VOL. 10 NO. 1
|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter|
at Golfe Juan ~ A
Hidden Treasure Trove
by Arthur Gillette with photos by Clara Liegeon-Dudezert
Ici et Là
The Vineyards of Vacqueyras
FEATURE: Provence Revisited
on the French Riviera coast between neighbors Cannes (Film Festival) and
Juan les Pins (Jazz Festival), the diminutive town of Golfe Juan tends
to get undeservedly short shrift from travel writers and, as a result,
travelers alike. The Nice Matin newspaper's authoritative
guidebook to the region, Cannes et Ses Îles, doesn't even
list Golfe Juan in its otherwise exhaustive index on Cannes and neighboring
towns and villages.
Golfe Juan boasts not a single cybercafé, much less a festival. But, it was here on March 1, 1815, that Napoleon I disembarked from his Elba Island exile on the way to a triumphal reconquest of power in Paris; and then, on June 18 of the same year, final defeat at Waterloo.
I'll confess, however, that a major attraction for me at Golfe Juan is not Old Nappie's comeback attempt but its abundant tropical-style, pastel-hued Art Déco architecture. Hey, this is almost Miami-Beach-on-the-Med!
Curiously, the town itself seems to underestimate this enthralling architectural heritage. Its official Web site offers a special page on monuments that range from a 2nd century B.C. Celtic-Ligurian fort to the 1999 tomb of movie actor Jean Marais. But nary a word or image there about Déco!
Middle Class Intimacy
True, none of Golfe Juan's architecture in this style is as grandiosely splendid as the Art Déco Hôtel Martinez on neighboring Cannes’ shorefront Croisette. But, at Golfe Juan an enticing intimacy is exuded by the mainly private middle-class dwellings – and at least one market – built in according to the Art Déco trend during the 1920s and 1930s. How did this come about?
Beginning in the 1830s Cannes itself * burgeoned from a sleepy fishing village of some 3000 inhabitants when Napoleon disembarked next door into a high society playground with a permanent population of 10,000 by 1870. Among the rich and aristocratic who traveled there were, to name but a few, Queen Victoria, the Dutch Monarch Sophie and a bevy of English Lords and Russian Grand Dukes. Their opulent peregrinations were greatly facilitated by the opening of the Paris-Lyon-Marseilles railway line around 1850, which put the Riviera in (relatively) easy striking distance from the French capital. For a sense and, literally, a taste of the luxury in which the well-off traveled and dined en route, check the Train Bleu Restaurant still extant at Paris’ Gare de Lyon.
heyday came after World War I, when rail travel became more accessible
to the less fortuned and, for a time at least, economic recovery gave many
middle class French a bit more than pin money. Not enough to buy or build
at Cannes itself; but sleepy – and cheaper – Golfe Juan was just next door.
This period happened to coincide with the rise of Art Déco which,
contrary to conventional wisdom, did not begin with the 1925 Paris International
Exhibition of Industrial and Modern Decorative Arts. For Art Déco,
the latter event was more coronation than kickoff.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
> to read about a new guide book that at first appeared to be just for walkers, but after a closer look we found that it has useful information for just about anyone.
> and come along with us to Provence to explore the villages, the unique sights and discover some truly wonderful places to stay ~ it's this issue's Feature: Revisiting Provence.
> for an interview with a journalist whose life in France and her career experiences are what some expat dreams are made of!
meet up with Panos Kakaviatos in this issue's French
Wine Report as he reviews hotels and restaurants (and wine)
of the Rhône Valley in part two of his three-part series, France
. . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
Question from the last issue: How many prisoners were there in the Bastille fortress when it was taken on July 14, 1789, signaling the start of the French Revolution?
Answer: Legend (clanking chains, dungeons, screams of the tortured, etc.) dies hard. The Bastille had exactly seven (7) inmates! Four were convicted counterfeiters and were immediately re-incarcerated, one was an incestuous nobleman, one was a political prisoner (presumably set free), and one was a madman whose family paid to have him lodged in one of the fairly comfortable apartments found there.
Our new question: In 1889 Gustave Eiffel received a 30-year commission to manage his Tower built to mark the centenary of the French Revolution, after which it was slated to be dismantled. Why wasn't it?
Gillette, and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris by
[See the answer to this edition's question revealed in our June 2006 issue]
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