Being on the Cote d’Azur, in addition to its most famous places, it was also necessary to visit the small town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. It is necessary – because those places where your favorite movies were shot are always fascinatingly attractive for the enthusiastic movie fan. One of my favorite – “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” of 1988 (not to be confused with the recent remake of 2018!) – was shot here, although this town was called “Beaumont Sur Mer” in the movie. I can assume that such a change of the name was made, inter alia, due to the criminal component of the comedy plot. And, nevertheless, this town became an independent protagonist of the picture – precisely because of its attractiveness (and desire to share it), the characters of the movie were drawn into a serious (almost :)) confrontation.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer is located between Nice and Monaco, next to the “Cape of billionaires” Cap-Ferrat, and, due to its location in a picturesque Bay, the town reminds us of the old days when the Cote d’Azur was a quiet haven of the European elite. Those traditions are evidenced by ancient villas located in residential areas, luxury hotels, and most importantly – a port for mooring yachts, equipped with everything necessary for a comfortable leisure of their inhabitants. Not surprisingly, that all these circumstances gave the relevant thoughts to filmmakers – where else could the elite movie-fraudsters be traded, if not in such an environment?
The first impression that struck us immediately upon arrival was that the town was not a tourist at all. Yes, there are cafes, and even a few souvenir shops, but it seems that the entire infrastructure is developed to satisfy the needs of local residents, but not tourists. There is a port and a pier next to one of the two main beaches – Little Africa. And all the establishments nearby are appropriate. For example, many shops for the sale, repair and maintenance of yachts. Or cafes with prices clearly established for the inhabitants of expensive watercrafts. But while you are sitting in a cafe on this pier, you can see supercars like Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, etc. passing by. Or, for example, there are many real estate offices (elite real estate, of course) in the city center. One gets the general impression that tourists here are not that would not be welcomed here, but are treated as a kind of “side effect” of this place.
Of course, Beaulieu-sur-Mer has historical sights as any local town. In addition to the famous casino building, there is, for example, the luxurious villa of Kerilos, built at the beginning of the 20th century in the style of the Greek palace, which is currently a museum. Or Bristol – the former hotel, built at the end of the 19th century, and hosted various historical figures in the past. This building is not an hotel anymore, but it is open for visits, or even events (including in the Rotonde attached to it, which is an independent sign). The oldest local object is the chapel of Santa Maria De Olivo, built in the 11th century (now it is a venue for exhibitions of paintings and sculptures). There are also other churches included in the mandatory tourist program – Sacre Coeur and Saint Michael. So, the town certainly can provide with the necessary set of signs for tourists.
And yet, the visit left a strange feeling for us. Before the development of globalization processes, when mass tourism turned all famous sights into places of mass concentration of people, and various types of immigration mixed and significantly expanded the composition of the local population, the Cote d’Azur was a quiet haven for the traditionally wealthy bourgeois and aristocrats who passed on their inheritance from generation to generation. And those tourists who came here, perceived the local atmosphere as a kind of attraction, like they visited another reality, with its own rules and way of life.
However, 2 things stroke us: first – mass tourism has made the most famous cities of the Cote d’Azur (Nice, Cannes, Marseille) almost indentical to other seaside points of attraction, such as Barcelona or Lloret de Mar. Of course, the size of cities, their architecture and other individual features have remained. It became very difficult to be in an international crowd of tourists – crowding everywhere, all cafes reoriented to mass tourism, having modified the menu for convenience foods and quick service a la McDonalds. And only small oases, free from such a tourist invasion (such as Beaulieu-sur-Mer), has kept its own individual microclimate, reminiscent of the old days. But here comes the second feature, namely, mixed immigration. Like nowhere else, the following struck the eye in Beaulieu-sur-Mer – a large number of local residents, who are a kind of marker of all these trends. Russian-speaking women with that unforgettable face expression (so many of them are in Moscow!), very expressively informing others that they are all dirty and vulgar herd, and insult their elitist inner content with the presence nearby. You can met these women in local beauty salons, dry cleaners, pastry shops – i.e., in places, which are not interest for tourists. Looking to their clothes and other signs, we can conclude that it is they who live in the surrounding villas (even in a T-shirt, shorts and with a dry cleaning bag, they can’t go outside without a Chanel bag).
And it was a very unpleasant impression personally for me. Because I still remember that Cote d’Azur, which was the old “attraction of the European elite” – quiet, elegant, breathtakingly well-mannered. Of course, we can assume that they treated other people in approximately the same way as it is written on the faces of these Russian women. But the difference is that the sense of superiority passed down from generation to generation has taught its hosts to coexist peacefully with a less fortunate population. The relaxed ease of the hereditary inhabitants of the local villas turned them into a kind of sights that performed a “representative function” here, pretty much like the British royal family in Great Britain.
But these “Russian women” look inorganic here – deliberately branded things so that no one doubts their “elitism” (a true adherent of expensive brands will never buy a thing with the brand mark strikingly applied on external surface, only inside on the label). A deliberate emphasis on their status is striking – a person who has grown organically in a noble environment will not directly show it to others, he will find a more elegant way to do this. So, the wives of persons-targets of journalists’ investigations have replaced the suave elderly gentlemen with golden yacht tan and their venerable wifes in clothes, which brand you can’t immediately guess.
In any case, a visit to Beaulieu-sur-Mer was very informative. Even the road in and out of the the city is amazing with its panoramic views – even this fact worth renting a car. Of course, the walk around the places of shooting of my favorite movie was exciting, and the assessment of the composition of the “new local people” made me think philosophically. So, it was quite useful trip 🙂