How to be Happy on the Riviera 1927

We are putting up an entire book on Jot101, a fairly early book on the Riviera. Very much of its time with local prices, information about the weather and sports facilities and recommendations for hotels and cafes and cabarets. Here are the first 4 chapters...



First published in August, 1927

Printed in Great Britain by J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd., 11 Quay Street, Bristol




  Riviera is an Italian word meaning coast, and the English were the first to apply it specially to the mountainous of the Mediterranean between Toulon and the Italian frontier, called by the French Côte d'Azur. In the middle of the last the winter climate of the Riviera was as favourable for invalids, but it lost its reputation in that respect instead a temporary refuge for sundry from climatic inclemencies and the Mecca of pleasure-seekers in winter time.
  Nowhere else in Europe can all the amenities found in one place between December and April; and if at home winter makes a of you, whereas in a dry and sunny climate you can do as others do, then the Riviera is the place for you.
  This book is intended to give you an idea of what you may expect to find, and how to get the best out of it. As to the expense, it is impossible at the time of writing to speak with certainty, because everything depends on the rate of exchange. If the franc remains at or near the present rate of 124, then it may be taken that estimates to be found in Chapter X. need not be exceeded, and the same will be true if the franc falls. What will happen if the franc should rise further in value–if it should go to 110, for instance, as some financial authorities seem to think it may–no one can tell. I have taken the only possible course at the moment–quoted the prices which obtained last season. On the average they were about fifty per cent. higher than during the previous season, and as the exchange rate was very little more, living was nearly half as dear again. Many people profess to believe that there must be a considerable reduction of the franc remains at its present level, the argument being that if there is not, visitors will not come in sufficient numbers to keep the Riviera going. That may be so, but there is no sign of it yet. In any case, it is well to be on the safe side.
  I have devoted a special chapter to a brief description of life on the Riviera in summer: all the rest of the book is concerned with the winter season. In the Appendix will be found some detailed information about the different places, in no way exhaustive, but intended to help the stranger over the first day or two: part of the charm of a holiday abroad is in exploring and finding things out for yourself.

Monte Carlo,
August, 1927.

The Truth about the Climate

The climate in winter is incomparably superior to that of any other part of Europe, but it is often grossly over-praised, especially in the publicity of which the Riviera is subject. Nominally, the season begins but the gaities are crowded into the period between Christmas and Easter. From the latter part of November to early in April the days are usually sunny with a cool breeze. There are many more fine mornings than afternoons; the wind, especially when from the east, has a trick of getting up about midday, and when it does it frequently brings clouds with it. Cold, windy days are by no means uncommon, but as they are usually sunny it does not much matter if one is warmly clad: the grey day with a chilly wind is comparitively rare, and when it happens is almost invariably due to a mistral, the north - east wind of Provence.. The most brilliant weather, when the scenery is " like a post card," as a lady from Preston put it,is usually brought by the tramontana–the bitingnorth wind off the high Alps; it can be what is called in Yorkshire " a fair skinner."
  The chilly hour following the sunset on a fine day is a period to which I shall recur. Later in the evening, even after a coldish day, it is frequently possible to stroll forth and sit outside a café, in a light coat over evening clothes, without risk of harm. A couple of hundred feet above sea-level light frosts occur occasionally during the night.
  Snow is rare – perhaps once in a season, generally late, during a cold snap; the flakes melt as they fall. Rainy spells occur, and sometimes last of several days; but the rain is rarely continuous enough to keep any reasonably healthy person indoors all day long, and seldom produces any perceptible dampness in the atmosphere; the rain-drops fall through the air; "muggy" weather is almost unknown, except perhaps at Hères.
  Fine, dry weather is the rule; putting it roughly, you can enjoy yourself out of doors while daylight lasts nine days out of ten.
  Now, if you leave London on a raw, foggy morning, and find yourself twenty-four hours later swinging through vineyards and olive gardens backed by towering grey rocks smiling in the sunshine, you will probably think it unnecessary for anybody to advise you as to be happy; you will feel sure that as soon as you have reached your destination, and got rid of the sticky feeling induced by the journey, you are going to be very happy indeed.
  But, don't trust that sunshine. The cool breezes which usually accompany it are treacherous in the extreme. Catching cold is the easiest thing in the world on a typical Riviera day; you have only to go out thinly clad and sit in the shade with your back to the wind. It is easier still just after sundown; the thermometer begins to drop like a spent rocket as soon as the sun disappears behind the mountains, and the unacclimatised stranger, however robust, is liable to a chill with unpleasant complications. So, for the first fortnight at any rate, be careful where you sit in the open; get under cover before sunset and stay there for two hours–casinos and dance-teas are useful for the purpose. This is not old-maidish fussiness. The winter climate of the Riviera is a very good climate; hundreds of residents would have been dead long ago if they had tried to live all the year in England; I am one of them. But the stranger should not take liberties.

