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CULT OF PLEASURE
PLEASURE RESORTS OF EUROPE
BIARRITZ, THE HAUNT OF ROYALTY
SPAIN SUMMERS AT SAN SEBASTIAN
FOX-HUNTING AND BULL-FIGHTS
AIR LINE FROM PARIS TO MADRID
TROUVILLE-DEAUVILLE, THE NEWPORT OF FRANCE
BRIGHTON AND ITS BATH CHAIRS
DUTCH SOCIETY GOES TO SCHEVENINGEN
"REAL FRENCH VICHY"
LUCERNE AND ITS EMBROIDERY SHOPS
MEDITERRANEAN CHAIN OF WINTER RESORTS
THE RIVIERA QUARTETTE
THE WOMAN'S PARADISE
NICE THE BEAUTIFUL
A COUNTRY DEVOTED TO PLEASURE
CITIES OF PLEASURE – EUROPEAN WATERING-PLACES
THE Cult of Pleasure occupies an important place in the scheme of things European; with us it is only an incident which enters, like many others, into our lives. We still feel a little ashamed to be overjoyous at home; indeed the means of enjoying ourselves is woefully lacking, and it is not always possible to get some one to "play with us," nor are playgrounds sufficiently numerous to hold for long the mercurial American who craves the champagne-like exhilaration of novelty. Neither Palm Beach nor Atlantic City (Newport does not count for the masses) stand for anything against the dazzling array of pleasure resorts across the water, with their cosmopolitan cloud of revolving satellites.
It is at this moment, when we crave amusement the most, that we pack our trunks and take the fastest steamer for some European port. That old English idea that the "grand tour" of Europe was necessary to complete the education of a gentleman has become modified by the modern woman to include these three things – change, relaxation and pleasure. A study of man and womankind is quite as much of an education at times, and often a good deal more amusing, than to keep one's nose always buried in a guide-book amidst the malaria of stale facts. Such an elusive thing as pleasure must be hunted down with wisdom. Europe has the secret and is ready for the pleasure-seeker with a chain of pleasure capitals that is never ending.
The English expression, "watering-place," has a rather bucolic sound. That of the French is better; "ville d'eau" is certainly prettier and more imaginative, far more so than the German spa. All, however, spell pleasure.
The gayest, most worldly, most fashionable of these resorts are in France. This may be due to the Gallic temperament and surroundings, for France is not afraid to promote those risqué amusements that add a piquancy to the frivolous life of the gadabout that a more conventional nation is apt to banish from home, though her peoples are quite ready to seek them out under the French tricolour.
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" are words which mean what they say and are truly to be applied to French pleasure resorts.
France has the greatest variety of climate of any European country. This also makes possible, and profitable, her great array of pleasure resorts. All the world must come to her exquisite Mediterranean winter resort – the Riviera – in spite of the counter attractions of Egypt, Tunis and Algeria. For all the year round watering-places there are none that rank beside those of the equable climate of the French slopes of the Pyrenees. As a summer bathing-place of an ultra-fashionable type, nothing approaches Trouville. For the most approved modern "Cure," which can be taken in full dress, so to speak, Aix-les-Bains, in the beautiful French Alps, has no peer, unless it be Vichy in mid-France. There are dozens of other springs and baths here, too, whose repute is based more modestly only on their health-giving properties. Paris, for long the only great city of pleasure, still draws all classes of amusement seekers to her, and a centrifugal force throws them off again tangently all over Europe on the same joyous quest.
Americans are only beginning to know Biarritz, in the Basque country, the furthermost corner of southwestern France, hemmed in between the purple Pyrenees and the mists which roll up off the Bay of Biscay. Biarritz prides itself upon its exclusiveness; so fearful has it been of a contaminating popularity that it is only within a few months that it has enjoyed the luxury of direct railway communication with the outside world. Fashion first went to Biarritz by private carriage, then by automobile, but now it goes by rail without change of cars.
