My head was pleasantly heavy upon arrival in Cannes. Air France – may it ever be so – still serves complimentary champagne even in economy class, and who am I to refuse it? We no longer wear white gloves when we board an airplane, but the French know that the voyage means nothing unless it is punctuated with ritual. To your health, the gesture seems to say, and to France’s. Vive….
The sea spread out before me from my balcony at the Hotel Splendid in Cannes. In years past, I would sleep when I landed from an overnight flight – peel off the traveling clothes, pull the crispy sheets over me, and stretch out at last until I awoke to my second morning that day. This time, I opted to sleepwalk in dreamtime through that first Sunday afternoon on the Cote d’Azur. The day was endless, a delicious blur of possibility: antique markets, fresh-picked figs in baskets and three cups of coffee at three different cafes. I walked La Croisette and clambered down to the beach. I think I saw two different carousels in Cannes that day but perhaps I imagined it.
Even for early October, the sun grilled my shoulders the next day on the boat to St. Honorat, a tiny island thirty seaborne minutes and a world away from Cannes. I’d just been indulged with a five-star lunch at the Grand Hotel, and the clink of glasses filled with rosé faded into silence on the water. Mediterranean pines and pomegranate trees dotted the landscape – and vineyards, where the Cistercian monks on the island produce six very fine and difficult to find wines.
I imagine, as I often do these days, if a stretch of contemplative time would be prescriptive or even possible for me nowadays. I recently interviewed Sherry Turkle, a scientist at MIT, who writes of the importance of solitude in a time when we are so connected by gadgets we are nevermore alone. I think about this a lot when I’m hiking in the woods at home, phone zipped into my cargo pants, and I get pinged by a friend. It takes some restraint not to write back, and usually I fail. When there are 200 messages in the Inbox and 42 texts to return, might not all of us harbor a desire for sunshine, a simple bed, and 360 degrees of rolling sea to separate us from every single person that needs us immediately, from my accountant to J Crew who is offering me a 20 per cent discount? Jetlagged, content, well-fed and far from home, there are more questions than usual to ponder.