Coco Chanel and the French Riviera

Friday, July 10, 2020

Walking into a Bookstore

 

When actual travel is curtailed (like during a pandemic), isn’t it exciting to find a book that will transport you to another locale with vibrant descriptions that evoke visions of the exotic and novel???  Coming upon Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy seemed to promise just that. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite deliver but, hey, it did jog a memory or two of the Cote d’Azur!!!

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There are many books about Coco Chanel. My newest chronicles her time on the French Riviera.

But first, let’s think about Coco Chanel.  Did you know she was raised in an orphanage?  That’s where she developed her fashion skills as she was taught to sew. According to De Courcy, by the time Chanel left the orphanage she possessed “incredible talent, exquisite taste and a relentless work ethic.”  She went on to build an empire based on fashion and perfume.  Chanel introduced the “little black dress,” popularized the Breton shirt; encouraged women to accessorize with long strings of pearls and gave the world “Chanel No. 5.”  Chanel based her company in Paris; but she built her home, La Pausa, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on a hilltop near Monte Carlo.  Like so many, she fell under the spell of the Riviera: the sun, the warmth, the sand and sea!!!

The French Riviera extends from Marseille to Monaco.
The French Riviera extends from Marseille to Monaco.

Today, The Riviera conjures thoughts of luxury, style, and grandeur.  But that was not always the case.  In the 1700s, this area was fully engaged in agriculture:  the production of flowers for perfume (manufactured in Grasse); olive groves; and fruit orchards.  A lively fishing industry was also thriving.  Ah but then……the British came!!!  The novelist Tobias Smollett visited Nice in 1763.  He touted the health benefits to be gained from the sun and sea air.  The British aristocracy took notice and flocked to the area.  Health spas opened; the railway came; tourism prospered; and by the mid-1800s Monaco was operating a casino in Monte Carlo.  The momentum continued:  royalty came to frolic, authors came to write, artists came to paint, Americans discovered the coast after the First World War and turned the Cote d’Azur into a summer playground.  And in 1929, Coco Chanel bought five acres of wild olive and orange groves from the ruling family of Monaco; hired architect Robert Streitz; and built her home, La Pausa.  It is here that Chanel popularized sunbathing and made golden tans a passion for many.  She lived here until 1953.

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The beauty of the Cote d’Azur has drawn tourists since the mid-eighteenth century.

The charm of the Riviera remains:  sun, sand and sea along with an atmosphere of casual elegance.  Luxurious yachts can be spotted all along the coast.  Fine dining, wonderful wine, stylish shops, and beautiful people are a mainstay.  But so are the farmer’s and crafts markets, the street vendors with their snacks and the starving artists hawking their creations.

It has been our pleasure to visit the French Riviera often.  Let me share some photos with you:

The harbors

Toulon is a large modern city.
Toulon is a large modern city.
St Tropez retains its coastal charm.
Saint-Tropez retains its coastal charm.

Cannes is full of luxury yachts and famous patrons.

Cannes is full of luxury yachts and famous patrons.

Monte Carlo  is a playground for adults.
Monte Carlo is a playground for adults.

Dining

Fine dining at Le Chantilly Cafe in  Toulon
Fine dining at Le Chantilly Cafe in Toulon
The fountain at Le Chantilly Cafe provides a charming view and serene sound.
The fountain at Le Chantilly Cafe provides a charming view and serene sound.
The Brasserie Le France in Saint Tropez.
The Brasserie Le France in Saint-Tropez.

Shops and markets and street vendors

A street market in Toulon
A street market in Toulon
Buying artwork from local artist, Michel Guy-Nochet, in St Tropez.
Buying artwork from local artist, Michel Guy-Nochet, in Saint-Tropez.
Penguins in Cannes
Penguins in Cannes
Chanel in Cannes
Chanel in Cannes
Street Market in Monte Carlo
Street Market in Monte Carlo

Simple charm

Beautiful beaches are scattered through St. Tropez..
Beautiful beaches are scattered through Saint-Tropez
The casino at Cannes
The casino at Cannes
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The famous Palais des Festivals et des Conges is the venue for the Cannes Film Festival.
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The imposing Carlton Hotel Cannes, built in 1911, was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch a Thief” starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. This is where the Philadelphia actress met the Prince of Monaco. They married in 1956.
What a charming little cattage in the middle of the city Cannes!!!
What a charming little cottage in the middle of the city Cannes!!!
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The magnificent casino in Monte Carlo. Very refined and sedate. Gambling is serious business in Monaco. We spent an evening here, but have never repeated the experience. The “fun/excitement” level just can’t match Vegas!! But the glam factor exceeds.
A very festive museum in Monaco.
A very festive museum in Monaco.
The streets and pathways of Monte Carlo.
The streets and pathways of Monte Carlo.
Overlooking Monte Carlo
Overlooking Monte Carlo
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Every day, we are reminded of the pleasure we’ve had visiting the French Riviera. Our Michel Guy-Nochet poster, purchased from the artist in 2009, hangs prominently in our home!!!

 

Don’t know when we’ll visit again, probably not anytime soon, but visit we will.  This part of the Mediterranean has a charm and allure that is difficult to resist or ignore.

Someday, we'll again admire the setting sun of the French Riviera!!!
Someday, we’ll again admire the setting sun of the French Riviera!!!

 

If you get there before us, order a bubbly and enjoy the serenity of the Cote d’Azur.

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