From the beginning royalty, as much as any other element, has made Biarritz famous. The late Edward VII set the recent fashion, for he never cared for the French Riviera; Leopold, king of the Belgians, of gay memory, had too much pre-empted that land of the Roulette Wheel as his own special hunting ground, and it is also whispered that formerly there was a too much emphasised maternal solicitude radiating from Cimiez' Grand Hotel, above Nice, where Queen Victoria used to winter. Thus it was that Albert Edward when he became Britain's king picked on Biarritz, with its soft, mild air, as an antidote to the raw springtime of his homeland. He also found it a congenial place to which to retire with a circle of choice friends.
Where the King goes society follows; individual preference is sunk in the loyal obedience to that which has the stamp of royal approval. The English, once having got in the habit, still come in crowds to Biarritz.
From San Sebastian, Spain's royal resort just across the border from Biarritz, Alfonso, the Spanish Monarch, used to come frequently to visit his English brother King. The royal automobiles, like shuttles, ran back and forth over the international bridge between Hendaye and Irun, linking up the dozen or twenty kilometres that separate the two resorts.
Later, when Manuel of Portugal had greatness thrust upon him, he made the third of the royal trio at Biarritz. Grave questions of State of three nations were discussed on the golf links of the Basque resort, and along the winding walks, beside the red and ochre-coloured rocks that skirt the pale grey waters of Biscay's Bay. The privacy of the monarchs was respected to the extent that the crowd seemed not even to notice that they were there. It is easy to see that Biarritz was not at that time overrun with Americans; one could hardly imagine an American watering-place crowd exercising such restraint.
It is only as a change from the English winter that Biarritz comes so to the fore as a "winter station." Its climate is fairly mild and even, but the grey clouds roll in from the sea, and the green combers break up on the shore, bringing in their train a superabundance of fine, misty rain which keeps a perennial dampness ever on hand.
Biarritz is at its best and gayest in summer, when the Spaniards come across the frontier from the arid rocks and burning sands of their own land to bask in the balsamic odours of the neighbouring pine forests, or amid the sweet-scented magnolia trees of the gardens of the town.
French society, too, comes in summer. "Biarritz is too English in the winter," say the Latins, with a shrug of their shoulders. Their complaint as to the denationalisation of this little corner of their land is not without some humour. Besides, the Riviera is the chic wintering place for the French. They can do the round of the Mediterranean resorts during the chilly months, and in the late spring get around to the Pyrenees and be free from June onwards for Biarritz. The Russian aristocracy crowd in also; they are to be found everywhere but in their own country, but this they lay to their climate, though a matter of real note, the Russians are the greatest sports in Europe, and nowhere can they get that variety of gay life which they like so well in anything like the degree of free-handedness and luxuriance that can be had in the French resorts.
The Empress Eugénie first made Biarritz the fashion when summering here in the uncertain days of the Second Empire. The only remaining souvenir of her reign is a big hotel, remodelled and enlarged from the once royal villa.
These were the beginnings of the Biarritz of ultra-exclusiveness, of royalties and Spanish grandees, and from this it has blossomed out into one of the liveliest watering-places of Europe. Here is sport to please all tastes. The English who carry their sports all around the world with them, as they do the cut of their clothes, have imported fox-hunting into the neighbourhood, and the red shores of the sandy Landes around Biarritz are harassed by as correct a "hunt" of red-coated sportsmen as were ever seen in an English 'shire. Thus English society when it winters abroad is not deprived of its favourite amusement. There is golf, of course, for nearly every resort in Europe has been obliged to lay out golf links and import a professional, usually a Scot, to look after it, as the hotel keepers have been forced to install bathrooms.
Aëroplanes vie with automobiles in keeping things humming above and below. The air line from Paris to Madrid is by the way of Biarritz and San Sebastian. The national sport of the Basques is pelote, a charming game, reminiscent of squash, where the ball is batted to the wall by the players wearing long wicker gloves, somewhat like the flippers of a seal. At Biarritz it is at its best, and the bull-fighting is by no means third rate. The bathing is delicious in summer, which it is not on the north coast of Europe. Here one bathes in the open, not from a bathing machine.
