jean Cap Ferrat by bus, once again taking in the stunningly panoramic Côte d’Azur, which is tastefully color-coordinated in soft oranges and yellows. The town itself is a nice quiet port overrun with really big boats and bustling construction projects.

(Upon our return to the U.S., we ecountered this Wall Street Journal piece about the cost of marina slips on the French Riviera. Bottom line: “A berth in Antibes, in southern France, for instance, now costs the equivalent of about $2,600 a day or $78,100 a month for a 60-meter-long boat. Local real-estate agents are offering up to 16-year leases of prized docking space for as much as $6 million, according to reports by Lloyd’s Register.”)

We ate our brown-bag lunch on a bench alongside the costly St. Jean Cap Ferrat slips, then followed a path of breathtaking views to the Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa & Gardens built by Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild.

beatrice_0Born in 1864, Béatrice was the daughter of the banker and major art collector Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. At 19 years old, she married Maurice Ephrussi, a Parisian banker originally from Russia who was a friend of her parents and 15 years her senior. The marriage quickly turned to disaster for Béatrice, as she caught a serious illness from Maurice which prevented her from having children.

So she had pets instead (more on that in a moment). After Maurice descended 40 million (today’s) dollars into debt in 1904, the Rothchilds crowbarred Béatrice out of the marriage. The following year her father died, she inherited a fortune, and she dropped a bunch of it on the fabulously excessive Villa Ephrussi.

Work began in 1907 and took five years. Béatrice Ephrussi appears to have been a particularly difficult client. She refused projects proposed by a dozen major architects, believing them to be “idiotic”. And so, projects by Claude Girault, the architect of the Petit Palais in Paris, and even Henri-Paul Nénot, winner of the Prix de Rome and most famously architect of the new Sorbonne, were dismissed. Thus, the project came to be placed in the hands of the architect Jacques-Marcel Auburtin, who scrupulously satisfied all of Béatrice’s requirements.

Video tour:

 

As I said to the Missus, the garden couldn’t be more charming – in a big-bucks sort of way. Especially the water musical – the fountains “dancing” to classical music – that goes off every 20 minutes.

But back to Béatrice’s pets. The wildly eccentric heiress kept a whole menagerie of big_3_lesanimauxdebeatrice_cj.danimals about – poodles, monkeys, gazelles, a mongoose – and treated them like the children she never had. She even had  chairs for the dogs and the mongoose. But the best animal act was the wedding Béatrice threw for Diane, her favourite female poodle, and a male poodle called Major. Here’s how the Boston Daily Globe described it in January of 1897, when Béatrice was in her 3os.

big_4.legoutdujeuetdescourses“Hundreds of invitations were sent out, addressed to canine guests and their owners. All the men, of both the two- and four-legged variety, showed up during the day in formal evening dress: tails, wing collars and bow ties. […] At the sound of the wedding march, three little poodles appeared in tails to begin proceedings. Canine “bridesmaids” and “best men” escorted the betrothed couple. At the other end of the room, a good and loyal bulldog waited for them wearing a top hat and a red, white and blue sash. […] The bride had a gold ring set with diamonds slid onto her paw.”

Ha! Makes Leona Helmsley look like a piker.

* * * * * * *

After leaving the nothing-succeeds-like-excess Rothschild mansion, the Missus and I walked to Beaulieu-sur-Mer to Villa Grecque Kérylos, which is the cosmic opposite of Béatrice’s House of Stuff.

On the Mediterranean coast, between Nice and Monaco, the Greek Villa Kerylos is one of the most extraordinary monuments on the Riviera. Built between 1902 and 1908 in the

Picture 18

 

period the French call the “Belle Epoque”, it is a unique reconstruction of an ancient Greek home. “Kerylos” means Halcyon, often identified as a kingfisher, a poetic mythical bird, considered to be a bird of good omen.
This is a tribute to Greek civilisation by two lovers of Ancient Greece, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts and Emmanuel Pontremoli, an inspired architect.

The villa is “a faithful reconstruction of Greek noble houses built on the island of Delos in the 2nd century B.C.  . . .  the aim was not to produce a pastiche but to create an original work by ‘thinking Greek’.” Which they did  great job of – it’s a beautiful reincarnation of a Hellenic home, with the accent on hell if you appreciate any creature comforts introduced after 200 B.C.

Video tour:

 

Gotta believe Mme. Théodore thought Villa Kérylos was one of those wacky ideas you wish someone had talked the Mister out of.

Tuesday

Back to Nice, where our first stop was the Jardin Maréchal Juin, which we had seen from the rooftop of the Musée D’Art Moderne.

Via Utrip:

This colorful garden is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Nice, located directly opposite the Acropolis. The many footpaths Picture 17

make the June Marshal Garden a great place to take a stroll and enjoy both the nature and the artwork. One famous example of the latter is La Tête Carrée, or the Square Head, by Sacha Sosno, which is honestly hard to miss. Beautiful flowerbeds line the paths in neat arrangements.

When we arrived, the flowerbeds were being replanted by a dozen gardeners doing what in America would a two-man job. That’s what happens when 35% of your workers are public employees.

Mr. Square Head, however, was unperturbed.

s-logo-2009Down the block, we stopped by the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Nice, at which one guidebook had promised “a collection of 7000 mushrooms” but which actually displayed about seven of them. There were, to be fair, some stuffed animals and a diorama of the museum’s founders with a recorded dialogue about mollusks ‘n’ stuff.

Underwhelmed but undaunted, the Missus and I trundled over to the Cimitière du Château, a Catholic/Christian/Jewish graveyard bursting with oversized statues and towering monuments. Via Stay.com:

Built on the ruins of the ancient citadel of the city, Cimetière du Château retains some vestiges of the walls of the most modern fortress, built in the XVIth century. The graveyard is popular cimetiere-du-chateaufor its monumental landscaping, and for the panoramic views of the city: east, west and north of Nice.

Cimetière du Château boasts 2800 graves, where some of Nice’s finest sons and daughters find eternal peace: Louis Feuillade, Emil Jellinek-Mercedes, Gaston Leroux, Carolina Otero, Renée Saint-Cyr and many others. The graveyard was founded in 1783.

Video tour:

 

We wandered all through the cemetery, which is quite remarkable, searching in vain for the Jewish section. Finally we found it – on the other side of a high wall, with its own separate entrance and a handmade sign:

La Communauté Israelite de Nice

Aux Héros de la Patrie de la Résistance

Aux Martyrs de Persécution

Inside, graves are strewn about haphazardly, lacking the grid pattern that the Catholic/Christian sections featured, so that you almost have to step on the graves to move about. The whole cemetary is unkempt and overgrown – very much like an afterthought. A second, newer level seems to want to compensate for the original: it has uniform headstones, a clear grid, and a large menorah/sculpture in what will be the middle of the section when it fills up.

Overall, it’s a sad reminder of the neglectful (at best) treatment far too many French Jews experienced during the war.

* * * * * * *

The Missus and I, headed for the Musée des Beaux-Arts, stroll down the celebrated Picture 23Promenade des Anglais, favorite of Matisse and tourists alike. It’s the latter, though, that turn this stretch of seaside into La Comédie Humaine, with every type of stroller, bicycler, eater/drinker, and sunbather imaginable, including some people who shouldn’t even be in the same room as a Speedo, never mind actually in one.

Eventually we drift up to Rue de France, where we pass by the AC Hotel Nice, with this distinctive exterior:

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It provides an excellent contrast to the old-world Musée des Beaux-Arts:

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From Lonely Planet:

In a resplendent 1878 belle époque villa, the Musée des Beaux-Arts displays works by Fragonard, Monet, Sisley and Rodin, as well as an excellent collection of Dufy works.

Fauvist appreciators will relish a roomful of Raoul Dufy’s works. Also impressive are sculptures by Rodin, and some late impressionist pieces by Bonnard, Monet and Sisley. Local lads Jules Chéret (1836-1932), the ‘Father of the Poster’, and Alexis Mossa (1844-1926), who painted truly hideous symbolist works, also feature. The latter is more famous for adding wildly decorated floats to the Nice Carnival than for his watercolours.

Sad to say, virtually none of that was true when we visited. The second floor was closed, the first floor was mostly closed, and what artwork was visible lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

Actually that’s not accurate. I know exactly what the artwork lacked: Anything interesting about it.

* * * * * * *

For most of our trip, the Missus and I have lugged bottles of water around with us. France is not a water-fountain nation – you pay for water, the same as you pay for water closets (see Galeries Lafayette).

Just as I wrote that in my notebook, the waiter at a brasserie just off Place Masséna brings me my café crème and a small glass of – wait for it – water. Take that, Américain!

Then again, there’s no little cookie that usually comes with a crème. Life is full of trade-offs, yeah?

Meanwhile, some guys with serious tattoos just walked by handing out cards for the Atrium-Club Restaurant in Cannes. It seems that in advance of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, L’Atrium got a facelift and is offering all kinds of excitement – musical, epicurial, and celebrital – in “the Golden Square of Cannes” for the ten days from May 15 to May 26.

Especially intriguing is the Atrium’s Ephemeral Restaurant, an establishment that pretty much emblemizes the whole Cannesterprise.

Wednesday

Well, the rains finally came today, although not until the Missus and I had completed our trifect-art for the day – Musée Matisse, Musée Chagall, and Musée Masséna.

Located in a suburb of Nice, Musée Matisse inhabits a charming house that’s been renovated to showcase a collection of Matisse’s handiwork donated mostly by the artist himself and his descendants.

musee_matisse_niceThe Matisse Museum is situated on the hill of Cimiez, not far from the Franciscan monastery with its Italianate gardens, the Hotel Regina where Matisse used to reside, and the Gallo-Roman ruins. Since the 5th of January 1963 the Museum has been welcoming vistors to its collection of works left by the artist (and his heirs) to the city of Nice where he lived from 1918 until 1954.

The collection is small but cherce – a nice array of paintings, some sculptures, afauteuil_rocaille_1946 smattering of cutouts, and several of Matisse’s personal effects, such as the chair this painting was based on. Especially interesting are the “remnants” – cut-out shapes that never made it into the compositions. The family donated over 400 of them, many of which are on display.

