Fab-Oh so Vintage!

20190325_105026-1 (1) The Cours Saleya in Nice is most famous for its flower market. One claim to fame is I believe, the scene filmed walking through here in that famous movie with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. It was during the filming she was first introduced to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Although the site itself has been in existence at least since its mention in Napoleonic texts from as early as 1714, it became a fruit  vegetable and flower market in 1861.

Every Monday it gives the space over to the Brocanteurs, or flea market stalls, a mix of antiques, bric-a brac and Vintage. The prices, obviously geared to the supposedly wealthy tourists and to discourage professionals from buying to resell are not cheap, that is, by my modest standards. However bargains can still be found. Getting to know certain vintage stall holders helps. As a local I am after all, an all year round potential customer and business, even during the busiest seasons is not brisk. Most people are there to browse.

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This Gucci shoulder bag in mint condition for € 450 may seem like a lot of cash to have in your pocket. Price wise, for a collector or passionate vintage fan its a way to afford a unique piece, the ‘It’ bag you would love forever. The original would have cost you over four times that new. A turquoise painted silk Celine skirt can be bargained down from €80 to €60 for example, or a 60’s print cotton frock from €45 to €30, more in my affordable price range. Silk scarves abound, the more pricey Hermès of course but real gems in silk chiffon with Paris labels for as little as €2 can be discovered in box’s piled with assorted finds. Fifties Georgette in fab colors, a purple jersey silk with designer label great for tying around your hair, floral squares in splashy retro prints. If you love vintage jewelry, especially broaches, in themselves a vintage concept, there are hundreds on display on various stalls along with objects of interest, accessories and clothing, jackets and furs to browse to your hearts content.

 

Plan to arrive early before the tourist crush in summer.  Even though some stall holders may still be unpacking at 9.30 this is preferable to a later arrival. Once the leisurely holiday  petite dejeuner is over you will find it impossible to move forward more than a few paces at a time, or to view without hindrance .

Across the square of the Palais de Justice, the city courthouse, situated at the end of Cours Saleya is a delightful patisserie and gelato shop. Small tables outside in the shade, you can enjoy a single scoop of the flavor of your choice and an Italian stretto, the most intense Italian coffee, before heading home.

 

A Novel Bookstore and Last Train from Liguria

One of the most fortunate purposes of literature is to bring like-minded people together and get them talking.

I quote the above from the book by Laurence Cossé, translated into English by Alison Anderson ( also translated : The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry).

A Novel Bookstore was one of my two most recent and delightful discoveries in the English section of my local library.

The sadly sparse shelves at first appear to reveal nothing of interest. Suddenly my eye is drawn to a title, The Last Train from Liguria is a second case in point. This coastal area from the Italian frontier beyond Menton in France is not only known but dearly loved by me. I  lived for a short while in Bordighera where much of the book is set and cannot even begin to enumerate the times I have taken that delightful coastal train back to France. I was delighted to confirm my impression that nothing had really changed of its landscape, architecture or quiet ambiance since the years between the wars. Although the fatal rise of fascism and Mussolini in 1938 marred its history for a while the town survives today much as it was then.

Three main protagonists, two of them contemporaries, lead us through this beautifully written story of tragedy and love. I am convinced on the first page as Bella arrives in Bordighera for the first time.

‘ Bella, Bella,’ everything was Bella to the Italians she reflects. So completely opposite to her mundane life in Dublin. How these people embraced and savored all of life! Beauty is everything, seen in everything. Even a bride, not in herself beautiful, was Bella simply because she was a bride and all brides were beautiful. These words rang so true in my personal experience of Italy and the Italians I had observed and met while living and visiting there. It is was why I am never happier than when I am there.

I am not going to recount or review this book which traces back and forth between generations and only reveals its secret at the very end.  I only point out that Annabella, the third protagonist, living in mid 1990’s Dublin and who’s relationship with the past slowly unravels, is the only jarring note for me. I found it impossible to understand the reasons for her slovenly behavior, attitudes, mores and language. Otherwise the book to me was without fault. It left unsaid the things that were beyond words. I  would have loved it for that alone.

The Paths to the past have been long closed.

And what good is the past to me now?

From the forward poem by Anna Akhmatova.

 

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The wealth of literary encouragement for those of us who love to write would alone justify reading A Novel Bookstore. However, this startlingly original and surprising novel is rich with characters and wonderfully drawn portraits of French life with a wealth of often amusing insights by a French writer for those of us who, even after years living here, are sometimes baffled by our adopted countrymen.

I am aware that it is not permitted to reproduce more than brief quotes due to copyright laws and therefore restrain myself to only one more below. I shall instead, keep and review my own notes from this book as I continue to struggle at this craft in the face of enormous odds against me in today publishing world. A world incidentally, so succinctly described by the voices of the two principal actors in the story.

Literature is a source of pleasure, it is one of the rare inexhaustible joys in life. Everything is there. That is why I never use the word fiction. Every subtlety in life is material for a book

 

 

 

Port de Nice

 

20190225_170255 One of the compensations of my room without a view is that the entrance to my building opens onto the Port de Nice.

The big shiny yachts, both sailing and motor are moored on the far side, closer to the road leading to the Point and the famous promenade. I cross the street from the steps of my entrance way to the colorful local fishing boats , an endless source of delight to me, both in their evocative names and gorgeous colors. At the far end of the quay, local fishermen are at work on the slip, preparing, repairing and repainting for the coming season. The distinctive wing-like shape of their craft, characteristic of the style Niçoise, is unchanged , perfectly in harmony with the sea.

Seagulls glide overhead and suddenly I am transported to my childhood. I am walking beside my father. His sailors gait, hands in pockets, half whistling a tune under his breath as without need for speech we absorb every nuance.The sky, perhaps cloudy or clear, the wind, perfect for sailing. The boats examined closely, if from afar. The shiny ring or hefty hawser, the bollards stone smoothed by who knows how much time, centuries perhaps? Gaining the same simple enjoyment of beauty and of being and of all life.

I was born in a fishing port like this once was and perhaps this is why I remember those walks with my father. That picturesque town remains one of the last homes to a commercial fishing fleet on the South Coast of England. These men belong to that same age, preparing their small boats as their grandfathers before them. I look up, trying not to let my sudden tears well up and fall. Sunlight glints, reflected through a seagulls wings and I feel the joy my father would have felt to be here now. Now that the years of my life have flown away and brought me, perhaps finally here, alone, yet rich with memories of the past and joys in the present.

 

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