The promenade at Biarritz – always the centre of the "life" of a resort, is not the usual long, straight, windy walk. It winds picturesquely over rocks, between flower beds and over rustic bridges thrown from spur to spur. Society dresses for dinner and strolls on foot or rides in some sort of a vehicle up and down before the long line of hotels.
Expensive, Biarritz? Well, say ten dollars a day, if you really want to be in the swim, literally and figuratively, and as much more as you will, less if you try hard to keep the figure down. The Englishwoman of small income says that one can fare well at a certain modest little hotel for a dollar and a half a day, but it is not for this that one chiefly comes to Biarritz; rather it is for the life of the great hotels, and divertisements that in luxuriousness throw a glamour about things in a way that suggests ceremonious society functions more than the mere commercial transactions with hotel keepers.
San Sebastian is the Spanish counterpart of Biarritz, the nation's one fashionable seaside resort. It is tucked away in a corner just sufficient to allow of a breathing spot facing the cool waters of the north Atlantic. Here the flower of Spanish society relaxes in a manner amazing to the outsider. Spanish grandees, señoras and señoritas there disport themselves. Society apes things French, and the hotels are French in their appointments and cuisine. The only fairly good road in Spain leads from Madrid to San Sebastian, thus showing the importance of the resort in the eyes of Spain's automobiling monarch.
Between the two Basque resorts, one in France and one in Spain, there is a constant interchange of courtesies. The gay world of San Sebastian motors over to dance and play bridge at Biarritz, and in return extends the honours of her royal bull-ring to her French neighbour. The Spanish women plaster powder on their dark faces until they look ashen; they dress as nearly like Frenchwomen as they can, and, it is said, gamble with zest and pocket their winnings without remorse.
In spite of all this laxity, the young Spanish girl is chaperoned with astonishing severity. Society has abandoned the mantilla except for Mass, or at some gala performance at the bull-ring, when, however, only the white mantilla is the proper thing.
The Spaniards have apparently no objection to setting up a gambling concession on their borderland, but it is doubtful if they can ever hope to divert the golden stream from the little principality of Monaco, which would mean changing the course of the flood of tourists, who, like an endless caravan, have got the habit of marching up to the very doors of Monte Carlo's Casino before pulling up.
Between San Sebastian and Biarritz one can be as gay as one wishes. Prices are high in Spain for anything really good, and for this reason it is more satisfactory to see San Sebastian from Biarritz.
Trouville, in the North, is the Newport of France. It is not so exclusive as Biarritz, for it is too near Paris for that. For two months of the summer it is Paris-by-the-sea, but it is even gayer and more dashing, and a good deal more unconventional.
After the races at Longchamps in July, high society prepares for its summer exodus. It is obligatory for society to show itself at Trouville for at least a fortnight. At heart the French mondaine does not in the least care for outdoor life; she only looks upon it as a part of the social game, and her only thought of the seashore is that it is a new theatre for her activities, and that she will have an opportunity to dress for a new part.
The Frenchwoman does not relax to the detriment of her looks. There is no driving about bare-headed in automobiles, for she does not court tan nor sunburn. She sits on the sands at Trouville, under the bright, striped awning of an umbrella-like tent, with curtained sides, in a pliant – a folding-chair – or in a hooded wicker chair, with a becoming arrangement of cushions, but all the time correctly gloved and veiled. The Frenchwoman dreads nothing so much as the sun.
No sight of its kind is quite so gay as that of the sands of Trouville at four in the afternoon. Side by side with the discreet family groups and their carefully guarded, convent-bred daughters, the notables of the Paris demi-monde disport themselves on the beach in the most startling and briefest of costumes, of a kind suggestive of an aquatic vaudeville show. The tactics employed are reminiscent of the evening life along the Paris boulevards or in some popularly frequented restaurant.
One can bathe from one of a numbered row of bath-houses, little coop-like cages, or from a "bathing machine," while there are on all sides sturdy Norman fishermen hanging about, whose business it is to carry the timid out into the surf and teach them to swim – of course at a fixed price. The foreign feminine bathing costume is startlingly abbreviated, frequently consisting of but one tight garment. Stockings are not obligatory and by no means the custom, though canvas shoes or sandals are always worn. This necessitates the bathrobe being worn down to the water's edge, there to be dropped in a heap on the sand, or left in charge of a maid. Once in the water all deficiencies of costume are supposed to be hidden.