The grounds of the museum are, well, jazzy – dotted with busts of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, lined with paths named after Miles Davis and Duke Ellington.  Not sure why they were there, but it was good to see them regardless.

* * * * * * *

Down the hill from the Matisse museum is Musée Nationale Marc  Chagall, whose building could not be more different from the former’s.

 The architect chosen to build the museum was André Hermant (1908-1978), who formerly worked with Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier and was a member of the UAM (French Union of phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgModern Artists). He projected himself as a defender of an architectural design iwhich function determined form. The social purpose was also a key consideration in his approach . . .

The idea of a “home”, a spiritual abode, as sought by Chagall, required a peaceful setting in which the building itself does not make its presence felt.

Actually, it’s that whole spiritual thing I can’t get past with Chagall – too much biblical stuff and people flying over rooftops. I do like this one, though (“Self-portrait in green,” 1914):

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That’s Bella, Chagall’s fiancée at the time and later his much beloved wife. Chagall’s paintings may have been allegorical, but his devotion to Bella was as straightforward as it gets.

* * * * * * *

Last but far from least, Musée Masséna.

Villa Massena was built on the Promenade des Anglais, between 1898 and 1901 by Danish architect Hans-Georg Tersling (1857-1920), one of the best architects of the French Riviera during the Belle Epoque. It was probably recommended to the Prince of Essling by the former Empress Eugenie for which he built the villa Cyrnos (1892) in Cap Martin. Aaron Villa-Massena_mediumMessiah (1858-1940), author of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has attended. Its architecture is inspired by the Rothschild villa in Cannes. The style is neo-classical Italianate with a strong footprint.

Prince Victor Essling (1836-1910) grand-son of Andre Massena Nice, makes its winter home. His son, Andrew (1891-1947), inherited the estate after the death of his father, in fact practically gift to the city of Nice in 1919, stating that the garden should be open to the public and that the villa has become a museum. Massena museum was inaugurated in 1921.

And not just a museum, but one devoted to showcasing the city’s history. Which it does quite nicely. But the building itself is the main attraction. It was renovated in 2008 and is simply spectacular. Just one example:

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After exiting the palace, we said goodbye to Nice, a swell town to explore with more than enough to do in the three days we spent there.

Thursday

Still raining this morning, so we decided we’d lollygag around our apartment, which is74e36f9b-96e4-435b-b311-df4b87d12620.1.9 just as delightful on a rainy day as on a sunny one. It’s located in the heart of Villefranche-sur-Mer, a few quiet blocks from centre ville. Even though the flat is relatively small, it never feels that way thanks to the terrace, which is the best place in town to hang out.

There’s also this tastefully appointed main room

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and an equally attractive bedroom with shutters leading out to the terrace.

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It’s the nicest place we’ve ever stayed on vacation.

Eventually the rain let up and we decided to go to Eze Village, which people are always prattling on about. So we jumped on a bus, transferred at Gare d’Eze-sur-Mer, and wound up in Eze about 45 minutes later.

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Legendary adman David Ogilvy once said, “people travel to collect clichés.” That’s Eze all over. It’s been called a “medieval hilltop masterpiece,” but we called it something else. Any charm it possesses is largely sucked out of it by an endless series of overpriced shops filled with junk.

Unfortunately, the next bus home wasn’t for an hour, so we wandered around a bit, finallyPicture 4 ending up in the chapel overlooking the town. It’s a good-looking church, but the best part of it is the pulpit. Extending from its side – honest to God – is an arm holding a crucifix in its hand.

Me: If only there was a leg hanging off the other side.

Missus: Arms for the poor?

Best part of Eze – hands down.

* * * * * * *

After dinner I walked down to the bay one last time. I stood in a soft rain next to the bust of homeboy Jean Cocteau alongside the chapel he renovated in the 1950s,DownloadedFile-1 and looked one last time at the dark Mediterranean and the bright lights burned into the hillsides surrounding it.

The bust has a plaque underneath it, which reads:

Quand je regarde Villefranche je vois ma jeunesse, fassent les hommes q’ elle ne change jamais.

“When I see Villefranche, I see my youth again. Pray Heaven it may never change.”

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Amen to that.

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6 Responses to Travels With The Missus On The Côte d’Azur

  1. Michael Pardee says:

    If memory serves, there’s a neat Mcdonalds in Nice. Artsy touches. Staff knew what I meant when I said, with needless exaggeration, “Flench flies pleez.” They must have thought me just another feckless thug from Boston. Don’t miss Jim Morrison’s entombment spot in Paris. It gets a bit crowded on sunny days.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      Yeah – nice bathrooms at that McDonalds too. Morrison’s grave isn’t quite the scene it once was. When they cleaned up all the graffiti around it, there was a lot less hanging out, toking up, and sacrificing Doors CDs (although it’s five or six years since we were last there).

      ________________________________________

  2. Resplendently chronicled trundle, HWS, lacking only a pic of Julia.

  3. Congratulations! Best wishes for the next 30 years!

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