“With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s live seems to be going well.”
So reads the quotation engraved in marble in the lobby of the Hotel Belles Rives in the Riviera town of Juan-Les-Pins. Its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, rented the hotel when it was still a private villa in the summer of 1925. His time in this part of France served as inspiration for both my favourite novel Tender is the Night, and the parties “among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars” that featured his most famous work: “The Great Gatsby”.
Hardcore Fitzgerald fans may have caught the fact that the name of this blog is taken from a Gatsby quote, so I couldn’t very well not stop by the Belles Rives for a drink when I was staying down the road in Antibes last summer.
There was a wedding going out at the hotel on the evening we stopped in and it looked like so much fun. We’d been at a wedding earlier that week at the Royal Riviera Hotel on Cap Ferrat and as you might imagine, the Cote d’Azur is an extremely romantic and very atmospheric place to get married.
Fortunately the Fitzgerald Bar wasn’t being used for the celebrations, so we pulled up seats by the window and watched the sun slowly begin to set over Roman Abramovich’s superyacht in the distance while we sipped on bellinis. It was a gorgeous ending to one of many gorgeous Riviera days.
I also really enjoyed looking around at the photos of Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda, their daughter Scotty and their literary party set from their own time on the coast.
I said this already on Instagram but it bears repeating here. I first read “Tender is the Night” 15 years ago and ever since have been waiting for a book to replace it in my affections. Waiting, waiting, and… nothing. I even did an English Literature degree and there wasn’t a book that came close (so I just ended up writing a whole bunch about this one instead). I find this really weird, as I can’t think of anything else I loved when I was 14 that am I still crazy about now.
I won’t write any more about Fitzgerald here (because as I said above, I’ve already done a whole lot of that). Instead I’ll just leave this quote of his here instead, which while not being from “Tender is the Night”, perfectly captured the view from the window of the bar that now bears his name:
“This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-silk stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children’s eyes. From the western half of the sky the sun was shying little golden disks at the sea — if you gazed intently enough you could see them skip from wave tip to wave tip until they joined a broad collar of golden coin that was collecting half a mile out and would eventually be a dazzling sunset.”
And if you like that, go find its source and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed.