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#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.

Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

Bandol Revisited #DreamingofFrance

I make a practice of walking down memory lane, frequently posting memoir pieces about the good old days. I'm mostly unapologetic about traveling back in time. What's the point of creating a life full of memories if remembering them gets you accused of living in the past?

Regular readers may know some of those treks were to a small coastal village in the south of France. I first visited Bandol, between Toulon and Marseille, in 1973. I was twenty, on my first trip abroad, and swept completely off my feet by pretty boats bobbing in the harbor, sidewalk cafes, a soft sandy beach and a French boy with a charming accent and a swoop of dark hair across his forehead.

You can read 'em if you want, my nostalgic bits and pieces, but the point of today's post (I'm getting there) is that my husband and I revisited Bandol while traveling in Europe last month. We spent a week on the Cote d'Azur and a couple of days in Bandol for my 64th birthday because my husband knew how dearly I held the seaside town in my heart. 

Spoiler Alert: It wasn't the same! 

Forty years will do that to a place. 

The harbor I remember as a quiet refuge still featured a few prettily painted sailboats but many more speedboats and yachts gleamed brazenly in the crowded marina. 

What used to be a busy strand of unpretentious cafes and shops facing the harbor had been expanded, built up. The humble little cafes were now sprawling affairs. 

In some cases the typical French bistro tables and chairs typical of sidewalk cafes had been replaced by luxurious looking divans with pillows.

The cafes have always been a place to see and be seen; it was  just that now, they oozed a more moneyed clientele where big dawgs ruled ...

The sandwich cart where I'd picked up jambon et buerre on a baguette long gone of course, many many other eateries and overpriced boutiques had moved in on its territory.

The hilly road—Corniche de Bonaparte—still led up the hill and around the other side to the sheltered bay ...

... and to the Plage Renecros where my sister and I had taken our sandwiches to eat on the beach. 

But the hotel on the beach—the Golf Hotel—which I'd romanticized and dreamed of staying one day, turned out to be simply a very nice two star hotel where breakfast was served inside, not on the beach. 

Down on the beach we learned that somehow over the years the sand, still soft and fine, had become a thin layer. My husband discovered that when you dug your toes down into the sand, instead of hitting cooler sand, you hit the hard ground. Cement, he theorized. Whatever it was, the only comfortable way to spend a day at the beach would be to hire one of the hotel's brightly striped cushioned beach lounges—the French custom, but not mine.

Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing Bandol again. 
And I found remnants of the old Bandol, the seaside town still has plenty of charm if not the exact blend of magic that seduced the twenty year old young woman I used to be. 

To be honest, what I loved best about Bandol was being there with my husband, especially knowing how hard he worked to orchestrate it, to make that forty year old dream of mine come true for my birthday. French boys with dark hair and intriguing accents can't hold a candle to my silver-haired 'fox', the man who lies next to you on the beach and waits, without complaining, for you to be the one to say, "Okay, I've had enough. Let's go." 

Thank you to my husband, for making my dream come true.

Connect with Paulita at Dreaming of France 


  1. Oh, I loved this trip to Bandol just as much. I know things change, not always for the better, but what if you wanted to sit at a cafe and have someone bring you a Kir Royale and there was no cafe available? I'm surprised there were so many people there so early in the season. The beaches we visited in May were not too crowded. I wish I'd asked you to take a picture of the Hotel Florida where we stayed 10 years ago, if it's still there.
    Thanks for playing Dreaming of France. I've loved seeing and reading about your entire adventure. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme


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