Where to Go

  The principal resorts are Hyères, St. Raphaël, Cannes, Juan - les - Pins, Nice, Beaulieu, Monte Carlo and Menton.
  Scattered along the coast-line in between, there are smaller places, varying in size from an hotel and a few villas, to old towns where headway is being made with the provision of accomodation and amusements for visitors. Three things may be found everywhere – beautiful surroundings, sufficiently good food, and a clean bed. In all but the smallest places there are opportunities for diversions of a mild kind–dancing, the cinema, an occasional variety performance, perhaps a gala dinner now and then at the hotel; and out of doors, a tennis court of a sort, bathing, boating, fishing, charming walks and some facilities for excursions. This taken for granted, there is not much more to be said, and in this sketch I shall only mention such of these smaller places as have some special claim to notice. The intending visitor who thinks of staying at one of them would in any case do wisely in going first to the nearest large resort and spying out the land.
  The principal centres of gaiety are Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo, and to this aspect of each of them one of the following chapters is devoted.
  HYÈRES is off the main line (which between Toulon and Fréjus runs some distance inland), two-and-a-half miles from the sea, on a sandy plain stretching to the southward under the lee of hills covered with woods. It is a pleasant town of palm-bordered roads with white hotels and villas set in trim gardens. The light soil suits the mimosa, and in February–March Hyères is gay with gold. Two miles to the south-west are the wooded ridges of Costebelle, where there is a colony of hotels, boarding-houses, and villas chiefly inhabited by English people. The cost of a stay at Hyères is commonly reckoned to be the lowest of any of the larger places, but this is partly because there are not many opportunities of spending money. The climate is the mildest on the Riviera; the air is soft, and on warm days, even in the outskirts of the town, laden with the scents of the soil and the vegetation. It is a winter paradise for golfers; there are two first-class courses, and as a rule there is no difficulty in getting a knock. In tennis, from the tournament point of view, it ranks last. As an excursion centre it cannot be classed with the places more centrally situated; the scenery is fine, but rather monotonous when compared with the variety of the country behind Cannes and Nice. As a walking centre I should place it second; there are innumerable charming walks within easy reach, and many of them can be accomplished without any considerable climb, which is scarcely the case elsewhere.
  As to the possibilities of amusement, most of the visitors go to   Hyères to play games or potter round or make excursions during the day, and play bridge in the evening. The standard of entertainments is therefore only second class, and Cannes is too far away for the gaieties there to be easily accessible.
  To sum up,   Hyères is a good place for a quiet holiday if you like a rather relaxing climate; but, although on the Riviera, it is not of it.
  ST. TROPEZ and ST. MAXIME, on opposite sides of a wide and beautiful bay, though deservedly popular as summer resorts, can only be recommended for the winter with the same qualifications as   Hyères–the visitor must be content with a quiet time. A golf course is in process of construction between them (nine holes were opened this summer) and St. Maxime has a casino of sorts. The climate is bracing, and both places are fairly well sheltered from the cold winds. The means of communication with   Hyères on the one side and St. Raphaël on the other are not good.
  ST. RAPHAËL, where the main line rejoins the sea, although still quite a small place, offers more amenities. There is a charming little promenade, a casino where they make things lively, on Saturday nights at any rate–it even has a luminous dancing floor–and several restaurants where you can eat well. Cannes is only three-quarters of an hour away by the faster trains, which considerably enlarges the possibilities of amusement. The climate is at the opposite end of the scale from that of Hyères–the most bracing on the Riviera–and so is the cost of living. The hotel and boarding - house accommodation being limited, the proprietors are apt to take advantage during the height of the season. The golf course at Valescure, three miles from the town, is magnificently situated, and for a hilly course the golf is quite good. The tennis tournaments are sufficiently important to justify the presence of Mr. Simond, who manages the big events on the Riviera. The excursion possibilities are more varied than at Hyères, but the opportunities for walking only fair. I do not quite know why St. Raphaël seems so much brighter than Hyères, unless the bracing air and almost perpetual breezes wake one up; but it does.

