Friday, February 27, 2009

Letter 20: Hotel Metropole, Brussels

[Letter 20]

Hotel Metropole
Brussels, Belgium

March 20, 1933

Dear Folks,

Well, here is the last letter of the TRIP ABROAD series. The safest way to describe my feelings is to say that I am sorry as you are. I have enjoyed keeping you all informed, especially as I received from time to time such very warm expressions of appreciation -- greater, I think, than the letters merited. The letters were read regularly by about 55 people and sometimes the number may have run to 75 or higher. Bill regularly mailed his to Corinne, so that his letter did duty for nine readers, and my brother Henry's letter reached even more folks. When I think of Mary's aggregation I give up: I have no adding machine.

VENICE. I have told you of the charming and restful nine days we had in this unique city. There should be mentioned our visit to the glass-blowing factory. The men demonstrated the making of a beautiful Murano vase. You all know how beautiful and expensive this ware is. We bought some cute little fish and an animal or two. In Venice we were only four minutes from the Accademia, the largest picture gallery. It is a large, restful place with some immense pictures, some of the finest by Veronese and the Bellinis; and Titians and Giorgiones, of course. (Don't mind an awkward repetition of a word here or there: I don't quite "think" on a typewriter as yet -- I watch the keys). One of the special treats at Venice is the Doge's Palace. The admission fee is the highest we have run across on our entire trip, 62 c a person, but it is well worth it. The open court is a gem and the meeting rooms are vast in size and rich in ornamentation. The ceilings are in moulded relief and heavily gilt. My brother David would be interested to know that the gold leaf which shines so brightly was put on almost three hundred years ago. The greatest masters, Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, contributed their efforts to the adornment of this Palace of the Doges. There are a good many people going through as admission is free on Sunday. Now you know what day we went. No, Aloysius, the guides do not tell you on Saturday that it is free on Sunday.... I went alone to the upper galleries of St. Mark's getting close views of the glass mosaics and even familiarly slapping one of the bronze horses on the thigh. No ten-minute "flying" tour for me. One could spend many days there. Regretfully we left Venice at 10:15 AM., arriving in Milan at 4:35.

MILAN is a large, modern city. In a way, it "out-Romes Rome". Extensive improvements, parked streets etc, are under way. We went straight to the Hotel Manin in their bus. This is a delightful little hostelry, much patronized by English-speaking people. Our room overlooked a fine garden and across the way was a large park with a zoo. Marcus was allowed to go there alone. He struck up quite a friendship with the lions, herons and deer. The hotel is a good one -- fast service, fine table and lovely dining room facing the garden. We recommend this hotel highly.

The Brera gallery is one of the best-arranged and lighted I have ever seen. We enjoyed the Italian masters there especially Raphael's fine Marriage of the Virgin. I took Marcus to see Da Vince's "Last Supper", which contrary to my expectations was clearly visible.

The most important thing to see in Milan is the remarkable Cathedral. This is a large large and has a large open square in front of it. St Peter's in Rome in larger, but I believe this Duomo is finer. It is a harmonious unit. The inside is entirely of stone and marble, even the carved ceiling. The size dwarfs one. The stained glass windows are probably the largest in the world, and the columns are eleven feet thick. Picture that! Although there are over 3000 carved figures they do not obtrude, being well grouped. The outside is recorded in my movie, as are also the Roman forum, scenes in Florence and fine views of Venice.

-----OOOOOOOOO------
Grand Hotel Antwerp, Belgium

March 20, 1933

Dora had been watching the papers and noticed that the "Minnewaska" sailing was not being advertised. Upon inquiry we learned that the trip was canceled. That meant taking another Red Star boat and we decided to leave Milan at once. So, after four day so of perfect weather we left at about 10:15 headed for Berne, due there 4:55. We traveled through some fine Italian country and pretty soon the Alps came into view. They were steep indeed and as the train climbed higher the houses took on the appearance of toys far down in the valley. The fields of different colors one could never tire of looking at. Each farmer had one rectangle of some brilliant green growth, like a large outdoor billiard table. Everything in Switzerland was so very neat. The kindling wood was piled in the most orderly fashion, sometimes in perfect cylindrical stacks. There was hardly an advertising sign to be see, and I tell you it makes a difference. The people were so clean and balanced, too. Whereas in Italy the fields were well-kept, a third class carriage was not an attractive to think of entering. (We never did.) In Switzerland, we saw third class cars wiaitng and the people looked clean and intelligent. It's a great little country, with a nice supply of gold reserve. Sense? They do not permit children under sixteen into movies (except special, suitable plays) even with their parents. Nuf sed. Well, Marcus stood the trip so well, enjoying the new scenery and numerous tunnels so much that we decided to omit the Berne stop and press on to

BASLE, where we arrived at 7:00 and registered at the Park-Berenhof, and began to learn the use of Swiss money -- five francs to a dollar. We had supper and breakfast and again we were off, this time headed for Brussels. We found that the crack express known as "Edelweiss" could get us in at 5:43 instead of 9:00. So we gladly paid the $5.20 supplement and had a fast run through France, Luxembourg and Belgium. Inspectors came through and made half-hearted inspections of the baggage and the friction on my coat pocket nearly ruined the lining due to the number of times they looked at and stamped my passport. But they are always polite. By now, I was paying in Belgian francs, 35 to the dollar. Also I had to get rid of Italian money. Of course there are money changers everywhere and they figure very fast. But they are honest. So apparently were all the tradesmen in all countries. The champion short-change artists are among Italian ticket-sellers. An American or an Englishman is their favorite dish -- but, though they tried hard using skill and artistry, they failed to score in my case.

[missing - page torn] was reached on time. I rushed to the American Express to get news from the Red Star Line about our boat, but the office had closed at one o'clock and the next day was Sunday. So we had to wait till Monday morning. There were only three letters -- one from the boat company, one from the State Tax Commission granting my application for two months' extension of time on my income tax report. But I must pay 6% from April 15th on my tax amount. Have they started coining mills while I was away? That would be one way for nearly everybody to have some money these days. The third letter was from Maxwell Heller [1], a friend of mine.

The Metropole
is listed as Belgium's leading hotel. Perhaps it is. At any rate, it is a large and fine. We had a room, divided by portieres to make two rooms. The length when open must have been thirty feet or more with a bathroom six by fifteen feet. There were nineteen electric lights
and every convenience. The charge per day (room only of course) was 125 francs or $3.57, with 10% for service and no other tips expected. It was a beautiful room furnished with Simmons metal furniture. While in Brussels M. and Mme. Hanchard whom we had met in our Cannes hotel called on us and took us to tea at the Grand Hotel. Of course we saw the finest Dutch art in two museums. Again the pictures were found to be well hunt and there were some fine masterpieces. After lunch today we checked out and made the run to

ANTWERP in forty minutes. Here we found letters from Ezra Putnoi and Fan Schwitzer. Dora concluded arrangements with the Red Star Line. We get a fine room on A deck.

WE SAIL MARCH THE 24TH from ANTWERP
on the STEAMER "WESTERNLAND", stopping at HAVRE, Southampton and Halifax.
DUE IN NEW YORK, APRIL the 4th

There's the news, poorly typed, too. Anyway it's the WESTERNLAND [pictured] due in New York about April 4th on a Tuesday. Should we not sail on that boat, I shall cable to my mother and she or my sister will inform our New York friends (whose addresses they have).

It has been a wonderful trip. There was hardly an unpleasant incident. Perhaps the nearest approach to one was when a conductor murmured that Marcus looked large for nien years. Well, so he is, but he is only nine. The weather was marvellous. Generally, when it did rain, we were on a train, or asleep. We so so much; we learned so much. All our reading will be much more meaningful from now on. Marcus, too, instantly recognizes pictures of famous buildings or works of art. One on Marcus! In Brussels, while we were looking at primitive Flemish paintings, he called me back and said "Oh, dad, come look at this; it must be very valuable and very old. It's in a wooden case with a little glass window". I looked at it and said, "That's the most modern thing in the room -- it's the fire-hose."

I didn't know I could be so interested in languages. I brushed up on my German which had forty years of cobwebs on it. Now the order of excellence stands, 1. English (I hope), 2. German, 3. French, 4. Italian. I expect to keep up a little reading, especially in French.

