The print is an art deco-period woman in a swimsuit standing in front of a restaurant - probably in the 1930's. Oh thanks Google, there she is. She isn't the point though. Like all good memento purchases, she has a story.
On Sam's last week in France, we walked to the far side of the port looking for the beach that our new friends, Tristan and Kathryn, who are American/Italian/British travel journalists living in Nice, suggested.
Along the cliffs hangs a shell of a building, with an equally decrepit structure perched on a small rock promontory rising out of the turquoise sea. Nothing is left of the structure but a three-story spiral staircase attached to a concrete pillar and a rickety, rusty metal gangplank that hooks the promontory to the main.
It's at least a 30 foot jump, maybe 40, from the top of the pillar. Girls climb up the slippery and overhanging cliff too in order to sun and preen and jump, well away from any parental supervision.
Sam and I found this deeply entertaining and noted that it really was a perfect way for teenagers to express their considerable teenage angst. In America, of course, such a place would be wrapped in concertina wire and plastered with keep-out signs. Not so, in France.
Besides being a demanding and dangerous climb, the platform provides a perfect stage for the young men to perform feats of aerial bravery and make obscene gestures to the incoming Sardinia/Corsica ferries.
Of course this impresses girls.
The day before I left Nice, I wandered through the old town, photographing architecture, drinking cafe au lait and breathing the Catholic incense burning in 17th century cathedrals. On my way, I happened into a shop selling art deco posters. One caught my eye.
It was a woman in a bathing suit standing on the rocky shore, under a restaurant called The Reserve. The restaurant was perched on the cliffs with the conspicuous elegance for which France in the 30's was so famous. Across a small gangway, restaurant guests were invited to gaze at the Mediterranean from a milk-white, wrought-iron three-story gazebo attended by tuxedoed waiters and a string quartet.
How swank and delicious this place must have been at a time when Nice was bustling with British aristocracy and famous French
impressionists. Today, there is still a swank and lovely restaurant next to the former location. Happily, the restaurant's current website has another picture of it's former glory.
The salesgirl saw me get really excited, when I figured out what I was looking at. When I told her I wanted it, she said in French, "do you know where this is?"
"Oui, oui" I said. "Les garcons sautent."
Believe it or not, "The boys jump" was one of the first sentences I learned while studying French with the Rosetta Stone. The shop girl was clearly pleased that not only did I, an American tourist, knew the site of Restaurant De La Reserve but that I was able to explain myself and my excitement in French.
This exchange marked the end of my keen observance of French culture and the start of my love affair with it.
Americans like to say that the French are rude or even less kind adaptations of that word. But I think the French and their value system are misunderstood by my people.
The French are exceedingly polite and bristle at American informality and presumption. They rigorously defend their beloved cultural institutions from tacky global influences, so that even MacDons on the Promenade des Anglais has flower beds out front.
In my opinion, this is at least one reason why France is the #1 most visited nation on the planet, according to 2010 global tourism statistics. Believe it or not, the US is second and we have the Grand Canyon.
I told you all that to tell you this:
1. I just spent six weeks in Provence, the Cote d'Azur, Haute Provence and The Jura.
3. I would like to bring a few of you along: A few smart, fun women who, like me, appreciate high-quality, local food, wine and culture. Who are up for soulful, sensuous travel, where people and their lives trump cities and their buildings.
4. I have scouted a route through lavender fields, roadside cherry stands, mountain lakes, antique markets, wineries, Roman ruins, Mediterranean beaches and other natural and man-made wonders.