Villa life is a feature of Trouville for those who desire any approach to quietness or exclusiveness, but the Hôtel des Roches Noires is the centre of movement, and all the world and his wife is to be found there at one time or another of the day, or at the Casino, trying their luck at "Petits Cheveux," harmless enough if taken in small doses, and always a characteristic feature of a Continental resort, and one which must at least be tried once in order to fully sample the flavour of a French City of Pleasure.
From Trouville one motors out to the Ferme Saint Simon for luncheon, and round about in all directions is the charming Norman countryside, with thatch-roofed, half-timbered, quaint old Norman houses.
At Deauville, Trouville's twin, just down the coast, is the summer capital of rank and fashion. Here on the famous seaside race-track is run the Grand Prix of the French provinces, the race attracting quite as much of the sporty, dressy element as is to be seen at Longchamps itself. This is peculiarly a phase of the summer life of Deauville-Trouville, as the twin towns are usually called.
Dinard, on the Breton coast, to the westward of Trouville, tries to be exclusive, and folk on limited income here make a brave showing, which, in the comforts and variety with which they surround their summer life, compares favourably with that of their plunging neighbours in Normandy, though, after all, the keynote of French seaside summer life is only to be heard in its most melodic form at Trouville and its neighbouring summer cities.
"England's Riviera" is a myth. It is not for a moment to be supposed that such a thing exists except in words. Brighton, "London-by-the-Sea," as it is called, is as far as the comparison can be justly carried. So far as England is concerned, Brighton is the "Queen of Watering-places," and affords an exemplification of the tradition that the English take their pleasure sadly. English smug society considers itself on the top wave of gaiety when it spends a week-end at Brighton. Saturday to Monday at the Metropole or the Grand, off and on during the winter, used to be the fashion, but the automobile has made it possible to make Brighton the end of a day's run down and back, with dinner at the Old Ship Inn, and so that rather faded hostelry has been furbished up anew and is more than running the modern establishments a close second. Brighton is supposed to be both a winter and summer resort-patronised by society in winter and trippers in summer, a tripper being one who travels on a cheap ticket with a return limit inconveniently near. Only by courtesy, and in contrast with the London winter, could Brighton be called a winter resort.
One of Brighton's chief amusements is being pushed about in a "bath chair," a contrivance on the order of a perambulator, but not so sociable as those of the "Board Walks" of America, as it only accommodates one. Nothing is considered more exclusive than a daily airing in a "bath chair," the name coming from its first appearance at the one-time fashionable resort of Bath. Afternoons are spent on the iron pier. Every English seaside place has a long pier jutting out into the water, where one sits and listens to the band. Glass-covered shelters are at intervals along the promenade, allowing sitting out in the almost daily rain; by shifting occasionally one may also avoid the most contrary winds that blow.
Hotel life lacks the French dash and brilliance, but the English have taken kindly to the great hotel at home as an amusement enterprise, and formality is relaxed to a degree unknown formerly. One is asked to make up bridge parties, and here the American woman can shine, if she so wishes. A weekend at the Metropole is not a bad change from London in February – if you cannot get down to the real Riviera in the south of France.
Bournemouth is farther to the westward, somewhat nearer the Scilly Isles, where the warm sweep of the Gulf Stream makes bloom the narcissus in the open air when the crocuses are hardly out in the same latitude inland. Bournemouth is a resort for invalids of the real and imaginary kind, and its attractions in consequence are of the most homeopathic nature. A stroll under the pines, or in the pretty sunken gardens, being trundled about in a bath chair, or an afternoon visit to the tea-shop, are about as stimulating as any of Bournemouth's amusements.
As a rest-cure the place is to be recommended, but it is totally unsuited to American taste, though middle-class English society desires nothing better than a month at Bournemouth. Like all English resorts it is expensive out of all proportion for what one gets.