Good-bye and soon "How do?" We may stop at the Bretton Hall a few days, but my mail address is: P.O. 36, Station S., N.Y. City.

Affectionately,

Morris



[1] Maxwell Heller, artist, born 1881 in New York, died in Hollis, New York in 1963. 

Letter 19: Pension Seguso, Venice

[Letter 19]

Pension Seguso
Venice, Italy

March 9, 1933
Dear Folks,

Among the Florence incidents not mentioned, our visit to the Synagog deserves a little space. Dora and I attended part of a Saturday service with the Ehrenfelds [see letter 18]. The Temple is large and beautiful. The walls are entirely covered with Moorish designs in keeping with the Moorish architecture. However, I like my own Temple Ansche Chesed as much or more. There was a choir of boys who were in need of a good music teacher. The women sat in the balcony screened by an iron grill. As we came out of the temple,
 Dora met a Mrs Epstein, prominent club-woman of New York, and they almost fell on each other's necks.

On Friday evening the Ehrenfelds came over and then we stepped out into a nearby cafe. We enjoyed the music and the local color; we can get better coffee in New York. We chatted cheerfully. The next day, March fourth, we said "Goodby" to Florence and were off to Venice -- a five-hour run. To my surprise, I found that the train we were on was a big express to Warsaw, our trip to Venice being but a short part of this long run. The signs were in Polish [1], Italian, French and German. When a washroom is marked "Libero" or "Occupato" I know what's what but the Polish words left me in the dark; however, the door had a handle, so I found out. The second class section was jammed so we occupied the first-class seats and then cheerfully went to lunch in the diner. After we got back the conductor did a lot of figuring and presented a bill for $7.50 additional. We argued in the most polite manner and used all the languages we knew and some more, and finally did not pay. There seemed to be no difference between the first and second class accommodation.

As the train reached higher altitudes we saw more and more snow, but by the time we got to the low lands around Venice occasional green fields were visible -- no snow. Well, we got to Venice while it was raining merrily. A big crowd of hotel porters all wearing identical caps with their hotels' names above the visors were lined up. The Seguso man took us into a gondola. He talked to Marcus and me in French. Well, of course it wasn't just like the tinted pictures you've seen of a cuple sitting close in their graceful skiff gazing at the moon while the gondolier sings in rhythm with his strokes. The poor fellow was all wet. However, we have the fortunate faculty of getting a thrill out of things. Dora enjoyed the experience even in the rain. We were given two fine rooms and soon came down to dinner.

Venice was settled by fugitives in the fourth century who, wishing to escape the conquering Goths, settled on these inaccessible islands. There are about 120 islands, 150 canals and 400 bridges. The city (about 250,000) is built on millions of piles of both wood and stone. Through middle the S-shaped Grand Canal flows. Steamers ply on it regularly. We often go to St Mark's that way. On the small canals only gondolas can navigate. There are no cars, autos, horses or bicycles. Think of the peace of mind that comes to one as he crosses the bridges and busy little streets knowing that there are no vehicles! Truly, "it's a grand and glorious feeling.

[Written up the side] Dear Mother - We are almost at the end of our holiday and I must say it has been a great one. I do hope that you are well and that your voice [illegible] cheerful when I speak to you on the telephone in a few weeks. Love from us to you and the boys. Dora.

I suppose most people think that one cannot go anywhere in Venice except by gondola. That is not so at all. There are sidewalks and narrow streets and alleys that lead all over the city. The small canals from 15 to 40 feet wide are traversed by gondolas and sometimes small motorboats. The houses rise directly from the water's edge in many cases. Thus along the Grand Canal the front steps lead right into the water where private or public gondolas are waiting -- taxis, you know. Some of these palaces are very beautiful. Each has tall mooring posts, decorated with the family arms or gay stripes.

Our own pension [pictured] is right next to the Casa Ruskin where the famous writer lived in 1878. We are on the corner of a small canal and the canal Giudecca which is one of the wide bodies of water surrounding the city. We therefore see large steamers and freighters and boats with patched orange sails hauling ice, bricks etc. Our rooms have six windows, two porches and furniture of genuine inlaid wood. Everything is white and clean. There are only a dozen people, but they include English, German, Italian, Hindu.

The American Express is right back of the famous St. Mark's church so we have been over there very often. The Piazza (Pee-a-sah, meaning square) in front of this San Marco is very large and is surrounded by low, beautiful buildings. What a lovely place! Of course Marcus bought corn and fed the pigeons while my movie camera whirred and Dora smiled. It's so peaceful and colorful and safe! One afternoon we sat outdoors to have our coffee. It was a delightful treat to sip and watch the pigeons, the people and the thousand-year-old church with its colorful mosaics and its myriad chiseled decorations. But please do not think that we are unmindful of conditions at home. We know about the bank closings and the worries. We are bound to know because there are English papers and furthermore the moratorium caused the American Express to hand me 185 lire for a ten-dollar check instead of 195. But we no doubt will find plenty of difficulties left when we return. Hence we ought to enjoy life now. Business is bad here, too. The shopkeepers stand in their doorways and no sooner see a foreigner but they smile and begin to invite you in. It reminds me of the old song: "Strike up the band, here comes the sailor!"

Yesterday we went by steamer and electric tram to Padua to see the best work of Giotto in a chapel of the Arena church. We also trolleyed through the town and saw its fine parks and statues. Our weather luck was with us again; it was a beautiful day and we managed to be back at four for rest and reading. I broke my reading record in February -- seven books, including detective stories, novels and a 450 page History of Italian Art.

Monday we go to Milan, then off to Switzerland, then Brussels, Amsterdam and Antwerp. Good-by for the present. There will be at least one more letter about ten days from now.

Affectionately,

Morris

All of us are well. We heard from Bill and Isabel again. 
 [1] Morris was born in Dzialoszyce, then in the Russian Empire, now in Poland.


Letter 18: Pensione Pendini

[Letter 18 - page 3]

February 27, 1933

FUNNY LITTLE FACTS ABOUT FRANCE
French people shake hands on the slightest provocation.
When leaving someone who they expect to see in a few minutes, when meeting the most casual acquaintance, etc
The lower classes repeat "Yes" very rapidly and numerously. Often it sounds like "We-we-we" but more often "Way-way-way"
The head waiter made a sound like a kiss to call one of the waiters
A man and a woman work together to clean up your room
Goose-quill tooth-picks are still in use
Shoe-laces often have little bone ends instead of metal
Small toy autos can be rented for children. Many are electric
Bicycles for children have small side wheels attachable so that they do not fall over
The centre light in your room works on a pulley so that you can raise or lower it.
I never saw a bootblack or shine parlor in France. Your shoes are polished by your porter, if you leave them at the door in the evening.
Even on street-cars there are "classes"; thus first class might cost 75 centimes (3 cents) and second class 60 centimes
Electric light switches work up and down -- never by pushing a button
Schools open early, perhaps eight o'clock but the children have a two-hour lunch period. They close about four.
All children swear a black smock buttoning in the back or at the side. Very sensible
Dinner is at 7:30 or 8:00 (same as in Italy); in Greece it is at nine; in Spain at ten, so that theatres begin at eleven and you take a bite at two in the morning

    INTERESTING ITALIAN ITEMS


    There are boot-blacks in Italy, of course. They are very numerous in Naples
    In Florence the children throw confetti at people. It is sold by vendors in the street and the sidewalks are sprinkled with the evidence
    The larger houses have tremendous wooden doors perhaps fifteen feet high, of fine, thick wood
    Nearly all stairs and rooms have stone or marble; every room we have had has had a decorated tile or marble floor. Rugs are used
    Italians (and French also) are very polite. In a shop you are thanked for a two-cent purchase and very pleasantly bid the time of day
    Cheese is used all the time; on the soup, on the spaghetti and then as a course after the meat course
    It is not considered bad manners to talk from table to table or even across several tables
    Priests and students for the priesthood are seen everywhere; the latter walk in two's six to thirty in a group
    Officers in uniform are everywhere. There are a great many different kinds of uniforms
    One hears plenty of church bells in the morning
    All notices, even though they are inside of your own place of business must bear a tax stamp, from 1/2 c up; same applies to cards in store windows. Same in France. All receipted bills have to have a stamp
    In N.Y. City you pay 2 c for a "Times" and 60 c for a haircut. Here you pay 20 c for each. You get a fresh haircut, but the "Times" is two weeks old. "Saturday Evening Post" is 40 c
    All elevators I have seen in France and Italy have been "Stigler". They go down when a button is pressed, but an operator must bring them up to your floor. So they are automatic, but must have an attendant

      Letter 18: Pensione Pendini, Florence

      [Letter 18]

      Pensione Pendini
      Florence, Italy

      February 27, '33

      Dear Folks,


      Much has happened since I last wrote. This time I shall not give you a day by day account of our doings, but rather a general impression. For one thing, the family did not generally keep together in Florence. You see, Florence is the greatest centre for historic art in the world and I was interested in seeing as much of it as I could without undue exertion. Dora and Marcus saw plenty of it,, but they also went off shopping and exploring more than I did. Meanwhile I would be taking in some ancient palace or museum.

      Here in Florence, Raphael, DaVinci and Michaelangelo met very frequently in the early part of the sixteenth century. Dozens of other great artists and poets flourished here under the rule of the Medicis who were great art patrons. The city is therefore a great treasure house of painting and sculpture. In addition to this attractive feature, it also has a peculiar charm of its own. Its lovely little shops display beautiful articles--silver, linen, pottery, leather, prints. The prices are much lower than Macy's. So you cannot blame us if, when wandering down to the American Express to get our mail, we dropped in at this little store or that to inquire about the wares on display.

      We are very centrally located, right on the Via Strozzi, a block or so from the Strozzi palace and only three minutes from the world-famous Campanile (bell-tower) of Giotto. Our lounge overlooks the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, a great open square with two traffic cops to shoo pedestrians off the auto area. Inasmuch as the American Express is also near we often dropped in twice in a day and then continued along the Arno River to the Ponte Vecchio. What a happy recollection is brought up by those words "Ponte Vecchio" to anyone who has ever been to Florence! "Ponte" means bridge. This bridge (one of six across the Arno) owes its charm to the fact that on both sides of it are little bits of jeweler's shops clinging to it like barnacles to a ship. One can see the jewelers working with their tiny tools, fashioning rings, pendants and frames for cameos. The river is only about a block and a half wide; yet on this bridge there are about fifty little shops. I wish it were spring and that I had two months in Florence instead of two weeks. Then I would surely do a water-color or oil of this bridge. Most of you received a postcard picture of it.

      The three of us went to see the Duomo, the Baptistery and the Campanile. At the Baptistery are the famous bronze doors made by Ghiberti. He took 27 years. There they are, covered with dust and no one looking at them except foreign tourists. But they are remarkable; truly worthy to be called the gates of Paradise. Here surely, "a picture is worth ten thousand words." A morning was spent at the Pitti Palace going through their thousands of famous paintings and sculptures. Yes, it was a treat to see three or four Raphaels in a single room. Most of them I was familiar with through reproductions I had studied. It was like meeting old friends and finding them looking better than you thought they did. Another time, I went through with Professor Tealdo Tealdi [1] (a graduate of my college) who gave most excellent discussions about the best pictures.

      I found Professor Tealdi so interesting that I am in his group every morning. I enjoy seeing the art treasures under the guidance of an expert who knows just where each thing is and what its merits are. He speaks in English, of course. As Mr Tealdi says, other cities have many art treasures -- chiefly made by natives of other cities, but Florence has art works made by men born in Florence, working in Florence, for the city of Florence.

      Dora, Marcus and I went to the famous Uffizi (oo-fits-see) palace to see their collection of paintings and sculpture, some 4000 works. Marcus and I went a second time. Those portraits by Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, well one has to see them, or at least large and excellent color reproductions to get an idea of the genius of those men.

      We took a trolley trip to Fiesole, a village on the outskirts of Florence. We enjoyed the views on the way up the hill. It showed us Florence spread out below us with its charming villas and hills beyond. We saw the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre. Last Sunday afternoon we went to the Gardens of the Pitti Palace. The day was balmy enough for us to sit on the benches. We met the Ehrenfelds again and have been seeing them every day. Their interests are just like ours: yes, he also has a movie camera with him. Marcus loves to play with Robert and Alice. [2] The park is stately and magnificent. We stayed until closing time, four o'clock.

      Our two rooms here are very sunny and comfortable. The proprietors do all they can to make us happy. Thus we have dinner at seven-thirty instead of eight, and I have soup or vegetable if I don't want to eat the spaghetti. The place is run by women. The front door is locked night and day. When you ring one of the maids comes out with an immense key and opens it for you.

      Several days ago I typed page 3 of this letter which consists of remarks about French and Italian customs. "These statements are not guaranteed" -- they are merely my limited observations. Many more things could have been listed, such as the way our maid closed the outside shutters, locked the windows and then closed the inside solid wood shutters every morning -- until we stopped her. (No, we are not on the ground floor.) Or, the white smock that the French barber puts on you when you are sitting down for a hair-cut.

      We have received some lovely letters. Some have written us nice letters to whom we had sent only a card or two. I think these people realize that in the States friends reach each other by 'phone, whereas we have had to write hundreds of cards and also some letters. Hence they write us, knowing that we have no other way of hearing from relatives and friends. We can still be reached at AMERICAN EXPRESS, ANTWERP, BELGIUM, or c/o "MINNEWASKA", Red Star Line, Antwerp up to Mar. 30th. So write,

      Affectionately,

      Morris

      [1] Professor Tealdo Tealdi was born in the U.S., his family having emigrated there from Florence, Italy; when he graduated from high school his parents gave him a gift vacation in Italy to meet his relatives, and he liked it so much that he never returned to the U.S. He became a polyglot and an expert in art history, and is known to have acted as a guide for important aristocratic visitors to Florence.
      [2] Alice Ehrenfeld Weil (1925-1996), first American woman to hold the rank of Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations. Died aged 70 in New York.

      Letter 17: Hotel Italia, Perugia

      [Letter 17]

      Hotel Italia
      Perugia, Italia


      February 14, '33

      Dear Folks,

      You know how newspapers give you the very latest news first and then go back to the beginning of the story. Following that method, I may tell you that we arrived at Perugia this afternoon having left Rome at 10:45 and enjoyed a fine luncheon on the train. A youngster with ITALIA embroidered on his hat put us on a tram and we wound our way up a hill to the town. We entered the old walls and left them again. At last we entered the hotel through an arcade that looked very old, but the rooms are new and the view from the window is wide and beautiful. We were fortunate in picking up a fine English-speaking guide and we drove around in a taxi. At St. Peter's we saw some of the finest Middle Ages wood-carving in the choir stall. No two chairs are alike. These animals and flowers so exquisitely carved were still in perfect condition after over 400 years of continuous use. We saw also fine inlay work in wood and in marble and some paintings by Perugino, the teacher of the great Raphael. Among the other points of interest were a city gate (an entrance with towers) dating from the second century B. C. and a remarkable fountain of the year 1240, designed by a monk. The figures pictured every month of the year, every branch of study etc. We wound up the afternoon by taking coffee (chocolate for Marcus) at a cafe. It was interesting to see the pleasure these better-grade Italians took in their coffee and games of chess or checkers. No, they did not sit on high stools at a counter, nor did the waiter yell the Italian for "Draw two in the dark!" There was peace, leisure, pleasure. We liked it, too.

      Perugia, February 15

      Yesterday's paragraph has quite a lot crowded into it, but still I omitted mention of a wonderful view over the roofs and hills. The verger of the church allowed us to pass to a balcony and the sight that greeted us was truly enchanting. Later our guide led us up an inclined street and when we got to the top we were again enthralled by the glorious view with the setting sun touching every house and tree with gold. One could see the lovely countryside for many miles. Truly, one may see beauty only where there are hills. We stood at the Porta Sole at the spot that Dante also looked from. This is the famous Umbrian country that so many Umbrian artists show as the background of their pictures.

      Today we were up for breakfast at eight, though we did not get it till 8:30. We then started to hunt for the autobus to Assisi. Five natives told us it left at nine daily, but we were unable to get on its trail. There was a good reason--the bus leaves at four. Thus one must check and recheck. We trolleyed down tot he train and took the 10:25 for Assisi, a half hour's run. On the way we noticed the very regular planting of olive trees, using every yard of space. The irrigation ditches also made a perfect gridiron. You know all that Italian olive oil is world famous. Yes, but do you know what was being hauled on hundreds of wagons which we passed when we took our trip to Pompeii? Of course Harry Lourie will say "boloney", but the answer is cauliflower, tons of it. I eat it often.

      We took the public autobus from the Assisi station to the town nestling part way up on a mountain. As we went higher and higher we again admired the beautiful fields and hills, with here and there a flock of sheep, or some quiet cows grazing. The hills seemed embroidered, so odd was the even arrangement of orchard trees. (I just noticed that "odd" and "even" statement. It's odd: I make those quips even when I don't even try to.) Well, we lunched at a charming Albergo (which means hotel) and again let our eyes wander from the excellent courses to the marvellous landscape beyond the window sash. Then we rested in the lounge and started for the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, known to every art student. We were shown through by Father Thomas, a Franciscan monk. We saw wall and ceiling paintings by Cimabue, Giotto and Lorenzetti. This work is over 600 years old. Though simple and naive it is beautiful, being unusually harmonious. We count this as a very charming sidetrip. So I saw "Goodnight" to you in Perugia and will continue this letter in

      FLORENCE, at the Pension Pendini, Feb 16 where we are now comfortably installed in two rooms facing south. The two nights in Perugia were all right except that three roosters near us were not at all in agreement as to when "came the dawn."

      Retracing our steps (as the guide books say) I shall now give you, for a change, merely our itinerary in ROME.


      DATE (FEB.)MORNINGAFTERNOON
      Sat 4St. Peter's, VaticanAmerican Express, Walk
      Sat 5Nat. Museum of SculptureMovie, "Grand Hotel" in Italian; good, too. Garbo, Barrymores, etc.
      Mon. 6Borghese Palace picturesPantheon, built 79, oldest building in active use--a round church
      Tue. 7Colosseum, first cent., a Roman arena; Arch of Constantine; also Titus etc.Haircuts for two.
      Wed. 8Home; walk to P. O. Trolley ride around Rome
      Thur. 9Colosseum and Arches (for movies); also Roman Forum ruinsBorghese Park; coffee at Casino Valadier; lovely to sip coffee outdoors
      Fri. 10Morris to St. Peter's to visit roof and take pictures. Dora and Marcus to parkWalk and visit Church of St. Maggiore
      Sat. 11ShoppingHome, reading
      Sun. 12Galeria Moderna, a beautiful hall of art, including art schoolsOpera "Hansel and Gretel" ALSO Russian dances. Ehrenfelds there, too
      Mon. 13Morris to see "Moses" by Michaelangelo; memorial Vict. Eman. IIExhib. Of Fascists, 1914 to 1923
      Tue. 14To PerugiaSeeing Perugia

      Write to us c/o Amer. Express, BERNE, Switzerland. We always leave forwarding addresses and get all our mail. I think we shall enjoy at least a fortnight in Florence.

      Affectionately,

      Morris

      Letter 16: Pensione Dinesen



      [Letter 16]

      Pensione Dinesen
      Rome, Italy

      February 3, 1933

      Dear Folks,

      My last letter was typed on the "Conte Grande" and mailed the following day from Cairo. A group of about thirty people, many of them ship employees, ha been signed up by a specialist in trips for ship crews.His name is Goldman and he knows his business. Well, we agreed to go and little Miss Kramer made it a party of four. The crowd left in taxis and caught the 3:00 o'clock train to Cairo, arriving there at about 6:30. Then we were whisked over to the Bristol, where we had dinner. The dark attendants and waiters with their light clothes gave one a queer feeling. The meals were very good.

      The next morning we were off early by auto to the outskirts of Cairo. The Pyramids are not in the midst of the desert but at the edge of the city -- surrounded by sand of course. Marcus and I each mounted a camel which was led by a dragoman; Dora and Miss Kramer preferred a sandcart drawn by a donkey. We were off! I shall not attempt to describe the huge Pyramids, marvels of engineering skill, nor the Sphinx, cut from a huge cliff. One can get such information in an encyclopedia. But the day was perfect and the experiences novel and memorable.

      Looking from the train windows on our way to Cairo we saw flat fields in every direction. Villages composed entirely of mud huts, with holes a foot square for windows, revealed to us the level of life among these poor people. An American farmer provides better quarters for his animals. And yet, these people live and hope and worship, too. Ramadan, the thirty day fast, was coming to an end. The faithful do not eat during the thirty days, but start at sunset and eat all night. For the final day, their "Christmas", hordes of them were pouring into Cairo. Hundreds of wagons surmounted by flat platforms and drawn by a single small donkey each, passed us. A dozen women and children all in black were piled on each platform. What a picture! They were going to feast, but I saw no one smile.

      We had a very good lunch at the Bristol. Then the Goldman taxis took us through the streets of old Cairo. Again the streets were very narrow, very busy and very noisy. The chauffeur kept blowing his horn all the time and driving up to within two feet of the natives, who turned aside without the slightest hint of nervousness. The famous Cairo bazaars are full of the most interesting things to tempt one's purse. Among the odd sights was that of a street merchant with two flat cakes about a foot in diameter, slapping them together loudly to attract attention or to shake off the dust.

      After this medley of sights, sounds and smells we drove up to the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, a splendid structure almost entirely [made] of alabaster. We visited also Joseph's Well, a prison hewn out of a rock about 500 feet deep. I should not advise people with delicate hearts to look down that circular opening. We also saw the Synagog of Rabbi Ben Ezra and its Torah, 900 years old. The business-like young man tried to interest us in a Torah from Solomon's time, but the work looked too new and too good to convince us.

      I said there was no begging in Haifa. That's because the British authorities have forbidden it. At Alexandria and at Cairo there was the most persistent begging. The vendors of knick-nacks simply would not go away. They would start with "Wallet, ten piasters" and keep hammering away, working down to an angry, "Allright--six piasters!", laying it on the back of your closed hand. Well, I didn't buy a genuine leather wallet for nineteen cents, because I don't like wallets, and anyway I am not sure that Franklin Roosevelt will make them useful to us.

      The three-day sail to Naples was welcome: The weather was sunny and balmy. We sat on our deck chairs, reading. It was very restful. After this strenuous deck chair performance, we rested up some more in our cabin, which was airy and light. On Monday, January 30, we arrived at Naples, the second stop at that city. We got our luggage through the customs and then piled it into a taxi and drove to the Piazza Amadeo, having engaged rooms at the Dinesen in advance. Pretty soon we were trotting down to the American Express where we found 12 pieces of mail forwarded from Cannes; the next day made our total 29. The family was represented by two letters from Bertha, two from Youngstown, one from Jack; in addition were letters from many friends, Miss Kuhn, Frank P., Fanny etc.

      The next day we were off for an all-day auto trip, arranged the previous day with Grande Brothers. We went like princes in a fine car with a chauffeur and also a guide; two employees for 2 1/2 people. We drove down the new toll road from Naples to Pompeii. They may well be proud of that road. We stopped to see the coral factory and bought some things. Salesmanship? Lots of it. We arrived pretty soon at Pompeii and the guide walked us among the ruins. The ancient streets (covered with forty feet of ashes and lava in 79 A.D.) are now cleaner than they ever were. The homes, fountains, pipes, yes, event he wheel ruts are all there. The Museum contains mirrors, manicure sticks and loaves of bread--there is nothing new under the sun. Our the luck was with us; it was a beautiful, sunny day.

      We drove to Amalfi for lunch. This is much like the Grand Corniche drive, except that the precipices are perhaps steeper and the rocks more striking in their jagged outlines. On the steep hills lemon and olive trees grow in terraced plots. The former are covered with a network of boughs to keep out the cold. At Amalfi we had a fine lunch. Then we drove on to Sorrento, the birthplace of Tasso. Here are made beautiful inlaid boxes and also fine lace. We bought several things. We got back to the Dinesen after a wonderful day. In one of my Cannes letters I told you about an all-day trip for $3.60, or with meals and tips about 5.50. Well, I should not want to give the impression that such a rate is normal. This trip including tips and lunches was $17. Cooks would have charged $30.

