The housekeeper awoke us abruptly, entering the room at ten thirty on Friday morning. I didn’t hear any knocking beforehand. The flabbergasted chambermaid stood motionless by the bathroom as she gazed about, looking totally bug-eyed like a Looney Tunes character. The girls and I were laying naked, partially uncovered on a totally unruly bed with the blankets, pillows and sheets strewn everywhere; whereupon we instantly covered up.
Leftover sandwiches, an empty bottle of wine, coffee cups, and other debris remained from our decadent luncheon on the previous afternoon. Clothes had been tossed onto whatever caught them; some had landed on the floor. Total chaos prevailed, and I was positive the room smelled like une maison des putains on top of everything else.
“Mon Dieu, what a mess,” the maid proclaimed. “This room stinks.” The woman had just overstepped her bounds.
“Excusez-moi?” I said. “You have a lot of nerve bursting in here before check-out time, and especially with us still sleeping.” I was about to spit bullets. “I’m sure your training taught you to immediately turn around under these circumstances and excuse yourself as you walked out the door.” Forced temperance kept me from shouting. “Now, I expect you to exit and return in a couple of hours, at which time the room may not be in such a horrific state.” The maid bowed her head and apologized.
“I am sorry for being rude, Monsieur. It has been a very bad morning.” She turned around and scurried out the chamber. My little tirade must have sufficiently stirred Chantal and Angelique, for they had gotten out of bed and started straightening up.
“What are you two doing?”
“The maid was right. This room is a wreck,” Angelique said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves.” Amid the flurry of sudden activity, I found it was a golden opportunity for me to slip into the bathroom and take care of my morning routine. In the meantime, my industrious companions hung up all of our clothes in the closet, stuffed the soiled laundry into our respective-baggage compartments, threw away the debris and clutter scattered about, and placed the dirty dishes back onto the delivery tray before setting it out in the hall. They were perched outside on the terrace and drinking coffee by the time I had exited the john.
“Wow, that was quick,” I declared. “The room looks great.”
“And we did it without any help from you, Monsieur,” Angelique remarked. She was such a smart aleck.
Baie des Anges
A beautiful day had presented itself in Nice. The clouds had finally begun to dissipate. Golden rays of sunshine warmed the cool, morning air and glistened upon the Bay of Angels, which exuded a deep, dark blue radiance that reached far out to the horizon, where the Mediterranean Sea and the clearing blue sky met.
“What would you like to do today?” I asked my two compadres while pouring myself a little cup of coffee.
“It is still too chilly to go swimming,” Angelique said. “Why don’t we take the trip to Marseille like you mentioned yesterday?” It sounded like a plan to me.
“How about you, Chantal?” I inquired and finished the remainder of my first noggin.
“Très bien, she said. “Maybe it will be warm enough later in the day, and we can stop for a dip.”
“C’est merveilleux, but let’s not forget to take our swimsuits with us,” Angelique suggested as she sprung off her chair. “Hurry up, you lazy bones. The last one into the shower is a dirty bird.” I contemplated if being a dirty bird was worse than smelling like a rotten egg, the condition I had just left the bathroom. Nevertheless, I didn’t share Angelique’s sense of urgency and poured myself another small cup of coffee while admiring the scenery for a little bit longer, hearing an immediate, muffled plea, asking for a can of air-freshener from behind the closed bathroom door. I subsequently joined my sweethearts for a quick shower, albeit with the requisite giggling and merrymaking. We got ready for our little excursion, pointing us west past Cannes and along the coast of Southern France
The Fiat’s left front tire was low on air again, which was topped off at a local convenience store while Chantal and Angelique went inside to buy some bread, fruit, vegetables and beverages to consume as a late breakfast along the way. Baguettes were one of the best innovations the French had devised for contributing to a fast meal on the go. I munched on half a loaf while leaving Nice and driving along the coastal road toward Cannes, dead-ending at the gated community of Antibes.
Entrance and Exit through Old City Wall
The enclave dated back to the fifth century BC and was founded by the Greeks. In the tenth century, fortified walls and a castle were built by a French feudal lord, and the structures had remained standing to this day, posing a bit of a logistical problem for us at the moment; the only other option beside passing through the medieval wall was turning directly around. We entered the portal into the old city onto a one-way cobblestone street barely wide enough for one vehicle to pass. Damned, there went another curb smacked by front tire to the delight of my mates. Angelique jokingly recommended that she should have been the one driving.
Many craft shops and restaurants lined the narrow corridor, bringing us through the tiny village, up a hill overlooking the sea, and by the castle where we luckily found a parking space to look around.
The fortress originally was the residence of ecclesiastics, and later became the home of the Grimaldi family, the present-day rulers of Monaco, as a gift for their service to the queen in the 1300s. The property was sold back to the French Crown in the early-fifteenth century. In 1946, the premises became the temporary home of the Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, for a short period of time after his coming to Antibes. He was invited to reside there in exchange for his spicing the place up. The artist painted, made sketches and intricate drawings, crafted many ceramic pieces, and wove beautiful tapestries. His artwork was left behind after a six-month stay and was currently displayed throughout what was now a museum bearing his name.
Picasso was one of my greatest art heroes. Formally trained in Spain, he belonged to the School of Paris during the turn of the twentieth century with the likes of Henri Matisse, with whom he became both a lifelong friend and rival. Pablo had an affinity for young women throughout his lucrative career. He bedded le crème de la crème. His first wife was a ballerina working with a Russian ballet troupe for which he designed their set and costumes. She introduced him to the elite of Parisian society throughout the 1920s, but from her asseveration for proper social protocol—for which her husband’s bohemian propensity abhorred—the couple separated and never divorced, purportedly due to Picasso’s refusal for adhering to France’s divorce law that stipulated a fifty percent distribution of property. The dancer died in 1955 of cancer.
When the artist was forty-six years old, he had a love affair with a seventeen-year-old girl. They had a daughter together and he maintained a lasting relationship with both of them. The mother hanged herself four years after the art master’s death, presumably from the despondency felt after all the years waiting for him while hoping they would eventually marry.
As a sexagenarian, he kept company with a twenty-one-year-old art student, spawning two children with the lass. The couple met when he was sixty-four. He was seventy-two when she left him for alleged infidelity and abusive treatment, documented in a book penned by the estranging woman in 1964.
At eighty years old, Pablo married thirty-four-year-old Jacqueline Roque in 1961. He remained married to her until his death in 1973, when, at a dinner party he and his wife were holding for their friends, Picasso spoke his last words, “Drink to me; drink to my health; you know, I can’t drink anymore.” Jacqueline committed suicide by a shot-gun blast to her head in 1986. She was sixty years old.
The Old Guitarist by Picasso (1903) – Exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute
Adaptation from Thirty Days Across the Big Pond: Part One.