Ostende, in Belgium, and Scheveningen, in Holland, are the only two outlets to the sea for north Germany, which has no pleasure city on her small seaboard, nor has Russia; consequently these two nations find their way to the Dutch and Belgian resorts. Ostende has probably the most beautiful beach (plage is the European word) of all. A magnificent brick-paved promenade – the Digue – stretches for a mile or more, on one side the vast expanse of smooth sand, and on the other a line of palatial hotels, the equal in price and appointments of any on earth.
A prolonged stay at Ostende would eat the very bottom out of one's purse. Its water front is most spectacular, and the little city stands alone as the most luxurious seaside resort of its type. It was in a fair way to become a northern Monte Carlo, and its proximity to London and the big wealthy cities of north Europe gave an excuse for high play. But its glory has faded since public gambling was put an end to a year or so ago by the suddenly aroused conscience of the Belgian Government. All the same, prices have not slumped at Ostende, and its unrivalled bathing facilities still attract a cosmopolitan crowd to brave the rather damp bathing season which hardly extends over more than sixty days of midsummer.
The open-air bath takes on a more decorous phase as one goes further towards the North Sea. This may be because of the chilling climate quite as much as a severer code of morals.
One bathes here exclusively from the bathing machine, a little house on wheels; you enter, a man hitches a horse, and the "machine" is taken on the run down into the surf. The horse and driver go back to dry land while you undress and step down into the water as if out of your own front door. You enter again and dress, and, at a prearranged time, the horse and man come and drag the "machine" out again. It is undoubtedly a most convenient way of bathing, though there are stories of these sea-horses taking fright and running out to open water, setting the bathing machine adrift. One hires a bathing machine by the hour, day, week or season, and temporarily it is one's castle.
Royalty often comes to Ostende, for royalty must bathe somewhere, and German princes don't care overmuch for the French resorts. The large Kursaal – the German influence is strong here – a large concert hall, built out over the water, is a place where one may listen to the world's finest summer orchestra and partake of light refreshments.
Just as an experience, a round of Ostende is amusing enough, though the passing traveller usually knows it only as one of the termini of a particularly unpleasant crossing of the Channel from England to the Continent.
Scheveningen being Dutch is a bit heavy and staid. Its peculiarity, at first glance, is the vast spawn of mushroom wicker chairs dotting the sands from the edge of the green-grey North Sea to the dykes which separate its waters from low-lying Holland to the rear. These chairs, like the bathing machines at Ostende, are rented for long or short periods, and such of the throng as do not find enjoyment in the rather glacial waters off-shore, are very comfortable indeed gazing at those who do from the depths of one of the curious chairs, wherein one is so sheltered from the winds that blow and the sun that burns, that they are otherwise quite indifferent to climatic conditions.
Scheveningen is the seaside suburb of Holland's dainty capital of the Hague. There are hotels at Scheveningen of an excellence approaching the best elsewhere; there is a Kursaal, too, of some magnificence, and an appreciably good orchestra. At the other end of the dyke is the fishermen's village, where the clumsy, broad-of-beam fishing-boats are drawn up on the beach, and tarry old salts group themselves picturesquely about the market place, where the day's catch is sold off by the "Dutch Auction" process, which is nothing more than beginning at the highest probable price that the fish might bring, with a descent down the scale if there are no offers at the higher prices.
At Scheveningen one's bathing-box is catered to by women, who go about, their arms full of towels and costumes for rent, each labelled with their name to facilitate sorting out.
The charge for the bath cabin here is twenty cents for a small one and fifty cents for one more commodious, while the rate for the mushroom basket chairs and a foot stool is twenty cents a day.
Across the heart of France, through vine-clad Burgundy and gripping the foothills of the Alps, one comes to Aixes-les-Bains, which has the reputation of being the wickedest place in Europe. Rival spas may or may not have set this gossip afloat, but one thing is certain; it sets the liveliest pace of any "cure" in Europe, and assuredly is not for that class of invalids which is in need of rest and quiet.