      [Written up the side] Dear Mother - We are feeling well and having an unusually nice trip. So far we have had no cold weather and Morris and Marcus feel fine. Love to you all - Dora

      Perhaps that diagram [left] is not so very clear. It is a sectional view showing the terraces and the road cut out of the solid rock. The steps of the terrace are formed by L W L W R. Forget about the lemon trees and covering at first. There -- now you see it.

      Of course we wandered about the Naples streets. There is a tremendous arcade covered with glass wherever you look. Everybody meets everybody else there. There are stores galore, cinemas etc. We took a funicular train to the top of one of the hills and got a view of Naples and its bay. On our return from Pompeii we got a fine view of Mount Vesuvius smoking clearly. On the other side a brilliant sunset rewarded our gaze.

      We love the old streets with their flower and vegetable pedlars. They are just the things for an artist's canvas. The Naples tenements are pretty high. The women do "window-shopping", that is, they yell down to the pedlar and let down a basket. He puts in the vegetables and the buyer hoists it up with her rope. It is a simple open-air dumbwaiter--and not so dumb, either.

      Those of the older generation who read this letter will recall exactly similar things to the ones I describe. I refer to the clamor of pedlars, their insistence on selling you something, the high asking prices etc. So also the dirt, poverty and ignorance are not peculiar to Egypt, Greece or Palestine: they can be found in Minsk, Pinsk and other places.

      Yesterday, February second, we got to Rome, a 3 1/2 hour run from Naples. We had a fine meal on the train. They don't bother you with a menu-card. No brain-work is needed. The waiters come through and serve the various courses without asking questions. It's a very good idea. I didn't have to know Italian. At the close of the repast your money talks a universal tongue. We arrived and took two vast rooms at the Rome Dinesen. We are in a very nice section of the city. In the dining room one hears English, Italian, Danish, German, French and Dutch.

      We took the autobus MB to St. Peter's this morning. We were not prepared to find the church as tremendous as it was. (It is the largest in the world.) A guide took us through this huge edifice and then to the Vatican. Of course we wanted to see the famous Sistine Chapel and we saw it. Groups of people were studying the work of Michaelangelo and that young genius, Raphael. The new Pinakothek, just opened, is a wonderful gallery. We spent 2 1/4hours and saw only two or three pieces in a room where there were 20 or 30. I must go back there without a guide. Countless millions have gone into the galleries and more money is needed to finish St. Peter's, still unfinished after four centuries.

      This afternoon we took a stroll to the American Express and found cards from Cannes friends. Then we went home, stopping to look at the dozens of shop-windows displaying leather goods, silver, marble etc. So, I have brought the news right up to date. Oh, yes, this evening I am typing a letter to all my relatives! We are feeling fine, and Rome is beautiful and we are happy and I remain,

      Affectionately,

      Morris




      Tuesday, November 4, 2008

      Letter 15: Aboard the "Conte Grande"


      [Letter 15]
      Aboard the "Conte Grande"
      Alexandria, Egypt

      January 24, 1933

      Dear Folks:

      This letter will not be mailed before tomorrow or the next day. We have been in a different port every day but one, so naturally there has not been much time for letter-writing. Nevertheless, I believe you have been getting more letters than you expected. We got to Alexandria this morning and waited a while for the Egyptian officials to examine and stamp the passports. These dark-skinned guards take your passport away from you when you get off
      the boat and give it back to you when you get on the boat. Rather odd. Well, that isn't the only odd thing to report.

      From Naples our ship headed for Phileron, a port of Athens the capital city of Greece. Cook's had a big group at five dollars a person, but we decided to take in the sights in our own way. We took the electric train to Athens and then engaged a taxi. Soon we arrived at the famous stone hill, the Acropolis and were climbing the steps after paying a fee of fifty drachmas each. The weather was perfect. I left my overcoat with the gateman. Then we wandered about looking at these marvellous ruins. The Parthenon was built or rather completed in 447 B. C.; the buildings are therefore nearly 2400 years old. In the brilliant sunshine, those columns made a picture never to be forgotten. In my enthusiasm I took fifty feet of moving pictures. The views down to the city of Athens were also very striking. Again we took a taxi and stopped at the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter. Then the chauffeur pointed out various other sights, such as the Olympic Stadium, the President's home and so on. Then to a good hotel for dinner.

      We had an excellent meal of which the chief item was a delicious steak. After the dinner we walked through the streets of Athens, but things were quiet: Stores stay closed from 12:30 till about 3:30. Suddenly I spotted a bit cut-out figure of Charlie Chaplin. The play was "City Lights". Well, we walked in, much to the delight of Marcus. Dora and I had seen it before,but we laughed more this time. The sub-titles were in Greek and in French. When we got out we found ourselves near the train station so we took the train -- it looked just like a subway -- and went back to the port and so back to the ship at 4:45 for tea and a rest.

      Times are bad in Greece. The cost of living has multiplied thirteen-fold in ten years. The drachma used to be 19 cents. Now you get 180 to 200 drachmas for a dollar; so a drachma is a little more than half a cent. Our day in Athens including taxis, trains, meal and liberal tips was about 450 drachmas (of which 150 were for the Acropolis tickets). Let's move to Greece. We met an Armenian and his Greek wife who had lived in Larchmont [New York state] for twenty years who was now making his much reduced income do nicely in Athens. But she misses her Frigidaire, radiator etc.

      The next day the "Conte Grande" reached the Island of Rhodes, as per schedule. Again we chose to see the sights without the help of an agency. However, a boy of fourteen directed us and started to walk along with us. We spoke in French; it came out that he was a Sephardic Jew and he seemed pleased to learn that we also were Jewish. Since the War Rhodes has been under Italian rule. We met his sister and he introduced us. She spoke English. In all these Eastern countries almost everybody, especially tradesmen, must know several languages. All the signs in Haifa were in three languages--Hebrew, English and Arabic. The agent for the Cairo trip knows nine languages. Well, returning to Rhodes, we ambled in the sunshine down to the native section. What a treat! Again we saw the narrow streets, crowded with shoppers. Almost everything is out in the street. Each street was inhabited by a different race--Turks, Arabs, Spaniards, Italians, Jews. We visited the Museum which had a fine open court and a very interesting garden. Later we saw about thirty autos in a long stream come tooting through the town. We had a better view than they did. We engaged a buggy and drove around. Marcus noted many new things and added to his stack of coins and stamps.

      From Rhodes we steamed eastward to Haifa. Most people got off here to take a four-day land trip to Jerusalem, Cairo and so back to catch the ship at Alexandria. We took in Haifa instead. The big hand of [Jewish] Palestinian pilgrims also got off at Haifa. The night before they had had a gala celebration. Some are staying a few months in the Holy Land; others are buying orange groves and settling there. Only a handful of people are left on the ship, chiefly some well-dressed cheerful Italians. Signora Ravelli is a statuesque Juno, who owns a very small chunky husband and a happy smile. We call her Quelle Tete. There's a story to that.

      We met some very friendly New York and Chicago folks. There must be some money left in the United States. At Haifa a very nice little lady got on, a Miss Kramer formerly of New York, but now teaching in Jerusalem. She speaks Hebrew fluently. She has a year's leave and is going to see all her brothers and sisters. She was with us on our two trips by taxi in Alexandria and she is in our overnight party in Cairo.

      After waiting quite a while for our tender to start (the delay being due to the passport formalities of the pilgrims), we finally were landed in Haifa. We strolled out and soon we saw real Oriental scenes. Marcus clutched my hand a bit tighter as we passed the dusky Arabs sitting in rags and snoozing in the sun. They were a fierce and picturesque lot. Laundries, baths, shoe-shops would lose money if they depended on them. An old clo'es man would die because clothes are worn till they fall off, piece by piece. Much to my surprise no one asked for alms. Again we wandered through the old section of the town. Many different costumes were seen--turbans, veils, American clothes. Here I show with my machine one of the fashionable articles of dress for gentlemen: a light-colored or white pair of pants, tight around the legs with a very loose, low-hanging "seat" flapping below. Another is a long one-piece gown reaching from neck to heels. An American coat often goes with this.

