Côte d'Azur, or the French Riviera, is one of my favorite places on earth, and having neglected it in recent years for closer locales, it was wonderful to be able to spend some time this past week in Monaco, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. With the exception of bustling Monaco - a place with its own particular charms - I still find the area remarkably unspoiled, calming, and exceptionally picturesque. Last winter I read Edmund de Waal's family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, and was very keen on visiting the Ephrussi-Rothschild estate in Cap Ferrat. The beautiful seaside villa and gardens did not disappoint, and in fact, Baroness Béatrice's masterpiece may be my favorite grand house in the world (it's pink, neoclassical, and in the South of France).
I'd still like to write a review of The Hare, but for now, I've included an excerpt from the memoir below, and there are photographs here from my trip through the Alpes-Maritimes down to the sea:
The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.
The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.