Its "cure" is a three weeks' course of baths, douches, and the usual routine which eases the pangs of gout, but the service of palanquins is an exclusive feature of Aix-les-Bains. The invalids are carried to and from the baths in a sort of curtained sedan chair by two uniformed bearers. One can step from bed into a palanquin at any unusual hour that a bath is prescribed, be carried to the bathing establishment and returned with a minimum of exertion. Automobiles are more plentiful than palanquins though, and a very small proportion of invalids form a part of the crowds that fill the magnificent hotels for the four months' season.
One is thus tempted to believe that Aix's grand thermal establishment is only a drawing card for the world which must be attracted thither, and that the health bogey is as good an excuse as any other; to claim to be able to put one's health to rights in three weeks, under the most luxurious of environments, is a good enough bait with which to catch the most sceptical.
Vichy has got Aix-les-Bains very close when it comes to the purveying of amusements and mineral waters, though Vichy's thirty millions of bottles sent out into the world each year have left its rival far behind. There is no question but that Vichy is to-day the less fashionable resort, though perhaps visited the more largely.
The usual attributes of a French watering-place are on their biggest scale here. The springs are State owned and controlled, and since there is no "Vichy" save the "Hopital," "Grand Grille" and "Celestins," it is needless to order "French Vichy," if that which has a right to the name is what is wanted.
Madame de Sévigné first gave the vogue to "Vichy "; since her day the wave of popularity has engulfed it as it has no other place of its class in France. The Hôtel Astoria, the Ambassadeurs and the Parc are as luxuriously fitted as those more expensive and more fashionable elsewhere, and though not cheap are decidedly good value.
A curious thing about the life of Vichy is that you pay for your baths on a sliding scale which more or less corresponds with the price which you pay for accommodations at your hotel. There seems reason in this.
Americans do not linger on at Vichy, but it is worthy of remark that one thousand five hundred of the species were registered at this most popular of French springs in the month of August of last year.
Switzerland's resorts take on one complexion in summer and another in winter. Some of us who know prefer them in winter.
Lucerne, of all other Swiss towns, heads the list as a stranger's capital. It has come forward remarkably in the last few years, though it has not, however, the thin excuse for being that has many another place of its class; there are no baths, nor tours to take; pure enjoyment is Lucerne's only invested capital, and its two magnificent hotels, the Schweitzerhof and the Luzernerhof, provide the luxurious living which is its natural accompaniment.
Amusements are plentiful enough, and Lucerne: is the gateway for automobiles coming down from the Rhine country and the Black Forest, bound Italywards via the St. Gothard Pass and vice versa. One can buy a season ticket and ride about the Lake of the Four Cantons on the fine steamers which are forever fussing about, as often and as much as one likes, for a very small sum, luncheon on board if desired.
The only practical passenger-carrying airship yet launched soars above Lucerne, and for two hundred francs – forty dollars – one may take a homeopathic flight out over the lake and back to the landing-place, if one puts so low a valuation upon one's life.
Lucerne's greatest amusement is the daily promenade along the tree-shaded quay, when all the middle and upper society of all nations, in the brightest and best of summer frocks, takes its airing between the hours of tea and dinner.
Lucerne being about the centre of civilised Europe lends itself naturally as a meeting-place, and its August crowd is cosmopolitan almost beyond belief to one who has not had acquaintance therewith.
At the tea hour the "lounges" and "halls" of the big hotels are full to overflowing. Motor launches on the lake are seemingly innumerable, and the funiculairs, up the Rigi or Pilatus, lose themselves above the clouds.
For the woman visitor there is always the diversion of the lace and embroidery shops, for Lucerne is one of the most important of retail outlets for the wares of St. Gall and Appenzell. As a drawing card the little embroideresses sit stitching away outside the lace shops. They serve somewhat naïvely their unacknowledged purpose of drawing customers inside, though in reality they may be considered as the taffy which draws the unsuspecting fly thither.
The Riviera quartette, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo and Menton, is the most attractive battery of European resorts indexed in the books of the globe-trotter. They are woman's paradise. One hundred and fifty miles of sea coast, from Marseilles to the Italian frontier, contains all that is superlative among the world's playgrounds.
