It’s time to pack again, load the car, attach the camper, take the train or go by plane. Down south, where the sun shines and the blue of blues blinds your eyes. The French Riviera. The Côte d’Azur. One of the few privileged places left on Mother Earth. In other lands, not that far away, people shoot, bomb, murder, torture, rape and curse in the name of Allah, but here only peaceful nature, calm and serenity prevail in the name of sanity. Not that the rush in July-August to get here does not take its victims. It’s a bit like that baby turtle race to the sea. Some make it, others don’t and get tragically squashed on the highway. But once you are there, heaven awaits you.
Let’s start in Nice. How privileged its citizens are: all that splendid wealth of nature handed on a plate for free. Only take your swimsuit and an inflatable pad, take the bus and you’re on the beach.
This is how the beach looks like when nobody is there.
Or like this, still early in the day or a weekday when everybody is at work.
Or like this when it’s weekend!
Granted, I would feel more comfortable on Aruba’s or Bali’s sandy beaches, but don’t worry. Travel a bit farther west to the Lavandou, and you find the most delightful sandy beaches ever and a lot less crowded than in Nice. Let’s take a look at what borders on the beach of Nice: it’s the splendid Promenade des Anglais.
The Promenade was started in the early nineteenth century when Nice was still part of a fiefdom called “Sardaigne” and wealthy European aristocrats, especially British suffering from stiff bones and arthritis during their bitter winters, sought the soft climate of the Côte d’Azur to survive. Reportedly an entrepreneurial British reverend among them, named Lewis Way, launched a fundraising effort to finance the construction of a boardwalk along the coast that started in 1821 and was completed in 1824. When in 1860 France annexed Nice, the boardwalk was baptized “Promenade des Anglais”. In subsequent years, the Promenade was extended and its many brilliant villas along it turned into exclusive hotels, such as Negresco.
Now let’s take a side trip to Menton, taking the small coastal road a few miles to the East, past Monaco and near the border with Italy.
The coastal road along the beach in Menton.
On the way, a view over Monaco with a glimpse of the Royal Palace at the very end. Just imagine having that view of the Mediterranean at your disposal every day of your life. That’s why many hills along the coast are built to the knock with villas, apartments and mansions as well.
A glimpse of the Alpes Maritimes in Menton’s hinterland, streets characteristic for the Mediterranean towns.
As in Nice, the beach in Menton is graveled as well. Seagulls are waiting for a snack. I’m sure that in the USA they would have found tons of sand to cover it all. But here, nature is left to its natural course. In fact, the gravel (called “galets” in French) is naturally supplemented by the rivers flowing into the Mediterranean.
Off we go to the Eastern side of Nice: avoiding places like Cannes, Saint-Raphael and Saint Tropez that are too crowded. Two places we really liked: Théoule-sur-Mer and above all: a little village called Cavalière in the Lavandou where you can still enjoy the Mediterranean without feeling you are besieged by hordes of tourists and loud motor cycles.
In the back you can see the snow-topped Alpes Maritimes!
In Théoule, the beaches have soft nice sand and you can enjoy a hearty grilled Dorade at its restaurant if the chef is in a friendly mood. In our case he got mad at us because we took seat at a table laid for three, and we told him in plain French *#! and walked out on our way to Cavalière, where we did have our Dorade on a friendlier terrace.
Unparalleled Côte d’Azur. You may be far away from theater or the concert hall, but what you get in return is peace of mind (if you got the money.)
Yes, Cavalière, our favorite place, about two hours from Nice (if you take the highway A8), where the mountains descend graciously into the Mediterranean, offering you splendid little private beaches where you can feel like the wealthiest person in the world without having to be one. A hidden beach where you can stay almost by yourself. Of course, French women bathe always topless, what women in Africa do because they don’t have money to pay for a bra — back to nature. Our place to stay and never to leave.
Your dream house, for grabs!
Farewell, Cavalière…..our pearl of the Riviera.
The end of a “Nice” Côte d’Azur adventure.
Dear Guests: This is to announce the publication of the Short Story entitled “Tisja the Village Beauty”, a story about a certain Peter I happen to know quite well, who lost his virginity as a young lad in a stormy affair with a playful servant and nearly got caught when he left his pajamas near her bed.
Get this juicy story on Amazon.com for the ridiculous price of $0.99 or thereabout! Just click on the story on the right and have fun!