  AGAY, on a perfect gem of a little bay, and LE TRAYAS, perched on the rocks and overlooking charming coves, are possible places for the visitor who prefers a small place to stay in with accessibility to one of the principal centres of gaiety (in this case Cannes). On a fine day this part of the coast is dazzling – bright red rocks towering overhead into the vivid blue or set in lucent green water. In the pine-clad gullies there are innumerable ideal spots for picnics, But there is nothing else to do, and nowhere to walk without scrambling up and down, except along the road–grandiloquently called the Corniche d'Or, and a favourite run for the char-à-bancs, and motorists. Both places enjoy a tonic air, and are well sheltered.
  CANNES is the second largest town and the smartest resort on the Riviera. The sea - front occupies the eastern half of a superb bay, the long western horn of which is formed by the part of the coast just referred to (the Esterel). The town itself climbs the slopes of hills, big and little, and among them there are several quarters in which such last-century amenities as quietness and a sense of space have been preserved within ten minutes' walk of the centre and the promenade. The climate is dry and bracing, but the town is by no means sheltered from keen winds, although it claims to be. On the contrary, I have found it the coldest place on the Riviera, especially at night. Le Cannet, a suburb two miles to the north, is better protected, and enjoys a more quable climate; this is specially noticeable after sunset; the evening chill in Cannes is often villainous.
  Cannes is not a cheap place to stay in, unless you are a Stoic and can resist the almost innumerable temptations to spend money. The set-off is in regard to the gaieties – the casino with its splendid entertainments, the open-air shows, the smart restaurants and cabarets.
  It is the winter headquarters in Europe of the prominent in the tennis world, the golf course at Mandelieu is reckoned the best on the Riviera, and there is polo – always enjoyable to watch even if you cannot play. It ranks second to Nice as a centre for inland excursions, and seaward, half an hour's sail away, are the beatufil Iles des Lérins.
  From Cannes to Menton the means of communication are excellent–the main line of the P.L.M., auto-mails (see page 136) and trams, run all the way along the coast. Visitors who wish to qualify a quiet and comparatively cheap holiday with a certain liveliness would be wise to choose on of the smaller places in this stretch.
  JUAN - LES - PINS, on the neck of Cap d'Antibes, is growing in favour. It is mostly on the flat, among pinewoods, and faces full south. Probably for that reason the climate is similar to that of Hyères–on the relaxing side. The beach is perhaps the best on the Riviera. As a centre for auto-car excursions Juan-les-Pins is even better placed than Nice, but the actual facilities are much less. Across the neck is the old town of Antibes, which has points of interest; between the two, and scattered along the cape itself, there are probably thirty or forty hotels and as many boarding-houses. The casino has a good restaurant, and does its best to draw the visitors; but the proximity of Nice tempts those who want to lead the gay life, and they naturally avail themselves of it.
  NICE is by far the largest town on the Riviera ( it has a permanent population of nearly a quarter of a million) and the amenities are on a scale to correspond. The promenade is between three and four miles long, with an extension in the form of a wide sea-road for another two or three miles. There are innumerable hotels, boarding houses, and restaurants at prices to suit every purse; by refraining from spending money on amusements it would be possible to live as cheaply in Nice as anywhere, even in the smallest places; but the practical advantage is that better value can be got for a modest expenditure in that way than in any other of the larger ones. In range and variety of amusements Nice has no rival, and its public out-of-door entertainments excel in every respect.
  In tennis it ranks after Monte Carlo, but the course of the Nice L.T.C. are the best situated on the Riviera, commanding as they do a panorama of the town and the sea. St. Véran is an excellent course from the real golfer's point of view.
  As an excursion centre Nice takes first place. The immediate hinterland of wooded hill-sides and valleys, with gorges so deep that the sun scarcely reaches the streams which trickle through them except round midday, and the remoter background of mountain ranges reaching unbroken to the high Alps is incomparably superior to anything accessible from west of Cannes; and Nice being centrally situated in regard to it, as well as in regard to the coast-line, the visitor can see the most at the least expense, and with the least repetition of the same roads at the beginning and end of the journeys. The shorter excursions which can be made by means of the trams and auto-mails, in conjunction with walking, are also the most numerous; there is fine scenery quite close to the town, accessible in the course of a morning or afternoon.
  The climate is not as bracing as that of either St. Raphaël or Cannes, nor as electric as that of Monte Carlo; and the wind has a trick of sweeping down the streets running north and south which is not always pleasant. Also, with the twilight a haze often gathers in the eastern portion of the bay, and although the air may seem clear enough, it is not really dry.
  The tiny town of ST. JEAN, on the eastern horn of Cap Ferrat, is the most peaceful place on the Riviera. It faces almost north across a charming little bay to the magnificent panorama of the mountainous coast running eastward towards Italy, and the views the other way from various points on the cape are almost as fine. The air is mild, but not relaxing.