This quartette of "stations d'hiver," as the French name their winter resorts, are unequalled among the world's cities of pleasure. The original development of this strip of Mediterranean coast line as a refuge for invalids fleeing from the foggy north has been lost sight of in a flood of amusements, which has of late rolled upon its shores, almost too strenuous for those halfway ill.
Americans have almost appropriated the region as their own, and whereas the aspect was formerly, and thoroughly, English, to-day it has decidedly the flavour of over the Atlantic. American trade is catered to by hotels, shops, automobile garages and tourist agencies.
There are no Baedeker "sights" here, not sufficient to account for the throngs. What antiquities there are discreetly in the background, and sightseeing is not a procedure which is allowed to interfere with more frivolous social functions.
Coming eastward, Cannes is the first of these winter stations, the most exclusive, most aristocratic resort in Europe. And in spite of this, Americans have been known to say that it was "too quiet." This means simply, if it means anything, that the real life of Cannes is not for the outsider. It is a life of villas, select clubs, exclusive hotel and restaurant dinners, teas at Rumplemeyer's, the "high life" of yachtsmen and women and the things that Russian Grand Dukes, German Princes and English Lords affect when they are holiday-making under congenial skies.
Here the aristocracy of Europe is at close range. As diversions there are golfing, automobiling, yachting, polo playing and aëroplaning. Cannes is the biggest and most famous yacht station on the Mediterranean, and the swellest craft of all nations that fly a flag are, at one time or another, to be seen moored to the Albert Edward Jetty, named for that great sportsman, Edward VII.
There is a five kilometre palm-tree-lined promenade, more attractive even than the celebrated Promenade des Anglais at Nice, and in the Allées, before the Municipal Casino, all the world saunters before and after the hour of tea, to see and to be seen.
For the small sum of one franc you may gamble at a homeopathic roulette wheel within the casino, or for ten dollars dine in the gorgeous restaurant of the establishment overlooking the blue Mediterranean waves, while at Rumplemeyer's one gets ices, cakes and tea at equally inflated prices.
Automobiles of the nobility and royalty of Europe are everywhere, but they carry no identifying number plates like those of plebeians; with a regal right they make what speed they will by a sort of international courtesy which grants them this privilege of the road.
All the way eastward from Cannes, across the Italian frontier, even unto Genoa, is a whole string of these pleasure cities, where white marble structures and palm-tree-lined promenades predominate. The worldly capital of them all is Nice.
"Nizza, la Bella," as the Italians called it when it was their own, caters for a quarter of a million strangers in a season which extends from November to May. A busy city on its own account, the tourists' capital in winter adds another population of like proportions, and there is a "movement" and a prosperity which is only to be admitted by acknowledging that the caring for the stranger is its chief industry.
One reason for the great popularity of Nice is that it is within a half-hour's ride of that restricted little metropolis of Monte Carlo. A wave of the same worldly atmosphere as that at Monte Carlo also envelopes Nice, and when its winter population is not sauntering in gay clothes on the celebrated Promenade des Anglais, it is at the Casino, where, for a franc entrance fee, considerably less if you are a "subscriber," you may spend as much or as little as you will and need not feel that you are missing anything by not being at Monte Carlo itself.
A sort of glorified glass-house, or conservatory, Nice's Casino is virtually an indoor palm garden. Little wicker tables and chairs are set about temptingly, and one falls naturally before them, and orders tea and toast or a "quart Vichy," or whatever one's favourite tipple may be for the moment, meanwhile listening to the orchestra and gazing at the marching and counter-marching throng who make this part of their daily round as much a feature of their existence as getting up and going to bed.
In chapel-like alcoves down either side of this great glass-domed room is worshipped the God of Chance. "Roulette" and "Boule" and "Petits Chevaux" here divide the claims for attention, the latter being by far the favourite, thought it does seem childish to see grown men and women occupy themselves so intently on little tin horses whirling around on a central pivot, in the hope that the one which is painted red, or green, or blue, will stop nearest the winning post. Like Monte Carlo's game, the odds are very much against the player.