On Mother’s Day, we celebrate our mothers and grandmothers for the fabulous jobs they do in our lives. The mother’s pivotal role in any family is recognized every day, first going through those exhausting nine months and the horrid delivery, then making sure there is good food on the table, kids go to school properly dressed and provided with a full lunchbox, or learn to read, write and do math, and put a lid on father’s disciplinary role. All mothers and grandmothers remain in our memory and when they pass they leave an enormous void for us who stay behind.
One Mother, Audrey Hepburn, was a special Mother who took care of the deprived children in poor countries as Ambassadrice for UNICEF during 1988-1993. Especially in Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia) and East and South Asia (Vietnam and Bangladesh). On May 4, it was 85 years ago that Audrey was born.
I repeat a quote from Audrey I found on the wonderful website of Audrey Fans <Audrey1> http://www.audrey1.org/
“My task is to inform, to create awareness of the needs of children. It would be nice to be an expert on education, economics, politics, religions, traditions and cultures. I’m none of those. But I am a mother and I will travel. “
She showed how she could be a mother for the deprived children in these poor countries and shone like a bright light in their sordid lives. Though her illness stopped her from pursuing her mission far too early at her tragic passing in 1993, she left an indelible mark on the great work UNICEF does.
In February 2014, I wrote two blogs on Audrey and launched my short story “Audrey” on Amazon.com (as part of a series of short stories entitled Some Women I have Known) on how I got to know Audrey as a young girl of 13 years old in Holland, long before she shot to the firmament as Gigi on Broadway in 1951 and as the adventurous innocent Princess in Roman Holiday in 1953.
How could I have ever expected that “that girl” would become so beautiful and so famous?
Audrey’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer approved the story before publishing and found it “sweet.” Proceeds of the story go the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. www.audreyhepburn.com
It’s only 99cts and all little bits help. Get it at Amazon.com at
“Lucy Cello Girl” (on the right) is the third story under the series Some Women I have Known. It is built around a sweet young cellist whose real name I cannot reveal. Friends of mine may remember her. Over time her memory has turned into a fantasy, a melody of transcendence through love and music you want to hear forever.
“Lucy” is the precursor to a novel I have penned entitled “Enchanting the Swan” which will hopefully see the light of day in the near future.
Enjoy the Short Story on your Kindle or Kindle for PC.
I have traveled and lived in quite a few places and endured numerous cultural shocks. Looking back, I understand better why we humans from different places do not always understand each other and get annoyed with each others behavior. Living and traveling in other countries offers you a different perspective on life and is certainly enriching, but it is not always easy to absorb. Below follows an abridged list of my cultural shocks, but it is by no means exhaustive.
If you have your own list, please let me know, and I will publish them! It’s fun to know how we look at each other.
THE “WEST” AND SORT OF WEST
- USA: Americans think only they are sane. The rest of the world thinks they are insane. Depending on which side of the Ocean, the rest is right.And everything looks and tastes the same and their girls are xenophobic.
- Russia: Taking a bath is against the rules, unless you do it in vodka.
- Holland: Bikers don’t look right or left and run you over yelling YOU are stupid. Plus ample dog poop and the only place where I got robbed three times over the years by the same people. Guess once. Starts with an “M”, Holland’s most popular ethnic invaders.
- Belgium: Toilet paper cut from old newspapers and no sinks to wash your hands. Language either Flemish or Walloon, either way unintelligible. French fries, mussels and beer for breakfast (or “rouge”, red wine). Lots of smokers.
- France: Toilets with black holes, no seats and pissed-over footsteps and no sinks to wash your hands. Plus subway stink is the world’s worst. And heaps of dog and pigeon poop. Food is way too expensive and waiters are rude. And French love is a myth. Americans in Paris made that up because they don’t know what love is either, only in the movies. But I made some very good friends.
- Spain: Males can’t leave a girl alone. Females are locked up 24/7. And I can’t sing serenades in Spanish.
- Portugal: As many windmills as in Holland. They look spooky. Don Quixote traveled to Portugal to fight them.
- Italy: Males can’t leave a girl alone. But females eat too much pasta. And there’s too much pigeon poop, too.
- Germany: One menu only: bier, wurst und sauerkraut. And too much hoompa poompa.
- England: no menu at all, only rain, and after joining the EU they still drive on the wrong side of the road.
- Ireland: All Irish gone to New York to join the Democratic Party. Only Poles and Romanian pick pockets left.
- Scotland: Rain, cold weather, smoking chimneys and nobody speaks English.