  BEAULIEU, just beyond the cape, is chiefly residential, and does not cater for visitors in the way of amusements except to the extent of a battle of flowers. Almost completely sheltered from cold winds by the unbroken mountain-sides which tower above it, it is the warmest place on the Riviera during the daylight hours; but the air is not so relaxing as at Hyères or Juan-les-Pins. The little promenade, which runs to the beginning of the cape, is quite charming, but one cannot walk in any other direction without climbing, except along the main road with its endless stream of motor traffic. There are tennis courts at the Hôtel Bristol. Otherwise Beaulieu is chiefly famous for the possession of one of the best restaurants on the coast, the Réserve.
  CAP D'AIL is one of the places which bad lads give as their address when they are staying at Monte Carlo and don't wish mother to know. But for its close proximity to that centre of gaiety, there would be nothing particular to recommend it.
  MONTE CARLO has grown into a town of some size; not all of it is in the Principality of Monaco, but that does not matter much to the visitor. The climate is the driest and sunniest in Europe, and the air is electrified; it is apt to make one sleepy at first, but after a few days people do all sorts of things they would never dream of attempting at home–walk up steep hills, for instance. An old cocher told me: "For the first week visitors want a carriage if only to go from the Hôtel de Paris to the Casino" (about twenty yards), " but afterwards they run on their two feet." It is not quite so stimulating in the low part round the harbour ( the Condamine), and consequently accommodation is cheaper there.
  In tennis Monte Carlo ranks second to Cannes, and with the new courts at St. Roman may rival it. The golf course on the slope of Mont Agel commands the most superb views, even if it is necessary to descend a few precipices in the fairways, and do quite respectable bits of mountaineering between some of the greens and the next tee–who cares, two thousand four hundred feet above the sea that seems almost near enough to drive a ball into ? The possibilities in the way of excursions are sufficient, although in this respect Monte Carlo cannot be compared to Nice or Cannes; nor can it be compared to Menton or Cannes; nor can it be compared to Menton or Hyères as a walking centre, though the fact that the former is only five miles away implies that some of the walks are the same and the others easily manageable with the aid of train, tram, or auto-mail.
  The provided amusements include everything, and everything is the best of its kind; you can find something interesting to do every day apart from them.
  It is possible to have a good time at Monte Carlo for much less than at Cannes, unless you are wilfully extravagent or fall a victim to the Circe of roulette, of which danger I shall speak later. One last merit – the sanitation is not equalled anywhere on earth.
  ROQUEBRUNE - CAP MARTIN tempts some people because of the immediate proximity of Menton and the shortness of the distance to Monte Carlo. The cape itself is delightful, commanding as it does two finest panoramas on the Riviera–westward, the Rock of Monaco, watched over by the mighty silhouette of the Tête de Chien; and eastward the bay of Menton, which rivals Naples in the perfection of its setting.
  Except for the background of mountains when viewed from the Public Gardens or then sea-front, MENTON is rather disappointing when you get into it. The promenade of about three miles extends along two bays, and the outskirts offer quiet and secluded quarters; prices are apt to be slightly higher in the East Bay (Garavan) than in Menton proper, which reckoned the second cheapest of the larger places.
  The tennis courts are excellent, and the tournaments rank before those at St. Raphaël. Golf is rather a difficult proposition, unless you have a car or can afford to hire. The so-called local course is at Sospel, in a pleasant valley twelve hundred feet above the sea, and as a course quite passable; but it is fourteen miles away over a col 2,500 feet up, and the tram service is poor. Otherwise it is necessary to go to Mont Agel via Monte Carlo, a rather tiresome journey.
  It is an old joke against Menton that the liveliest place is the Presbyterian Church. Without endorsing this jibe, I confess that life there would be little gayer gayer than at Hyères if Monte Carlo were not so handy; the ultra-respectable who want to enjoy themselves on the sly sleep at Menton and spend their days in the gay pricipality. The casino is modern and would be quite bright if it were more patronised, but except in the afternoon for the dance-teas, or on the occasion of some special entertainment, it does not receive the support it deserves, and the same applies to the out-door entertainments.
  There is one absolutely first-class restaurant, and several other good ones; and last season there was an all-night cabaret with a violinist who played like an angel when suitably inspired.
  As a walking centre Menton ranks first by a long way; the valleys and hill-sides behind the town offer an inexhaustible field for the most delightful tramps, and the panoramas are gorgeous. But as an excursion centre it ranks last; there is not much to go eastward for, the Italian towns within reach being rather dull and the scenery not specially picturesque; and all the other excursions can be accomplished as well or better from Monte Carlo or Nice.
  The East Bay is well sheltered from cold winds, but in the West Bay and the town they are sometimes unpleasant.
  The coast from Menton to Genoa is sometimes called the Italian Riviera; but with that in this book I have nothing to do.
  There are a few places inland where a certain number of visitors stay. The only one which provides any attractions is GRASSE, eleven miles from the coast and about 1,000 feet above sea-level. Sited in a basin in the mountains, and flanked by olive-covered hill-sides, it overlooks plains famous for the flower-growing which serves its perfume factories; but the flowers are not at their best till May. The air is mild, and on fine days even in December and January it is sometimes hot; but the nights are apt to be cold.
  There is a municipal theatre as well as a casino; the standard of the entertainments is much the same as at Menton or Hyères. There are also carnival festivities. As a walking centre I should rank Grasse next after Hyères.

