Sun Cure in the Côte d’Azur.
 

All beach towns are alike; each non-beach town is non-beachy in its own way.  That’s our overall impression anyway after spending a week in the Côte d’Azur.  It is also an unabashed homage to a great Russian writer whose fellow countrymen-aristocrats and their European peers used to prance around this part of France in search of a “sun cure.”  We, ourselves, were not in need of any kind of cure, really; isn’t living in Paris a cure-all?  We simply had a week off in-between classes and we wanted to go to a warm destination where we could pass lazy days on the beach. 

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The end to Cannes (or until we see you again).
 

8 July 2008.  On our last day in the Côte d’Azur, we wandered around Cannes with our suitcases and lamented the fact that our time in the sun was quickly coming to an end.  The sun-worshipper half, Nez, was feeling a pang of melancholy and already plotting her return.  

“Does it get cold here in the winter?” Nez wondered aloud, betraying a desire to make a dash to the south of France when Paris got cold and wet and school was on winter break.  Riot offered some support, “Probably.  After all, the Russian aristocrats used to winter here.”  He had read that from somewhere, a brief blurb on Cannes's history from a guidebook most certainly.  “Then, we’ll come here in December,” declared Nez.  “And, maybe we’ll buy a vacation place here too, someday,” offered Riot.  Nez continued, “I can take the kids to the beach everyday while you read at a café, in the shade.”  The real estate agency next to the café where we were having our morning coffees, with its attractive photos of available properties in and around Cannes, surely entered Riot’s consciousness and spurred on his casual statement.  The abundance of sun and warmth surely helped the usually more pragmatic Nez to go along.  Yet, if Riot was conscious of the fact or if someone were to say that he was dreaming yet again, he would likely resort to the old saw that nobody would have thought that we would be living in Paris either.  And, here we were, getting ready to board a train home, to Paris.  To be fair, we really were not delusional, intoxicating Paris and excessive sun notwithstanding.

The midday sun was beating beads of sweat out of us and there was not a gust of wind in the dry air.  The Hôtel Little Palace, which we liked really much, in its misguided way charged a ludicrous 5€ for each piece of kept luggage.  Granted the luggage locker room at the train station across the street charged just as much, we thought that it was still unconscionable for a hotel to charge for holding on to the luggage of its departing guests for just a few hours.  Build such cost into the room price by all means but to have it as a standalone charge was criminal.  So, in protest, we decided that we would pull our two small suitcases (always pack light!) around fashionable Cannes until three.  To be sure, we weren't that upset about this, really; the heat bothered us much more.

 
 
 
  Lingering over an espresso and a cappuccino while waiting for our lunch restaurant to open.
  Lord Brougham, credited with putting Cannes on the map, now watches over children and radio-controlled boats in a quiet square.
 

Before we could have lunch at the nice-looking Chinese restaurant we attempted to go to last night, we had to break for coffee first because it was not serving until noon.  No matter, because what was France if not constant breaks for coffee?  We found the nearby Factory Café that was situated in an open corridor between two side streets.  The welcoming breezes of the wind tunnel could make the experience last forever except the fact that Nez couldn’t help but down her entire cappuccino in the amount of time Riot took two sips from his small espresso.  Oh well, time for lunch.

Sitting outside under a wide awning on a quiet alley off La Croisette, we ate delicious non-fast food Chinese and stared at the occasional passing toy trains carrying tourists (Le Petit Train de Cannes or Le Train du Cinéma) who looked like captives by choice, on the so-called “film tour.”  We were certain that more than a few would have traded places with us.  Over lunch at Le Jardin du Bambou, we pampered our tummies and pondered how the French came about counting starting with their thumbs while we started with our index fingers.  So, while a French person made a backward “L” with his thumb and index finger to denote two (if using his right hand), an American flashed a peace sign.  Nez observed rightly that the French way would make signaling four, extending every finger except the pinkie, very difficult.  Riot, who could signal four “in French” with his left but not right hand, further thought it was potentially confusing for Americans to start counting with the index finger and then reverting back to the thumb to make five.



















  The very same red-carpeted staircase that international cinema stars ascend every year at the Cannes Film Festival.

  Nez, just over a month late, showing how she would have greeted the adoring crowd had she been there.

 

 
 

Moving onto a less esoteric topic, we expressed our hopes that Riot’s sister and her family would join us for our wedding in France next year.  We recognized that it would be a large, although not insurmountable, financial undertaking.  Yet, it would mean so much to both of us, and perhaps more importantly, it would expose Riot's nephews to a world beyond the American suburbia from whose dull, inertial pulls we so, SO, wish they would escape in due course without too much lasting damage.  

Nez recited a list of parents of her students who took their children to various parts of the world each year, to visit family, rediscover ancestral homeland, or simply to play tourist.  Recognizing that her school district was more solidly middle class than others, Riot pointed out the sharp contrast in how different cultures perceived the act of traveling.  He remembered from his youth discussions around the dinner table about how “crazy,” or more charitably, “frivolous,” “Americans” were in taking a vacation every year when they could hardly afford it.  By which it was meant that they were taking trips while they were still renting and not owning their own house, or if they did own a house, then not saving up for an even bigger one.  

In his family, in the early years when they did not have today’s means, a vacation meant driving the family car to Orange County to stay with his maternal grandparents and going to Disneyland with food stuffed in their jackets, or making a day trip to Lake Tahoe to “ski” — essentially, sliding down a random hill by the side of the road on makeshift sleds of a piece of cardboard or plastic bags — and lunching on whatever his mom had packed.  To state the obvious, that these very simple experiences shaped the person that he became and that he would not trade them for their more upscale or conventional alternatives, would be beside the point.  Rather, the point was that one could not deny the intangible benefits to personal growth and progress that came with the act of traveling beyond one's own comfort zone and one's known world.

We would also love to see our nephews and nieces, and the entire impressionable next generation, escape the rat race of our unfortunate consumer society.  Sometimes a surprisingly good meal, in agreeable weather with a great companion, could make everything appear so clearly.  Maybe all we were saying, really, was that if one must have a Ferrari then by all means take the extra effort to push it to the limits on the German autobahn and not just rounding the corner of the cul-de-sac of one's gated community.



















  |   The links between Cannes and cinema:  The cinematic giants, and an assortment of others, have left their hand prints on the sidewalk outside the Palais des Festivals.  
Here are two of Riots favorites.


 
  A mural depicting iconic movie scenes through time on the side of a building at the start of Quai Saint-Pierre.
 

And with that, we said goodbye to Cannes.  To the superficiality of its skin-deep glamour, like a kid working all year to save money for a limousine for the prom.  To the more than skin-deep ferocity of its midday sun and temperate climate.  To the sprawling sandy beaches, public and private, and the freedom expressed by the topless bathers in all shapes and sizes.  To the cool, breezy evening walks along the seaside boulevard with real people:  families, lovers, friends, and tourists whose eagerness for a snapshot to show the folks back home often ran deeper than their pockets.  To the convenient springboard to visit nearby towns and pebbly stretches of ocean.  And also, to its ability to foster all sorts of conversation, from what might even be characterized as “interesting” to arguments about what to eat or when to call it a day sunbathing.  Thanks for inspiring us to communicate, to learn to communicate (sometimes in utter silence) in your midst, Cannes.  That, perhaps, was the real sun cure.

 

















  The real magic of Cannes is what you find
hidden in plain sight.
 
DAYS   
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Dine Cote dAzur
 
Sleep Cote dAzur
 
A Matter of Numbers
 
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