May 30, 2024

of Leaving and Returning Home

The erstwhile decadence of the Cote d’Azur has given way to a different sort of extravagance.  An onslaught of burnished VIPs and yachts crowd the harbour; subject to the driving force of money and transforming the Promenade des Anglais, over the last century, from its first incarnation as a health spa to a playground for decadence and decadents.

Further down the coast, away from the crowds and hype of St Trop, Cannes, Nice; the Cote’s western frontier hosts jagged peninsulas, tulip groves and petanque-playing pensioners.

Yet even here is not exempt from its own particular brand of horreur, where the sphere of the local is subject to the horrors of the beach holiday. There is a Europe-wide pandemic; of coastline spoiled by the twin curses of tack and tourism. Like the vapour which rolls across the harbour each morning, these twin peaks are the lifeblood of this town.

It may not be that this is the Blackpool of southern Europe but, though the trunks may be a little tighter, the same mentality prevails: the same scooters, ice-cream shacks and, that curse of Western society – the cocktail bar – which populate its promenade.

The ideal of tourism, or of a holiday, is an escape from the realities of everyday life.

It’s difficult to entertain that this occurs mere minutes away from this quiet hillside with its cypress trees and crowing cockerels and couples, quietly breakfasting on little packets of Melba toast on the terrace of the chamber d’hotes below.

The mist, as it burns off, reveals signs of industry on the hills above the ramshackle houses; walls a sun-washed, once-burnt orange. A sparse growth of cypress trees. They’re growing things on the other side of the ravine: roughly hewn dry stone walls stand in imitation of straight lines, and there are vans packed next to the nets where tulips grow.

For the traveller, movement is about how the experience may impinge on their own lives.

There is deep companiable silence, and when someone says something it is like cutting through water; the reply comes back like an echo, deadened through the vapours of sun cream, cigarette smoke and cheap rose.


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