A Day in Cannes

  Our first objective is the Flower Market. It is on the harbour front, a line of stalls under a penthouse roof. The perfume of innumerable tightly-packed bunches of narcissi, stocks and carnations, roses by the score, masses of mimosa, sprays of lilac and almond blossom, comes in wafts to the nostrils; and the gorgeousness of the colours is a joy to the eye.
  The better kinds of the flowers are cheaper hear than elsewhere. Choice carnations are offered at a franc each, and if you buy a dozen or two you can get them for less. The voluble flower - woman, with white teeth gleaming between red lips in her brown face, loves to chaffer; she is disappointed when the English monsieur or madame meekly pays the full price, whereas if one bargains good-humouredly her dark eyes light up with smiles.
  Then, if there is a mistral blowing, let us go on past the harbour and climb the hill of Mont Chevalier to the eleventh-century tower of the ruined castle. Why if a mistral is blowing ? Because the tower overlooks the surrounding country, and the mistral blows through the window - slits as one mounts, but never on the open platform on top. I cannot account for this meteorological eccentricity; perhaps it only happens when I am there, as the middle dozen used to come up at Monte Carlo whenever a certain friend of mine put his money on it.
  There is something worth looking at in the church as you descend the hill; you can see it as soon as you are inside, by turning your head. And by the way, outside is a notice requesting you not to play ball against the west front. So don't.
  The yachts in the harbour are worth glancing over. We may see the Duke of Westminister's Flying Cloud, Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt's ocean-going palace, Sir Harry Livesey's Jeanette, Mr. Theodore Drexel's Sayonara, or Mr. Grahame White's Ethleen. It does not follow, because the yachts are here, that their enviable owners are; they may be gallivanting elsewhere. But still, we will keep our eyes open when we go to the Casino.
  The Croisette begins to be populous about eleven, Cannes has displaced Monte Carlo as the fashionable centre, and there are sure to be some striking toilettes. The Riviera fashion of wearing furs over light dresses lends an unusual note; it has its commonsense side. Across the roadway are the shops of the Paris dress-houses who supply the toilettes. Every woman knows the names of them–Paul Poiret, Chanel, Worth, etc. There is seldom much in a window, but what there is will be worth looking at for its artistic beauty.
  The Croisette is never crowded; that is one of its charms. English-speaking people predominate, and you are almost sure to meet someone you know. Still, we are not in England, so before twelve o'clock comes we can stroll into the Galeries Fleuries, sit down at one of the little tables among the flower-beds, and listen to the chatter of the gay company. We may overhear a bit of scandal, or what happened to a big player in the baccarat rooms last night.
  As for luncheon, if it is a really warm day we can have that in the garden too; if not, we can enjoy a view of the sea and the coast-line in a glassed-in verandah either in the Réserve de la Croisette or the Ambassadeurs, an annexe to the casino. This if finances permit. If they don't there are several restaurants in the town where we can lunch pleasantly for half the money. We have them on our list. (See page 164.)
  There may be a show on the Croisette in the afternoon; Cannes specialises in shows. Tournament or noe, there will be interesting play at any of the tennis clubs; if the King of Sweden is here–"Mr. Gustave" on the courts–he will probably be found at the New Courts; and a wonderfully good game he plays, especially when his age is considered. There will certainly be plenty of fun for the spectators if a French team are playing polo; they ride like the devil–"There's a ball, hit it" is their idea of the great game.
  But should it be a really warm afternoon, let us take the steamer to the Ile Ste. Marguérite. We shall have time to go up to the fort and look at the room in which the Man in the Iron Mask was confined for so many years; it is quite a large apartment, which properly furnished would have been luxurious even for a great man in those days, a fact which adds to the mystery–who was he? But the chief pleasure in this excursion is to wander through the unspoilt natural woodland which covers the rest of the island, following winding paths which afford unexpected and delightful glimpses of the charming coves of its rocky, coast, the blue Mediterranean, and the mainland. The boat will bring us back before sunset, and in two minutes after our feet touch the quay we can be in the brightest and smartest casino on the Riviera; therein, to me, is the greatest charm of the Côte d'Azur–its contrasts. We can tea comfortably and cheaply in the Grand Hall, while watching others dance or dancing ourselves if we choose; or more expensively in the Ambassadeurs, where le grand monde disports itself. The great world on the dancing-floor consits largely of healthy-looking English girls and their athletic casual partners. On Thursdays tea-time is enlivened by the exhibition dances only given on other days in the evening, and the management have earned the reputation of providing the best of the kind; the floor is raised into a platform, so that everybody can see, which is not always so elsewhere.
  The gaming-rooms are full between tea and dinner, and there may be some high play at the baccarat tables, though it is more often during the late sittings that large sums change hands; the crowd round the table will tell us if this is happening. Anyhow, it will be interesting to watch for a while, or we can try our luck at boule; a lot of amusement can be got for a few shillings out of that simple game, when one is in the right mood, and maybe the casino will pay for it.
  We could dine well at the Ambassadeurs, Armenonville, the Majestic or the Carlton, and dance afterwards; but it would be expensive, and as we are going to a cabaret later let us dine quitely at the Café de Paris, which is an old-fashioned French restaurant of the right sort, first class in everything but the prices. The connoisseurs of the party may pick from a list of choice vintages, especially in clarets and burgandies; a glass of the fin de la maison won't come amiss as a finale – try it; and the music is first class.
  If you go to the opera for the sake of the audience as much as anything else, Cannes has it. An opera night in the height of the season will bring you absolutely up to date in the matter of feminine attire for the evening, and jewellery as well; Bond Street and the Rue de la Paix and Fifth Avenue have sent their best, Lombard Street and the Rue du 4 Septembre and Wall Street duly footing the bill.
  During the intervals and afterwards you can rub shoulders with this brilliant crowd in the baccarat rooms, and perhaps find your neighbor suddenly going banco when the bank is sensationally high and the players sitting round the table disinclined to tackle it, in which case you will enjoy the thrill of a big gamble without the risk. I do not know why it should be more exciting when a neighbour does it, but one evening when a man who had been standing next to me for a quarter of an hour quietly watching as I had been plunged with eighty thousand francs, I felt almost as if the money were my own.