      All sorts of queer foods are sold such as flat dried fish, great big flat cakes and strange nuts. There are so autos, but more often small donkeys and occasionally camels. We found someone who spoke Yiddish and got directions for a carriage to Mount Carmel. Three people were about all the small rig could hold. We went up the steep road and watched, below us, the new portion of Haifa with its rich green fields, neat straight roads, and new houses all with red tile roofs. The hills beyond were beautiful with their many shades of light greens, blues and a hint of lavender in the shadows of clouds. At the top there is a monastery. There are no other buildings all the way up.

      When we got off at Alexandria, we were importuned by a great many guides. They could not be shaken off. One fellow stuck, telling us he would thus prevent our being annoyed. Well I gave him three piasters or five and then we engaged a taxi after walking about a mile. Well, if you please, our friend got in too. We saw the town and returned to the steamer for lunch after again crossing his palm with silver. I think "plaster" would be a more accurate term than "piaster". In the afternoon we again took a fine car and went to the shopping district. It was quite city-like an done might as well be in Brooklyn. There are dozens of money-changers with their quotations. Egyptian piasters were quoted at 28 for a dollar; Palestinian piasters 29 for a dollar. The man makes a cent on the deal.

      Now we are all set for the Cairo trip by auto, train and donkey or camel to the Pyramids and the Sphynx. My next letter will be dated around February 3, 4 or 5, from Italy.

      We all feel well. Hope you do, too.

      Affectionately,

      Morris

      Cairo
      Jan. 25

      Letter 14: Aboard SS "Conte Grande"


      [Letter 14]

      Aboard SS "Conte Grande"
      January 18, 1933

      Dear Folks,

      Here I am in the Lounge at a round table, typing on ship-board. I believe letters 1 and 2 also were written on board a boat. There is half an hour or so before dinner and I am tired of resting and reading in the stateroom. I expect to mail this letter in Naples to-morrow.

      One of the things I mean to mention in a previous letter is the way the land is utilized. The land is terraced: that is, a long stone wall is built and then a horizontal "step" is made, say eight or ten feet wide and then another vertical wall. From a distance the hill looks like a flight of broad steps, the verticals being gray and the horizontals being green. Think of the vast amount of labor used to wring a little fertile area out of nature.

      Our friends at the Victoria were genuinely sorry to see us go. Madame Lange, the charming Lithuanian lady, was interested in improving her English and in enjoying a good game of bridge. She, her son and Madame Unterman all went down to see the beautiful "Conte Grande" [pictured]. Madame Wallsdorff, the proprietress, said she would never forget us--we were so sweet. She gave us a lovely little box of candy. Well, we were among the "oldest inhabitants", having been there over two and a half months. Marcus gave some big games to Francois who has three children (and a salary of 600 francs a month); and Louise will wear on Sundays a pair of genuine American silk stockings given her by Madame Klein.

      There are incidents that will come to mind long after we have returned to the States. For instance, I gave my light top-coat to a cleaner on Friday and it was promised for "demain soir", the following evening. Then it was to be delivered Monday. It wasn't, so I went around Tuesday morning, the day we sailed. I got a fluent French explanation, but no coat. We stopped the taxi on our way down to the pier, but still the coat wasn't ready. It would have to be parcel-posted to Naples, where I would get it two weeks later. However I told the porter to go in again and see if the coat had come. Well, a little while later he came down to the pier with the coat!

      x This x was struck by a little boy who came over and said, "what's this?" and then took a peck at my machine. He didn't stay long after that.

      There are several different types of passengers aboard. First, there is the usual run of Americans; then Italians and Greeks either touring or going on a visit to their native lands; lastly, a group of Jews, some very orthodox, who are all going to Palestine. They eat in a separate dining room and wear hats. I suppose there is a third class but I never see them. Wednesday night the Jewish folks gave a Palestinian concert. Cantor Friedman had a very excellent tenor voice, much like Caruso's. There must have been over a hundred people present. (In another room moving pictures were being shown.) How our mothers would have enjoyed in which the cantor sang: "mazel ohn seichel is nit git!"

      We got to Genoa early the day after we sailed from Cannes. Before leaving Cannes we saw two Americans coming in, whose Camels and Lucky Strikes had not been declared and who were being fined. The inspections are hasty, but sometimes a fish is hooked. This reminds me of a lady at the Victoria who was sent for and asked to pay $2.40 on a package from the States. It turned out to be a gift to her son of a few handkerchiefs and such trifles. Was she angry! Thank you all for not having done anything so foolish. The customs duties are very high.

      Genoa is one of the famous harbors of history. The city is on a hill and again we saw the terraced strips of land. We took a short ride on an inclined railway and got a view of the town. Then we walked around the streets, intrigued by the narrow alleys full of peddlars, food mongers and tiny shops. Of course, we took a taxi to see the house in which Columbus is said to have been born. It is a tiny dwelling covered with ivy and surrounded by a high iron fence. The truckload of tourists who were lined up and shown this relic just as we were leaving it, did not seem very cheery. It was wet underfoot and the hills were covered with what? You are right, Oswald, with snow. It was pretty cold and windy on some corners.

      We saw a museum of Japanese articles, which did not excite us enough to look out for our blood pressure. Then we went on to the Palazzo Blanco e Rosso. In this ancient palace, however, we did find things to interest us. The floors were of colored inlaid marble. There were many pictures by Van Dyck, but our Metropolitan Museum has better ones. We taxied back for lunch. We noted an odd thing: Many houses had false windows painted on the walls to balance the arrangement. They looked very real.

      The meals aboard have been very good. There is a complete service beginning with four hors-d'oeuvre. A big bottle of red wine and another of white decorate the table. The vegetables are fresh and plentiful. At luncheon today the steak was very nice and the string beans were tasty because of a tomato dressing. Try them that way some time.

      Today we tramped around Naples, whic his a city of a million and has over 300 churches. Again, the streets were very picturesque with their crowds of shoppers and all the merchants crying their wares in high voices. We visited an old fortress, the Palazzo Nuovo, I think where a guide who thought he spoke English showed us through. The vast structure was being remodeled to make it Gothic as it was in the fourteenth century, for subsequently it had been made Baroque, an over-elaborate style. We saw a marvellous spiral stairway of 164 steps, of stone blocks; a circular hole, also, into which prisoners were hurled to fall far, far down into the sea; also some victims of the guillotine.

      Our stateroom is very fine, being really a first-class room. The attendants all speak Italian and a bit of English. I shall study a little Italian. Little French seems to be known.

      We feel fine, and expect to continue that way. No matter where your letters are addressed to, they will be forwarded--the first batch, twelve days' mail to Naples, then Rome, Florence.

      Affectionately,

      Morris

      Friday, October 24, 2008

      Letter 13: Hotel Victoria, Cannes




      [Letter 13]
      Hotel Victoria
      Cannes, France


      Jan 13, 1933

      Dear Folks
      The reason for my writing two days ahead of time is this: The "Bremen" leaves Cherbourg on the 15th and gets to New York on the 20th. As I have very interesting news for you, I thought I would rush this letter out sooner. So, here you are!

      I omitted to tell you in previous letters about our "carte d'identite". All foreigners who stayin France more than two months are supposed to apply for one. Dora and I went down to the City Hall December 7th and answered a lot of questions about my mother's father's name etc. Then we had to pay 100 francs each and were given our identification cards, each with a terrible picture on it, which we had previously taken. Some people escape paying the tax by checking out to Italy for one night and then returning. Of course they would have to do that every sixty days.
      On New Year's day we had a grand dinner. Again I dusted off my old Tuxedo. Well this event was even more fun than the gala Christmas dinner. There were novel favors and something new (to me) -- lots of little paper balls abotu the size of moth-balls, which were thrown from table to table. It's a great way to create a spirit of fun. The main course was pheasant and before it was served the waiters paraded around the room with the beautiful plumage of the unfortunate birds. There was a free raffle for a prize. Two bell-boys carried the prize around in a covered box. It turned out to be a live pig, plentifully perfumed. I suppose the girl who won it gave it back to the hotel. Clever, these Swiss.

