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kateh

Lost in the Stacks

I read widely and compulsively and my fancies are ever changing. My love of reading, however, is no mere fancy. 

Currently reading

The Stress of Her Regard
Tim Powers
Progress: 480/960 minutes

High Season: How One French Riviera Town Has Seduced Travelers for Two Thousand Years

High Season: How One Riviera Town has Seduced Travelers for Two ThousandYears - Robert Kanigel As is the trouble with so many histories of the French Riviera, this one suffers from a lack of things to write about. The author clearly loves Nice, but his effusion does not make up for the utter sameness of his subject matter overtime.

There are a couple of interesting bits: the quotes from journals of Marie Bashkirtseff introduced me to a diarist I must read more of. There are some interesting quotes from other early visitors to Nice that give a vision of the seaside sanatarium of the early 19th century before the arrival of Les Hivernants.

Also of interest are the descriptions of the experience of American infantrymen during the first and second world wars. While the first world war vets seemed to have been well received - the Nicois called them 'Sammies', after Uncle Sam - the vets of the second world war sent to Nice on leave, with out any oversight from Commanding Officers, who were boarded in Cannes, did not behave themselves.

I think this must be the story of all beautiful places: in the beginning, they are beautiful and untouched, inhabited only by natives, themselves picturesque. Then, they are 'discovered' by outsiders, who marvel at this beauty. It's all downhill from there: the wealthy arrive to build their villas to take in the beautiful scenery and picturesque natives, who go to work for the villa owners. Investors come in and build hotels and resorts so that more tourists can marvel at the scenery, which is constantly being buried under more hotels. The tourists, tired of estoficada or whatever delicious local dishes the natives serve, have to bring in their own restaurants and foods. Then the place gets a reputation for being seedy, and some new gimmick must be dreamed up to keep people coming.

Nice can often, in travel guides and travel writing like High Season/i> and conversations with travelers, come off as the Jersey shore of the Mediterranean (though, admittedly, Avalon doesn't have a Matisse Museum. Or an opera house. Or a Chagall museum. Or roman ruins.) It's true, last fall, when we were walking down the Boulevard Jean Jaures and passed 'McMahon's Pub' and it's neighbor 'Planet Sushi', I got a little sad for the sameness that's been inflicted on us: I could have seen those two shops right next to each other in Center City Philadelphia. But then we turned off into the old city, the Vieux Ville, and got lost on purpose - climbing up and down staircase-streets that weren't more than five feet wide, dividing houses piled one on top of the other, tumbling, almost, to the sea. I didn't find that in Philly. The beach is pure heaven, especially if, like me, you hate being covered in sand, and the water is so salty you bob like a cork and the views from the sea are just the most beautiful.