  Now for our cabaret. There are two of the first class: Casanova, very small, beautifully appointed, where the entertainment is usually of a musical order; and La Gondola, which is larger, provides varied entertainments, and is less expensive. We will go to the latter.
  A square room, lit chiefly from rectangular bowls of frosted glass let into the ceiling, and most artistically decorated. The black and gold frescoes on the walls are really good; they are by a well-known artist. It holds perhaps fifty or sixty people, leaving sufficient space on the floor for as many as are likely to want to dance at one time, and the atmosphere is less hot and stuffy than is usually the case. Most of the company are in evening clothes, and there are some striking dresses. They are all looking amused, for the conférencier is on the floor, and he knows how to hold their interest.
  He breaks off to greet us, perhaps with some flattering remarks on our personal appearance; points out a vacant table table, if there is one, and if not, directs the waiters how to accomodate us; waits while we seat ourselves and order our champagne, indulging in confidential asides to the company about us–("The dark lady looks charming in the rose dress; and the blonde is ravissante. I think they are English, because the tall gentleman came in as if there was no one here, and that is the right English manner. They will be a great addition to our party when they have thawed a little"); then he resumes his speech.
  A good conférencier has to be many-sided. He is the Master of the Revel, responsible for keeping it going, neither forcing the pace nor letting things flag. He must be able to fill the intervals between dances and show turns by a flood of witty nonsense interspersed with personal allusions which make everybody feel in it; know what license of behavious to permit, and how to pull up anyone who crosses the line, without giving offence; to do this he must be able to judge his company, and posses the gift of tact. Also, he must be a master of repartee, because those he chaffs sometimes chaff him back. In the course of his monologue, mostly in French, partly in English, with scraps of other languages, he drops from gay to grave, touching our emotions as lightly as a butterfly alights on a flower. He finishes with: "Now you may dance. What shall it be? Another foxtrot? A charleston? You prefer a tango! Bon!" To the band: "Gentlement, will you have the goodness–"

  All the white lights are switched off, and from the bowls in the ceiling a flood of soft pink radiance descends upon the dancing floor; through it the dancers glide, turning, twisting; it changes to orange, then to crimson. Watch that thin boy, lithe as a leopard, partnered by a flat-chested girl with slanting eyes and the sinuous grace of a snake–Mexicans probably. It is a pity the tango does not suit our British idiosyncracy; many of us can perform passably, but we are rarely good.
  The conférencier takes the floor again. He tells us that he is going to sing a little song that the children sing in his pays–"or used to do," he interpolates with a sigh–and in two minutes has us all laughing, because the song is the accompaniment of a game, and he does the steps with all the gravity and earnestness of a child intent on surpassing its fellows. After this has been encored, we foxtrot, and when the music stops for the second time he shoos us back to our seats with: "We must not keep the Sisters X waiting."
  The Sisters X, a couple of jolly-looking girls attired in girdles of ostrich plumes shaded in different colours–I believe ombrées is the correct term–and a little gauzy something, seem to enjoy flinging themselves about the floor and turning cartwheels: they finish up with a double cartwheel different ways, one behind the other, an effect like fireworks under the rapidly-changing coloured lights, and rise breathless and laughing amid our plaudits. But we are not allowed an encore. "You will see them again if you have a little more champagne."
  We dance. The conférencier tells us funny stories in three languages. They are not exactly drawing-room stories, but the lightness of touch precludes offence, and, anyhow, no one can be prudish in a cabaret. Momma at the next table may pretend to be shocked, but poppa and Mamie and Howard are enjoying themselves immensely; as for that fat Frenchman on the opposite side, he will choke if he doesn't take care. The conférencier sees this and orders him some soda-water, pats him on the back. "Drink a little, my dear sir. It will not be on your bill. If any charge is made, I will pay it. The fault is mine."
  We dance again. The conférencier sings us a beautiful little love-song. The band plays selections from grand - opera in jazz time, and we foxtrot shamelessly to "The Soldiers' Chorus" from Faust. The Sisters X reappear, dressed as sailors, dance a vigorous hornpipe, blouses and baggy trousers fly off, and there they are in maillots. Momma does look shocked when they lie on their tummies and do a swimming dance; but this is all right, really, until they turn over and do the back stoke.
  The conférencier plays the violin. It is not so much on the strings that he plays as on our heart-strings. Confound the fellow! I am glad the lights are low.
  We are hungry, and eat sandwiches. A second bottle of champagne is necessary to wash them down. While the conférencier is talking a gaudily-decorated lady, wearing a hat, comes down the stairs. He turns to her. "You are alone, madame? Pas possible! And all the tables are occupied. I am desolated." She remains, searching the room with hard eyes. He calls a waiter. "Place a table for madame there–" in front of the orchestra, all by herself. She stays about ten minutes, and when she has departed the conférencier informs us that he is a despot, and everybody must obey him. He suddenly barks: "Out!" and on the instant the whole place is plunged into absolute darkness. There is not even a gleam from the serving-room doorway. When the lights go up, three couples embracing are pointed out with lightning quickness. They are reproved. There is no harm in a kiss, the conférencier informs them–"just a kiss"–but hugging is not allowed. Similarly, he calls to order a girl who after a dance perches on her partner's knee. "Mademoiselle, is your mother present? No? Then please resume your chair. I am sure she would not permit it, and it is my duty to take her place."
  We go to bed with the feeling that we have enjoyed our day, and seen more bright, smiling faces than ever before: and it would be a fair bet that we have seen more pretty women too.

