The Riviera Revisited (1939)

FullSizeRenderFound — a 30 page holiday brochure by Charles Graves – The Riviera Revisited. [London], [1939]. Probably written in 1938 and portraying a relaxed lifestyle, with plenty of good food and booze. Olive oil is not recommended as sun protection! After WW2 Charles Graves wrote 2 longer books on the Riviera – The Royal Riviera and (again) The Riviera Revisited… The picture of bathers at Eden Roc is from the booklet.

A Summer’s Day.

Juan-Les-Pins is the only resort I have ever visited four years in succession. I can think of no greater compliment. It has an admirable beach. It has a summer and winter season, like practically every other place on the Riviera. But whereas six or seven years ago the clientele was mainly English and American, it is now largely French, which I find charming. Somehow the prettiest girls from Paris go there for their summer holidays, and the restaurant of the casino has indubitably the best hors-d oeuvres in the world. The man who makes them is worth a fortune to any London restaurant or hotel. He stuffs everything with everything else. Pimentoes, aubergines, sardines, olives, tunny fish and so on. The casino is famous for the light-hearted character of its gambling. In the summer you wear white flannels or anything else. The croupiers smile (a distinct rarity). The champagne cocktails are first-class. The lobsters are as fresh as God made them; so are the crayfish. Let me quote from “And the Greeks”:

“What is an average day at Juan-les Pins? Well, you get up at about nine, remove your pyjamas and put on a bathing dress. Having brushed your hair, shaved, and so forth, you sally out in a bath-wrap and a beret to a tiny restaurant on the corner.

“Here you eat, say, a quarter of a delicious melon and French rolls, butter, and jam, washed down by a pot of coffee. This costs a shilling. You then take a taxi-cab to Cap d’Antibes, about a mile away, still in your bit of bathing dress, bath-wrap, coat your shoulders with olive oil – as a protection against the heat of the sun.

“Having done this, you laze around on the rocks of the most picturesque bathing pool in the world while some of the loveliest women of Europe sun themselves. At last you decide to take to the water and swim out to one of the two large rafts anchored fifty yards away, where you pay informal social calls on your various acquaintances as they loll on the rafts with their feet in the water.

“After possibly a swim to one of the yachts a few hundred yards away and a swift rush on a plank as you aquaplane behind a fast motor-boat, you paddle back to shore, drink two or three cocktails, listen to the chatter of the doings at the casino the night before, and then have luncheon under the high orange parasols to the strains of music from a half-concealed orchestra.

“Having eaten far more grilled lobster and roast chicken than is good for you, you will probably be extremely insular and join in a game of bridge – all your partners and yourself still being in bathing dresses. Digestion settled, you once more take to the water, and sun yourself for an hour afterwards under the bright blue sky. Time does not matter. Your party does not matter. Nothing matters except your sunburn.

“By now it is six o’clock. The negro concierge calls you a taxi-cab, in which you drift back to Juan-les Pins, sit at a fashionable bar, drink a champagne cocktail or two, go back to your hotel, have a cold fresh water bath, get into white flannels and go out to dine in one of the many little open-air restaurants which are run by Americans, Australians, Russians, Italians, and even Frenchmen. 

“Here you dinner will cost you five shillings, including a bottle of red wine, a brandy, and your coffee. Full of good food, you go into the casino. As you go past the boule room you drop five francs on your lucky number. Either it turns up or it doesn’t. You go into the baccarat room. 

“Slowly you extract a mille (1,000 franc) note from your pocket-book and change it into ten orange plaques worth about fifteen shillings each. You look round. Good. A table is about to begin. You mark your place with a match-box, retire to the bar for another drink, where you await the pleasant cry ‘Messieurs, prenez vis places, la par tie commences.’

“Soon it comes. You look at the other eight players. A charming lot, nice opponents. ‘Banco.’ ‘Banco.’ ‘Suivi.’ ‘La main passé.’ Already you have paid for a week of your holiday.”

A mile or so further on is Eden Roc. The lovely rocks, the rafts, the funny little swimming pool, the long gravel drive up to the Cap Hotel, the cacti and the cocktail bars, the orange canopy and the whole effect of the top deck of a crack transatlantic liner are like a Hollywood film, only better. The bathing in marvellous. The water is immensely deep. There are motor-boats to tow you about if you want to aquaplane. It is perfect. 

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