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.




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