Monaco and the French Riviera

Smoldering! Bardot in her prime. By Michel Bernanau, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are over sixty, the thought of Monaco and the French Riviera probably brings to mind two of the most famous women in screen history: Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly. Brigitte defined the word “sexy” for two or three generations of men. Her appeal was first appreciated in the French film, And God Created Woman. Her definitive pouty, buxom, big-eyed vulnerable look enthralled male movie-goers for years.

Grace Kelly’s image was a more refined all-American glamor. First attracting attention in 1953 with Mogambo, opposite Clark Gable, she continued to gain some acclaim with Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Collector’s Edition), opposite Jimmy Stewart. She managed an Oscar for Best Actress with THE COUNTRY GIRL the same year. Her last big hit was a reprise performance with Clark Gable in To Catch a Thief (Special Collector’s Edition). Then she met and married her Prince, Rainier Grimaldi of Monaco, and fulfilled every American schoolgirl’s dream. Though she died tragically in 1984, Monaco still mourns her.

Provence and the Riviera have always been a haven for European artists. If you have the time, you will find museums for Chagall in Nice, (Marc Chagall, 1887-1985: Painting as Poetry (Basic Art)), and Picasso in nearby Antibes, (A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932). There is a Cezanne museum in Aix-en-Provence, (Cezanne in Provence), with Van Gogh in Arles, (Van Gogh in Provence and Auvers), both of which are near Marseilles.

If you get away from the glitzy Riviera town centers, you will discover an old traditional part of France. Here, nothing is baked with preservatives, (“Pas de Chimiques”). All baguettes are fresh in the morning, and lethal weapons by evening. Dinner starts at 8pm sharp and, taken with friends, is a three hour entertainment. There is no concept of “turning tables” in traditional French restaurants. After all, who would eat so quickly and so unappreciatively? It has been most famously portrayed by Peter Mayles in his amusing classic A Year in Provence. Another humorous take on the cultural chasm between Americans and French, which takes place in Brittany, is I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany.

Enjoy the sun, the food, the wine, and the pretend to be rich!