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Posts from the ‘Côte d’Azur’ Category

the walls of the ghost citadel of entrevaux, france

“For I perceived that man’s estate is as a citadel: he may throw down the walls to gain what he calls freedom, but then nothing of him remains save a dismantled fortress, open to the stars. And then begins the anguish of not-being.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Citadelle

Entrevaux was founded in the 11th century by the inhabitants of Glandèves, an ancient Roman town. It was heavily fortified by King François I in the mid 16th century and by King Louis XIV towards the end of the 17th century, in order to defend France from the Savoie invaders.”

Entrevaux, or ‘between valleys,” is one of many small, easily accessible, medieval villages up the Var valley from Nice, France.  It is situated, as the name suggests, between two valleys on the Var river.  It can be reached by car, but I prefer taking the small gage train, the Chemin de Fer de Provence, from a Nice train station.

Nice has two train stations.  Most travelers know the Gare de Nice-Ville on Avenue Thiers that is used by the TER, Intercity, and TGV lines.

A second station, a private one, is the Gare des Chemin de Fer at 4 Bis Rue Alfred Binet in Nice.  From here one will take the Chemin de Fer de Provence inland to Entrevaux.  It goes as far as Dignes-les-Bains, which is, incidentally, the setting where Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables begins.

I like visiting Entrevaux for a few reasons.  During lunch I will always order an entrée with some secca de bœuf, or secca d’Entrevaux, “a type of dried salted beef made in Entrevaux.  Similar to the Swiss Bindenfleisch, it is typically eaten as a starter.”  I adore the small bridge, the “royal gate,” that crosses the Var and leads into the village.  It helped to protect Entrevaux from invaders.  Finally, my favorite reason for going is the Citadel that stands above the village and provides a commanding view of both valleys.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!

uncanny wall art in cannes, les murs peints

When I think of Cannes in southern France, the film festival comes to mind, of course. In the spring articles appear in the papers announcing the jury and the list of films to be shown. Cate Blanchett is the “president” of this year’s jury (2018).

Sometimes I hear someone pronounce the word “Cannes,” and I cringe. Too often tourists say “cahn” instead of “can”. Granted, the “a” in “Cannes” in French is pronounced not as flat as the “a” in “can,” when it is spoken by an American. Listen to Rick Steves, the American travel writer. He mispronounces it eight times in one video.

There is more to Cannes than the Festival de Cannes and the trivial concerns about mispronouncing its name.

All over Cannes one can find wall art, les murs peints. The paintings are not graffiti. They are commissioned pieces. The artists are established, recognized.

The walls are sometimes painted with “realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimension,” or trompe-l’oeil (deceiving the eye).

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

jetties stick out, don’t they

JETTY “a landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored; a breakwater constructed to protect or defend a harbor, stretch of coast, or riverbank.”

JETÉE « Construction formant une chaussée qui s’avance dans l’eau, destinée à protéger un port, à limiter un chenal. »

Walk from Antibes to Juan-les-Pins in the early morning or late afternoon and stroll along the board walk—la promenade—toward Golfe-Juan. Look to the Mediterranean Sea, one cannot help it, of course, and admire the many jetties that jut from the shore line.

« Ce qui m’a déterminé à publier ce livre, c’est que souvent, étant à Rome, j’ai désiré qu’il existât. Chaque article est le résultat d’une promenade, il fut écrit sur les lieux ou le soir en rentrant. » —Stendhal, Promenades dans Rome, Avertissement.

I suggest the early morning or late afternoon hours, because the sun is more pleasant then, and when the shadows contour the jetties.

« On a fait (…) des jetées de pierre, qui s’avancent fort loin dans la mer (…) » —Racine, Explication des médailles, iii.

One can, of course, stay in a hotel in Juan-les-Pins and not walk there from Antibes over the small hill. I would not recommended it though for several reasons. (I will leave it at that for the moment.)

« Je serais bien l’enfant abandonné sur la jetée partie à la haute mer, le petit valet, suivant l’allée dont le front touche le ciel. » —Arthur Rimbaud, Enfance

The bay of Golfe-Juan is broad; the shore line sweeps from Cap d’Antibes in an arc toward the town, Golfe-Juan, and there a hill stops abruptly the sweep as a road rises and heads for Cannes.

« Les deux jetées de Dunkerque qui prolongent le quai du port s’avancent loin dans la mer. Les gens de la noce occupaient toute la largeur de la jetée du nord, et ils atteignirent bientôt une petite maisonnette située à son extrémité, où veillait le maître du port. » —Jules Verne, Un hivernage dans les glaces, p. 221.

Along the beach from Cap d’Antibes to Golf-Juan are many jetties, unimpeded, free for exploration. I offer six.

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)


what does it tell you, the setting?

“Place connects characters to a collective and personal past, and so place is the emotional center of story. And by place, I don’t simply mean location. A location is a dot on the map, a set of coordinates. Place is location with narrative, with memory and imagination, with history. We transform a location into a place by telling its stories.”–John Dufresne, The Lie That Tells a Truth

Some years ago in another life, I taught writing and literature in a high school. Students at that level continue to learn about plot, setting, character, theme, the fundamentals of a story, in other words.

I liked teaching setting and how it could reflect a character. In other words, put a person in a room and tell me who she is from the description of it? What can you tell me about her?

My students, who were living in an upper middle class, suburban neighborhood, would have different perceptions and options than those students living in a big city, such as New York City.

A cautious person satisfied with her situation wouldn’t think of heading into the unknown. The surroundings for her in the story would reflect that. The setting reveals the person.

In one exercise I brought to the classroom a box of objects and spread them on a table. I asked the students to examine them. I asked, “Can you imagine a person from these objects?” (The objects came from my living room coffee table.)

I like mysteries. Whodunnits. I like trying to figure out who the villain is. I look for clues in the story much like a detective who takes out his magnifying glass à la Sherlock Holmes and begins painstakingly examining the scene of the crime. Surely from the setting of the crime one could find a link to the villain.

(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!