(I wrote this last Friday but with Easter and all I decided to wait to post until today).
It's early morning here in Dublin and the sun is beating through our windows. From the temperature in our apartment, you'd find it hard to believe that it's only 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside (I still can't think in Celsius, but my converter tells me it's about 18 degrees C). I lay for a while in bed with my eyes closed, listening to the traffic outside my window, enjoying the warm air and feeling comfortable without being covered in blankets and sheets. Then the wind picked up and through the open window, it drowned out the sound of the traffic below. So much so that lying there with my eyes closed, I imagined myself somewhere entirely different. Sun on my legs, warm air, gentle breeze, and the breeze sounding like the ocean instead of the wind: perfect. Just the mental vacation I'm craving.
That perfect feeling immediately brought be back to May 2002. The place: Nice, France. The setting: lounging on a nautical-striped lounge chair on Nice's rocky beach. The company: Tara, Kate and Pareen - my three travel amigas who I met studying in Paris that spring (they're all George Washington University alums - we were so excited to spend our senior year hanging out in DC together).
The four amigas - girls how is this one of the only photos I have of the 4 of us together?
The event: Kate's 21st birthday. We were in the mood to celebrate and we didn't think that waiting until the evening to start was appropriate at all. So, at 10:30AM on a beach in Nice, we helped Kate start celebrating by ordering the most delicious, decadent strawberry sundae - we might have helped her eat it, too.
Kate and the swoon-worthy sundae
I don't know what it is about that moment but it's one I often think of and when I do I just feel happy. We were 20 and 21 years old, carefree and happy. None of us had significant others and we all were just having a fantastic time doing what single girls do best, whatever that is. :) We had just finished studying in Paris and this was our last excursion as a group before hopping back across the ocean (or the Irish sea, in my case) to enjoy the rest of the summer before senior year started. We enjoyed that day in Nice so much. We strolled along the promenade and I bought posters to bring back to hang in my apartment (which I didn't have then) - I saved them and eventually framed them and if you've been in our home in the last 5 years you've seen them for yourself.
We also hopped over to Cannes to do some celeb spotting at the Cannes Film Festival which was in full swing:
The only photographic proof I have of the festival. That was as close as we got and in the days before digital cameras, I didn't waste a shot!
I'm sure we saw plenty of people that I'd come to know but didn't at the time, but I can say with certainty that I saw Jack Nicholson and Eva Mendes (who was in a beautiful coral colored gown, alas no photos to prove it, you'll just have to take my word!). We spent the day wandering around Cannes and plotting how we were going to get ourselves onto one of the many yachts docked off the shore for the parties later on. We graciously decided that we didn't want to detract from the big winners and instead chose to keep it more low-key on the shore. ;)
We also went on an expedition to Monaco, which was simply amazing and beautiful.
I was quite excited to see Monaco for a couple of reasons. For the few years I spent growing up in London, our next door neighbors were an elderly couple - Ivan was from an aristocratic Hungarian family who came to London in the late 30s, and Muriel was English as far back as she knew. And, my parents tell me, they lived quite the life. They had the kind of life that I'm sure wouldn't be too far off the one that Madeline Felkay had (remember this post I wrote last week?) - minus the fleeing to the United States part. Ivan chose London, instead, to be with Muriel (romantique, non?). I remember that their flat had lots of dark wood and gilt furniture. I remember distinctly how it smelled, even now a quarter of a century later. The distinguished gentleman next door passed away not long after we moved back to Ireland, but his wife survived him by ten years, and as we spent every summer and winter in England when I as a child, she came to stay with us for most of them. Many early Christmases that I remember include her, too, until she passed away in 2000 at the grand age of 95. How I would love to meet her now and learn all about her life - she was a lady of another era, indeed. When she passed away, she left my mother a beautiful Hermes scarf, and somewhere I still have some ribbons from Austria that she gave me one Christmas - they were like none I ever saw before. They have an interesting story and he had a very fascinating family (or sibling, at least). I think they might even deserve a post all of their own...
But I digress a little...our dear old Hungarian friends were very much in my mind during our short visit to Monaco because every single year they holidayed in Monaco, and they stayed here, at the Hotel Hermitage in their "best room", as they used to say. So, I had to see it with my own (rather envious) eyes and document it photographically, of course:
We climbed atop Monaco's highest hills to visit the Palais de Monaco, and while it was beautiful, the most exciting part for me was that I was actually in the former home of Princess Grace, revered style icon and beauty extraodinaire. We then dined near the Casino de Monte Carlo, and discovered the delights of muscadet wine, which - I'm certain - gave us the courage to enter Casino's atrium to try our hands at the slot machines. I kept imagining James Bond sweeping in, stopping on his way (blinded by our beauty, natch) to escort us to the salon privés where we'd bet thousands without batting an eye. Thankfully 007 didn't show up that night as I don't think I would have gotten through the doors in my white peasant top and linen skirt (hey - it was the early noughties, no judgement please!).
Kate and I oustide the Casino de Monte Carlo
We retired from the casino (30 euros richer - high rollers!!) and continued our adventure much in the same way we did in Cannes: by planning how we would get onto one of the thousands of yachts in the harbour to party the night away in true style! Alas, no handsome millionaires came to our rescue, so we four single gals on student budgets headed back on the train to Nice and our little 2* hotel and dreamt of all the things that almost had happened in Monaco. We did wake up to this, it's no Hotel Hermitage, but it's definitely not bad for a 2*.
Finally we had to say à bientôt to our beloved French Riveria. I have yet to return, but it is firmly on my list of places to visit and rediscover. I am grateful, however, for this little trip down memory lane to revisit one of my favorites...it's amazing where a sunny day in Dublin can take you.