      Near the beginning of our stay in Cannes I wrote you about a trip to Monte Carlo and Menton. It was gray and partly rainy that day. Dora has since been to Menton twice, so it was decided that I make the trip alone, as it might be a bit tiring for Marcus. No day could have been sunnier. I took the bus to Nice and there signed up for the trip by the Grande Corniche. This is the highest of three roads cut in to the sides of the hills. The bus made several stops and I took moving pictures. One views from La Turbie peninsula reaching out into the sea. The little dots of pink and white are the roofs and walls of the houses. Far off in Italy the last point of land is a jewel of violet, blue and blue-green. One could gaze and gaze for hours.

      Past beautiful villas we drove on to Menton, the last of the French Riviera towns. There I took luncheon at the Admiraute. The sun twinkled on the table linen. The view was lovely. The meal was hot and delicious. The proprietor brought out his register and showed me the familiar signature of James J. Walker.* Then, with charming tact, he wondered whether I, too, would consent to sign. I wrote: "Morris Klein, Cannes and New York". Then I made a sketch of what was before me, looking through the large window.

      Some went on to cross the Italian frontier, but I waited for the car at Menton. Our first stop on the way home was Monte Carlo. I could have lost a fortune in the half hour interval at the famous Casino, but I didn't even go in: Instead, I made a sketch from the beautiful park. This town is truly spotless. I saw a cigar wrapper on the walk; as I turned to look again, a man was sweeping it up. At Monaco I visited the Aquarium, the finest in the world. Then we whizzed along the perfect road, which twists and turns. By 5:15 we were back in Nice. An hour later I was back in Cannes, enthusiastically telling Marcus and Dora about the wonderful day. In Monaco, I bought a set of stamps at the post-office, twelve different ones for twenty cents. Marcus was delighted with them. Guests at the hotel are giving him their stamps.

      Yesterday we tried to take a trip to Vence. No other people had signed up for the tour,s o the man sent around a nice closed car for the three of us. The price was the same--30 france each, 90 francs total or $3.60 for a trip from ten to three-thirty--longer if desired. I mention this to show you the state of business here. And Gasoline costs more here than in the U.S.--much more. (My ride to Menton and back was 15 francs.) Things are very slow.

      Well, this trip was a delight. It took us to rocky mountains, with a deep gorge between. First we stopped to view Cagnes on its hill, the houses clustered very close. Later we saw St Paul, a village of about the thirteenth century. A wall girds the little houses. This wall is at the edge of a steep rocky cliff. The idea was to ward off the attacks of the Saracens and Spaniards. The people when the enemy approached used to hurl boulders down and also pour boiling oil. The roofs originally bright vermillion are now a gray, with a hint of color. At Vence we passed through the tiny streets. The trades-people with their brilliant pottery and postcards stood waiting for the visitors. There were very few.

      The road led on to the wonderful cascade the Saute du Loup. We took dinner at the restaurant of the Gorges du Loup. It was a beautiful place. Above, the rocks reared their heads toward the sky. At the very top of this natural stone wall some gray specks were houses--the village of Gourdon [pictured]. It seemed remarkable that people should live on top of a barren rock. It too eight miles of riding through sharp "hair-pin" turns to reach Gourdon. When Marcus said "Look, mother, how tiny the road looks away down there", Dora decided she would rather not look. The driver was perfect, and we passed almost no cars. Katherine Norris is said to live in that village, her house having a view of many miles. I enclose a souvenir card of this trip. Look at it carefully. Dora was delighted with this outing. It is something to remember.

      An interesting pair of arrivals is a lady from Kovno [in Lithuania - Dora was born in Sialiaui, Lithuania] and her son of eighteen. She is not Jewish, I think. She speaks Russian, French, German and English well, and Polish, Lithuanian and Italian so-so. She is a charming widow and plays bridge with Dora and others. Her son speaks all these tongues, too. The Parisian Jewish lady is back from Naples. Mrs Abbott, the lovely little 85-year-old lady, gave Marcus and the other children each a gift of 10 francs to buy stamps.

      And now for the news! WE ARE LEAVING FOR A MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE. It is something we have wanted, but we thought we couldn't afford it. Well, Dora kept looking at the circulars and visiting Cook's and at last we found a thirteen-day trip that just fits our pocket-book. We leave on the "CONTE GRANDE" which is now on its way from New York and leaves Cannes Tuesday January 17th. Here are the stops and the dates:

      Cannes Jan. 17 Rhodes, Greece Jan. 22
      Genoa, Italy " 18 Haifa, Palestine " 23
      Naples, " " 19 Alexandria, Egypt " 28
      Athens, Greece " 21 Naples, Italy " 30

      We get off at Naples and the boat continues to Gibraltar and back to the United States. By the time you read this we will be looking at the ruins of the Parthenon or inspecting the site of the Colossus of Rhodes. We are thrilled about this trip. It give sus all a chance to see the things we have so often read about. Of course for the head of an art department nothing could be more fitting. We shall let you hear from us while on tour. You understand, of course, that on this trip "the ship is our hotel".

      We stay in Naples three days and then head for Rome where we stay about a week. Here is the schedule so as to guide you in your letter-writing:

      LETTERS LEAVING N.Y.C. BEFORE c/o AMERICAN EXPRESS DURATION OF OUR STAY

      Feb. 1 ROME, Italy Feb. 4-15
      Feb. 13 FLORENCE, Italy Feb. 16-28
      Feb. 19 VENICE, Italy March 1-4

      After Feb. 19th send letters c/o American Express, BRUSSELS, Belgium until further notice. You need not worry about letters: They will be forwarded. Of course, if you look up sailing dates of mail boats you need not stick to the first column schedule given. Please note: In every city our address is American Express.

      Dora has just left to go down to Cook's to pay for the trip. We are getting a room on the first class deck, though we are, of course, travelling second-class, which on such a boat as the Conte Grande is pretty good. Our trunk goes by slow freight from here to Antwerp form which we sail March 31st.

      Do write us. We read the papers and we know there is lots of sickness in the United States. Naturally, we are thinking of our own people. We hope all are well.

      This morning we heard from Bertha and Dorothy and from some other friends. We are delighted to hear that the new little boy is growing nicely.

      I am sure you have enough for one letter. Our best wishes to all.

      Affectionately

      Morris

      * James J Walker
      Walker was a disgraced former Mayor of New York, who was forced to leave office and took refuge in France until the chances of criminal prosecution in the US appeared remote.
      ** Katherine Norris
      According to vibi68 on virtualtourist.com, Miss Norris was a "generous and cultured American who was charmed by a past that she couldn't acquire in her country; she became Lord of Gourdon until her death".

      Photo of Gourdon castle and gardens by Feuillu


      Thursday, October 23, 2008

      Letter 12: Hotel Victoria, Cannes


      [Letter 12]
      Hotel Victoria
      Cannes, France


      December 31, 32

      Dear Folks,

      Long life and health to little Martin Klein who arrived December eight to bring joy to David and Dorothy. The first news came from David. Bertha's letter mailed the same day did not get here till four days later. Dave's letter made the trip in ten days. The time varies from nine to fifteen days, depending on whether you just catch a boat. Usually we get a lot of mail on Saturday. December 17th we received a dozen pieces, December 24th we got thirteen. Yesterday we received Bertha's letter telling us about the baby's name. Also there were letters from Si Abrahams and the teachers in my school. They praised the Christmas card I painted for the school staff. The principal had put it up on the bulletin for them all to see.

      People are beginning to write a bit more. Nearly all the Ladies of Dora's Sisterhood to whom she wrote have answered. We heard from Genevieve Lane and got a card from the maid, Lannie. We were favored with two letters from Fan Schwietzer.

