Monday, May 12, 2008

Letter 7: Hotel Victoria, Cannes

[Letter 7]

Hotel Victoria CANNES, FRANCE

Nov 4, 1932

Dear Folks

My last letter would have contained, had there been room, some notes of our visit to the chateau of Fontainebleau. This historic structure is 150 years older than the palace of Versailles. We motored over there after our visit to Millet's cottage. The various salons and chambers we saw were as numerous as they were interesting. There is so much fine workmanship in it, that wonderful things get merely a moment's attention--there is so much else to see. There was a parquet floor made of seventeen different kinds of matched woods. The ceilings in the various rooms were the finest imaginable. They were truly masterpieces of the arts of the joiner, the painter and the gilder.

Prior to this big excursion we had had the same lecturer for a morning trip through Paris to see famous buildings and monuments. We got out of the taxi to inspect the Pantheon, Notre Dame etc. We also saw the Jewish section.

At Dijon (where I wrote letter 6) a fair was set up the morning after we arrived. It covered much of the town and the narrow streets were converted into a scene of great activity. Now I know what my mother means by a "yireed". We took the train to Lyon, a city of 600,000 people, center for silks. We had the largest room I ever slept in. Dora thought the dinner was among the best she ever tasted. Another three-hour run brought us to Avignon, famous for the Palace of the Popes. Formerly popes summered there. Again we wandered through crooked little streets, enjoying the sights and buying post-cards.

In all these hotels they asked 85 francs for lodging, but when we protested, gave us a nice room, or rooms, for 60 francs. I had no difficulty getting my big American breakfast. I gave the manager a typed order the night before. Dinners in these hotels and luncheons on the trains were 22 francs (88c). They were worth almost double. On the train Marcus was charged only 50% for meals.

Our trip from Avignon to Cannes was a beautiful one. Again we managed to get window seats. The scenery kept changing in character--farms, rolling country, red hills, villages of red-roofed houses closely clustered together, and finally palm trees as we approached the Mediterranean. What a picture as the train swept around a curve and Cannes came into view! A Frenchman with a square black beared explained the principal landmarks to us. He also told us that the food at the Victoria was very fine. Mr. Robbins of "Europe on Wheels, Inc." had previously told us at the Felix that it was the best he had anywhere.

We finally got off and took a taxi. The first thing I noticed was that the initial charge on the meter, instead of being 2 was 3.90 francs and that it jumped a franc at a time instead of half a franc. Cannes taxi therefore cost about what they do in New York. We get somewhat "sore" if we are charged as much as we pay at home. Another expensive item in France is laundry (also in England) but the work is beautifully done.

We arrived at the Victoria. We had shipped our four bags onto the Cannes railroad station. The Madame was most attentive as she knew we were likely to stay a long time. She showed us different rooms and then installed us temporarily in a large room with bath. We made full use of the facilities that evening. The next day we chose two nice connecting rooms on the second floor. There is a small automatic elevator--but the French style do not come up when you press a button. A bellboy brings the car up when you ring.

The meals are quite up to the enthusiastic descriptions we had heard. Dora takes the French breakfast of coffee, rolls and confiture. Marcus and I have a full breakfast, and I may remark that the boy eats very well. The chief meal of the day is luncheon. Well, every luncheon is a banquet. About seven different hors-d'oeuvre are placed before us. They are delicious. Then comes some type of fish or omelette or other delicacy. After that the main course of chicken or other meat comes on, with a suitable vegetables. After that, cheese, dessert and a basket of fruit, four or five different kinds, some of them unfamiliar to us. Supper is somewhat lighter (which is not a bad idea) but there is a soup, fish, meat, vegetables, dessert and fruit. We have coffee only in the morning and seem not to miss the three cups a day. Perhaps we are better off. Marcus gets a glass of milk also at a shop at four.

Of course I must mention that we sit outdoors with no overcoats or sweaters on. Marcus does his school work right after breakfast. Dora and he sit on a terrace in the sun with a beach umbrella to keep the sun off his books. Then we walk two blocks to the beach. The sun is brilliant and gets warm. We had to get Marcus a pair of attachable sun-glasses. We stroll or read or investigate what the town has to show us. Yesterday we looked over the Cannes Harbor with its hundreds of fine yachts.

The people at the hotel are almost all American or English. I wish there were more natives as it would help me in my French. However, there is French spoken a good bit, too. I took a French lesson for the first time in Cannes and was pleased to hear from the seventy-year-old Mademoiselle that my accent was unusually excellent and my knowledge surprising. She spoke in French to me--but not at her fastest speed.

"Man proposes and God disposes". I thought that for my long stay at the Riviera I would be lodged in a family pension on the outskirts of Cannes, surrounded by French people and dining contentedly off a red-and-white checkered tablecloth, my napkin changed twice weekly. Instead we are at a fine hotel in the heart of Cannes, with the head waiter in a Tuxedo and others in spotless white and first-class service. New faces appear daily. When "the season" is on Cannes will be very gay. At present many hotels are still closed.

The American Express office is six minutes' walk from the hotel. We found only two notes, both on business, the first day. We got in touch with Mrs Medalie (Dora's partner's older sister) whose two sons attend a public school here. We are to see her again today. We all feel well and look it. I hope you all are well.



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