THE COTE D'AZUR: FACTS AND PEOPLE

Introduced by Claude Gurney on 21 June 1999

The Cote d'Azur is not Provence or the Riviera; it goes from Toulon to Menton.

In antiquity it was appreciated by the Romans, who 1eft their mark not only in remains of buildings and artefacts but also place names like Cannes (where canes grow) and Fréjus (Julius Caesar's market-place). Its re-discovery in modern times dates from when Lord Brougham, nicknamed `the Christopher Columbus from Edinburgh', spent the winter of 1834 in the small fishing village of Cannes when his usual location, Nice, was temporarily in the hands of Sardinia. His patronage made the Cote fashionable, and access became much easier with the arrival of the train in the 1880s. It became socially de rigueur to spend part of the winter there, meeting all the right people: Queen Victoria, royal émigrés, Russian princes, the aristocracy, the very wealthy and even nouveaux riches.

In the 1930s the clientele changed with the introduction of two weeks paid holiday for the working classes, who had never previously had any. This new clientele came in July and August, giving the Cote a popular image; the winter was now the time for retired people and petits bourgeois of modest means.

A third economic and social transformation has taken place since the Second World War. After the war there was much unregulated development, but there is now greater control. In the last thirty years heavy job-creating financial investment has brought about a younger and more stable population. Nice airport continues to grow and only fifteen minutes away Sophia-Antipolis, a huge European Science Park, has been created: France's Silicon Valley. On the other hand, easy access by air and car, festivals of various sorts, sea bathing in summer and skiing no distance away in winter _ all these continue to make the Cote d'Azur a popular tourist destination.

After the talk there were some fascinating contributions from people present who were born on the Cote d'Azur and had lived a large part of their lives there: they shared with us their perspectives and memories.

Anne Whitmarsh