      Since last writing you we have taken three interesting trips. One of these was to Biot. This is a small hill town, reached by special bus from Antibes. The auto was an old affair with a couple of seats added between seats, that is the aisle also was used. Every time some one had to get off we had to get out into the road and then re-enter. Biot is a walled town with streets running up and down and all around. They are very narrow and have no sidewalks. The houses are small, dark and very old. Some give the effect of tunnels. The lower floors have almost no light or air. And yet, right outside the town, some times only a hundred yards away there are tremendous open fields. Why is that? For the young people like Leonard [Dora's nephew Leonard Lurie] I might say that in the fourteenth century when this town was built, people never lived in isolated farm houses as they would not have been safe from robbers or enemies. Hence they lived in walled towns as close as possible to each other or protection. A hill was very good, because they could see the enemy and repulse the attackers more easily. Light, air, frequent bathing (for common people) is a comparatively modern idea, you see.

      Another trip was to Antibes and Cap Antibes. It is here that "Jimmy" Walker is resting and writing. We went there with two of those nice British ladies. Cap Antibes is a long peninsula. It is a charming place. The hotel has wonderful bathing facilities. There are pools and diving boards galore and the panorama is superb. Antibes itself has those very narrow streets and a very busy market. The place is a riot of color--vegetables, meats and clothing. Part of the old wall is still left at the sea. Here I painted some views showing the houses huddled together behind the fort. Young, un?????? soldiers are forever marching hither and thither.

      The price trip of the fortnight was to San Raphael, about 2 miles from Cannes. We left at ten in a luxurious bus. The road is called the Esterel Corniche. It is cut right into the side of the mountains. Hence it winds very much, many of the turns being very sharp. But it is an excellent road, banked and walled wherever necessary. I had previously arranged with the driver to stop the car where the views were best, so that I could take some moving pictures. He did so, and I took two lovely panoramas. I hope they turn out well. One looks car down from the road to the villas surrounded by green and finally to the sea itself, with its wonderful colors. Rough rocks jut out into the blue water. These are the "roches rouges", the strange red rocks. Too bad my camera does not show colors. At one point where I took a view the red stones rose vertically from the dark green growth, far above our heads.

      It was a beautiful sunny day. We lunched on the beach walk and then explored the town, which however was nothing very unusual. We should have gone on to Frejus where there is an old Roman amphitheatre. The return trip showed us the Esterels with a different lighting; also the distant Alps, slowly turning pink and then as the sun dipped, turning to a light blue-lavender. It was a great treat and Dora especially was delighted with it.

      And now a word about our Chanukah celebration, which, like broad-minded citizens, we combined with Christmas. Marcus went window-shopping for days. Then he went out with Dora to get my gift and with me to choose Dora's. Dora and I were still deciding on the 24th. Finally we were through and the exchange of gifts was a joyous event. Dora had long before seen and admired in a winow across the street, a fine old topaz ring. One day she said to me, "You know that ring--well, it's gone!" Whereupon I answered, without blinking an eyelash, "serves you right, for not buying it right away." That ring was then in my pocket. It just fit her finger, too.

      Christmas dinner here was a fine event. A great many additional guests were present, so that 140 people sat down. All the gentlemen wore dinner jackets. The entire dining room had cotton snowflakes--thousands of them--in a realistic snowstorm effect. There were balloons and noisemakers and fancy hats. The dinner, of course, was a chef's triumph. It was a very festive occasion and Marcus had the time of his life. He was allowed to stay up to 9:30 that night. Why, we didn't get out the dining salon till nine.

      The Parisian lady was called away on business to Naples. She may return later. But the Swiss couple and the Anglo-Belgian couple are nice and gave Marcus fine stamps. The three English ladies have just left for Monte Carlo. On Tuesday Dora and I treated them to Tea at the Malmaison [pictured]. It is called Tea, because four of us took coffee. It was very pleasant talking to these bright, refined, traveled women, while the orchestra played softly.

      Goodbye, 1932! I hope 1933 brings happiness to all.

      Affectionately,

      Morris

      Saturday, September 20, 2008

      Letter 11: Hotel Victoria, Cannes




      [Letter 11]
      Hotel Victoria, Cannes, FRANCE

      December 15, 32

      Dear Folks,

      These last two weeks have been the quietest we have had since we started our trip. On many of the days the skies were gray; occasionally it rained. We therefore did not undertake the trips we had in view. Several times I went down to the harbor and made use of my watercolors. Dora took a trip to Nice to reserve rooms for our homeward trip early in April. Being unencumbered by Marcus and me, she "did" the city thoroughly. The straight, tree-lined Avenue de la Victoire is crowded with people. Window-shopping is delightful -- and safe.

      Another day Dora accompanied three old ladies, fine old British specimens, to Monte Carlo. No, they did not go near the Casino. They went to reserve rooms (for the three old ladies) who are going there after Christmas. Later they will move on to Menton. The run from Cannes to Nice is nothing wonderful, but from Nice to Monte Carlo it is truly marvellous, says Dora. One passes through the most picturesque little villages. Every time the Mediterranean comes into view it presents some new and charming aspect.

      We tried to find a school for Marcus where he could study among French children but we could not make satisfactory arrangements. We wanted to enter him for afternoons only. The sessions begin at one o'clock. We are not through with luncheon til 1:15. So I am taking Marcus along with me to Mademoiselle Pommier's when I report for my lesson at 4:30 tri-weekly. She loves to hear his stories and he does with work with enthusiasm. Also she refused additional compensation. He has a good mind for the language, but the children at the hotel all speak English, although they are all learning French. I , too, have progressed considerably. Recently Madame Isidore Untermann, a native Parisienne, came to the Victoria. She associates with the Swiss couple and with us and very kindly corrects any mistakes I make. She speaks slowly and distinctly and I can understand her very well indeed. She knows almost no English, but speaks a kind of Jewish German. So, when the five of us get together, we keep changing from French to German and English. I realized the progress I had made when I went with these friends to see Maurice Chevalier in "One Hour with You" in French. It was a delightful movie and I understood nearly every thing. The French lady keeps humming the theme song: Je voudrais vivre une heure avec toi. I enjoyed very much an American animated movie in which Betty Boop makes flapjacks for all kinds of animals and people.

      Dora's few ventures to the movies have not been entirely auspicious. The first time, in Paris, we went at nine o'clock, the regular movie hour in France, and sat there till 10:30 seeing advertisements and silly features before the main picture, "Free Souls" was put on. We got out at midnight. The next time, in Cannes, we saw ads and an Alpine picture in which every inch of snow was shown us, before they started "Melo", a French picture. The work is far inferior to the American product. Now it's hard to get Dora to go. I took Marcus once.

      Our nearest neighbor in the dining salon is a lovely little old lady, eighty-five years of age. She wears charming clothes: Dora has cast admiring eyes at a wonderful shawl the old lady has. Daily she takes a walk all alone, to the flower market and back. Hers is a cheerful, calm outlook on life. Her son, a retired army officer, has been in the India service. Another near neighbor is an American lady who reads her menu card with a monocle.

      One of the oddest things here is the number of people who eat at tables for one. Guests who come alone eat alone. The result is a double row of small round tables, each with one man or woman dining in solitary state. Nevertheless, they do often talk from one table to another. Why don't they sit together if they want to talk? Ah, think it over. Once you arrange to sit together, how are you going to get away if you tire of your companion? The French are no fools.

      Many guests order wines. I saw a 1918 bottle the other day. When you see the calm, dignified way people drink here, the prohibition of wines seems absurd. Ordering the bottle is an important ritual, and bringing it on is "with pomp and circumstance". It's the only thing the head waiter really enjoys.

      In Paris there was a bakery opposite and it was very amusing to see the people coming out with their very long loaves of bread. Of course it was never wrapped, not even when it rained. Again the French have the right idea: a long, thin loaf is baked much better than a short, thick one.

      Stores are closed from twelve to two and after six o'clock. That idea is certainly one that ought to be adopted in America, to set free the small retailers, who are slaves to the small shops. Of course I can see some reason, in a large city, for keeping stores open after six, say up to nine. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with a Frenchman's dinner.

      We received a nice letter and snapshots from Mary [Lurie - one of Dora's sisters], in far-off South Africa. It is pleasant to read in her letter, and in those of others that my letters are enjoyed and reread. That justifies the tour which my Portable is enjoying. It doesn't seem to need a Sabbatical.

      Marcus is still stamp-mad. All the children in the hotel have the craze. Aside from that he is feeling well, and does his hour's schoolwork very well.

      A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

      Affectionately

      Morris