High Season: How One French Riviera Town Has Seduced Travelers for Two Thousand Years


For centuries Nice slumbered beside the Mediterranean in beautiful serenity - an amalgam of French, Italian, and Provencal cultures built over tantalizing classical ruins. Then, in the mid-eighteenth century, English traveler Tobias Smollett exalted the splendors of Nice in a bestselling travel chronicle - and overnight, high society descended. Jefferson visited the city, F. Scott Fitzgerald partied in its seaside villas, and both Nazis and Jews took refuge there during World War II. Though the rich and famous ...
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For centuries Nice slumbered beside the Mediterranean in beautiful serenity - an amalgam of French, Italian, and Provencal cultures built over tantalizing classical ruins. Then, in the mid-eighteenth century, English traveler Tobias Smollett exalted the splendors of Nice in a bestselling travel chronicle - and overnight, high society descended. Jefferson visited the city, F. Scott Fitzgerald partied in its seaside villas, and both Nazis and Jews took refuge there during World War II. Though the rich and famous now often turn elsewhere, Nice remains the queen of the Riviera: seductive, complex, stylish, dazzling in its light and loveliness.
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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
High Season is all about going places -- Nice in particular, the fading yet still reigning queen of France's Côte d'Azur. Through the microcosm of this one town, gifted with natural beauty and a near-perfect climate, we can see as if in time-lapse the impact of layers of tourism -- railroads, hotels, cars, casinos, airports, et al. -- and the consequent adaptations, innovations, and sacrifices that Nice's citizens and infrastructure must make in order to please and appease the unrelenting (and sometimes capricious) appetite of its default main industry.

Robert Kanigel writes with authority and brio, and his account of Nice's evolution from rocky outpost of the Roman Empire to modern mecca for sun and fun seekers provides a bright and highly readable history-by-association of the tourism industry as a whole. Furthermore, by generously excerpting a well-chosen variety of source materials -- grim Nazi war dispatches, giddy diaries, nearly forgotten novels, outdated guidebooks -- Kanigel vividly fleshes out this concept of "tourist," the blessing and curse not just of Nice but of all the world's other "tourist destinations" as well. Add to that, intelligent excursions into literary criticism and class politics, evocative illustrations, and just enough juicy gossip; and you'll agree that High Season deserves a place in your carry-on -- whatever your destination. (Janet Dudley)

The New Yorker
"Earthly paradise discovered. Come," the artist Francis Picabia telegraphed his wife in 1909; Picabia was vacationing in Cassis, on the Côte d'Azur, and thought he should share the place's benefits. In French Riviera, Xavier Girard examines the flight south. Phillippe Collas and Éric Villedary, in Edith Wharton's French Riviera, look at the same migration: "Hundreds of pale, nostalgic, young invalids" known as "winter swallows" sought the seaside cure in the South of France. Even a glimpse of the Riviera's pale, clear light and scrabbly landscape could inspire visitors to drop anchor and set up camp, or -- if you were Queen Victoria -- build a chalet with four hundred bedrooms and two hundred and thirty-three bathrooms and order Scotch Guards and Bengali officers to carry the tea service. The English invaded first; after the First World War came the Americans. A shot by Jacques-Henri Lartigue gives us a tall dancing couple just inside a palm-shaded terrace; at his Villa Mauresque, Somerset Maugham blamed his writer's block on the magnificent view from his desk and covered the window.

In 1922, the new Train Bleu connected the English Channel at Calais to the South of France. By August, 1962, according to a travel guide quoted in Robert Kanigel's High Season, "you could not tell where the tablecloths of the Saint-Tropez waterfront cafes ended and the beach began, except that the beach had navels." Now, a hundred and seventy flights land each day in Nice. Perhaps it's something in the water, which was, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, "as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark." (Lauren Porcaro)

Publishers Weekly
Kanigel (The One Best Way; Apprentice to Genius) has mined two centuries of memories (through diaries, photographs, snippets of letters and snapshots of love affairs) from the collections of everyone from American G.I.s and Russian queens united only in their choice of holiday destination to write a book about the enduring and ever-changing charm of the Riviera's first city, Nice. Not that the Nice of today, beloved of British package holiday makers and inveterate gamblers, is the same Nice once favored for its healthful air and curative atmosphere by European royalty. This is not a Polaroid of a place fixed in time, but at once a sepia photograph, a black and white print and a digital image of a succession of adaptable cities. Kanigel traces the impact of the evolution of science, revolution, transport and world wars on this city. Airports, socialist governments and peace treaties come under the same microscope as fashionable tans and the influence of Brigitte Bardot. He links his subjects with consummate skill, supporting social theories with diary excerpts and contemporary news reports to produce an ardently researched, enlightening report on a city that becomes, through the course of this study, a marker for change, an indicator of social mores and fashions and a case study for the rise of tourism as an industry and an art form. Illus. (June 3) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kanigel (The One Best Way, 1997, etc.) knits together, from dozens of intriguing sources, an urbane history of Nice. Nice has been around since the Greeks made camp there in the 6th century b.c., and it has felt the tread of Roman Legionnaires as well as Fodor-toting travelers. Queen Victoria liked it and so did Lenin; European Jews sought refuge there during WWII, and so did GIs once the conflict ended. But while Kanigel notes the extremes at play, he is more interested in the city's transformation, particularly from exclusive to popular. So he tracks the perceptions of the city as seen by travelers and recorded in diaries, letters, postcards, and a host of other accounts, starting back in the 16th century, working up through the influence Smollett's travels had on bringing Nice to the attention of his countrymen and especially the generation of English "hivernants," who wintered in the city. Indeed, it is English travelers who make up the majority of Kanigel's sources in the years before the railroad-an upper-crust bunch who enjoyed the simplicity of the town while it was still a part of the Kingdom of Sardinia-as opposed to the more international (and more lowly "tourist") crowd that flocked to the port when the difficulty of getting there-once a question of "sheer precipices, the sea washing up on the rocks below, pirates and storms and moonlit mountain passes"-was overcome. Kanigel follows the rise of Nice during the Belle ...poque, its sad slide during the 1930s, its attractiveness to the hoi polloi, and its associations with Bardot, Chaplin, and Picasso. Like an enthralled biologist, the author observes the evolution of Nice as a social ecosystem. His portrait is as spellbinding asits subject. (Photographs)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641566561
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 6/3/2002
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.91 (d)

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