A Day in Nice

  The fashionable part of the sea-front at Nice is called the Promenade of All Nations. Not only are most of the countries of Europe and the Americas represented in the throng on a fine morning in the season, but many of those in Asia and Africa as well. The crowd is often so dense that one has to dodge about to keep moving; pedlars, postcard-sellers, and the photographers beset one every few yards. For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like. I usually turn my back on it after half an hour, and make for the old town.
  The old towns on the Riviera are, when you get into them, usually a disappointment–decaying, unkempt, and dirty; dark faces, not too clean, peer here and there out of doorways and slits of windows, apathetic eyes contemplate you dully as if you came from another world; as indeed you do. The old town of Nice is not like that at all. It is a bust, thriving place, its narrow, winding streets lined with shops, most of them beset by customers in the morning. There is a fair-sized public square in front of the Palais de Justice–an imposing building; at least on picture worth looking at–a Vierge de la Miséricorde in the Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs; several interesting old palaces, especially the palace of the Lascaris, with its stately staircase of marble; and the house in which Paganini died, that singular figure over whom our grandfathers went almost mad. Probably he was more charlatan than musician, with his trick of breaking three stings one after the other, commemorated in a popular song–

"The great Pag-an-ee-ni
Played God Save the King
On a single string
And went five octives high."

  From the old town a wide stairway street leads to the summit of the Castle Hill. In the cemetery on its flank Gambetta lies, at peace after his eventful career; he was the maker of modern France in the political sense, and if his work was imperfect, at least he gave her the most stable form of government she has enjoyed since the Revolution. Little remains of the stronghold which formerly protected and dominated the town; its site is a pleasant garden, where you may saunter in shady walks for half an hour and enjoy a panorama of mountain, sea and sky. If you are disposed to get up the topography in an easy manner, there is a circular table, with the names of the principal places and peaks marked beside arrows which indicate their directions.
  When the boom of the midday gun shatters the stillness, reminding you that it is time to fortify yourself with food–a first breakfast of rolls and coffee at a virtuous hour vanishes by noon–a stairway will bring you down to the end of the promenade nearest the port. On your right, as you look along the Bay of the Angels, you will see a row of old-fashioned two-storeyed houses with a long flat roof. These are almost all that remains of the accommodation for visitors in the Nice of a hundred years ago, and the roof was their promenade. A number of them have been converted into restaurants, with a speciality of local dishes, and at any one of them, after duly consulting the menu cards posted up outside, you can lunch pleasantly under an awning which protects you from the glare of the sun and the winking sea across the roadway. Afterwards, if you follow the French fashion of taking coffee elsewhere, a stroll of a quarter of a mile along the sea-front will bring you to the Savoy Café, where you can sit under an umbrella and watch the promenade re-people itself. A lazy hour or two may be spent in the Jardin Albert Premier, strolling about and listening to the excellent music discoursed by the band. If by chance the sun should be unkind and retire behind clouds, a dozen indoor distractions are within five minutes' reach. The only question is, What do you want?
  When tea-time comes, you cannot do better than one of the large hotels. The Negresco has the reputation of giving the best exhibition performances. Or you can tea less expensively in the Restaurant du Cercle at the Municipal Casino, and afterwards go into the baccarat rooms, where the play is often higher than anywhere else on the coast. When the evening chill is passing off, say about six o'clock, walk through the arcades on the west side of the Place Masséna and along the Avenue de Verdun. If your souls yearn for a marmoset, or baby lemur, or a pair of love-birds, or a Siamese kitten, one or other of the hawkers will accommodate you. But I like to look at the jewellers' shops. Half the big diamonds and expensive pearl necklaces on the hands of European dealers are sent to Nice in the winter, and although a knowledgable friend tells me that many of them are not first-class from an expert point of view, they none the less make a gorgeous show in the windows under electric light. Diamonds as large as hazel nuts are common; I have seen more than one as big as a small walnut. Most of the settings are exquisite; and the products of the goldsmith's and enameller's arts attain to a degree of beauty one can see nowhere else except in Paris.
  Before dinner there is a rite to be performed. Even if you disapprove of cocktails–all the more if you never tasted one–you must go into Vogade's and drink a cocktail champagne. The recipe has been jealously guarded for many years, and the result is perfection. If it makes you wobbly in the peripatetic department, you can get a taxi from the rank outside. The effect in that respect soon wears off, but an hour's solid happiness is guaranteed.
