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Saturday, September 17, 2011

La Reserve de Beaulieu: “Seizième Année”

This was our 16th September at La Reserve de Beaulieu; it was bittersweet – our annual “hajj au soleil.” I realize I have 16 years less of life to live, but in some important ways I’m healthier now than my working years.

When we first came here in 1996, we met two couples from Belgium (the women were sisters); fun loving but perhaps in their late seventies. I saw them checking out one morning and wished them well; saying “hope to see you next year.” With a telling smirk, one wife replied “so do I.”
One couple had actually first arrived in Beaulieu-sur-Mer out of serendipity; on honeymoon in 1947 after the war, their car ran out of petrol here and they stayed. They said they had been back every year since, with the exception of one. Sadly my morning goodbye was the last time I saw them; they didn’t show in 1997.

La Reserve hasn’t changed; the spirit of reserved and personal customer service still drips from everywhere and everyone. The clientele; however, has altered over time. When we first arrived in the mid-nineties, there were Americans here; as well as Brits, Germans and Swiss. For a time there were some Japanese; quietly taking pictures of their food; and some Arabs. Lately it has been the Russians in ascendancy; older men, the current masters of the universe, with young beauties obviously attracted to values other than their partners’ looks. The "new kids" on the block are scoping out the turf; driving the staff crazy (as well as some of the other guests).
I observe that the nationality of the clients here at La Reserve is a mirror to the world of economic “ups” and “downs” over the years. Russian oligarchs are currently “kings of the world,” happy to have themselves and their money outside the kleptocratic reach of their country.

When we first came here Europe was a bargain. The French Franc slipped to seven-something against the dollar in the late nineties; the Euro shortly after introduction had its nadir early this decade, one US Dollar buying 1.20 – ah, those were the days! Of course, now things have turned; the ratio has flipped: my US Dollar now gets me only 0.73. In ten years the US Dollar has dropped 40%; thus, not too many Americans around the pool.

Still we love our time here. We had the pleasure of making some lifetime friends. Sadly, we also experienced the unfolding horror of 9/11 in this quaint French seaside town; now it’s tenth anniversary.

In spite of everything, this is as close to paradise as one could hope.