What Nice lacks in refinement it makes up in a generous display of the things that attract and amuse the winter idler, and with that one cannot find fault. All is luxurious and expensive, but not one single phase is exclusive. Money is the open sesame to all.
The shops of Nice will not prove the least potent of the lodestones of this winter capital by the sea. Chiefly, they are branches of those of the Rue de la Paix and the Rue Royal at Paris, and the doors of many blazon names the most famous in the world of the luxurious shopper. Prices for really exclusive things, whether they be jewels, gowns or hats, if bought at Nice are apt to be a little in excess of what they would be in Paris. The game is one of money again, and nothing is good value for what one pays in Nice. A large part of one's expenditures here are only properly to be charged off to unpremeditated follies, but often these are worth paying for, or thought to be, so not every one will complain. There is no difficulty at Nice in supplying one's most peculiar pet taste.
The little principality of Monaco, with an area scarce four and a half by one and a half miles, placed like a jewel in the centre of the chain of Riviera resorts, enjoys the unique distinction of being a land whose interests are entirely devoted to amusement. The reigning monarch, the army, church and municipal government are virtually maintained by returns gained from the gambling concession, which itself is supported by contributions from all the world. On this foundation the princely house of Grimaldi is built.
That it is the most beautiful spot in the world carries small weight beside the fact that the roulette wheel of Monte Carlo's Casino is the whirling magnet that draws uncounted numbers to these parts. Even the most puritanical of women will want at least to "see the inside" of Monte Carlo's Casino, and this one may do without male escort. It would seem as though it ought to be easy to walk freely into an establishment that exists only for the express purpose of relieving visitors of their money, but the formalities of the procedure here actually take fifteen or twenty minutes. At the entrance is drawn up an army of officials, imperturbable but watchful. You are turned into a businesslike office – more officials. Before a long desk, as if you were going to open an account in a bank rather than deplete one, a clerk asks for some means of identification – a visiting card is sufficient – demands your home address and as to where you may be stopping.
All this he records minutely, and during the process you have been subjected to a piercing scrutiny.
No girl under eighteen may enter, so if one's looks are too youthful, or her skirts too short, she may have some difficulty in convincing the administration that she has reached the age of discretion. So, too, if you are just off your automobile, and happen to be too much wrapped up in a cloud of veiling, you may be politely asked to unwrap. All this means that the officials wish to have every sure means at hand of identification in case the suicide of an unknown takes place in some secluded spot in their beautiful gardens.
At last you are handed a properly made out entrance card. If you have a camera it must be checked. Minions in unobtrusive uniforms haunt your steps, and you sense the unpleasant feeling of being watched. At the entrance to the Salles de Jeu you are stopped again, while another official scrutinises your card, finally throwing open the door and ushering you within as if it were your appearance at some private function. Once inside, your movements are no longer hampered. You may stroll about through the long suites of rooms, from the five-franc roulette tables to the twenty-franc trente-et-quarante, as you please. Hundreds are crowded around each table, but there is a silence as of the tomb. People stick rows deep around the golden piles on the green baize as flies about a lump of sugar, unconscious of all around them but the clink of coin and the rustle of banknotes.
Where money is thrown about on a green cloth unceasingly it is only natural that one loses all sense of its value. Prices at Monte Carlo bear no relation to others elsewhere for the same thing. The restaurant menus scorn to name prices, and the uninitiated will not know if lunch at the Café de Paris is going to cost two dollars or ten dollars. A room and bath at the Hôtel de Paris is apparently anything, in the height of the spring season, that the proprietor can get – say from ten dollars up. A sojourn at Monte Carlo is a millionaire's game, even if one never goes inside the Casino.
The last of the great French Riviera stations is Menton. In many respects it is the pleasantest of all at which to make a stay. The virtual gateway to Italy, it commands the French Riviera on one side and that of Liguria on the other. Its accommodations are quite the equal of the other resorts, but the atmosphere is more tranquil and the pace slower. A scarce half-dozen miles from Monte Carlo, Menton offers all that that little world of iniquity lacks, an English church and a homeopathic druggist.