That’s not a carousel — it’s a living, changing memorial to the July terror attack on the French Riviera resort of Nice. The stuffed toys appear fresh, as if more of them have marched in every day or so, clean and untouched by the elements. They’re so raw, and real, and since they’re in a small park just by the seaside promenade, they’re impossible to miss.
There are signs, too. Some deeply angry.
Some grief-stricken still.
Just before the 15th anniversary of 9/11, this all felt especially immediate as this tiny Statue of Liberty watched over the sea nearby.
We saw and did so much more here in Nice, but these are the images we carry with us as we leave.
He’s been part of my life for more than fifty years – dashing, smart, generous and always on the side of the angels. With him I wandered through most of the 20th Century in the company of critical figures including playwright George Bernard Shaw, powerful arms dealer Basil Zaharoff, Adolph Hitler and his brilliant propaganda director Joseph Goebbels,Leon Blum, the first Socialist (and Jewish) Prime Minister of France and of course Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, as well as the infamous “modern dance” pioneer Isadora Duncan, Chinese rebel leader Mao Tse Tung, and, among so many others, Albert Einstein and of course, FDR, whom he served as a Secret Agent from before WWII to well after the war.
When we met, he was 13 and I a couple of years older and, much like the NYT’s Julie Salamon, my mom introduced us and from our first meeting I knew that I would love him forever. His remarkable life revolved around his home base of Juan-les-Pins, where he grew up, and to which he always returned.
The house was built on the top of a rise, some way back, from the sea. It was of pink stucco with pale blue shutters and a low roof of red tiles. It was in the Spanish style, built around a lovely court with a fountain and flowers; there Lanny played when the mistral was blowing, as it sometimes did for a week on end.
Last week we went there, where Lanny lived, with Beauty Budd, his artist model mother. Though she and his father Robbie Budd, a New England arms dealer, never married, Robbie visited often, struggling to transmit his conservative capitalism to a young man living in dire danger of corruption among artists, journalists, socialists, communists and wealthy ladies, many of them an earlier version of trophy wives. Their fierce conversations were a wonderful window on the conflicts of those times.
Lanny is, of course, not real – at least not to everyone; he’s the hero of eleven novels written by the prolific Upton Sinclair (yes, he’s the one who wrote The Jungle) tracing world history between 1913 and 1949. Best-sellers all when they appeared in the 40’s and early 50’s and translated into 16 languages in 20 countries, the books formed much of my political and historic perspective and I was hardly alone.
When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime, I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to Upton Sinclair’s novels. — George Bernard Shaw
As we walked through the village I turned to my ever-tolerant husband with a catch in my voice, said – surprising myself with the depth of my emotion “I’ve known him almost longer than I’ve known anyone except my family.” He and the saga that surrounded him felt, in so many ways, just that real.
One of Lanny’s childhood friends, Silesian, and bitter about the deprivation caused by enormous war reparations after WWI, became a Nazi; another, British and liberal, a fighter pilot and socialist.
His first wife ended up hanging around with with the Nancy Astor and the pro-German “Cliveden Set.” My world view was formed through their eyes and conversations and the events they faced as allies and sometime adversaries.
The books, Lanny, and the characters who moved in and out of his life were, for me – a very personal window on the horror and violence, courage and evil, glamour and idealism that was the first half of the 20th Century.
Oh, and of course, it being the South of France, the literary folks hung around there too. We had lunch at Scott Fitzgerald’s “Villa Saint-Louis”, just down the hill from Lanny’s neighborhood and now the Hotel Belle Rives.
Clinton confidante Lanny Davis was named for Lanny Budd. The late NBC News anchor John Chancellor once told me he wanted to be Lanny Budd. At 15, I wanted to marry him.
Now, I wish I could have gone up the hill to the pink villa, rung the bell and just thanked him for all I learned from him, how much more available I am to travel and political thought and my own role in the world because I’ve known him. He may not be “real” but his impact on me, and so very many others, was profound.
Indeed, thanks Lanny, and Upton Sinclair, and my long-suffering husband who tolerated a pilgrimage to a place where not so much happened in the “real world” but plenty happened to me.
It was all about the fortifications back then. This lovely walkway in Fort Grimaud has existed for centuries. It’s part of the walled village of Fort Grimaud about half an hour outside St. Tropez.
No major earthshaking moments today but still lovely and intriguing, reinforcing the reality that being safe, enclosed and protected – keeping marauders or warriors or other bad guys at bay – that was the bottom line.
As we made our way back to the ship, the Romany (gypsies to many) were out in force – this is just one of the parking lots we passed – jammed with their trailers, laundry trailers, cooking trailers and more. Our guide kept telling us how everyone had to “watch their wallets.” These folks have a pretty bad reputation across Europe as pickpockets and other mischief makers.
Fort Grimaud also recalled this: s in the rest of Europe, the World Wars are central to the soul of so many still – all these years later. These two – a monument to those in this small town who died in World War I and a 1940 declaration of peril from French General Charles de Gaulle in 1940 ,the year war once again descended on his country. London to Lithuania to France – these wars haunt memory and remind residents of fear, and death, and loss.
Then there are these — we were the first customers for Lorenzo and Gerard in their new shop – gorgeous earrings for me! AND then lunch with some new friends and the best salad (with extra summer tomatoes) ever…..
That’s the Castello at Dolceacqua, alongside Claude Monet’s wonderful portrayal of it. It stands at the start of the stone pathway that crosses the bridge and leads into this ancient, wonderful beehive where, since the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries people have lived, shopped and tolerated the tourists.
It’s a quiet, special treasure, a bit mysterious, mixing the distant past with today, and far more fun and exciting for us because we hadn’t expected much at all from this trip designed to get us out of the shopping center that is San Remo.
NOW – about that Pizza Margharita. Our wonderful guide, Giusiana, as we passed a statue of “Regina Margharita” added yet another factor to her wonderful narrative. WHAT is the reason the much beloved Pizza Margharita bears her name? A baker created it in the colors of the Italian flag: tomato sauce for red, basil for green and mozzarella for white — and dedicated it to her in thanks for her just and creative role as the first woman ruler of Italy.
And there you have it – another brief, photo-heavy offering. It’s late again – and it was a wonderful day. I am reminded every day as we move from place to place of the value of travel – learning the narratives and dreams and history of other cultures and finding within them lessons for our own.