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The Riviera Life

Postcard from Juan-les-Pins, France

By Rebecca J. R. steinberg

Big bribe. Bigger smile. The portsman accepted the euros from our captain, and I was permitted to jump from the deck of our yacht onto the golden shores of Monte Carlo. Stepping on solid ground, I realized how little I knew about this ‘prince-alty,’ save that it was stolen from the French by pirates centuries past. Of course, there was that interview in “Vogue” with Marat Safin, the tennis star with the hottest temper (and body). He had half-seriously, half-jokingly expressed interest in moving here to escape those pesky things called taxes.

That and maybe he wanted to find himself surrounded, as I was now, by flocks of Lacoste-wearing, Ferrari-driving couples and their children, all with flawless manicures, tans, and honey-colored Fendi bags to match. Somehow my destroyed Abercrombie miniskirt and Havaiana flip-flops seemed out of place. My thoughts were confirmed when, upon climbing to the palace, I was greeted with a large road sign adorned with a giant red X. It had been painted across a pudgy silhouette drawn to represent the quintessential (American) tourist. So maybe I had the disposable camera, but I certainly didn’t have the Panama hat or middle-aged girth.

After perusing the street shops and the lobby of the casino to which we were refused entry, I bade farewell to the Heineken vending machines and ceramic cows peppering Monte Carlo and accepted the hand of Owen, our captain, as he heaved me back onto the ship’s deck. We made our way back to Le Port du Crouton, a bite-sized harbor in the French Riviera town of Juan-les-Pins where I was staying for a week. I had taken a far too-short hiatus from the paling lights of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (the site of my summer internship) to bathe in the rays of the Côte d’Azur (the site of my brother’s wedding).

Not only was I grappling with the thought of my twenty-two year old brother as a married man—it was only last year that he had slept on my dorm room floor for his final Harvard-Yale game as a college student—I also realized I had never come across such leisurely living. Even the garbage men only grudgingly made their way onto the street at eleven, and everyone seemed to content themselves with shopping at the specialty markets, smoking, savoring gelato, and infesting the smart-car traffic with their designer mopeds.

And so when I was not stiffly greeting relatives at one of the many wedding-related functions, I made all efforts to acclimate myself to the culture. I ate nothing but chocolate brioche oozing with Nutella and/or brie (after all, I rationalized, French women don’t get fat). I appreciated the finery of local products (read: purchased super-cute bikini with matching necklace), devoured novels by the author Colette, and refined my once fluently-spoken French. My securely-fastened bikini top notwithstanding, I felt at home in Juan-les-Pins.

After the excursion to Monaco, I spent the evening watching fireworks at Cannes from the deck of a trimaran boat. Putting aside the watercolor I had been apathetically painting, I sat back and took in the omnipresent smell of sea salt and smoke and the shimmering silhouettes of overly-friendly jellyfish. Yet I could not escape the thought that my brother was no longer an undergrad like me. He was now a husband, honeymooning in Bora Bora with my new sister-in-law. The image was too heavy to bear. And so I contented myself by musing upon whether the couple would celebrate their first year anniversary with equal fanfare, and whether that meant we would all return to Juan-les-Pins and its gentle way of life sometime soon.

Rebecca J. R. Steinberg ’07, a Crimson editorial editor, is a psychology concentrator in Quincy House. She is still getting used to the idea of a sister-in-law. And yes, her brother did go to Yale.

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