I haven’t written in nearly a week, and I wasn’t even on holiday! I have been busy, busy getting ready for a press trip to the Côte d’Azur. I am so excited… this is going to be my first solo trip in ages. Does anyone have any pointers for me? Either your favorite solo travel tips, or your secret addresses on the French Riviera? Advice, suggestions, recommendations are welcome!!!
I will be down there preparing a mini guide on the region. I know it fairly well, especially the incredible wealth of art museums; Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Cocteau…. SO mostly I need to research the timely stuff, like the restaurants and the festivals. It will be the Lemon Festival in Menton, and you know how I love my citrus fruit! But with all that, there is one place I am particularly excited to visit.
Before starting my junior year as an exchange student at the Sorbonne, I spent a summer in a language program in Antibes. I do not remember a single thing about that program. I can not tell you where the classes were held, what the building looked like, or the slightest detail about my professor. What I do remember was the Madame who hosted myself and two other American students. An exuberant platinum blond with a teen daughter and two young sons who was getting a divorce. I remember the flavor of her vinagrette, laced with the post delicious olive oils. And I remember her taking us to the beach one Saturday. Antibes beaches in the month of August tend to get crowded and sun worshippers were at their prayers, pretty much elbow to elbow when we arrived. Madame was not pleased and stomped over to the biggest available space she could find, uncomfortably near an uptight Parisian and his family. Monsieur was none to pleased with our proximity and started yelling at her to move.” Over there,” he gesticulated condescendingly to the other end of the beach.
Madame was having none of that and started laying out the towels for all of us, while screaming at the man, as the American students and I stood a few feet away, totally in awe at the exchange. Set up and ready to sun bath, Madame continued screaming as she threw her basket to the ground and started to strip before the Parisian, completely unabashed as her rather large boobs bounced a little to the left, then a lot to the right yelling her head off the entire time at this presumptuous man who was on her beach, in her town.
It took me a half an hour to brush the sand off my jaw after it had fallen to the ground and another half an hour before the Americans and I felt brave enough to take our tops off as well. That was my introduction to topless sunbathing. I took to it like a duck takes to water and found it by far the most comfortable way to stay at the beach. The Americans and I got so used to it that we’d just rip them off every time we were at the beach.
One day, the other students and I went for a wander. A train ride followed by a long hike along the beach. Eventually, the beach ended and there was a jetty of rocks and we were ready for some sun bathing. We sprawled out on those rocks and dozed off for a short while, feeling incredible chic and sophisticated in all our topless glory. A man started coming our way. I could hear him speaking loudly, but squinting through the sun, I saw that he was alone. That was odd. Even odder, he was wearing pants, and a blazer. We sat up and covered ourselves demurely just as he got to our little outcropping. “Ahem… excuse me ladies, but, well, you’re not in France anymore. This, is, um, Monaco, and well, the topless sunbathing at the private yacht club, where you’re clearly not members, well, I must ask you to leave.” The three of us were hoping a wave would come and swallow us up, we were so mortified.
That was my introduction to the Principality Monaco. We left and I have never been back, far too intimidated by the prospect. But now, I am going there for work, invited to stay at the Hotel de Paris and I have one mission in mind; Stroll into the casino, order myself a martini, shaken, not stirred and wait for a little adventure to come my way! Here’s hoping I have lots of fun stories to share! Cheers! Prost! Salute!