- Switzerland: Swiss French unintelligible; Swiss German unintelligible, Swiss Italian, well, who knows; I don’t speak Italian. Traffic priority signs for frogs, cows and turtles. Puts holes in its cheese to attract Americans. Raclette sits in your stomach for two weeks and cheese fondue a bit longer causing an outbreak of fumes not liked by others, especially not your co-worker.
- Rwanda: Twice destroyed in thirty years with old colonial help.
- Burundi: Twice destroyed in twenty years with old colonial help.
- Central African Republic: snakes in and/or under your bed, wasps in your toilet, and pygmies running between your legs.
- Cameroon: The food looks great but you can’t eat it.
- Congo-Kinshasa: Everybody cheats.
- Congo-Brazaville: Nobody cheats. It’s forbidden by the law.
- South-Africa: Visit a shopping mall to get shot at and run for your life.
- Tanzania: Dar es Salaam has too many SUVs and nobody knows how they were paid for.
- Kenya: Wildlife is for tourists and the airport road is to kill them.
- Ethiopia: The table cloth is edible but you wouldn’t think that when you go to bed.
- Mali: That’s where Timbuktu is and when I got there I finally understood why.
- Guinea: Why for heaven’s sake did the colonialists put that country on the map?
- Ivory Coast: Must be called Côte d’Ivoire to show it was once French and because of that it has been good at destroying all it had been given.
- Ghana: The only place in Africa on the West Coast that seems to work because it has a direct KLM flight from Amsterdam.
- Nigeria: The one place in Africa that should work but doesn’t. Night flight out to safety.
- Bangladesh: Delicacy: cockroached curry. Eating with your fingers; spit reservoirs in every corner of every corridor; toilets are bastions of urine, providing the main perfume in office buildings; and getting the Dhaka run if you don’t survive it (most of the time).
- India: more of the same, but a little bit more sophisticated. And heavenly Kashmir should be declared neutral territory for everyone to enjoy, not just Islamists, not just Hindus, not just Pakistanis, or whatever. Just let it be.
- Malaysia: A mushroom garden with millions of multicolored edible mushrooms and a McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur. What a place to live.
- Singapore: The country that everyone wants to ape but only Singaporeans know how to run.
- Taiwan: The only place where China is not China but everyone speaks Chinese, and a tree you can slide through to become rich if you don’t fear getting stuck in the middle.
- Philippines: Manila TV is like American TV – just as awful. Only in the countryside you find its beauty, but you may get struck by a typhoon.
- Indonesia and Bali: Djakarta is like Lagos, but outside the city Java is a jewel. And on Bali they serve the best suckling pig on earth. Driving off the main roads you see the real Indonesia and its terraced rice fields. Heaven on earth. But paying the hotel bills was like hell.
- Hong Kong: British geniality mixed with Chinese Confucianism. Foremost a good cuisine, especially on the street, but everyone wonders how long the good will last.
- China: More bikers than in Holland, and I never had real Chinese food before, not even in Amsterdam or NY China Town.
- Macao: Beware! Bought my wife a sapphire ring that turned out a piece of colored glass.
- Japan: Plastic food in the window is for show but not for eating. You must bow when meeting people in the elevator. And even a GPS can’t find where you’re going
- Hawaii: advertised as little Asia but no, it’s pure America. So good to be back, or is it?
- Saudi-Arabia: The place where beautiful women are kept in hiding and your head gets cut off for saying something about it.
- Lebanon: A Falafel tastes as good as a bomb.
- Jordan: An oasis in the desert and the only place in the Middle-East where I could ride a horse, have dinner in the open with a lovely woman, and feel at home.
- Guyana: Loud. Loud dogs, loud crickets, loud vehicles, loud music, loud people but great curry and the best rum in the world. Drives on the wrong side of the road because the British stole Guyana from the Dutch in the 100 year European wars and when it changed hands from England to Holland, the Dutch Governor did not know what left or right was because he drank too much rum. Since Independence everybody drives in the middle of the road, so I stay inside or take a cab. Beautiful and savvy women, always showing a pleasant smile; and everything stays the same.
- Surinam: Awfully isolated but Surinamers don’t mind. Fluent Dutch speaking Guyana (the only country outside Holland – apart from Flemish Belgium – that does): the greatest shock was that they are not Dutch at all, actually quite the opposite, and although pretty, women bite.
- Aruba: Nice but too much beach.
- Curacao: The place to live but too expensive to retire.
- Bonaire: For scuba divers only and iguana lovers.
- Jamaica: The place where I lost my Millennials and my tendons tore when climbing back into my capsized sailing boat, leaving me burdened with Jamaicanitis.