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The Côte d’Azur or the coast of fantasies

by drbyos

History of a concept. The Côte d’Azur is summer. But that’s not so true: the myth was born in winter, long before the invention of the emblematic appellation that blossomed in 1887 with the book The Riviera, of the lawyer and dandy Stéphen Liégeard (1830-1925). For a long time, we did not speak of the Côte d’Azur for this coastal strip approximately between Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône) and San Remo (Italy), but of the Riviera, which rather describes the coastline of the Gulf of Genoa, term popularized by English aristocrats.

Read also: Spinning the English way on the Côte d’Azur

The first seesaw, which took place in Nice from the 1760s, came from the same Britons, at the forefront of two fashionable trends. The Grand Tour, first, this training trip to Italy that any Englishman of good society had to make. This one “feeds, in the imagination of European elites, a desire for the Mediterranean which leads to the practice of winter resorts in the South”wrote Alain Bottaro in the magazine On Sitein 2014. Health was soon added to pleasure, under the influence of the writings of the Scottish doctor Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), who praised “the therapeutic virtues of a climate elevated to the rank of panacea by the neo-Hippocratic school”deciphers the heritage curator.

Over the course of the 19th century, the future Côte d’Azur was invaded by foreign aristocracy. Hyères (Var), first of all, then Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes) from 1834 and, in the 1860s, Monaco, Menton and Golfe-Juan (Alpes-Maritimes). “Other winter tourist resorts will follow, such as Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cap-d’Ail, Mandelieu”lists the professor at the University of the Côte d’Azur Jean-Christophe Gay, in theScientific and technical encyclopedia of tourism and leisure that he directs on the Internet. The landscape is then remodeled by a singular heritage, characterized by a “majestic architecture” of palaces and villas and the exoticism of gardens welcoming imported tropical plants with winter flowering (orange trees, palm trees, bougainvillea, etc.).

“Hot Water and Tanning”

Through the power of attraction of its locations, from the Cannes Croisette to the port of Saint-Tropez (Var) and the Monte-Carlo casino, as well as through its world-famous events (Cannes Festival, Nice Carnival, Grand Prix of Monaco), the influence of the Côte d’Azur becomes global. Evidenced by the “grabbing strategies” of the name invented by Stéphen Liégeard: in 1902, the Nice tourist office was requalified as a union of the Côte d’Azur. It was then, notes Jean-Christophe Gay, that “Côte d’Azur becomes a brand” claimed by the entire coastline of the region.

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