  There are so many places at which one can dine well in Nice, expensively or otherwise, that as in regard to amusements the only question is your preference. I should choose the Maisonette des Comédiens Russe, a cabaret with the advantage that the fun begins and ends comparatively early. About nine is the right time to go. It is a ground-floor room, the interior of which has been remodelled to resemble the crypt of a Russian church, gaudily painted in crude bright colours. The huge squat pillars in the middle add to the effect, although they make dancing rather difficult; the floor in any case is small. Apart from the dinner, always sufficiently good to form an attraction, the charm of the place is the entertainment. Most of the artists are exiles formerly connected with the opera in Russia, and the singing is exquisite. There is usually at least one male dance, very often a specialist in the dagger dance. If you have not seen this, it is curious. A Cossack comes forward with a bunch of daggers, perhaps between twelve and twenty. He puts some of them in his belt, others under his arms and through his astrakan cap, holding the rest in his hands as a rule, through I have seen a man begin with a couple balanced on each shoulder. On the floor he places a square of soft wood. Then he begins to dance, twirling like a dervish and uttering weird cries. The other artists encourage him–"Aië! Aië!" The tempo grows faster. He crouches until he is almost sitting on the floor, his booted legs flying out from under him so that it seems as if he must overbalance. He transfers a dagger from his fingers to his mouth, rises, jerks his head forward, and flick! the dagger is sticking in the wood. The others in his hands follow it one after another, the tempo growing faster and faster. Then, one by one, he transfers the daggers in his belt, under his arms, and through his cap to his teeth; a good performer will fling some of them true from the crouching position. The end comes in a wild babel of cries and mad music, with the perspiration standing thick on the fellow's forehead and dropping into his eyes. He rises, holding out his arms, and if even one dagger has missed the wood or failed to stick in upright, he points to it and shakes his head despondently to explain to you that he is not in his best form to-night.
  But the singing! In an interval between dances a woman gaily-dressed in peasant's costume, with a glittering tiara, will stroll on to the floor, and, smiling, lift a pretty hand and click her fingers. The lights go down, and there is silence. Then, carelessly, she begins to sing, and the violins croon an accompaniment. It may be an operatic aria, a simple love-song, a tricky air with a lilt that makes your toes tingle, or one of those plaintive wandering melodies that carry some of us back in memory to dark nights in Mid-Russia. The gaudy walls, the tables with their shining cutlery and champagne bottles, the evening-dressed diners and waiters fade from our consciousness, and we are back in a clearing in the woods, under the soft stars, ringed round by pensive, bearded faces and the furtive, merry eyes and child-sweet smiles of women. There is a sense of an immense space all round about, where the night-wind wanders at will. And in the centre, under the fitful glare of smoking pine-torches, just such a figure, pouring out just such a stream of wistful song.
  The violinist soon banishes all such sentimental stuff. He takes the floor, and with the maddest, merriest tune invites us to dance round him. Which we do, as well as we can for the pillars, not infrequently colliding with each other and causing apologies and laughter. Nobody minds such trifling contretemps at the Maisonette des Comédiens Russe, and if you have banged into a lady and failed to apologise you can make it all right by serpentining her afterwards and pantomiming your excuses. Before midnight you have all come to know each other for the purpose of the moment, the place being so small that it does not hold more than perhaps thirty. This is part of its charm, and another not inconsiderable part is in the go-as-you-please style in which you are entertained. The performers seem to take the floor as the mood takes them, to play or sing because they want to, not because they are paid for it. If the company encore one of the ladies, she smiles, and begins to sing again as simply as a thrush repeats his trills. It is a happy, good-humoured party which begins to break up about one o'clock, and if you went to bed immediately it would be with none but pleasant recollections of your evening.
  But the night is still young from the point of the gay life of the Riviera. You may want to look in at one of the places which keep open until dawn. There are two all-night restaurants of the first-class, Maxim's and the Perroquet, and there is little to choose between them. Perhaps on the whole the Perroquet is rather the smarter, so suppose you go there.
  It is certainly bright, the dancing floor a fair size, and the band knows its business. The show-turns, if not quite the best, are a good second-best. You may see several performers, solo or pairs; and whatever else may be said of them, their performances will not be dull. There are certain to be some charmingly-dressed women, and probably some of them will be pretty, even beautiful. It is in Nice that you are most likely to see those olive - complexioned South Americans with liquid dark eyes and jetty hair, who move like deer. Almost certainly, too, a  fair proportion of the company will be English-speaking. But, if you have not already noticed it during the day, you will realise now that the dominant note at Nice is definitely foreign from the English standpoint; that some of the people present–perhaps a good many–are of a dubious order, and that not a few of the thousand-franc notes produced to pay for suppers and champagne have been obtained by means more dubious still. If there happened to be two unaccompanied ladies at the next table to yours in either of the cabarets at Cannes, or even at the Maisonette–which has rather a special clientèle–you would probably feel that there was no reason why you should not scrape acquaintance with them for the evening; but if the same thing happened in Maxim's or the Perroquet, and you are wise in these matters, the probability is that you would know better than to risk it.
  If you prolong your revels until four o'clock, you may as well finish off in the traditional Nice manner by strolling along the rue St.-François-de-Paule to the Chat Noir, a cabaret by the archway on the south side of the Place de la Préfecture, to eat oysters, or enjoy very hot café-au-lait or chocolate; and when you come out, buy an armful of fresh carnations in the Place, where the flower market is, walk or drive to your hotel with your nose buried in them, and put them by your bedside. This is said by the Niçois to prevent a headache in the morning!

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