The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

The 4th of July and Americans on the Riviera

It seems appropriate that today I should write about our American friends on the Riviera, being their National Day n'all.  Well, not literally our personal US friends, but the legacy and influence of Americans on the Côte d'Azur over the years.

             us flag

We have the Americans to thank for creating the summer scene on the Côte d'Azur.  Until the 1920s  it was only fashionable to spend time here during the winter.  The British put the Riviera on the map in the Victorian era by promenading along the sea front between October and April but the Americans made it fun.  Led by Cole Porter, they revolutionised the region by showing that the best time to visit was summer. They invented water skiing in Juan les Pins and actually spent time on the beaches, wearing scandalously little clothing which would have been unthinkable only years before.

                  waterskiing

There are plenty of places you can visit to follow in the footsteps of these pioneering Americans.  Here are just a few:

The Cap d'Antibes and Juan les PIns.  Cole and Linda Porter stayed in the Château de la Garoupe above the beach of the same name on the Cap d'Antibes in 1921-22 inviting many friends to stay, including Gerald and Sara Murphy.  The Murphys came back the following year and stayed in the Hotel du Cap, which is the setting for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.  The Fitzgeralds themselves lived in what is now the Hotel Belles-Rives In Juan les Pins.

       belles-rives

Nice: Promenade des Anglais and Old Town.  Despite being invented by the British, the Prom has American history too.  It was here, in 1927,  that the dancer Isadora Duncan died when her scarf got caught in the spokes of a back wheel in the car she was in, breaking her neck.  

Louisa May Alcott stayed in Nice in 1865-1866 and described the Promenade des Anglais in Little Women.

     nice-palais-de-la-mediterranee-annees-50

The fabulous Art Deco Palais de la Méditerranée on the Prom was built by Frank Jay Gould in 1928.  It was the biggest American investment on the Riviera at the time costing the equivalent of $54 million in today's money.  Gould also built the Provençal in Juan les Pins which sadly has had a chequered recent history, being an unfinshed renovation site for as long as I've lived in the area (6 years), and longer.  (As a little aside, it was in fact the reason we moved to the Côte d'Azur as JF was transferred from his Paris office to work on this particular project).

Thomas Jefferson stayed in the Old Town of Nice in 1787 when it was part of Piedmont, eighty odd years before it became part of France.   He was here to study rice cultivation and commented "the wine of Nice is remarkably good.  You may pass many days here very agreeably.  It is in fact an English Colony".

      mc

I can't talk about Americans on the Riviera without mentioning Monaco.  America has produced two princesses within Europe's longest reigning monarchy.  Alice, Duchess of Richelieu, was born Alice Heine in New Orleans.  She married Prince Albert in 1889 and helped make Monaco an important cultural centre. But most famously of all, the beautiful film star Grace Kelly from Philadelphia, married Prince Rainier in 1956.  The publicity this brought to the tiny sovereign state was priceless and it transformed its tourist industry putting Monte Carlo firmly on the world stage of glamour.

For all my American friends and readers, Happy 4th of July!  I hope you've enjoyed hearing about some of your fellow citizens who've helped make the Riviera the great place it is today.

 

Image of Stars and Stripes par Bobby Mikul   Photo of the Palais de la Méditerranée courtesy of NiceRendezVous.com              Photo of Monaco courtesy of chronofoot.com

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Guest
    Delia @ Blog Formatting Saturday, 13 July 2013

    I enjoyed reading this post and learning about this great place. Must be a superb place to visit.

  • Tamsin
    Tamsin Sunday, 07 July 2013

    I went to France way back in 1981! I can well remember my time in Monaco and the beautiful beach. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Delighted to have taken you down memory lane Tamsin. I imagine Monaco has changed enormously since 1981, it never seems to stop building on reclaimed land. But it's still a spectacular place. You should come back for a visit!

  • Guest
    Akilah Sunday, 07 July 2013

    Great post I live learning the history of places and the American influence on the French Rivera is really cool to learn about.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    I'm glad you enjoyed it Akilah :)

  • Guest
    Tracie B Thursday, 04 July 2013

    I don't know much about this area, but I enjoyed learning a little more. It would be fascinating to live in such a beautiful place.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Tracie, I appreciate it.

  • Guest
    Thomas Thursday, 04 July 2013

    Another very interesting and informative blog. Thanks phoebe.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 04 July 2013

    :)

  • Guest
    Francene Stanley Thursday, 04 July 2013

    It took me a while to get your site to load, but it's fine now, five mins later. I love the pictures of the Riviera. I enjoyed learning about all the people who contributed to the way it is today. Visiting from UBC. http://475035832790540880.weebly.com/blog.html

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 04 July 2013

    Hi francene, sorry my site took a while to load, but thanks for persevering! I appreciate it.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 04 July 2013

    Hi Judith, yes, I live on the French Riviera (also known as the Côte d'Azur) and blog about it's wonderfulness as well as other aspects of France and French culture (and expat life, children and many other things!) We don't have fireworks on the 4th of July but we do on the 14th which is France's National Day. Thanks for commenting :)

  • Guest
    Judith P. Thursday, 04 July 2013

    I wonder, is the French Riviera this Riviera in your post too? I am not quite familiar with this part of the world but I have heard of course of the Riviera in my readings, in the movies and in watching TV. I know it's a famous vacation spot in Europe. The pictures are beautiful. Do they have fireworks there for the 4th of July too?

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