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In some cases the typical French bistro tables and chairs typical of sidewalk cafes had been replaced by luxurious looking divans with pillows.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