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


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