Join us on our Riviera journey!
The Riviera is the world’s premier fun factory: it was here where modern tourism stepped out of the waves of the Mediterranean, where its concept was shaped and perfected much in the same way that Detroit, more or less at the same time, perfected the production of the automobile.
And just like Detroit, the Riviera has always made sure to have a wide range of models available for different groups of customers: there is Cadillac fun for aristocrats and oligarchs, surely, but also mid-size-saloon-car fun for ordinary families and Model T fun for pensioners, backpackers and penniless artists.
No matter what many people may believe: there are many things to do and to enjoy on the Riviera, not all of which cost a lot of money.
The first people to visit the Riviera in large numbers were tubercular aristocrats who came to seek treatment but often found new and happier, if not necessarily longer, lives. But those were different times, and the modern-day Riviera goes back to the Belle Époque when fun seekers from the haute bourgeoisie arrived, paving the way for the dandies and Jazz Age bohemians of the 1920s.
In the years following WWII, Grace Kelly’s wedding to the Prince of Monaco ensured that the attention of the world’s yellow press remained focused on the Riviera for years, providing invaluable PR – and that in the 1970s, when prosperity in western countries reached an all-time high, the Riviera became the most glamourous holiday destination of them all.
This is where the west’s aspirational middle classes and their adventurous offspring wanted to spend their summer vacations, and eventually, this was where Eastern European and Russian oligarchs wanted to moor their yachts, entertain their mistresses and buy their football clubs.
The Chinese are surely to follow at some not too distant time in the future. This has always been the modus operandi of the Riviera: marketing itself as the ultimate status symbol for the nouveaux riche of any era through a realization of the previous generation’s dreams, a Mediterranean West Egg borne back ceaselessly into the past.
This does not mean, of course, that the playboys and the aristocrats had abandoned the area: no, they are still here, and so are the movie stars and the fashion designers, sharing the same space and living together – peacefully – cheek by jowl with Russian oligarchs, French pensioners and “middle class” holiday makers from all over the world.
This makes for a predictably colourful mix. Long ago, I observed that in any airport, passengers on flights to Nice are always the most motley and interesting bunch. There are always a few leather-skinned couples in their 70s, women who have overdosed on Botox, tousle-haired academics (following in the footsteps of Nietzsche or Matisse) and some, well, ladies of easy virtue.
Add to that at least one or two brawny chaps, presumably looking for employment as waterski instructors or bodyguards, and a group of giggly girls who are hoping to meet a group of Premier League footballers.
All these people are going there either to spend the money they have earned elsewhere or in the hope of laying their hands on the money that others will be spending. This is a thriving economy of sorts, although not one that a Puritan economist would endorse – or one that would look upright, healthy and sustainable from the point of view of a stern Finance Minister north of the Alps.
And what about you: do you also disapprove of the decadence of it all?
Then, let’s be honest, the Riviera may not be for you. Don’t worry, there are plenty of places elsewhere on the Mediterranean that will cater to your preferences, themed enclaves and happy holiday suburbias. But if you feel intrigued by the idea, you must come: to visit, to experience and to add to the overall mix by adding your own dash of colour.
Because, lest we forget: there are good reasons why people want to come here in the first place. The coast of the Ligurian golf – from Toulon up to Genoa and down on the other side to La Spezia – is a truly blessed spot. The coastline is attractively articulated, the towns are charming, often built upon hills or against the slopes of the near-by mountains.
And then, there is the weather: summers are long on the Riviera, springs begin early and autumns start late, squeezing down “winter” – in any meaningful, i.e. northern sense of the word – from both ends to a mere couple of weeks, or, if you are lucky, eliminating it altogether.
Late in the year, you can sunbathe at the coast (at temperatures of well over 20 degrees) while looking at the snow-capped Alpine peaks in the distance. Where else could you do that?
Come here, and if you like it, stay for good – as we did. A little less than a year ago, we fled our recently emptied nest north of the Alps. Since then, we have discovered a few things that we would like to share with you in this blog – while remaining eager to find out more.
You are invited to join us on the journey.